By Mary Giorgio
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Oliver Mansion in South Bend, Indiana, boasts a whopping 38 rooms and over 12,000 square feet. Built in 1897 for industrialist Joseph D. Oliver, the home is a popular destination for tourists passing through the city.
Joseph D. Oliver (a.k.a. JD) was the president of Oliver Chilled Plow Co., a factory founded by his father, James. James Oliver was the inventor of the chilled plow, which consisted of a cast iron blade that was stronger and smoother due to a cooling process. He patented the design in 1857.
JD began to work for his father in 1867 at the age of 16. He first worked as a bookkeeper, but within a year had been promoted to the role of treasurer. JD would go on to become the company’s president. Under his leadership, Oliver Chilled Plow became the biggest plow factory in the world.
In 1885, JD married Anna Wells. The couple had four children. In 1897, JD commissioned an opulent mansion for his family, meant to display their vast wealth. The Romanesque Queen Anne structure was built by New York architect Charles Alonzo Rich. The home was one of the first in South Bend to have electricity. It also boasted an early central vacuum system and burglar alarm.
The family named their new home “Copshaholm,” after the Scottish village that James Oliver had immigrated from. Upon completion, JD purchased a large parcel of land adjacent to the mansion. Landscape architect Alice E. Neale of New York City was hired to turn 2.5 acres into an Italian style garden, complete with a rose garden, tea house, and tennis lawn. The family entertained extensively and used the outdoor space for many gatherings.