The Topolgus Building    403 N. Walnut St. Bloomington, IN

 

Topolgus Building History

The Topolgus Building is situated on Out Lot 35 of the original plat of Bloomington.  Addison Smith, a  land agent, along with his wife Nancy, are the first owners of the property.  They sold the property in 1827, the deed of which states it included that part of the lot in which Smith's “dwelling house is situated.”  However, at that time the house was undoubtedly a simple frame structure.


Interestingly, Smith sold the house to James Whitcomb, a lawyer from Kentucky who moved to Bloomington in 1824.  He served as Monroe County's prosecuting attorney from 1826 to 1829, and was elected to the Indiana Senate in 1830.  Whitcomb was appointed by President Andrew Jackson to serve as Commissioner of the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. In 1836, the year he sold this Bloomington home.  When he resigned his appointment in 1841, Whitcomb moved to Terre Haute and was elected Governor of Indiana in 1843.  Bloomington lawyer, Paris C. Dunning, was his Lieutenant Governor.  When Whitcomb was elected to the Unites States Senate in 1849, Dunning became Governor.


It appears that during Whitcomb's ownership, the Out Lot 35 began to be divided, first with a dividing line running east/west, then later with another dividing line running north/south.  Eventually each of those sections would be further divided.


In 1834, Lewis Bollman, Indiana University's first graduate, purchased the north half of the Lot.  Then in April 1863, Bollman purchased the southern half from James Whitcomb.  He only retained the property for two months, however, selling it to William Millen in June.  The Millen family, like so many Monroe County's early settlers, was part of the Scoth-Irish Presbyterians who migrated from South Carolina.  The group is most notable in history for their strong anti-slavery stance, but locally they were instrumental in the formation and growth of the area including Indiana University.


William Moffat Millen is associated with the National Register-listed Millen House east of downtown.  However, evidence does not indicate the same William Millen owned the Out Lot 35 property, as he had both and uncle and son named William.  It is most likely that Out Lot 35 was owned by his uncle.  It is also interesting to note that it was not until 1845 that a substantial increase in total property value occurred, from $500 to $1,300.  This is the general indication that a house or replacement house was constructed.  One year later, the property sold to William McCrum.


McCrum retained the property until 1855 without making any substantial changes.  He then sold it to Aaron Chase, originally of New York, and that same year the property value jumped to $4,000.  Through the late 1850s and into the 1860s, the property value remained high, although later decreased due to depreciation.  In 1862, the property value took a dramatic fall to only $700.  It remained at this level into the early 1870s, leading one to believe that the house built by Millen was destroyed.  In 1865, the property was listed as the Estate of Aaron Chase, indicating he had died.


In 1870, John McCalla purchased the property.  In 1872, there was once again a dramatic increase in lot and improvement value to $4,200.  The values remained high through at least 1890, indicating he likely constructed the building as it is seen today.


Redick McKee Wylie, the second to the youngest son of Dr. Andrew Wylie, Indiana University's first president, purchased the house in 1900.  Prior to that time, he and his wife, Madeline A. Thompson Wylie, had lived on the Wylie family farm south of Bloomington.  Redick, a farmer, stockman and merchant, constructed the farm home as a young man.  His father, and other family members frequented the property, and it was there, while chopping wood, where Dr. Wylie suffered the injury that lead to his death in 1850.


It is unclear exactly when and why the Wylies moved to town, but by 1909 Madeline Wylie had been widowed.  She remained in the house until 1924 which was possibly the year she died.  For a brief time the house was a residential rental, including a couple of years as a boarding house.  Then in 1926, Arther and Mary Day purchased the house for use as both their home and the location of the funeral chapel for Day Funeral Home.  It served in this capacity for the next ten years.  The house then returned to the rental market.


The Days sold the property to James N. Topolgus, Sr. in 1947 for the use of his physician's office.  The building was later passed onto his son, James N. Topolgus, Jr., for the same use and it remain in the Topolgus family today.


Narrative written and researched in 2009 by

Danielle Bachant- Bell

Lord & Bach Historic Preservation Consulting