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Henry C. Ulen, 1871-1963

Location: Ulen Country Club, 100 Country Club Dr., Lebanon (Boone County), Indiana 46052 

Installed 2021 Indiana Historical Bureau and the Henry C. Ulen Foundation

ID#: 06.2021.1

Text

Side One:

Henry C. Ulen, an international contractor from Boone County, founded multiple construction companies in the early 1900s. His companies’ infrastructure projects, including the Marathon Dam in Greece, parts of the Trans-Iranian and Trans-Andean railroads, a sewage system in Uruguay, and New York City’s Shandaken Tunnel, provided water and electricity to millions.

Side Two:

In the 1920s, Ulen helped establish and financed the development of the Town of Ulen and Ulen Country Club for his executives and the community. In 1929, he moved Ulen & Co.’s headquarters from New York City to Lebanon. A quiet philanthropist, Ulen donated to many public improvement causes and organizations, including Witham Memorial Hospital. He is buried in Lebanon.

Annotated Text

Side One:

Henry C. Ulen, an international contractor from Boone County, founded multiple construction companies in the early 1900s.[1] His companies’ infrastructure projects, including the Marathon Dam in Greece[2], parts of the Trans-Iranian[3] and Trans-Andean railroads[4], a sewage system in Uruguay[5], and New York City’s Shandaken Tunnel, provided water and electricity to millions.[6]

Side Two:

In the 1920s, Ulen helped establish and financed the development of the Town of Ulen and Ulen Country Club[7] for his executives and the community.[8] In 1929, he moved Ulen & Co.’s headquarters from New York City to Lebanon.[9] A quiet philanthropist, Ulen donated to many public improvement causes and organizations, including Witham Memorial Hospital. He is buried in Lebanon.[10]


