February 28, 1967, was a bitterly cold night with temperatures hovering around ten degrees, when an alarm came into Muncie’s Fire Station Number One at about 8 p.m. There was a fire at Minnetrista, the former home of the Frank C. and Elizabeth Brady Ball family. The firefighters were on the scene within five minutes. The fire was so intense and widespread that a second alarm was issued soon after. A general alarm, calling in all off-duty firefighters, was issued at 9:06 p.m.
Fruit jars, aerospace equipment, pop cans—those are the products that naturally come to mind when Ball Corporation is mentioned. Christmas ornaments, not so much. In the mid-1970s, Ball Corporation did get into the Christmas ornament business, one of several new products made when the company wanted to expand its product lines. In order to changes its product mix, Ball produced new products to sell directly to the consumer both in stores and by mail-order catalog.
The Ball brothers had a lot of distinguishing qualities. They were shrewd businessmen. They possessed inventive minds. Each had a sense of philanthropy that was felt around Muncie; the community they called home.
They also had great facial hair.
October 27 is Navy Day! Beginning in 1922, the day was selected by the New York Navy League in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday. Roosevelt was a naval strategist and scholar, and believed that a superior Navy was crucial to the United States becoming a powerful nation and having influence in foreign policy.
In 1880 a small business was launched in Buffalo, NY. Making tin cans to hold kerosene and paint, the modest business soon redesigned their product and expanded into glass production. It wasn’t long before the company’s fruit jars were outselling their kerosene cans. Looking to capitalize on the area’s natural gas supply, the company opened a glass factory in Muncie. This move proved successful.
It’s beautiful and in absolutely lovely condition for its age. The quilt features multi-colored silk patches, delicate embroidery and a gray velvet border. Sarah Rogers of Buffalo, New York made this crazy quilt ca. 1890, about three years before she married oldest Ball brother, Lucius. Sarah brought it with her when she and Lucius moved to Muncie and established their home on Minnetrista Boulevard. The quilt was handed down to Sarah’s only child, Helen Ball Robinson, who donated it to the Minnetrista Heritage Collection.
We have thousands of letters in the Minnetrista Heritage Collection. Some are momentous, with news of births, marriages, deaths, or important business deals. Others are the stuff of everyday life – requests for money from students away at school, reports on the day’s mundane activities, or a little bit of gossip. One of my favorites hovers somewhere between. It’s a letter from Edmund F. Ball to his uncles Frank and George written in September, 1942 while serving overseas in the U.S. Army.
At the end of July, faeries will invade the gardens at Oakhurst, bringing their magic with them to delight our visitors. The event Faeries, Sprites, & Lights was conceived more than twenty years ago as a tribute to Elisabeth “Betty” Ball’s childhood belief in faeries.
After being disappointed with the quality of motels available during a family road trip, Kemmons Wilson decided to build his own hotel. The first Holiday Inn opened in Memphis, Tennessee in August 1952. A little more than seven years later, the 119th hotel in the chain opened in Muncie at South Madison Street and U.S. 35. Although some of the hotels were company owned, the hotel in Muncie was franchised by Harper Hotels, Inc. Company president was Henry “Hank” Harper, Jr.
While it’s fun to look at historic black and white images of the five Ball brothers’ homes, it’s also great to see them in glorious color. Albany, Indiana artist Alan Patrick made sure that we will always have that color record of the homes. In 1996, Patrick received a commission from Alltrista (now Jarden Home Brands) to create paintings of the homes. At first, he considered making one painting that would be a collage of all five houses. After consideration and study, however, he decided to make a separate painting of each house. He photographed the four standing houses—the Frank C. Ball home was destroyed by fire in 1967—in the early spring, and went to work in his studio.