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The Founder of the Mansion

Moses Fowler (1815-1889) moved from Ohio to Lafayette, Indiana to pursue his dreams with his friend and business partner, John Purdue, who would go on to found Purdue University. Fowler met his beloved wife, Eliza Hawkins, and married her in 1844. During his travels, Fowler's imagination was struck by Gothic Revival architecture, and he built his dream home based on the plans of renowned designer A.J. Downing, acting as his own architect. Fowler broke ground on his dream in 1851 and saw it completed in 1852. The mansion stands on a hill which allowed the Fowlers to watch a then young Lafayette grow into the thriving city it is today.

Fowler began making his fortune in the mercantile industry but branched out into numerous other fields notably becoming one of the "Prairie Cattle Kings", so called because of his vast tracks of land and great herds. His ventures also included a railroad line to Chicago, one of the largest slaughterhouses in the Midwest, and three different successful banks. At the time of his death, Moses Fowler was one of the wealthiest men in the midwest, having amassed a fortune of over 3 million dollars, which is roughly 70 million adjusted for modern inflation.

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Renovations & Continued Use

Throughout the years, the Fowler House Mansion has been renovated and updated to keep pace with the modern world. In 1902, after the death of his grandmother, Eliza Fowler, Cecil Fowler inherited the property. In 1916-1917, Cecil and his wife, Louise, were committed to extravagant renovations of the mansion. These renovations included an English Tudor-style dining room, a garden room that doubled as a living room, an Italian-style patio and gardens, complete with terraced steps, fountains, a tea house and reflecting pool, as well as a servant quarters.

The upstairs of the mansion now houses seven bedrooms and five bathrooms, including a full attic, which served as a playroom and gymnasium for the Fowler children.  The Fowlers lived in grand style, traveled extensively, and loved to host elaborate parties. Like many during the period, Prohibition did not slow them down one bit, and their parties were somewhat legendary.  One of the attic rooms served as the storage area for alcohol during that period.  Their eldest son, James, even operated a "speakeasy" complete with a game room in the basement called the "Crock Club." This was a frequent hangout spot for his friends and Purdue students.  Fifty cents bought you all the beer you could drink and "Shorty" (the gardener) served up hamburgers for a nickel each.

Passing on the Fowler Legacy

By 1941, Cecil and Louise's children were grown, and the couple wished to downsize. They made the difficult decision to relinquish the mansion. After almost 90 years in the Fowler family, the house was sold to the Tippecanoe County Historical Association.  The house became the home for the Association's offices, collections, and served as the County Museum.  Following an extended period of marked decline in visitation, the Association closed the museum in 2005, although it was still partially used for offices, storage, and rented out for weddings and other events.

In 2014, the TCHA decided that running the Fowler House Mansion as a venue for special events required a specialized staff, and they sought a new, modern location to house their offices. Understanding the importance of the property, they sold it to the 1852 Foundation who preserve its legacy to this day.

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The 1852 Foundation

In the Spring of 2015, Matt and Dr. Ann Jonkman, created the 1852 Foundation to purchase, preserve, and operate this landmark, allowing it to be once again enjoyed by our community as a special events venue.  The property is now available to rent for a wide variety of special events, including weddings, luncheons, reunions, meetings, fundraisers, and holiday parties.  Other public events are hosted by the Foundation, including tours, wine tastings, brunches, lectures, fundraisers, parties, and theater events.

The mission of the 1852 Foundation is to preserve the mansion and make it available for the community to enjoy. We need your help. The profit from every event held here, every offsite catering order, every ticket for an event goes directly toward painting, repairing, fixing, mowing and otherwise maintaining this beautiful place. Help us keep this alive for future generations!

Have a Question?

909 South St
Lafayette, IN 47901

Phone: (765) 400-2002


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