[1] “Henry C Ulin [sic],” Indiana, U.S., Marriages, 1810-2001, Ancestry.com; “Henry C Ulen,” Indiana, U.S., Marriages, 1810-2001, Ancestry.com; “Henry C. Ulen,” 1880 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.com; “Henry C Ulen Jr,” 1910 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.com; “Henry C. Ulen,” 1930 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.com; “Henry Ulen,” 1940 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.com; “Henry C Ulen Jr,” U.S., Passport Applications, 1795-1925, Ancestry.com; “Henry Charles Ulen,” Indiana, U.S., Death Certificates, 1899-2011, Ancestry.com; “Notaries Public,” in Biennial Report of Union B. Hunt, Secretary of State of the State of Indiana, for the Two Years Ending October 31, 1900 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Buford, Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1900), 198, Google Books; “Tribute to Henry C. Ulen,” Congressional Record, Volume 109, Part 25 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1963), A3309; “Henry Charles Ulen Resume Compiled by Eloise Ulen (2nd Wife) and Mrs. Charles Jones,” Ulen Vertical File, Ralph W. Stark Heritage Center, Lebanon Public Library, Submitted by Applicant; “Lebanon,” Indianapolis Journal, September 7, 1890, 3, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Appellate Court Cases,” Indianapolis News, May 26, 1897, 6, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Queer Deal Made Public,” Indianapolis Journal, August 14, 1900, 2, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Indianapolis Companies Bid,” Indianapolis News, January 5, 1901, 6, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Electric Light Plant Bought,” Indianapolis Journal, January 12, 1901, 2, Hoosier State Chronicles; “General State News,” Indianapolis News, April 5, 1901, 11, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Corporation Articles,” Indianapolis News, August 5, 1901, 1, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Light and Water for Greenwood,” Indianapolis Journal, October 15, 1901, 2, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Articles of Incorporation,” Indianapolis Journal, January 25, 1902, 10, Hoosier State Chronicles; “New Incorporations,” Indianapolis News, June 28, 1902, 5, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Other Concerns,” Indianapolis Journal, February 25, 1902, 7, Hoosier State Chronicles; “New Indiana Associations,” Indianapolis Journal, March 14, 1902, 10, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Former Hobo is Now a Banker in Chicago,” Muncie Star-Press, November 25, 1912, 7, Newspapers.com; “Incorporations,” Indianapolis Star, March 20, 1914, 19, Newspapers.com; “Articles of Incorporation,” Indianapolis News, March 8, 1917, 4, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Henry C. Ulen,” Engineering World, November 1922, 340-341, Google Books; “Wall Street Gossip,” South Bend Tribune, December 19, 1923, 32, Newspapers.com; “Samuel Perrott Funeral Service to be Saturday,” Indianapolis Times, January 8, 1925, 7, Hoosier State Chronicles; “This ‘Bad Boy’ Fooled the Town Prophets,” American Magazine, August 1924, Google Books; “Ulen & Company,” Indianapolis Star, July 25, 1929, 19, Newspapers.com; “Stock-A-Day,” Paterson News, November 8, 1929, 28, Newspapers.com; “Rise of Henry Ulen Reads Like Fiction,” Indianapolis News, November 25, 1931, 20, Newspapers.com; “Henry Ulen New DePauw Trustee,” Greencastle Daily Banner, March 17, 1933, 1, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Lebanon, Ind.,” Muncie Evening News, April 8, 1936, 11, Newspapers.com; “Sarah M. Ulen, Long Ill, Dies,” Indianapolis Times, November 20, 1942, 34, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Mrs. Henry Ulen Dies at Lebanon,” Indianapolis Times, March 18, 1951, 10, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Henry Ulen, Hoosier Philanthropist, Dies,” Indianapolis Star, May 18, 1963, 8, Newspapers.com; “Henry C. Ulen, Construction Contractor, Dies,” Richmond Palladium-Item, May 18, 1963, 11, Newspapers.com; “Millionaire’s Death Recalls Hoosier Political Parties,” Muncie Star-Press, May 19, 1963, 4, Newspapers.com; “Eloise Moynahan Ulen,” Indianapolis Star, October 12, 1993, 36, Newspapers.com; Beck, Bill, Witham Memorial Hospital: 1915-2015: Committed to Others Through Service and Example (Marceline, Missouri: Walsworth Publishing Company, 2015), 29-31, 34, Submitted by Applicant; Henry C. Ulen Foundation, “Mr. Ulen’s Generosity,” The Henry C. Ulen File, 2017, accessed June 22, 2021, www.ulencc.com.

Ulen’s birthdate is confirmed by his death certificate, passport applications, and obituaries in various newspapers.

He never got past a fifth-grade education and left Lebanon at the age of 16, opting to travel the country as a young man. As he said to John Monk Saunders of the American Magazine, Ulen traveled “from the time I was fourteen until I was eighteen. The moment the idea hit me to go somewhere—and it always did in the spring—I was off. St. Louis, Denver, Chicago, Dodge City, Cincinnati—anywhere the next freight happened to be going.” A profile in the Muncie Star Press referred to him as a “hobo” during these years, completing odd jobs to survive. “I worked as a ‘hasher’ on the dining car, sold fruit and candy and magazines on the trains, and sold newspapers at the stations. But I made no attempt to stick to any of the jobs I had. I was always groping for something larger,” he said to the American.

With his years as a vagabond over, he came back to Indiana and endeavored many avenues of work, including railroad night operator, telegraph operator, and newspaper reporter, before settling on law. He was sworn into the Indiana Bar on May 26, 1897, according to the Indianapolis News, but had practiced law at least as early as 1894, a biography in Engineering World noted. However, his true calling, according to the American, was as a contractor, the profession he pursued in 1900 and kept for the rest of his life.

Ulen co-founded the American Water & Light Company with Samuel V. Perrott and it was incorporated on August 5, 1901, as noted by the Indianapolis News. Newspaper articles record their collaborations on numerous water and electricity projects across the state, in cities such as Greenwood, Hartford, Union City, Indianapolis, Richmond, Peru, Bloomington, Petersburg. The American Water & Light Company changed its name to the Ulen Contracting Company on March 20, 1914, with a notice published in the Indianapolis Star. A public stock notice in the July 15, 1929 issue of the Indianapolis Star named February 1922 as the date when the Ulen Contracting Company became Ulen & Company.

