Making a house a home

Restoration of the farm house at Salomon Farm Park is nearly complete. Now, Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation is looking for antique items to furnish the home. DENNY BECK

FORT WAYNE — Are there any pre-1939 antiques gathering dust in your attic?

Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation would love to showcase your treasures in the newly restored Salomon Farm homestead. The parks department is asking residents to help furnish the 1930s farm house by donating antiques from 1910-1939.

“We’re really relying on donations and finding the right pieces to purchase for this building,” said Kellie Adkins, manager of outdoor recreation at the parks department.

Work on the project started about two years ago and is being privately funded by local philanthropists. The renovations have included a new foundation, tearing down a garage, expanding the dining room, and adding an ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp.

“It’s something that wasn’t typical to a 1930s home, but we want to make sure everyone could come in and enjoy the project once it’s complete,” she said.

The project was originally estimated to cost $500,000, Adkins said, but the cost now totals almost $600,000. It’s not uncommon to encounter surprise expenses when restoring an old house.

Just how old is a little hard to nail down. The original house was built in 1871 after the Salomon family immigrated to the area from Germany. At some point, there was a fire and the house burned down. Then, it was rebuilt on the same site.

In 1995, the Salomon family donated the property to the parks department. One of the stipulations of the donation was that it remain a working farm featuring demonstration plots utilizing farming methods popular in the 1930s.

“We landed on 1930s because that was a really interesting time for American farmers because of the Great Depression as well as shifting from using horses to do the work to finally getting into tractors with these two cylinders that start showing up. It’s a nice eclectic mix to be able to show that transition of American agriculture,” Adkins said.

The 170-acre park features barns and farming equipment from the era. The homestead will provide the last piece to give visitors a full picture of a Hoosier family’s life on the farm in the 1930s, she said.

The restoration has only included the main level of the house, which includes a living room, parlor, dining room, kitchen, pantry and bathroom.

Upon completion, the home will be used for both public programming and private rentals. Couples who are getting married at the barn will now have a place to get ready with their wedding party before the ceremony.

Salomon Farm Park is funded almost entirely by its Farmin’ Fun Day Camp and facility rentals. It receives no tax dollars, Adkins said.

Recently, the house’s walls and floors have been restored. Soon, new cabinetry will be installed. The restoration has now come to its final hurdle: furnishing the house. The house’s original furnishings were previously auctioned off.

“We’re starting from scratch,” Adkins said.

The parks department is looking for antiques, including furniture, clothing, trinkets, kitchen implements/ware, wall décor, toys, china cabinets, record players, radios, table cloths and seasonal décor.

So far, members of the public have donated a music player, furniture and a handmade quilt from the 1800s. An antique crib that belonged to the Salomon family is making its way back to the house from Florida.

Period items have also been acquired from auctions.

The restoration team has consulted with both the Fort Wayne History Center and the Salomon family’s friends at Trinity English Lutheran Church.

Members of different volunteer groups have also offered insight on what their mothers and grandmothers had in their homes.

Don Wolf, a local philanthropist and major supporter of Salomon Farm Park, has led the project and helped find the funding. Born in 1929, his boyhood days were spent on a farm a couple miles outside of New Haven.

“It was a lot of hard work,” he said, remembering when farm work was done with horses and small tractors.

Preserving that period of American agriculture for the next generation has become his passion.

“It makes me feel great because so many kids haven’t had a chance to get out and touch nature. They don’t know it’s 1935, they just see animals and have a good time,” he said.

Adkins said she hopes to have the house furnished and ready to open by this fall. For now, the restoration team is taking its time and aiming for authenticity.

“We’re trying to make the home looked lived in and not like a museum,” she said.

If you are interested in donating antiques, contact Kellie Adkins at 260-427-6005 or Donations are tax deductible.