IU South Bend student explores church basement

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St. Paul’s Memorial United Methodist Church, 1001 W Colfax Ave PHOTO/Leah Fick
St. Paul’s Memorial United Methodist Church on 1001 W Colfax Ave. PHOTO/Leah Fick

Staff Writer

While some students spent their summer vacations at the beach, senior Patrick Finnigan spent part of his summer excavating an enclosed space located in the basement of St. Paul’s Memorial United Methodist Church in hopes of uncovering the truth.

Finnigan grew curious after taking a tour of the church with his archaeology class last summer.

On the tour, a bricked over doorway immediately caught Finnigan’s attention, and he began to question what it was. The doorway was found about two years ago and it was thought to be an old tunnel leading to the Studebaker mansion, according to Finnigan.

Over the years there have been rumors of Clement Studebaker having tunnels from his residence, Tippecanoe Place, leading to the church, bank and his daughter’s house behind the main building.

Almost a year later Finnigan found himself back at the church ready to explore.

“This last spring I was looking for something else to do after finishing up some research I presented nationally,” said Finnigan. “I went back and talked to them and they offered for me to be the one in charge of opening it up and checking it out.”

Finnigan spent four to six-hour shifts twice a week for a month excavating the space before he began the research part of his project.

IU South Bend was supportive of Finnigan throughout the project, providing tools and items from the lab, he said.

Finnigan works under Professor Joshua Wells and many times along side Professor James VanderVeen.

With this being more of a solo project, Finnigan feels confident going out into the workforce and feels less like a student, he said.

The digging portion of the project concluded after finding it would take thousands of dollars and much more time than expected. The door has since been sealed up.

However, Finnigan was able to get in far enough to conclude there is not a tunnel. It is just a vacant vault, so to speak, he said.

Finnigan has his theories regarding what the space may have been but is continuing research to confirm.

For the research portion of this project Finnigan is going through all the church’s old records, books and files, which are hand written and out of order, according to Finnigan.

So far he has yet to come across any reference to a tunnel or what the space may have been, but he plans on continuing his research to find out.

Finnigan also plans on writing a paper to present nationally and to write a book for Notre Dame University regarding his research.

“The editor of Notre Dame press reached out and would like me to write about it,” said Finnigan. “The University is going to help me do that so I will be able to go into greater detail.”

Finnigan hopes this will help him get into to graduate school and eventually put his skills to good use by promoting urban development.

“After I graduate I want to find a program where I can do my work and put it towards something that benefits everybody and not just be tucked away somewhere,” said Finnigan. “I am trying to rebuild our heritage and trying to find ways to rebuild it, so I can incorporate those into urban development, so they can be sources of pride and development for the city.”

Finnigan is expected to graduate this December.

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