He was married twice. Ulen and his first wife, Matilda Mary Dutch, married on September 1, 1890 and were together until her death on March 17, 1951. As her obituary in the Indianapolis Times noted, “Mrs. Ulen was given much credit by her husband for the fame and fortune he earned in his worldwide construction projects.” He married his second wife, Eloise Freund Moynahan (misidentified as “Moynaham” on the marriage record), on June 15, 1956, and they were together until his death in 1963. She died in 1993.

[2] Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1925, Volume II (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1940), xxxvi-xxxvii, 286-291; Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1935, Volume II (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), xlvii-xxxvii, 510-516; “Trade Straws’ Show Progress,” Los Angeles Daily News, January 12, 1925, 20, Newspapers.com; “Lebanon Contractor Settles Huge Deal in Athens, Greece,” Indianapolis Star, August 13, 1925, 7, Newspapers.com; “Great Marathon Dam in Greece Completed,” Linton Daily Citizen, October 30, 1929, 1, Newspaper Archive, Submitted by Applicant; “Marathon Dam Built by Henry Ulen & Co.,” Franklin Evening Star, November 4, 1929, 2, Newspapers.com; “Ulen Firm Given Greek Contract,” Indianapolis Times, August 19, 1930, 2, Chronicling America, Submitted by Applicant; “Reality Board Sales Campaign Planned,” Indianapolis Times, September 26, 1930, 15, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Indiana Engineers Solve Water Problem For Ancient Athens,” Vidette-Messenger of Porter County, June 6, 1931, 1, Newspapers.com; “Greece Gets Stern Threat From Italians,” Greencastle Daily Banner, October 29, 1940, 1, Hoosier State Chronicles; Frank Widner, “Hoosier Goings On Slippery Bandit,” Indianapolis Times, November 5, 1940, 8, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Hoosier-Built Marathon Dam Great Pride of Athenians,” Muncie Star Press, September 13, 1947, 5, Newspapers.com; “Ivan T. Jacks Dies in Greece,” Indianapolis Times, February 15, 1950, 4, Hoosier State Chronicles.

On January 15, 1925, Ulen and Company signed an “ad referendum contract” with the government of Greece to complete a waterworks system for Athens and Piraeus at a cost of $10,000,000, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. The agreement was formalized on April 25, 1925 and the cost was revised to $11,000,000, as documented in a letter from Greek Minister Charles Simopoulus to U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg. At the time, Greek policy required the approval of the United States, France, and Great Britain for foreign loans. The United States enthusiastically supported the project, but to guarantee French and British support, Ulen traveled to Europe to meet with officials for approval, which was secured.

The Indianapolis Star, in its August 13, 1925 article on the project, provided additional details on how the waterworks would function:

The supply of water for Athens will be drawn from a river on the plains of Marathon, where the ancient Greeks and Persians fought out their differences. The river will be damned, creating a huge reservoir. The water then will be conveyed twenty-two miles to Athens.

This would supply water to Athens’ growing population, which was well over a million people by 1925. Merton R. Keefe served at the head of operations.

The work was completed in four years, with the grand opening of the newly christened Marathon Dam on October 30, 1929. Attendees of the dedication ceremony included Paul Koundouriotis, President of Greece and Ulen and Company representatives project manager R. W. Gausmann, chief engineer R. H. Keays, and construction superintendent R. M. Merriman, as noted by the Linton Daily Citizen. The Franklin Evening Star reported that “more than 50,000 tons of cement were used in building the dam” and its “reservoir has a capacity of 11,000,000 gallons.” Additional improvements were approved in 1930 and 1931, bringing the total cost to $13,500,000, according to the Vidette-Messenger of Porter County. Reflecting on the project years later in the Muncie Star Press, reporter Eugene C. Pulliam emphasized that “Henry Ulen’s name is still a symbol of honesty and integrity here.”

