Barker Mansion

Barker Mansion, Michigan City: Hours, Address, Barker Mansion Reviews: 4.5/5

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Barker Mansion

Barker Mansion
4.5
Architectural Buildings • History Museums
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Learn more about the mansion built by one of the founding fathers of the rail car industry, John H. Barker. From educational guided tours to special seasonal functions, the Barker Mansion is a true jewel in the crown of Michigan City.
Suggested duration
1-2 hours
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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.

4.5
121 reviews
Excellent
85
Very good
28
Average
4
Poor
2
Terrible
2

Travelingw6
Wauseon, OH259 contributions
Nov 2020 • Family
It is a self guided tour at this time. They have a movie explaining the family that you start with in the basement. They give you a card explaining the different rooms as you explore. The younger kids sped thru the tour. The older kids appreciated the rooms better. It was worth stopping.
Written November 10, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

runaway2travel
Kalamazoo, MI1,147 contributions
May 2018 • Couples
I did not know what to fully expect when I worked this into our Michigan City itinerary, but this was a hidden gem. The gf loves these old mansions, and this one was epic.

"When completed the mansion featured 38 rooms, 7 fireplaces, and 10 bathrooms. Its furnishings reflected the Barkers’ tastes: elegant, handcrafted, imported, opulent—and communicated their status as elite among the elite."

When you consider this man was one of the richest in the world based out of Michigan City, Indiana it literally shows. If you calculated the conversion from early 1900's to today's wealthy, I believe he would have been worth $25 billion in today's dollars. Incredible!

Anyway, we have went through a number of these classic upscale homes or mansions, and I have yet to see one that is on this level of excess and elegance. Even the Ford Mansion does not come remotely close. I found it interesting that Barker's mansion was right next to his factory however. Many other rich folk houses still have acres of land cutting them off from the rest of the public where this house is on the main drag. Where the lighthouse outlets are, used to be the factory property.

The house included many artifacts provided by the Barker family with rooms decorated the same as they used to be in the provided photos shows about the grounds. These old places are amazing in their own right. However, when you consider that these are 100+ years old and had this level of grandeur, it really is unbelievable to imagine.

The cost is $8/adult for a self guided tour. They provide you a lamented sheet of facts for the different rooms and history of the house. I believe they also offer a guided tour, but we did not partake because of the timing for the next one available. There is plenty of parking, and the location is easy to find off one of the Michigan City main drags.
Written May 6, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Cwbjr
4 contributions
Great way to spend a few hours learning about regional history. The guides were two wonderful older women - both warm and engaging as well as full of knowledge. The house is beautiful and so well preserved and filled with the original furniture. I would go back again.
Written December 28, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Garth M
Oakville, Canada363 contributions
Apr 2014 • Solo
I saw the front hall after ringing the doorbell. Hard to find the hours for this place. The website is confused and the information hard to find. The place is not open weekends, a fact that even the people at the lighthouse up the street were not aware of.
Written April 12, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

interceptpubs
Columbus, IN1,007 contributions
Oct 2019
The Barker family played a major role in the development of industry in the Michigan City area in the 19th and early 20th centuries. John H. Barker, Sr., moved to Indiana in 1836 from Massachusetts searching for economic opportunities in the fast closing pioneer state of Indiana. Initially a general merchant, he branched into grain brokerage before opening a commission house to handle merchandise being shipped on the Great Lakes. In 1855, he bought an interest in a railroad car manufacturing business that was relocating to Michigan City. It was an opportune investment as the coming of the Civil War just a few years later resulted in a huge demand for railroad cars.

When he retired in 1869, his son, John H. Barker, Jr., joined the firm and eventually became the company's president. By 1910, the family fortune was estimated to be $60 millions dollars (the equivalent of $1.6 billion today).

As befitting the wealthiest family in town, the Barker's had the most impressive home in Michigan City. Originally built in 1857, the house underwent an extensive expansion in the early 20th century. When completed in 1909, it had 38 rooms, ten bathrooms, and seven fireplaces. Built in the style of an English manor house, its two-and-a-half stories are clad in dark red brick with limestone trim.

Unfortunately, Barker's wife died of a sudden illness in May 1910, with Barker himself dying of pneumonia in December. This left their only child, 14-year-old Catherine, an orphan and also one of the wealthiest women in the world. She completed her education in New York where she made her home after graduation - the mansion in Michigan City stayed in the family, but was seldom visited by the young heiress.

In 1915, she sold the family's interest in the railroad car factory (it eventually became part of the Pullman Company and continued to operate until the decline of the railroad industry led to its closure in 1970). She subsequently embarked on several philanthropic enterprises that aided the people of Michigan City and eventually gave the mansion to Purdue University, which used it as a temporary regional campus from 1948 to 1968.

After Purdue University vacated the structure, the house is gifted to Michigan City. Before Catherine's death in 1970, she provided money for the mansion's restoration and arranged to have its original furnishings returned.

The result is that today, the mansion looks very much like it did in its heyday, both inside and out. We visited it recently and took the guided tour (offered Tuesdays through Saturdays at 1 p.m. - self-guided tours are also available on Saturday afternoons). This lasts a little more than an hour and takes visitors through the public rooms on the first floor, the family quarters on the second floor, and even the servants quarters. Rooms look pretty much as they did in the day - with proof in most rooms provided by period insurance photos. We actually got here a little after 1, so joined the tour shortly after they finished a short video on the family - we watched the video after the tour ended, but it is definitely good to watch (and probably more helpful if seen first).

Overall, we really enjoyed the tour and thought it was very well done.
Written November 4, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

AJCattapan
Chicago, IL7 contributions
Aug 2017 • Family
We were in Michigan City, Indiana, for a little family reunion--all 23 of us! We had 13 kids from 4-19 years old and had planned a day at the beach, but cool temps and rain made us switch up our plans last minute. We were a little worried about how the younger kids would do at the mansion, but the kind gentleman at the door informed us that they had a scavenger hunt for the kids to play. It was perfect! They loved going from room to room in the house trying to find the different items. Each kid got a small gift after completing the scavenger hunt, too!

Photos are not allowed inside the mansion, but we got a nice family photo on the front steps. Highly recommended!
Written August 11, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

MstrMstr
Michigan City, IN61 contributions
Dec 2015
Built in 1858 by railroad car tycoon John Barker. whom merged his company with the Pullman railroad car company based in Michigan City, Indiana. Contains 90% original furnishings and is a glimpse into the well-to-do's life of the late 1800's. They have guided and unguided tours.
Written December 15, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

lizjoea
Valparaiso,IN2 contributions
Jun 2015 • Couples
The Mansion is truly a Gem, very well kept, the English Garden is beautiful, we were given time to stroll the garden, and the ballroom definitely a must see.
Written June 29, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Amy W
12 contributions
Jun 2015 • Family
We did this last minute and we were so glad we did. The house was beautiful and the docent quite knowledgeable. The hours can be a bit difficult to find, but well worth your time. Many gems inside...I was impressed by the Tiffany lamps and the marble fireplaces. I had three boys ages 9-13 and they also enjoyed it. Recommend...but call ahead as there was only one tour open to the public due to a large group booking and we only found out through a sign out front when we arrived.
Written June 20, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Kadie O
Michigan City, IN139 contributions
Apr 2014 • Friends
We felt like we had taken a time travel trip to the past! The furnishing were just as the family left them many years ago!
Written March 17, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Barker Mansion

Barker Mansion is open:
  • Tue - Sun 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM