Take a History Tour of The Bend

An iconic moment in the Civil Rights Movement has connections to The Bend.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sought out in the summer of 1964 several prominent figures to join him during a civil rights rally at Soldier Field in Chicago. Many declined. But that didn’t keep Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame at the time, from accepting.

Taking part in the rally led to Hesburgh’s inclusion in an historic photo. He’s pictured standing arm-in-arm with King singing “We Shall Overcome.”

Unveiled in June 2017 at Leighton Plaza in downtown South Bend, a statue (pictured above) of the famed photograph brings this scene to life. The statue faces west toward Main Street.

Not only does the statue commemorate the work of two great humanitarians, it’s one of The Bend’s great photo ops. It’s also a perfect place to begin any South Bend history tour.

History buffs, car enthusiasts and foodies alike can enjoy the stops as they explore The Bend’s roots. All these stops are within walking or biking distance. Let’s get started.

Civil Rights Heritage Center

Start by traveling west on Washington Street to the Civil Rights Heritage Center. The CRHC is housed in a former natatorium, a public pool. It educates on contemporary issues of social justice and civil rights. It documents, preserves and shares our area’s civil rights history. Included in that is the movement to desegregate the natatorium.

Studebaker National Museum

Just a couple blocks from the CRHC, gearheads are likely to find Studebaker National Museum an ideal destination. It’s home to roughly 120 vehicles across multiple collections, including special exhibits. Woven into this is the story of the Studebaker family, which permeates so much of South Bend’s history and growth.

Among the museum’s exhibits is the largest collection of presidential carriages anywhere, including the one that carried Abraham Lincoln on the night of his assassination.

The History Museum

Getting here from the Studebaker museum is easy. They’re on the same campus. Perhaps no attraction tells a fuller story of The Bend’s history – from pre-history, to French exploration, to industrial growth and beyond. Permanent exhibits include a closer look at the area’s growth and South Bend’s connection to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

On the museum grounds you’ll also find the Oliver Mansion, a pristine home with original furnishings. The mansion was in the family of J.D. Oliver, a local industrialist, for years.

Tippecanoe Place Restaurant

Round out your day by enjoying a fine dining experience like no other right down the street from the museums. Clem Studebaker built Tippecanoe Place in the late 1800s as a 40-room mansion. It’s now one of The Bend’s foodie destinations. You can dine library, sun porch, or even the ballroom.

Afterward, take a self-guided tour of the 26,000-square-foot mansion.