[3] Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1924, Volume II (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1940), lxix-lxxi, 552-565; “U.S. Firm to Get Turk Rail Contract,” “Railroad is Built in Garden of Eden,” Mitchell Evening Republican, January 22, 1930, 5, Newspaper Archive, Submitted by Applicant; “Hoosier Claims that Iran is Bad Credit Risk,” Greensburg Daily News, November 30, 1949, 9, Newspapers.com; “M. R. Keefe Dies: Achieved Fame in Engineering,” Indianapolis Times, May 12, 1942, 1, Hoosier State Chronicles.

Ulen and Company, in conjunction with fellow New York City engineering concern Stone and Webster, finalized an agreement with Iran (then the Government of Persia) to build “a railway from the port of Ineboli, on the Black sea, to Kastamuni, about 50 miles south of Ineboli,” on April 27, 1924, according to the Houston Post and an April 29, 1924 letter from Joseph Kornfeld, ambassador to Persia, published in Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States. The terms of the agreement stipulated that the cost of construction not exceed $10,000,000, with half coming from the Persian government and the other half from Ulen, with the option to add another $5,000,000 in the future. Further letters in the Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States indicate that the deal almost collapsed, when Ulen and Company’s potential partner, Sinclair Company, left the country all together. Nevertheless, the project did get underway with Merton R. Keefe, who served as chief engineer of Ulen & Company, as lead engineer on this project, according to the Indianapolis Times. Additionally, a 1929 edition of Engineering World noted that Franklin D. Nash, also of Ulen & Company, served as its locating engineer.

Ulen and Company’s completed railway opened on January 22, 1930 and was dedicated to the Shah of Persia, the Mitchell Evening Republican reported. The finished project “penetrate[d] the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates in which the Garden of Eden is supposed to been located” and “reduc[ed] a camel caravan journey by six weeks to a 24-hour trip by rail.” Despite a successful construction, Iran (designated by the Shah as such in 1935) and its government never paid Ulen & Company $1,000,000 in debts related to the project, the Greensburg Daily News wrote. In 1949, Ulen’s company placed an ad in the Wall Street Journal accusing Iran of being a “credit risk.” The ad read, in part:

Iran, being immune from suit, has been able to avoid payment of this debt for 19 years and has given every indication that it will continue to sidestep this obligation unless it is made unmistakably clear that she must meet her financial obligations before her credit rating will justify any serious consideration of her request for a loan of American dollars.

It is unclear from sources whether Ulen or his company ever received the money they were owed from the Iranian government.

[4] “Ulen Co. Lands a Big Contract,” Lebanon Daily Reporter, July 19, 1921, 2, Newspaper Archive, Submitted by Applicant; “American Pluck to Span a Continent,” Leavenworth Post, July 21, 1921, 5, Newspapers.com; Kimber’s Record of Government Debts and other Foreign Securities, Albert W. Kimber (Ed.), (New York: A. W. Kimber & Company, 1922), 105-111; “Ulen & Co. Stock Subscribed,” New York Herald, February 16, 1922, 20, Newspapers.com; “Bolivia Rich in Resources Says Maginnis,” Ogden Standard Examiner, February 18, 1922, 10, Newspaper Archive, Submitted by Applicant; Albert A. Northrop, “To Finance Foreign Work,” Iron Trade Review, February 23, 1922, 523, Google Books; “Railroad Building in the Andes,” Stone and Webster Journal, Volume 31, Number 6, December, 1922, Google Books; 539-547; “Line to United the Republics,” Muncie Evening Press, August 10, 1925, 5, Newspapers.com.

Ulen and Company received the contract to complete a 128-mile section of the Trans-Andean railroad, connecting Bolivia and Argentina, on July 14, 1921, according to the Lebanon Daily Reporter. Ulen financed the effort via a loan of $10,000,000 to the Bolivian government, issued as bonds on April 1, 1921. This section comprised “last unit of the line between Atocha, and La Quiaca, Argentina,” as reported by the Leavenworth Post. Albert W. Kimber’s Record of Government Debts and other Foreign Securities, published in 1922, also documents the agreement, noting that “the contract of the Ulen Construction Company calls for completion of the new road within five years from January 1, 1922, including equipment, telephone system, etc.” On February 16, 1922, the New York Herald wrote that “that capital stock of Ulen & Co., a new construction firm, has been subscribed by the American International Corporation, the Ulen Contracting Corporation of Chicago and Stone & Webster, Inc.” The purpose of this new corporate entity was to “finance and complete all construction contracts developed in the last five years in Latin America by the Ulen Corporation.”

