Journey again in time at South Bends Birthday Celebration
SOUTH BEND – Area residents will get a virtual look at old South Bend during the city’s 150th birthday celebration this weekend.
Anyone visiting the festival will get a first look at a 3D-printed tabletop model of downtown South Bend from the late 1920s. It is a street scene of Main Street with long-lost landmarks like the Oliver Hotel, the old town hall and the original Odd Fellows Building. You can try an app that has historical details and photos from then and now.
Even better, visitors can put on virtual reality glasses and “walk” this street – looking left and right to examine the buildings that stood during that time.
It’s what time travel comes closest to.
“It’s the density of the inner city at this time that we want to convey to people,” said Adam Heet, specialist in digital projects at the library of the School of Architecture at Notre Dame. At the beginning of the 20th century, the buildings in the city center were right next to each other, only a few alleys interrupted the street scene.
The idea is not to encourage nostalgia for a bygone era, but rather to provide a useful tool to help residents see the city in the past and better plan for the future, Heet said. Models for planned future projects can be pasted into the tabletop display to see how they would fit into the current street scene, he said.
The Building South Bend project is a partnership between the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture Library, the South Bend & St. Joseph County’s Historic Preservation Commission and the History Museum.
Students and staff at Notre Dame’s School of Architecture researched the properties and created the models on the architecture library’s 3D printer. The project relies extensively on photos and historical documents in the museum and HPC archives.
So far, 31 current and former buildings along Main Street have been printed as 3-D miniatures and placed along a street grid of the city. The project continues, with additional 3D models along Michigan Street and back streets.
These 31 buildings are also included in a new free iOS and iPad app. With a click of a smartphone or iPad, a user can view a map of downtown South Bend in the 1920s and click on individual buildings to view their names, photos, and stories.
One click brings up a photo of the Dental Palace, a tower building from 1889 that stood on the northeast corner of Main Street and Colfax Avenue and which had long housed a dental practice. The building has been demolished and another photo shows the current location of the South Bend Water Works office.
Another click calls up 125-127 N. Main St., where the Fredric C. Reimold & Co. hardware store was located in 1925. It was a three-story building at the time, but at some point the top two floors were demolished. Today it is one story and houses the Fiddler’s Hearth pub.
The app features photos and history on buildings such as the Oliver Hotel, the Oliver Opera House, the JMS Building, the Hoffman Hotel (which is now being converted into apartments), an early South Bend Tribune building, and the Nickel Hotel.
Many of these buildings were demolished long ago and replaced with parking lots and garages.
The virtual reality glasses are expected to be a popular feature at the celebration this weekend. After putting on glasses and standing, a user can take a virtual “stroll” along Main Street and look to the right on Colfax Avenue to see, for example, the former newspaper building of the South Bend News-Times. Then cross Main Street to walk past St. Joseph County Savings Bank, then on to the neighboring Oliver Opera House.
Planners opted for downtown South Bend in the late 1920s because by then many of the city’s landmarks had been built, but the widespread demolitions that peaked during urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s had not yet happened began.
Within weeks of the South Bend 150 weekend celebration, the 3D printed downtown is expected to be on view at the History Museum, 808 W. Washington St.. Artifacts from some of the demolished buildings are included in an exhibition. Pieces of South Bend ”currently on display in the museum.
• Building South Bend: Past, Present and Future, a 3D printed model of Main Street from 1920s South Bend, will be displayed in a tent in the Saturday and Sunday during South Bend 150th Anniversary celebrations Public close to the Emporium building. Visitors can view the model of the city center, test the app and “tour” the South Bend of the 1920s with virtual reality glasses.
• The new Downtown South Bend app is available free of charge for iOS and the iPad. Download it from the App Store.
• The Building South Bend website is scheduled to launch on Saturday at Buildingsouthbend.nd.edu.