Klopot Studios - Starke County Tidbit #53

posted Jan 15, 2014, 9:14 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library   [ updated Sep 9, 2014, 9:47 AM ]
Over the years, Starke County has had several Photographic Studios - example:

PW Needham    Knox & North Judson   1895
Horn, C. W.    Knox, North Judson   1890's
Barnum's Studio    Knox    1890's
Whipple    Knox    1890's
Henning, W. R.     1890's
Myers     Knox      1890's
Klopot, Sigmund     Knox, North Judson, Bass Lake   1895-1912
Ewing, George D.    North Judson    1900
Klopot, Clara & Bonner, Stella     Knox, North Judson, Bass Lake   1912-1970
Coffins, N. M.    Hamlet    1916-1917
Lavery, P. J.    Bass Lake     1916-1917
Warren Studio     Knox 

But few of them have stayed very long or have done so much for the history of Starke County as Klopot Studios.   Sigmund and Clara were photographers in Chicago  in the late 1800's and moved to Starke County in 1896.  Their daughter, Stella, was born in 1894 and helped her mother for years after her father died in 1912.  Later, she took over with the help of her husband, Matt Bonner.  Matt was also Knox City Court Judge at one time.

Stella Bonner was also Starke County's first state appointed Starke County Historian.  Many years ago, she made a recording about their photography business in Starke County and how they had businesses going in Knox, North Judson and Bass Lake.   The following is a transcript of that recording:

"Now about a trip to Bass Lake; my mother and father were both photographers and I handled a camera at a pretty early age, too ...It was quite a thing to have a branch store. Gus Reiss, the clothier, had a store in North Judson and one in Walkerton. My folks branched out, too. They had moved to Knox from North Judson, and they kept a little studio there after they moved. They went over there one day a week and took what pictures there were to be taken - one parent would go over there while the other would stay in Knox. They decided that there was quite an untapped reservoir of business at Bass Lake - there were bathing girls coming out from Chicago and it was the only chance on earth a girl had to show a leg in those days, and they loved to have their pictures made. Pop had an old tintype outfit he had used in Chicago, so they built a little studio on the lakefront, near where a Mr. Brown had a sort of second-hand store ...the lake is down low from the road there and that's where they put up a fragile, little frame building ...they just set it up on some cement blocks. In the summertime my dad would go out there and stay all summer photographing the bathing girls, and babies, too. Father didn't have very good health and he  thought that air was better for him. Mother was busy in Knox, but on Saturday, the day for North Judson, we closed the studio and Mother took me and the old suitcase and we walked down Lake Street to what was called the Three-I depot and took the train at seven in the morning to North Judson. We had about six or seven blocks to walk from the depot to our little studio. Mother minded the shop all day and I played with the neighbor kids. I even went across the tracks to watch a dear lady do her Saturday baking, with my chin over the edge of the table.
Come five o'clock, Mother locked up the studio and we walked down to the Union Station in North Judson. We had come in on the Three-I and now we waited for the five o'clock train on the Erie which came out of Chicago. It was gay, full of excursionists, you see. There were weekend excursions from Chicago to Bass Lake. People dressed up to go on the train then ...the city girls had newer clothes than we country girls did - it was really quite a fashion show on the train.
The Erie ran down to Bass Station and then there was a spur that extended along where the highway now is - all the way from Bass Station to the very edge of Bass Lake. There was a huge pier at the end of the railroad spur and one of those big express wagons was there, and the festive crowd got off the train, and their trunks were unloaded. You needed a trunk even for a weekend in those days, and a lot of people wanted to stay. So, the baggage was put on the old express wagon and trundled down to the pier where the steam boat was waiting. Sometimes a band would be playing on the boat. "All Aboard" on the boat and away we went around the lake.
It usually went to the west side first and there was the elegant Brabrook Hotel with its beautiful two-story porch all the way around, and the Taggert  Hotel and on around to what is now the Shore Club, that was the Bestview Hotel. Oh, and before we got to that was the Chiddick Hotel - it was considered quite aristocratic. And, all around until we got to the Odessa Nook, which was the hotel on the bank back of where my father's studio was. That was where we disembarked from the steamboat, and on the pier Daddy would greet us. We spent the night and Sunday, usually finding some children to go swimming with on Sunday.
Monday morning old Mr. Scott, the driver of the hack, would come around (it was a surrey with a fringe on top but the fringe had worn off). We would get aboard and had our ride back to Knox on Monday morning and that was our typical weekend at Bass Lake in 1904".


Jim Shilling
Starke County Historical Society