Indiana University South Bend Archives
1700 Mishawaka Avenue P.O. Box 7111
South Bend, Indiana 46634
Phone: (574) 520 – 4392
Creator: Civil Rights Heritage Center
Title: Hering House Collection of the Civil Rights Heritage Center
Extent: Two (2) full-width letter-sized document cases totaling 0.8 cubic feet.
The Hering House was an important center of learning and cultural activity for South Bend’s African American community in the first half of the twentieth century. It was modeled after similar efforts at Chicago’s Hull House.
In 1924, Frank Hering, history and economics professor at the University of Notre Dame, along with his wife Claribel, bought a twenty-year old church building on South Bend, Indiana’s Division Street (present-day Western Avenue). 1
Frank and Claribel, with a group of mostly white progressive reformers, established Hering House with the purpose of providing, as stated in its declaration of trust, “the colored people of South Bend, Indiana, a community center for their religious, educational, recreational and social welfare activities.” Despite Hering House’s focus on the African American community, its founding documents required that only two of the seven person Board of Directors be persons of color. This language and leadership structure remained until 1951.
With segregation rampant in many similar South Bend institutions through the 1940s and into the early 1950s (e.g. the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Christian Associations, the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Natatorium, etc.), Hering House became the predominant activity center for South Bend’s African American community. As the city integrated during the early 1950s, Hering House continued its prominence despite duplicating the activities of the aforementioned institutions. By this point, however, the facilities were in desperate need of repair, and with Hering House duplicating the services of now integrated facilities, it was increasingly difficult to justify its existence. In 1963, the Board voted to disband and officially close the Hering House. 2
Scope and Content Note:
The collection material is arranged by subject. In the event of duplicate subjects, folders are arranged chronologically. The collection documents several South Bend-specific betterment organizations, such as the Community Chest of South Bend, and the Urban League, which Hering House allied itself with beginning in 1956. Some documents make reference to “Dunbar Community Center,” the Hering House’s name for a period in the 1930s.