West North Shore Drive

The West North Shore Drive local historic district was designated by ordinance in 1978. The district includes the residences in the 100-400 blocks of West North Shore Drive and the Saint Joseph River river bank.

Although this collection of residences is primarily a product of the early 20th century, the land on which the district stands is thought to have been a seasonal place where the Potowatomi fished and camped. Pierre Navarre, the area`s first non-native resident, chose this location in 1830 for his trading post and log cabin. The cabin now stands in Leeper Park on the other side of the river.

Pierre Navarre`s son, Peter, sold the property in 1863 to Alexis Coquillard, son of the fur trader and co-founder of South Bend. In 1866, the land was purchased by Samuel Leeper, a prominent farmer and banker. The oldest structure in the district, a vernacular farmhouse at 113 West North Shore Drive, was built as a wedding gift for Samuel Leeper Jr. in 1888.

The younger Leeper discovered clay deposits here, around the same year, and built a brickyard. The bricks, yellow in color, were used for buildings at the University of Notre Dame and for paving West Jefferson Street. In 1893, Leeper rented the brickyard and clay pits to others and became associated with the Home Improvement Company. He sold the company his tract of land by the river for $75,000.

In December 1903, the Home Improvement Company filed a plat and named it the Navarre Place Addition. The old Leeper house was soon part of a subdivision stretching four blocks to the north of the river and running from Michigan Street west to Lafayette Boulevard.

The subdivision was a stylish street of middle-class homes and was within walking distance of the streetcar and downtown. Among the first residents were Judge Thomas Slick (1906), a local prosecuting attorney involved with several notorious cases involving the Ku Klux Klan and gangs, Solon Rider (1906) proprietor of a "five and dime" store on Michigan Street and Vice President of the Home Improvement Company, and Dr. Edwin Lent (1905), a Canadian immigrant who helped organize the South Bend Clinic.

Today the district consists of the 19th century Leeper farmhouse, seventeen early 20th century structures and two 20th century ranch-style houses. Among the many interesting residences are: a Sears and Roebuck mail-order house, the Neo-Classical "Magnolia" at 325 West North Shore, and a 1925 Italian Renaissance structure at 219 West North Shore, designed by local architect Ernest Young.