By MARGARET FOSMOE - Like Margaret on Facebook
South Bend Tribune
7:46 PM EST, November 15, 2012
SOUTH BEND -- The long-vacant Rushton apartment building, a four-story "high rise" when it was built in 1906, will gain a new lease on life as apartments for low- to moderate-income senior citizens.
Construction crews are hard at work on the brick neoclassical style building at the northwest corner of Washington and William streets, on the city's near west side.
The interior, which has been gutted, originally contained 35 apartments.
Under the new configuration, there will be 23 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, each with its own kitchen. The renovated building will include an elevator and stair tower on the west side, which will become the main entrance for residents.
The public will be able to see the inside of the building during free public tours on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. (See accompanying box.)
When The Rushton was built, the apartments didn't have kitchens, said Todd Zeiger, director of the northern office of Indiana Landmarks Inc. Residents ate meals together in a communal dining room in the basement.
The Rushton faced demolition in 2003, after the then-owner abandoned the property with half the roof removed. There was significant water damage and vandalism to the boarded-up building, prompting the city to declare it a public hazard.
The Rushton sits at the gateway of the West Washington National Register Historic District. "It's too important of a corner to have an empty lot," Zeiger said.
Through a complicated arrangement led by Indiana Landmarks, the building was saved and ownership transferred to South Bend Heritage Foundation, which is handling the renovation and will manage the apartments. It's expected to be ready for new residents in November 2013.
The building's bay windows, some of the interior woodwork and doors with transom windows, and original terrazzo tile will be saved and restored, said Marco Mariani, executive director of South Bend Heritage.
The building was constructed by brothers John and Edward Rush. The Rush family owned the building until 1972, and it continued as an apartment house into the 1990s.
John Rush was a land developer who built many homes in South Bend, his granddaughters -- Louise Wisman Lovell of Rockville, Md., and Florence Wisman Mills of Washington, D.C. -- told The Tribune in 2004.
Family legend states that Rush had seen "high-rise" apartment buildings in big cities and decided to build something similar in South Bend. A four-story apartment building wasn't to be found here before The Rushton, Zeiger said.
Windows on the top floor provide a clear view of Tippecanoe Place, the former Clement Studebaker family mansion, as well as downtown to the east.
John Rush and his family originally lived in the building, later moving to a house in the Sunnymede neighborhood.
Early Rushton residents included the Rev. Henry Webb Johnson, pastor of 1st Presbyterian Church, according to a 1908 city directory. Other early tenants included Minnie Warren, a stenographer at Studebaker Corp.; Albert Cushing, a real estate and insurance man; and T.A. Slack, a clerk at the nearby Oliver Hotel.
In later decades, the building housed many single women tenants, including teachers at nearby Central High School.
When the city moved to demolish the building a decade ago, Indiana Landmarks proposed an alternative. The non-profit agency was named receiver in 2005, overseeing installation of a new roof and removal of 14 truckloads of old furniture and other junk from inside before South Bend Heritage became the owner.
The $3.4 million project is being funded through a combination of low-income housing and historic tax credits. The city contributed $300,000 in tax increment financing funds.
A resident parking lot for The Rushton is being constructed on Colfax Avenue, on a vacant lot just west of the Portage Township Trustee's office.
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