S. Abbot Maginnis, former United States minister to Bolivia, noted the importance of this new railway section to trade and transport of natural resources, particularly precious metals. “Bolivia is one of the richest mineral countries in South America. . .,” Maginnis said in the Ogden Standard Examiner, and “affords one of the very best opportunities to be found in any of the South American countries for the investment of American capital.” The project also represented a crucial part of Bolivia and Argentina’s infrastructure. As Albert A. Northrop in the Stone & Webster Journal wrote, “the Ulen Contracting Corporation, with which Stone & Webster, Inc. as associated, is engaged in the interesting and important work of forging the last link in the second railroad to cross the South American continent.” The project team, based out of La Paz, Bolivia, consisted of “F. T. Hoit of general manager; Paul Campbell, assistant general manager; H. B. Cameron, construction superintendent, and Major H. R. Gabriel, chief engineer.”

Ulen & Company completed the project in August of 1925, well ahead of the five-year construction deadline. At a final length of 124 miles, not the 128 originally planned, Ulen’s addition to the Trans-Andean Railway was heralded as a “triumph of engineering” by the Muncie Evening Press. “South America’s newest railroad, despite its comparative shortness” the Evening Press continued, “is one of the most important internationally south of the Rio Grande. It offers a new outlet to coastless [sic] Bolivia, which is the Switzerland of South America in this respect.”

[5] “’Hank’ Ulen Closes Big Sewer Contract with Uruguay, S.A.,” Lebanon Pioneer, March 30, 1916, 8, Newspaper Archive, Submitted by Applicant; “Chicago Firm Lands Big Uruguay Order,” Steam Shovel and Dredge, April 1916, 264, Google Books; “Close $5,000,000 Contract,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 3, 1916. 7, Newspapers.com; “American Firm Gets Big Contract,” Hartford Courant, April 16, 1916, 45, Newspapers.com; “Concrete Pipe for Uruguay,” Cement Era, May 1916, 60, Google Books; “American $5,500,00 Contract for Work in Uruguay,” Engineering News, May 4, 1916. 868-869, Google Books; “Marion Steam Shovels on Big Contract Job,” Marion Star, May 10, 1916, 3, Newspapers.com; “American Push Wins on Big Foreign Work,” New York Times, May 15, 1916, 11, Newspaper Archive, Submitted by Applicant; “How American Firms Take Up Uruguay Work,” Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, June 13, 1916, 5, Newspapers.com; G. E. Hines, “Construction of Water and Sewage Systems for the Cities  of Salto, Paysandu, and Mercedes, Republic of Uruguay, South America,” Municipal and County Engineering, September 1918, 85-91, Google Books.

On November 12, 1915, the Ulen Contracting Company entered into an agreement with the Uruguayan government “for waterworks and sewerage systems to a value of $5,500,000 in various cities of the republic,” which was approved the country’s senate in April of 1916, the Cement Era reported. At the time, it was “believed to be one of the largest ever [agreement] entered into by a contractor native to the United States for municipal improvements outside of this country.” Steam Shovel and Dredge, in its April 1916 issue, noted that Thomas S. Sheppard, a New-York based engineer and newly hired Ulen employee, served as project head. The American International Corporation later joined the project as its fiscal agent, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote.

Engineering News reported that the project served the cities of Salto, Paysandu, and Mercedes—a combined population of approximately 59,000 people—and handled both “storm water and domestic storage. Roughly 15,000 metric tons of Metzen Portland cement was needed to complete it. Work formally began on April 1, coinciding with the senate’s approval. M. R. Keefe, chief engineer, along with “24 engineers, superintendents, and foremen, and about 500 to 600 men” during peak production.

