It’s hard to stump Jean Struewing, Batesville Area Historical Society president, who knows volumes about city history.
But RomWeber Flats developer Bruce Rippe did just that when he showed her an early Batesville map. “I think it may be the only copy in existence. Jean had never seen it.”
The yellowed diagram, 24 inches wide by 29.5 inches long, “appears to be one of the original plats for the city of Batesville.” The drawing of landmarks plus 412 lots “appears to be done by hand,” he points out.
According to the Batesville man, “We’ve had some surveyors look at this. We have yet to piece together the details of when we think this map was created.” His best guess is between 1850-70. One clue is that the former American Furniture Co. and Batesville Cabinet Co., established in 1879 and located where RomWeber Flats and RomWeber Marketplace are now, are not labeled on the map.
How did the historical item end up at his business? “This is purely speculation. George Hillenbrand was the first mayor of Batesville. A lot of his papers stayed in this building.” He explains George’s dad owned the complex of structures, which passed to his children. George Hillenbrand’s sister married A.W. Romweber. In 1929 the Hillenbrand and Romweber families decided to split up the businesses. George was aligned with Romweber Furniture, which used to be American Furniture Co. and Batesville Cabinet Co.
“It wasn’t until we started preparing ... (for the apartments on the site) that I started taking a hard look” at the map. “What was really telling … to me was the fact the first train station was on this property. It existed here because of access to a well right in front of RomWeber Marketplace.” He adds Batesville’s first stagecoach stop was where the Big Four Tavern used to be across from the property at the northeast Depot and Pearl intersection.