Albert R. Beardsley House
Front of the Beardsley House
|Location||302 E. Beardsley Ave., Elkhart, Indiana|
|Architectural style||Beaux Arts|
|Part of||Beardsley Avenue Historic District (#03000979)|
|NRHP Reference #||78000030|
|Added to NRHP||November 28, 1978|
The Ruthmere Mansion (formerly the Albert and Elizabeth Beardsley Residence) is a three-story Beaux Arts mansion that is the most prominent historic residence in Elkhart, Indiana, United States. Built in 1910 and refurbished in the early 1970s, the Ruthmere Mansion is now open to the public as a museum.
Ruthmere is located along the St. Joseph River in Elkhart. The architect was Enoch Hill Turnock, commissioned by Albert and Elizabeth Beardsley in 1908. The Beardsleys named the mansion in memory of their only child, Ruth, who died at seven months. ("Mere" reflects the Latin root maris and refers to the home's proximity to water.) The mansion was a place of business, family, political and social gatherings until the deaths of the Beardsleys in 1924. Robert Beardsley of The Beardsley Foundation purchased the mansion in 1967 with the main goal of restoring it to its original beauty in order to create a museum for the community. Restoration took place between 1969 and 1973 when the mansion was made available to the public. The property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and the Beardsley Avenue Historic District was established several years later.
Architectural design and decor
Turnock designed the house in the Beaux Arts architectural style with Prairie School accents. The buff colored Belden brick used on the exterior came from Ohio and the limestone was from Bedford, Indiana. The many carved quoins on the outside of the mansion were in the shape of pomegranates, which connoted wealth and prosperity. The covered entrance is supported by square brick pillars crested with the letter “B” etched in the stone to represent the Beardsley family.
When entering the mansion, visitors are greeted with heat blowing from vents located along each step of the main stairwell to provide warmth. French doors open up to the balustrade marble piazza and a protective cover greet guests as they arrive. This main hallway area was used for music and entertainment, with the key point of interest being the Choralcelo, a combination piano player and organ. When it is playing, the piano can be heard in the foyer but the organ is heard in the library. The organ pipes were installed in the basement and played through ducts located in the library. The sound resonates throughout the hallway and plays music of the era in which the Beardsleys lived.
On the main level are the French drawing room, the library, and the dining room with an adjacent butler’s pantry. The drawing room was a formal room where guests were greeted. There is a hand-painted mural, Aurora Greets the Dawn, on the ceiling by Albert Stoyer of Detroit. Above the fireplace is a large mahogany pomegranate, and book-matched Cuban mahogany is featured above the mantel.
The library is a less formal room but has the largest pomegranate above the marble fireplace which, like all the other fireplaces in the house, burned wood instead of gas. Due to the wood-burning fireplace, this was the only room that had a sprinkler system (which was removed in 1967 when the fireplace became disabled). The ceiling is decorated with the initials of the four generations of the Beardsley men: Albert, Arthur, Walter and Robert.
The dining room also has a fireplace and a Louis Comfort Tiffany "Oriental Poppies" chandelier over the dining table. The room has a full width pocket sliding door with a glass window to allow privacy for the diners while allowed servants in the hallway to keep an eye on the progress of the meal and courses. A floor buzzer was also available for the hosts to use to summon servants for assistance during meals. Original pieces of silverware and china that belonged to the family are on display in the built-in china cabinet. These pieces matched the décor of the home and established the family's elegant style. Off to the side of the dining room is the butler’s pantry where meals were prepared and kept warm in cabinets that had heating vents. This room is between the dining room and the actual kitchen and has a metal door to help prevent fire from spreading into the dining room. A 12-inch masonry wall was also built into the home between the dining room and the butler's pantry to prevent fire from spreading into the formal part of the home.
In the basement is a game room, which is currently used to hold small weddings. The game room was used for entertainment where guests played poker and pinochle. Originally the room had several tables with seating for four where these games were played. The stained glass windows that line the top of the east wall are replications of postcards from Italy, a place the Beardsleys visited on many occasions. The windows provided natural light for the game room. The top halves of the walls in the room are covered in original red velvet while the bottom halves are covered in materials that looked like leather. Along the walls are glass light sconces that light the room. The entire home was wired for electricity, which was rare in those days. For music, the game room had organ music piped into it through a grille that played from the Choralcelo upstairs in the foyer, along with a baby piano that stood in the corner.
