Trinity School opened its doors on Monday to a rare public tour as part of a yearlong celebration of South Bend’s sesquicentennial. Construction of the historic estate began in 1909. Clement Studebaker II lived with his family in the mansion until 1927.
Originally called Elm Court, the mansion was renamed Chateau Bendix when industrialist Vincent Bendix purchased the property in 1928. Bendix never actually lived in the home for extended periods — he resided in Chicago — preferring to host parties on the South Bend estate.
The estate stretches across three city blocks in the East Jefferson Boulevard neighborhood. The mansion itself is over 25,000 square feet with an additional 7,800 square feet in the basement. The U-shaped French-inspired design has three separate wings: a south wing that faced Jefferson Boulevard served as the main living quarters. The north wing had stables and a garage with a car elevator, as well as servant housing. The connecting north-south was also mostly for domestic workers: a kitchen, laundry area, and more servants’ quarters.
The tour highlighted a number of distinct features that Bendix installed to serve his lifestyle. The east sun room (pictured below in a room with a pair of white couches and a fire place) once had a fountain that spouted champagne. Bendix also installed a ballroom in the basement, a two lane bowling alley in the stables, and a nine-hole pitch-and-putt golf course on the land to the north of the mansion.
Bendix apparently hid liquor in the basement behind a concealed door at the height of Prohibition. The liquor was stored in a sub-basement area with a safe lock securing the precious merchandise. Bendix’s connections with the mob were serious enough for him to install a fortified door on his bedroom suite, protecting him from unwanted intruders.
The property was sold to the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1943, who concealed many of Bendix’s changes to the house. In the early 1950s, an addition was constructed on to the south side of the estate to make room for a chapel and school. Since 1982, the property has been owned by the People of Praise, a Christian non-denominational community, which runs the Trinity School.