G. E. Hines, Chief Mechanical Engineer for the Ulen Contracting Company, published a detailed report on the project in the September 1918 issue of Municipal and County Engineering. They completed the work for all three cites by April of 2018, right on time to comply with the two-year production schedule. As he noted, “from the time the first work was started until the last job was finished and accepted it required just half the time allowed for completion by the contract.” Work on the project continued even during World War I, which Hines mentioned “saved the Uruguayan government much money, and also increased the popularity of the Ulen Contracting Company with the Uruguayan officials.”

[6] “Three Workers Die in Powder Explosion,” South Bend News-Times, January 4, 1922, 1, Hoosier State Chronicles; “World’s Largest Tunnel Being Built by Lebanon Man,” Lebanon Daily Reporter, June 9, 1923, 2, Newspaper Archive, Submitted by Applicant; “New Gotham Water Supply Tunnel Open,” Buffalo Enquirer, February 9, 1924, 1, Newspapers.com; “Completion of Shandaken Tunnel, Longest in World, Assures City of Sufficient Pure Water Until 1935,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 17, 1924, 29, Newspapers.com; “Ulen Organization Doubles New York City’s Water Supply,” The Port of New York and Ship News, March, 1924, 5-6, Google Books,  Indianapolis Times, December 16, 1924, 4, Hoosier State Chronicles; Technograph, November 1928, 45, 52, Google Books; “M. R. Keefe Dies: Achieved Fame in Engineering,” Indianapolis Times, May 12, 1942, 1, Hoosier State Chronicles.

The Shandaken Tunnel formally opened on February 9, 1924. The massive undertaking cost $12,300,000 and took seven years to build. Spanning 18 miles deep in the Catskill Mountains, the tunnel was claimed to be the longest in the world and provided New York City with 400,000,000 gallons of water every day, which “practically double[d] the water supply of Greater New York,” according to the Port of New York and Ship News.

Ulen Contracting Company began work on the Shandaken Tunnel on November 11, 1920, taking over for the Degnon Contracting Company, who had “financial troubles” and “completed but one-eighth of the contract” in over two years, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Port of New York and Ship News noted. Merton R. Keefe, Chief Engineer of Ulen & Company served as general superintendent of the project. Once Shandaken Tunnel Corporation gave the contract to Ulen, “the work never flagged.” The Port of New York and Ship News elaborated:

For four months these engineers worked night and day, absenting themselves from their families, holidays being taboo. From that time on, so perfect was the organization that had been completed, that with rhythmic regularity the work forged ahead at the highest possible speed of tunnel excavation. The same methods followed in the concreting of the tunnel, with the result that it was completed nearly a year and a half earlier than agred [sic] upon by the Ulen organization.

While the project’s timetable and quality greatly improved under the Ulen contract, it was not without issues. As reported in the South Bend News-Times, three workmen died and six were injured by an accidental explosion in the tunnel on January 3, 1922. Two of the three men who died were African American.

[7] “Planning Golf Links,” Lebanon Pioneer, February 22, 1923, 8, Newspaper Archive, Submitted by Applicant; “Henry C. Ulen is Back Home to Give Lebanon a Fine Clubhouse,” Indianapolis News, June 9, 1923, 18, Newspapers.com; “‘I’ll Do My Duty,’ Says Ralston in Talk at Lebanon,” Indianapolis Times, June 25, 1924, 12, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Lumber and Supply Dealers Entertained at Country Club,” Lumber Manufacturer & Dealer, August 8, 1924, 57, Google Books, Mary E. Bostwick, “Columbia Club Members Enjoy First Family Picnic at Lebanon,” Indianapolis Star, July 15, 1927, 3, Newspapers.com; “Committees Named for Annual Outing of Columbia Club,” Indianapolis Times, July 8, 1930, 8, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Columbia Club Golfers Ready for Annual Frolic at Lebanon Course,” Indianapolis Star, June 25, 1933, 17, Newspapers.com; “Hopkins Coming to Ulen Outing,” Indianapolis Times, May 5, 1939, 3, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Hopkins Gives F.D.R. ’40 Role,” Indianapolis Times, May 27, 1939, 1, 3, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Columbians Go to Ulen Country Club at Lebanon for 12th Annual Day of Golf, Bridge, Chicken—and Prizes,” Indianapolis Times, July 20, 1939, 10, Hoosier State Chronicles; “‘Big Boys’ to Doff Dignity at Ulen ‘Give and Take’,” Indianapolis Times, May 18, 1940, 7, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Political Omelet Sizzles on Ulen Gridiron,” Indianapolis Times, May 22, 1940, 13, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Millionaire’s Death Recalls Hoosier Political Parties,” Muncie Star-Press, May 19, 1963, 4, Newspapers.com; “William Diddel, Course Designer,” Indianapolis News, February 25, 1985, 28, Newspapers.com.