The basement was connected to the rest of the mansion by a sophisticated call button service that allowed the family to summon their servants as needed. A hallway leads out of the game room into the conservatory, where Elizabeth was an enthusiastic gardener. The hallway has painted murals along the sides that have been preserved over the years.
The bedrooms are on the second level of the mansion. On the stairwell leading from the main floor to this level are three windows in the Prairie School Design which did not follow the pattern of the rest of the home. In the hallway are a doll collection, a grandfather clock and art hanging on the walls and stairwell, including The Lost Profile by William Morris Hunt, a portrait of the painters' wife, and a self-portrait by Samuel F. B. Morse. An important original limestone sculpture by Rodin, The Fallen Caryatid, as well as a bronze, stand in the stair hall. Elizabeth's closet is also off the hallway and still contains clothing and shoes from that era. The ceiling has an elaborate stained glass skylight. This window provided natural light as there was another glass window above it on the third floor. The second floor was equipped with a central vacuum system for the housekeeping staff to use and had a trunk elevator that came up from the main floor.
As was the custom during that generation, husband and wife kept separate bedrooms. The north bedroom was Albert's room. This room has gold silk wall coverings, hand-stenciled ceilings, and an elaborate fireplace with a grate above it which aided in the air/heat circulation within the room. The closet has automatic lighting which turns on when the door is opened and a wall safe. In between Albert’s and Elizabeth’s room is a shared bathroom which was designed specifically for their use with a tub and shower facilities. The shower is a needle and shower bath, which is multi-directional and has a semicircular metal rib cage inside of it with little holes throughout the bars allowing the bather to have water showering on them at all times. There is a marble ledge around the room that has hand-stenciled paintings on it.
On the south is Elizabeth’s room, which is decorated in pink, her favorite color. This room was designed with a Victorian look with silk wall coverings. The ceiling has a delicate hand-painted design and the pink marble fireplace has very elaborate trim work. Along with the closet in the hallway, Elizabeth also had a narrow walk-in closet in the bedroom for easier access.
Across the hall from the Beardsley bedrooms are the third (guest) bedroom and the morning room. The guest room itself did not have a fireplace, but there is one in the attached private bathroom. There is a window in this room which is used to add symmetry to the exterior of the home. The bedroom features a twining rose design painted on the ceiling and a private closet. The morning room was used to plan the events of the day while having coffee or tea. This room has a plain white ceiling but is sufficiently decorated by the elaborate chandelier. It has its own fireplace and a beautiful view of the St. Joseph River. Hanging on the wall in this room is a portrait of Ruth Beardsley, the daughter of Albert and Elizabeth, who died at seven months of age due to complications with water on the brain (i.e., hydrocephalus). The picture has a black frame surrounding it which indicates that it is a mourning piece.
The third level of the house was mainly used for sitting purposes, as the narrow room has a very low ceiling, and was never used as a ballroom. Very rarely did guests and visitors enter the third floor.
Outside the house are the courtyard and garage. The garage holds three cars of the era and originally housed the chauffeur upstairs. The upstairs is now a non-circulating library containing 1,800 volumes and periodicals on American domestic and landscape architecture and 19th and 20th century decorative arts. On the floor of the garage was a circular platform, or a turntable, that allowed the chauffeur to pull the car in, and turn it around using the platform so that it was ready to drive out.
The family moved into the home in 1910 and lived there until 1924, when Albert and Elizabeth died within a few months of each other. Their nephew, Arthur L. Beardsley, lived in the home with his family from 1924 to 1944, and the S.S. Deputy family were the last occupants from 1945 until 1967, when The Beardsley Foundation purchased it and restoration began to make it a museum.
- The Elkhart Truth newspaper, July 22, 1972.
- Ruthmere Foundation Inc., Newsletter, Fall 2006
- Stephenson T. (1972, July 22). Ode of praise to E. Hill Turnock. A.M., The Elkhart Truth, pp. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
- Succumbs. (1926, July 6). E. Hill Turnock Dies at Age of 70. The Elkhart Truth, Obituary
- Turnock Committee. (1996). Discovering Turnock. Pamphlet from Ruthmere Museum
- Abraham Weaver: Standard History of Elkhart County (vol.2, pp. 899–901 (Ind 977.281 W36)
- Funk, Laura. Docent, Ruthmere House Museum. August 10, 2007.
- Ruthmere - official site