The people of a community as well as their homes shape and create a town’s character. The town of Marion has been shaped and developed by people and structures which make it unique. George Kleder, a successful business man, built a home which added another dimension to the contour of Marion. The Kleder house, constructed on land which had multiple property owners but only two homeowners, was built in 1939 by an affluent business man during a prosperous era of Marion and displayed unique features and characteristics of the time.
The property where the Kleder house stands changed ownership various times. The land of Section thirty-one which included the property of the Kleder house was first surveyed in November of 1823 by John Hendricks. In August of 1828 the Abstracter of Real Estate in Grant County, Indiana, verified that the original survey was accurate(Abstract 5). On September 2, 1834, John Wall first purchased the North half of the North West quarter of Section thirty-one in township twenty-five which contained 114.31 acres of land and reached to the west bank of the Mississinewa River(Abstract 7). John Wall sold the land to Jesse Thomas in 1847(Abstract 9). The land belong to many different owners, and with each transaction the number of acres fluctuated, sometimes increasing and ultimately being divided into smaller sections. In October of 1882 the land was separated into ten parts in order to satisfy the inheritance wishes of John Eyestone who died and willed shares of his land to his heirs(Abstract 57). In 1928, Vina Livengood sold land to the Northwood Realty Company and its individual members including eighteen acres to be used for the installation of storm and sanitary sewer lines(Abstract 200-03). By July 12, 1929, The Northwood Realty Company had obtained approximately thirty-two acres for the development of a new neighborhood in Marion. The area contained forty-six lots each numbered from one to forty-six(Abstract 219-20). The Northwood Realty Company’s objective for buying the 32.43 acres of land was to “To purchase, own, sub-divided, plat, develope, improve and sell real estate, with full authority to issue its notes or bonds, secured by mortgage thereon, and to do all other things reasonably incidental to such business”(Abstract 236). There was a board of directors which managed the business and legal matters of the corporation. Several of these directors built houses of their own on one of the lots in Northwood.
County Deaths: Book 24). Helen continued to reside in the couple’s home in Northwood. Helen Kleder, eighty-one, died on September 20, 1985, after being a widow for twelve years(Helen A7).
Northwood during the Golden Age of Marion
The Kleder couple lived in an era in which Marion was thriving. The Kleders lived the prime of their lives during the “Golden Years of Marion”. The Golden Age of Marion began with the discovery of natural gas in 1887 in the southeast part of town. Natural gas was discovered on January 13th at the corner of Boots and 14th Streets at a depth of about 518 feet. On the Lomax farm, currently East Third and Lomax Streets, a second find of natural gas was made by the Marion Coal Gas Company. With the detection of gas, Marion’s population soared as thousands of well drillers, craftsmen, laborers, land speculators, and entrepreneurs relocated to Marion. The era lasted through 1930 where every aspect of a community was at its height including industry, business, the arts, education, construction and recreation. As this period ended, Marion’s downtown flourished and matured. Downtown was always busy because it was filled with stores and restaurants as well as four theaters. Yet, the traffic of downtown became packed with streets cars going in and out of the town, and the people realized the city needed a new road and room to grow. By 1942 the bypass was completed. The bypass’s completion was the beginning of the “New Marion.” Marion prospered through the move to the bypass from downtown. The new growth from the bypass brought economic development closer to the vicinity of the Northwood Addition (Bunish 2-3).
