WESTFIELD, Ind. — A woman in Westfield is trying to show off a bit of history before it’s gone. The green building on the corner of Union St. and SR 32 in downtown Westfield has been in that spot for more than 100 years, but not for much longer.
The building currently houses Dance Innovations, a dance studio co-owned by Lorenda Carr. Carr said they have to be out in two weeks so the building can be moved before construction along State Road 32.
The Westfield Historical Society President Diana Peyton said the building was constructed in the 1840s, a few years after Westfield became a town.
“I think it’s important to remember where we came from before we move forward,” Carr said.
As the building was being cleaned out in preparation of moving, Carr realized more people should get to see it.
”We’ll see all the original beams that were hand-hewn, all the original nails that were hand-made by blacksmiths,” Carr said.
Carr set up free tours of the historical building. The response has been far beyond what she expected.
”I just put out a Facebook post saying, ‘Hey, would anyone be interested?'” Carr said. “I thought I would get maybe 40 or 50 people but 700. I have to open up more time slots if I want to accommodate because I still have more people asking.”
Carr said the building played a role in the underground railroad, including a filled-in entryway in the basement of the house she said used to be a tunnel.
“Very few people had any idea just how important this building and this area played in saving so many lives,” she said.
Peyton said while there isn’t specific documentation that the home played a role in the underground railroad or that a tunnel there existed – she believes this could be possible because of the large role Westfield played in helping slaves get to freedom in the north.
Peyton said the underground railroad was such a dangerous thing to be a part of so there were not many records kept, meaning all of the locations it went through aren’t known. She did add the building used to be owned by the White family, who were very involved in the underground railroad.
Carr said the historic building could be moved to a few different locations but it has not been decided on. She’s just excited to show it off while they have it.
“What a great way to go out and at least expose the community to see a little bit of history before it is buried,” Carr said.
If you’re interested in a tour you can sign up at this link.
As for Dance Innovations, Carr said they have found a new location right across from their current one on SR 32.
Westfield City Councilor Scott Willis said construction on the SR 32 expansion should begin in winter of 2023 or spring of 2024. We told you previously about how rising costs of building materials and land was causing the projected price tag to go up.
Willis said they have not seen any further price increases and they’re holding out hope costs could go down.
The project will widen SR 32 to two lanes in both directions and add better sidewalks.
”With all the growth we have seen on the residential side we need commercial development, we need more shops,” Willis said. “I always tell people, people sleep in Westfield but they don’t live, work and play in our city.”
Willis said the current road can’t handle Westfield’s growth.
”It’s a bottleneck, nobody wants to come down 32 into Westfield, there are no places to park, it’s just a real congested area that’s not friendly for walkability and for people coming and visiting your shop,” he said. “This will change all of that.”
The project is a partnership with INDOT since SR 32 is a state road.
”Right now INDOT is in the process of land acquisition so they are working through individually with private landowners the purchasing of their property,” Willis said.
For more on the planned State Road 32 project, you can check out the Westfield website.