Blog post by Randi Richardson
The Grant Street Inn at 310 N. Grant Street, Bloomington, Indiana, wasn’t always an inn. And it wasn’t always on Grant Street. It is a house with an interesting history wrapped around the various people who lived there and some interesting events.
It isn’t quite certain when the house was built. Originally it was located on Bloomington Inlot 254 on what is now the southwest corner of Seventh Street between Grant and Lincoln. It is, however, known that William A. Clark and his wife, Amanda, owned Inlot 254 in 1883. In 1883 they sold the east half of the inlot to William P. Rogers for $200. William, who married the Clark’s daughter, Belle, the previous year, was Bloomington’s city treasurer. In 1885 the Clarks sold the west half of the inlot to the newlyweds for $725.
In January 1888, William P. Rogers sold the west half of Inlot 254 back to the Clarks for $1,000. This suggests that the property value had increased $275 during the intervening period. Six months later the Clarks sold the same parcel of property for the same price back to William and Belle for exactly what they had paid for it, $1,000. Perhaps this exchange was an effort to evade taxes in some manner.
William Rogers was a prominent man in the community. In 1900 he was living at 214 E. Seventh Street with his wife, four children (Ethel, Norine, Clark W., and Kathryn), his father-in-law, William A. Clark, and his sister-in-law, 44-year-old Flora Clark. He was employed as an attorney and owned his home free of a mortgage. A few years later, in 1892, he completed a law degree and was appointed as a professor in the IU Law Department; eventually he became dean of the Law School.
In September 1902, Rogers sold all of Inlot 254 to Hazel T. (sic) Smallwood, a farmer living in Clear Creek Township, for $5,000 and moved his family to Cincinnati. Clearly, something significant happened to improve the property between 1888 when it was bought and sold for $1,000 and 1902 when it was sold for five times that amount. Undoubtedly the house that became the Grant Street Inn was built between these years.
Smallwood didn’t hang onto the property for long. The Bloomington Courier on January 5, 1904, published a notice that Smallwood wished to sell several properties, including his personal residence at 214 E. Seventh Street, due to poor health. He didn’t have to search long or far for his buyer, William M. Graham. William, who purchased the property at 214 E. Seventh in 1904, was married to Maude (Helfrich) Graham, the sister of Anna (Helfrich) Smallwood who was married to Hazel’s son, John Smallwood.
In 1900 William Graham, the son of Charles and Katharine Graham, lived with his parents across the street from the Rogers family at 209 E. Seventh. William was a young man, only 23, at the time. (A decade later he was the owner of the Graham Motor Sales Company specializing in the sale of Fords and once touted as among the most successful agencies in the U. S.) After owning the Rogers’ home less than a year, William Graham sold it to William N. Showers.
William Showers was the son of Charles C. Showers and one of the founders of the very successful Showers Brothers Company. It is not certain whether or not he ever lived at 214 E. Seventh Street and, if so, for how long. He owned the property only four years before selling it to his niece, Martha Robertson, the daughter of his sister, Sarah (Showers) Sears in 1908. From the time that William purchased the property in 1904 until 1989, when the house was under threat of demolition and purchased by a Cook group, it was owned by various descendants of Charles C. Showers. (See the chart below.)
Martha Robertson had been living with her husband, Walter, their two children and her parents, John and Sarah Sears, in a rental home at 308 N. Lincoln prior to her purchase of the Rogers’ property. Walter was a farmer and Martha ran a boarding house. After the move to 214 E. Seventh, Martha continued to operate the boarding house with Walter’s help. They did this together for 25 years before retiring in 1921 when Walter was in his seventies and Martha in her sixties. Afterward, however, they did keep a few lodgers. Two were noted with the family in 1930 when the house was noted with a value of $16,000. When Martha died of natural causes at Bloomington Hospital in 1932, her funeral was held at her home, a common practice well into the twentieth century. The funeral of her mother, Sarah (Showers) Sears, was also held there earlier in 1910.
Following the death of his wife, Walter Robertson moved out of the house at 214 E. Seventh and Roxie (Smith) Campbell with her husband Noble C. Campbell took ownership. (Roxie was Martha Robertson’s niece, the daughter of Martha Lola (Showers) Smith Ingler and the granddaughter of Charles C.. Showers.) Noble and Roxie’s daughter, Martha, together with Martha’s husband Charles Zeigler, and Roxie’s 88-year-old, widowed mother, lived together in the home in 1940. At that time the home valued at $16,000 in 1930 was valued at only $5,000. Martha (Showers) Smith Ingler died at the home in 1944 at the age of 92.
For many years Noble Campbell owned the Campbell & Co. department store on the west side of Bloomington’s square and was also connected with the motion picture business. By the 1950’s, he much preferred to spend the winter months in sunny Hollywood, Florida, where he was joined by his wife, daughter and son-in-law. It was there, surrounded by family that he died in 1957. Survivors were noted as his wife and only child, Martha Zeigler.
Roxie Campbell returned to Bloomington after Noble’s death and continued to live at 214 E. Seventh Street until her own death in 1962. Her property then went to her only survivor, Martha Zeigler. The same year as her mother’s death, Martha with her husband, Charles, divided the home on Seventh Street into six apartments eventually known as the Campbell-Zeigler Apartments. Another apartment was added in 1963 bringing the total to seven. Occupancy of the apartments changed frequently with the exception of when the Zeiglers lived there in Apt. No. 1 from 1962 through 1968. Toward the end of their lives they moved to Arizona where Martha died in 1986 and Charles the following year.
By that time the house at 214 E. Seventh had been sold to the Presbyterian Church that adjoined the property to the south. The church wanted and needed the space for parking so there was much talk of razing the building, which by then was in need of expensive repairs. In 1990, the house was saved from destruction by CFC, a Cook group subsidiary. It was subsequently moved to Grant Street and opened to the public as an inn in 1991.
Descendants of Charles C. Showers:
William N. Showers Sarah (Showers) Sears* Martha Lola (Showers) Smith Ingler
Martha (Sears) Robertson*0 Roxie (Smith) Campbell0
Martha (Campbell) Zeigler0
Charles C. Showers was the father of seven children including William, Sarah (Showers) Sears and Martha L. (Showers) Smith Ingler. Sarah was the mother of Martha (Sears) Robertson; Martha L. (Showers) Smith Ingler was the mother of Roxie (Smith) Campbell and the grandmother of Martha (Campbell) Zeigler. According to newspaper accounts, Martha Robertson, Martha Ingler, Roxie Campbell and Martha Zeigler all lived at the home on 214 E. Seventh Street at various times. Martha Ingler actually died in the home and funerals were held in the home for Sarah Sears and Martha Robertson.
*Funeral at 214 E. 7th
**Died at 214 E. 7th
0Lived at 214 E. 7th