The directors of the Ulen County Club chose William Diddel (also spelled “Diddle”) to design their grounds in February of 1923. The Lebanon Pioneer described him as “a golf expert, capable of handling the work in hand.” During his long career, Diddel designed nearly 300 golf courses, including Woodland County Club in Carmel, Indiana, Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis, and courses in “Florida, . . . Texas, Colorado, Michigan, Montana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania,” according to his 1985 obituary in the Indianapolis News. The News in 1923 noted the cost of the project at $100,000 and would be completed by the end of that year.

The club was opened at least by 1924, with prominent guests such as former Indiana Governor Samuel M. Ralston attending soirees as early as June. Ralston’s visit coincided with speculations of a 1924 presidential run. It also served business functions early on. The August 5, 1924 issue of the Lumber Manufacturer and Dealer noted a conference held by Ulen for “twenty-four lumber and building supply dealers” from across Indiana.

In 1927, Ulen inaugurated the annual Columbia Club family picnic, where members of Indianapolis’ premier social club and their families could play golf, engage in other games and sports, and enjoy good food. The Indianapolis Star quoted Ulen’s letter to the Columbia Club’s President, Norman A. Perry, wherein he said, “We are all quite happy and proud to have the Columbia Club honor, with its first family outing, and are hoping everyone enjoys it enough to come again. Please accept my sincere thanks for your thoughtful invitation, which I am delighted to accept.” This tradition continued for many years, with hundred attending the annual picnic, according to a 1933 issue of the Star.

Alongside the picnic, the Ulen Country Club became a site of one of Indiana’s central political events, the Governor’s Day Outing and Gridiron Dinner. Attendees of both major political parties, from Indiana and across the county, came together for friendly debate and conversation on the matters of the country. Attendees included Harry Hopkins, former Commerce Secretary for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1940 Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie, Senator Robert Taft, former IU President Herman B Wells, and former Indiana Governors Paul V. McNutt and M. Clifford Townsend. In noting Ulen’s role in organizing this event, Lebanon Reporter‘s Al Wynkoop said, “Here we are at Uncle Henry’s 1939 pageant, competing with two world fairs without the benefit of fan dancers. It is a spectacle, my friends, which brings together the great and near-greats of both parties under one roof—in a country where ballots not bullets rule.” An obituary of Ulen published by the Muncie Star Press noted that “the roster of speakers rose almost to the White House level and the parties were terminated eventually because there no more chance for a crescendo.”

[8] “Henry C. Ulen,” 1930 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.com; Laws of the State of Indiana, Passed at the Seventy-Seventh Regular Session of the General Assembly, Begun on the Eight Day of January, A.D. 1931 (Fort Wayne: Fort Wayne Printing Co. Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1931), 6, Hathi Trust; “Hoosier Briefs,” Indianapolis Times, May 30, 1925, 8, Hoosier State Chronicles; “Bad Boy Back to Put Home Town on Map,” Logansport Press, August 15, 1929, 3, Newspaper Archive, Submitted by Applicant; Dexter H. Teed, “Wall St. to Main St.: Ulen Made Lebanon Big Spot on Map,” Indianapolis Times, April 29, 1931, 11, Hoosier State Chronicles.

