By kjfitz @ 2008-02-01 15:19:51
Barker Mansion is the former residence of local millionaire-industrialist, John H. Barker, who built the Haskell & Barker Railroad Car Company, which later became Pullman-Standard. The mansion was built in 1857, and shortly after the elaborate 38 room structure was finished, both Mr. and Mrs. Barker passed away, leaving the mansion and the Barker fortune to their only child, Catherine, who later donated the structure to Michigan City. The building is now a lasting tribute to Barker's philanthropy and is open to the public for tours. A tour of the mansion and grounds makes for a fascinating study in "gracious living." It is typical of turn-of-the-century opulence and features rare woods and marble, beautiful one-of-a-kind tapestries, impressive collections of books and paintings, and a third-story ballroom where the Barkers entertained in royal fashion.
The architecture is modeled after the stately English manors of the Victorian Era. The rich furnishings, almost all original, were imported from Europe and the rest of the world. The drawing room features a hand carved marble fireplace and ceiling of molded plaster in baroque design. Silver-plated bronze torches and a white limestone fireplace invite one into the foyer of the mansion. The walnut table in the formal dining room has a beautifully carved pedestal base ornamented with cherubs, each one a unique "winged child." Throughout the mansion, the discerning visitor is intrigued by the repetition of lions, winged women, cherubs, and garlands worked in various mediums. Much of the decor consists of authentic Barker family artifacts, including furnishings and art objects, family portraits, library collections, and personal belongings. Outside, an elaborate sunken garden hosts a bronze equatorial sun dial, a tea house complete with leaded-glass globes, and a 19th Century Italian statue of "The Three Graces"; these delightful elements combine to make the courtyard and perennial garden an especially unique setting for weddings.