The Home's Design
The Kleders, being very affluent, were able to build a quality home with many unique features which continue to give it character today. The home was built on lots forty-five and forty-six in Northwood by Bowman Construction in 1939. The Architect of the home was Frederick W. Lang(Agreement 1-2). The Kleders paid $25,114.30 for the construction of the home. Clark Landscaping and Muncie Tree Surgery Company landscaped the outside of this home for $712.36 (Kleder, List). The two lots were located in different townships. Lot forty-five was part of the Pleasant Township and lot forty-six was included in Center Township. The home was built primarily in Pleasant Township, therefore the Kleders would have voted in Pleasant Township. The Kleders paid taxes in both townships at two different rates because they owned land in both. In 1939 the May and November installments on lot forty-five were .37 each, and the installments for lot forty-six were .61 each (Abstract 240-50). The Kleder’s home was built using concrete and lathe plaster. The concrete for the patio that overlooks the backyard is twenty-four inches deep which far exceeds today’s building standard of six inches. The interior walls are extremely thick. The Kleders used lathe plaster as the crown molding around the ceilings rather than the traditional use of wood. The Kleders installed several buzzers around the house which they used to call their maid and butler. The buzzers were located under the dining room table, in the master bedroom, and in the living room, each making a different sound so the servants would be aware of where they were needed. The maid of the home was Inez Poindexter. She was employed by the Kleders at the age of eighteen and continued to care for the home until she was seventy-seven when she died. She had her own quarters above the kitchen that she could access through stairs beside the garage. There was also a bookshelf in Mr. Kleder’s second floor office that opened up to her room. It appeared to be a built-in bookshelf; however, when opened, it revealed a secret entrance to the extra bedroom. They also had a butler and lawn care man named Freddie. Next to the home there were tennis courts for when the Kleders entertained. The home had a laundry shoot that led down to the basement, yet they did not have a washer and dryer or even a hook-up for the appliances. The house had an outdoor fire pit on the backside of the house. About ten years after the home was built the Kleders painted the red brick on the outside of their home white. The interior of the Kleders’ home was decorated quite formally in an art deco style. The Kleders entertained often, and their home was designed to accommodate entertaining in the middle 1900s (Economan Interview).
Dale and Rita Economan bought the home from an estate sale after Mrs. Kleder died. The Economans bought the home in September of 1986 after the home had been vacant for about one year. The Kleders left a few pieces of furniture and a yellow Cadillac; however, most the furniture had been removed. The Economans, a family which included children and teenagers, made many changes to the home to make it more modern and functional for their lifestyle. The Economans sandblasted the white paint on the outside of the home and restored it to its original red brick. They opened up the kitchen taking away the swinging doors that led to the butler’s pantry and kitchen. They put an opening above the sink between the kitchen and the dining room. They also tore down the wall between the butler’s pantry and kitchen and created a breakfast nook. The Economans changed the Kleders’ one car garage into a family room and added their own four car garage detached from the home. The Economans added a pool and fenced in the backyard. In addition, they redesigned the entryway of the home by making the powder room that was located off the foyer smaller and the entryway bigger. Above the old garage the new owners added a bedroom. They have replaced all the windows and have updated the electricity which involved adding many outlets and new wiring. The Economans continue to pay separate tax rates on each lot because the home is located in two different townships(Economan, Interview). The taxes paid on this property have significantly increased since 1939; the 2002 taxes on lot forty-five were over $3200(Walters 2). Their children went to Riverview Elementary and Justice Middle School because the house is located mainly in Pleasant Township. Dr. Economan is physician for Marion Family Practice. The Economans also entertain often especially in the summer by their pool. The Northwood Commons Association continues to meet once a year. The annual dues of eighty dollars are paid at that time. The dues are used for the upkeep of the parks located throughout the neighborhood. Each homeowner is a member of the Northwood Commons group(Economan, Interview).
The Kleder house, with features and traits that are unique to its time, was built in 1939 by George Kleder during a period when Marion was booming. The land where the home was built had many property owners. This sixty-four year old home has had only two homeowners, the Kleders and the Economans. Each of these homeowners has taken great pride in the home by keeping it in good condition and making renovations when needed. These homeowners have helped to preserve a facet of Marion’s history in one of the town’s more elaborate houses.
- Agreement Between Contractor and Owner. Bowmwn Construction Company and George M. Kleder, Jr. 19 June 1939. 1-7.
- Bunish, Steve. The Golden Age of Marion. Ed. Stephanie Bunish Fuller. 2-3.
- Economan, Rita. Personal Interview. 29 Dec. 2003.
- “George M. Kleder.” The Chronicle Tribune. 17 Dec. 1977: 18. Microfilm Reel 1746.
- Grant County Abstract Co., comp. An Abstract of Title. 1987.
- “Helen S. Kleder.” The Chronicle Tribune. 22 Sept. 1985: A7. Microfilm Reel 2116.
- Kleder, George and Helen. Itemized List of Building Costs. 1939.
- “Kleder, George M.” Grant County Deaths: Book 24. Microfilm Reel 7. 1977. 55-56.
- Polk’s Marion City Directory. Detroit: R.L. Polk and Co., 1948-87.
- Walters, Jay K. “Grant County Auditor: Property Information.” Grant County Auditor: Real Property Report. 29 Oct. 2002. 29 Dec. 2003 <http://www.grantcounty.net/grant/grant.fwx?DO3INFO006378581792002>.
Lindsay Jackson submitted this paper on 5 January 2004 for Mr. Munn's AP U.S. History class at Marion High School.