Note: We already have one article on the Nussbaum House, but this one covers some different territory. The two could be merged. ______________________________
17 December 2001
The Nussbaum House
Built in 1 886, the Nussbaum House housed one of the most important men in Grant County during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Percy L. Nussbaum had the house built after he came back from studying music in Europe. I-Ic founded the Marion Conservatory of Music, and held many important positions in the world of music in Grant County allowing him to be an influence in the shaping of society in the area.
The Percy Nussbaum House is located on 916 W. Spencer Aye, in north Marion. It was the first house to be built on Spencer Ave. Aside from the Nussbaum House; the neighborhood during Nussbaum’s life represented a typical middle-class turn of the century neighborhood. After the Marion Conservatory of Music closed down, Percy Nussbaum took the brickwork that said “MVSIC”, which is simply “music” written with the Roman style “U”, over the entrance to the conservatory and placed it in front of the house. In addition, Percy had a picture of his first wife Josephine painted. The date of its completion or author is not known. For unknown reasons, it was hidden in the walls of the house, and not discovered until later when the house was being renovated and expanded (Pellman). That picture can now be seen at The Painted Lady on 4th Street. �Pellman 2
Percy L. Nussbaum was born in LaPorte, indiana. His brother, Hamilton S. Nussbaum and he went to Europe when they were older to study music. Percy shortly studied in America before studying violin at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Berlin, and many other cities such as Vienna, Geneva, Rome, and Leipzig, and under such musicians as Ettore Puselli and Carl Halir. Hamilton Nussbaum studied piano with Theodore Leschetizky in Berlin. Hamilton also became known as a composer. He created such pieces as “Te Deum”, “The Fir Tree”, and “Love’s Request”, as well as writing “Bercuese” for the violin (Whitson V. I). At one point, Percy was the director for the First Christian Church Sunday school orchestra. This position was later taken over by his wife, Dolores Kersey Nussbaum. In October of 1898, Percy and Hamilton Nussbaum founded the Marion Conservatory of Music. This was a giant step in the right direction in Grant County. Before the founding the conservatory, very few of the people living in the area took much interest in music. Two years later, on June 27, Percy L. Nussbaum married Josephine Barnard. According to the interview with Tern Peliman, Percy and Josephine had one child together, named Elizabeth. Later, on September 26, 1903, the Conservatory moved to a new building built specifically for it. That same year Percy had the honor of being the president of the May Festival. Shortly after the move, on February 19, 1904, Josephine died, leaving her one-year-old daughter behind (Peliman). On December 26, 1908, Percy Nussbaum married Dolores Kersey. Together, Percy and Dolores had one �Pellman 3
child; in addition, the one Percy and Josephine had. Dolores that year was also hired to direct the Christian Church Sunday school orchestra. Percy Nussbaum also was the conductor for the Symphony Orchestra, which was a combination of the Marion Conservatory Orchestra and outside local talent. On October 11, 1911, the Musical Art Society was formed, Mr. Nussbaum being it’s first President. Later, in 1913, Percy became the president of the Music Teachers Association. The Marion Conservatory of Music helped develop excellent talent and an appreciation for music in Grant County.
Percy L. and Hamilton S. Nussbaurn founded the Mariçn Conservatory of Music in 1898. In 1903, the conservatory moved to a new building designed specifically for it. The new building was two stories high, with an auditorium, office, and several practice rooms. The conservatory had sixteen instructors. Percy L. was the head of the violin department. Mrs. Dolores Kersey Nussbaum was his assistant at the time along with Miss Lucille Ervin and Miss Edna Zimmer. Mr. Edward Clark headed the vocal department. His assistants were Mrs. Brimacombe and Mrs. Lois Osborn Spencer. Percival Own was the head of the piano department after Hamilton Nussbaum had left to Chicago. The clarinet teacher was a man named Captain Stack. The flute teacher was Antonio Lupo (Whitson V. 1). There was no available information for these two men, except for their names and positions. All music branches were taught at the conservatory, including Music Theory, Dramatic Art, and Physical �Pellman 4
Culture and Languages. Both Josephine Barnard and Dolores Kersey studied under Nussbaum. Another person from Marion to study under Percy L. was Berthold M. Nussbaum, who was of no relation to Percy, but her father was the president of the Canton Glass Company and the Manufacturing and Business Men’s Association (Baldwin). Some of the famous people who studied at the Marion Conservatory of Music were Mildred Dilling and Charlene Dilling, who took lessons straight from Mr. Nussbaum. The most famous person to study at the conservatory is Cole Porter, who later attended Yale University and played on Broadway. The conservatory put on concerts or shows often. The affect the Marion Conservatory of Music had on Grant County ranged from better church choirs and orchestras to excellent vocal and instrumental soloists, such as Cole Porter.
After Percy L. and Dolores Nussbaum died Elizabeth and her sister occupied the house. After one of the sisters passed away and the other went to live in a retirement home in Indianapolis in 1979, various owners occupied the home until 1998 when the Plageman family moved in (Peilman). At their retirement, they moved to Florida and the Pellmans moved in. The Pellman family moved into the Nussbaum house in August of 2001. Len Peliman is a professor at IWU and he and his family still reside in the Nussbaum House.
For almost a century, the stones from the Marion Conservatory of Music in front of the Nussbaum House serve as a reminder of the �Pellman 5
greatness and influence that Percy L. Nussbaum and the Marion Conservatory of Music had over Grant County. �Pellman 6
Baldwin, Moe H. Some Greater Marion Faces. Indiana College, 1905. Calton, Pierce. Grant County and Who’s Who. Marion, Indiana: The
Grant County Genealogy Club. Marriage Records of Grant County, Indiana V. III.
Grant County, Indiana Index of Names of Persons and of Firms. Indiana State Library. Indianapolis: 1940.
Historic Landmarks Foundation of American. Grant County Interim Report. 1993 Ed.
Kientz, Marjorie A. Grant County, Indiana Index of Deaths 1904-1937. Marion Public Library, 1997.
McKown, June R. Marion: A Pictorial History. St. Louis: G. Bradley Publishing, Inc., 1989.
Peilman, Tern L. Personal Interview. 16 December 2001.
Whitson, Rolland Lewis. Centennial History of Grant County, Indiana V.
1. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1914.
Whitson, Rolland Lewis. Centennial History of Grant County, Indiana V.
11. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1914.