Tipp City's Unique Building
- The Roundhouse
By Judy Deeter
TIPP CITY - City Park in Tipp City is the site of an unusual building. The building, known as the “Roundhouse pavilion,” is architecturally unique both for its octagonal design (it has eight sides) and because it has no interior pillars to hold up the roof.
When it was built in 1887, local architects said that the building would never last without interior pillars to support the roof. Nevertheless, nearly 130 years later it remains standing in the park. It was designed and
constructed by Tipp City architect Wilhelm Koetitz. Koetitz was born in Weimai, Germany on February 7, 1859.
When he was 21—about 1880—he came to America with his parents. The Koetitz family settled in Tipp City soon after their arrival in the United States. (Tipp City was known as Tippecanoe City at the time.) Wilhelm Koetitz began working for the Tipp Building and Manufacturing Company in 1882 and worked for the company the rest of his life.
The story of the Roundhouse pavilion begins in 1884 when the town of Tippecanoe City bought 14 acres of land from local farmer Uriah John at a cost of $3,975 to create a park. Because John had farmed the land prior to the town’s purchase, historians believe that the trees now in the park were planted after Tippecanoe City purchased the land.
Koetitz designed and built the Roundhouse at a cost of $700. It should be noted that he created and constructed the building when he was a young man—probably about 28 or 29 years old.
A great change came to the park in 1902 when a horse racing track was built around the park. The Roundhouse then sat inside the track. Large crowds of people attended the races, some came on canal boats from the Miami and Erie Canal.
A story about the Roundhouse written in 2005 (author unknown) says, “In or around 1902, a racetrack was built skirting the park. It remains today, under asphalt rather than of clay and sand, the condition it was in when spirited horses paced and trotted around the oval in the presence of huge crowds. In those days the free-for-alls were races read about for many years.”
In 1921, a business named Troute & Eller leased the building for use as a dance hall. They invested a great deal of money to make renovations to the building and surrounding grounds. Unfortunately, the dance floor was too small for the crowds that showed up on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Fifteen-foot porches were built around the sides of the building to accommodate the dancers. The porches were removed about 1950.
In 1968, the Tipp City council debated whether to repair or replace the building. The council finally decided to renovate the building. Councilmen Fred and Tom English are said to have convinced the council that the building’s unique “construction and character” made it a structure worth saving. The wooden floor was replaced with a concrete slab and its leaky roof repaired. (The roof was repaired again in 1987.) Another major renovation took place in 1998. At that time, the building’s wood trim and siding were repaired and repainted, lead paint removed, and the building repainted.
In 1999, an historic mural was created for the Roundhouse by Tippecanoe High School art student Nick Avnaim.
The mural featured seven scenes of Roundhouse history. An unveiling of the mural and open house was held on September 22, 1999. The event featured banjo music by Homer Dillahunt and the Banjo Connection, an historical reading by Virginia Vocke of the Tippecanoe Historical Society, and a play written by Lynn Shirk and performed by the Tipp Players titled “I’ll meet you at the Roundhouse, Nellie, they Can’t corner us there.” Tipp City Mayor Sue Cook also read a proclamation for the event.
During the last half of the 20th century and into the 21st century, the Roundhouse has been in constant use.
From the 1950’s through the 1970’s, the City Park was home of the annual Chamber of Commerce 4th of July celebration. It was a place of carnival rides, games and fireworks. Many families have enjoyed picnics and reunions inside the building. It is always a busy place during the city’s Mum Festival, which is held every autumn in the park. For many years, it has been used during the summer by the Tipp-Monroe Community Services, Inc. for their children’s programs. The building is an integral part of recreational events in Tipp City.
Architect Wilhelm Koetitz lived through the first 50 years of history for the Roundhouse. He passed away in July 1940 at the age of 81. According to his obituary, he designed or built buildings both in Tipp City and Troy. In Tipp City he is credited as building churches for the Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist denominations. In Troy, he was involved with the Masonic Temple, the First Congregational Christian Church, an early building for First National Bank, and several residences. In the book TROY THE NINETEENTH CENTURY by Thomas Bemis Wheeler, there is a reference to the T.B. Wheeler family home at the northwest corner of Grant and May Street (Drury Lane) as being built by Tippecanoe contractor William Koetitz. It is believed that the William Koetitz that Wheeler refers to may be Wilhelm Koetitz, who designed the Roundhouse.
Individuals wishing to use the Roundhouse, should contact the Tipp City Planning and Zoning office at (937) 667-6305.