1940s - Joe & Dit Elfner's
Kessler Boulevard Home in South Bend

One of the great things about scanning these old family slides I've found is that I'm learning things about my Dad's parents, Joe (Sherb) and Dit Elfner, both of whom passed away before I was born.  I knew that they had lived in South Bend, Indiana, before they moved to Madison in the early 1940s.  My Dad was born in South Bend, but was very young when they moved so he doesn't remember living there.  But in their old slides I found some pictures of this house being built on Kessler Boulevard.  Before that they lived on a Street called Parkovash that is not too far away.


The house is built into a hill that falls away toward the backyard.  From the front it appears to be a one story home, but three of the four sides are exposed on the lower level as well.  In this photo they are framing the lower level.


Note the heavy, iron beams they are using on the north side of the house.  The reason for this will become evident in a moment.


Now the second story has been framed and clad as well.  Note the boxy building just north of this home.  If I've got the right home in looking at satellite photos of the site today, that building appears to still be there, but has a peaked roof now.  There are some other homes in the neighborhood with similarly flat roofs, so it must have just been part of the architecture of the day.


Here is the first perspective from the front of the home.  You can see how the hill falls away in the back.


Now we are a little closer to completion and you can see why the north side of the home had to be reinforced.  He put a garage on the second floor!  Those 1940s cars were heavy so that floor had to be strong.  I've spoken to the present owners of the home and they told me the garage has long since been remodeled into a bedroom.


Now it's late summer 1940 and they've moved in.  Interesting brown and mustard paint scheme.  Again we're going to have to chalk that up to styles of the day.


My Grandmother with some neighbor kids, Buzz and Patsy Fitzgerald according to the slide label.  If Buzz and Patsy are still around they would be in their seventies today.


Here's my Grandpa standing in front of his new house.  I love the pants and the shoes!  He labeled this photo "All Out".  I believe he's referring to the flowers which are all in bloom.


This is the next summer, 1941.  Now he has a little tree in the front yard and some sort of vine flower up and around the front door.


A slightly wider shot from the same perspective.  In the background you can see a dome and a steeple.  If I'm oriented correctly, this is looking toward Notre Dame.  My brother Chris asked a friend of his who's family contains many ND alumni.  The consensus is that these are more likely buildings on the campus of St. Mary's College, right next to Notre Dame.  I bet all the trees are grown today and obscure those buildings completely from this house.


Now some shots in the backyard in 1941.  I'm rather impressed with how much has been done in the first year.  You can see a retaining wall and staircase on the right.  The patio, which looks like flagstone, is in, and he has staked out a wall around the patio and beyond.


A slightly wider and more focused shot of the back.  Love the awnings that match the chairs!


I think this is looking south, and it is later in the summer because the little wall in the foreground is in.


This cinder block wall on the right (north side of the backyard) intrigued me.  Originally I thought it was the remains of a structure that had previously stood on the site, especially since the metal doors are already rusting.  But the cinder block construction of the low wall is very similar, so now I think it's some sort of outdoor fireplace/retaining wall that he built.  I also have an article he wrote for the UW-Extension in 1951 called An Outdoor Fireplace for Picnics at Home, so perhaps this was some early research.


Here's the patio with the finished border walls.  There's even a doghouse for Fritz on the back left.  Man, Grandpa was busy that year!


And the other half of the patio.  I still remember those patio chairs from when I was a child.  By then they were painted blue and had different fabric.  Those things were hard to fold up without pinching a finger.


Grandma tells Fritz to "Stay!"  I only know this is Fritz because this slide was labeled, but Fritz shows up here and there in some of their earlier slides.  I'm not sure if he made the move to Madison.


In late 1941, Fritz stands guard on the fireplace wall over new baby Eliot.


There were a couple more photos of the house in 1946.  My assumption is that they went back to South Bend for a visit and stopped by to take a few photos of the old house.  Evidently the new owners did not appreciate the painting scheme or the heavy plantings.  Look at all the oil stains in the driveway.  Was that just normal for old cars to leak like that?


The backyard looks nice with the border wall and plantings.  All due respect to Grandpa, I think I prefer the more neutral paint scheme as well.


Amy's and my first house in Wauwatosa was also built in 1940.  I always wondered what it and the neighborhood looked like when it was first built.  When I found these, I thought I'd send one of the pictures to the current owners to see if they were interested in seeing the rest.  They told me the garage was replaced by a bedroom, which I think makes sense.  I bet you could jump up and down in there without rattling the floor since it was so reinforced for a car!

Next time I find myself in or near South Bend, I am going to have to stop by to snap a picture.


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This page was last updated 1/8/2007.

A note about photos.  Although these photos are on the web, there is no link to them so they will not be found by search engines.  I also have avoided using any last names, hometowns, etc. in the descriptions.  Really the only people who should see these are the ones I send them too, but if you have concerns with these being on the Internet, let me know.  Eric Elfner, the original photographer, retains the copyright to all photos on this site.