Ulen’s interest in founding a town were reported by the press as early as 1925. The May 30, 1925 issue of the Indianapolis Times wrote that “Henry C. Ulen, capitalist and contractor of Lebanon, is sponsoring a ‘home lover’s paradise,’ a new residence district near his country club.” This became a reality on April 6, 1929, when the board of county commissioners of Boone County unanimously voted in favor of Ulen, Indiana’s incorporation. According to the Logansport Press, the town would serve as “a community of residences for himself [Ulen] and for executives of his company,” which totaled 44 residents. A 1931 profile on Ulen in the Indianapolis Times provided more detail on the layout of the city. “He [Ulen] put in sewage systems, electric lights, started a nursery to grow shrubbery, built an eighteen-hole golf course and splendid clubhouse and all accessories,” at a cost of $1,000,000, Dexter H. Teed wrote on the Times. The 1930 Census lists Ulen, his wife Mary, and two servants as residing in Ulen. The Indiana General Assembly legalized Ulen’s incorporated on February 5, 1931.

[9] “Ulen & Co. in Lebanon Offices,” Indianapolis Star, April 21, 1929, 5, Newspapers.com; Dexter H. Teed, “Wall St. to Main St.: Ulen Made Lebanon Big Spot on Map,” Indianapolis Times, April 29, 1931, 11, Hoosier State Chronicles; Dexter H. Teed, “Famous Contractor Moves Billion Dollar Business to Village in Indiana,” Bristol Herald Courier, May 3, 1931, 18, Newspapers.com; “Ulen Contracting Corp.,” Jewish Post, September 23, 1938, 23, Hoosier State Chronicles.

On April 22, 1929, Ulen & Company, at the direction of Henry C. Ulen, formally moved back to his hometown of Lebanon, Indiana, after many years in New York City. It occupied its own building at 124 East Washington Street with Donaldson & Company, builders, a Ulen subsidiary. As the Indianapolis Star reported:

The building which houses the two firms has every convenience which the New York offices had. In addition to scores of offices it provides quarters for a complete bank, with vaults, safety deposit boxes and other banking features; a private telephone exchange, private telegraph department, and lighted by a system and equipment similar to that of the Equitable building in New York.

Ulen decided to move back home after an earnest conversation with his wife, Mary, about their future. In a profile in the Indianapolis Times, Ulen said, “If I should die tomorrow, my business associates would be pallbearers. None of the boys we knew as children would be here [referring to a “luxurious New York hotel].” While he kept a part-time residence in Lebanon for many years, he was set on moving back there permanently. “We’re going back,” he was quoted as saying in the Times, “And when I say ‘we’ I mean everything, our offices, our engineers and their families, and you [Mary] and I.” While Ulen benefitted from the joys from small-town life, Lebanon benefitted from the increased business. As Dexter H. Teed wrote in a profile in the Bristol Herald Courier, “Lebanon, a town of 7,000 population, ‘has perked up’ since ‘Hank’ Ulen came back. Business is better. The effects of the depression haven’t been felt much. It supports a weekly paper—the Lebanon Reporter. The stores are large and flourishing.”

[10] “Henry Charles Ulen,” Indiana, U.S., Death Certificates, 1899-2011, Ancestry.com; “Tribute to Henry C. Ulen,” Congressional Record, Volume 109, Part 25 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1963), A3309; “Henry Charles Ulen Resume Compiled by Eloise Ulen (2nd Wife) and Mrs. Charles Jones,” Ulen Vertical File, Ralph W. Stark Heritage Center, Lebanon Public Library, Submitted by Applicant; “Henry Ulen, Hoosier Philanthropist, Dies,” Indianapolis Star, May 18, 1963, 8, Newspapers.com; “Henry C. Ulen, Construction Contractor, Dies,” Richmond Palladium-Item, May 18, 1963, 11, Newspapers.com; “Millionaire’s Death Recalls Hoosier Political Parties,” Muncie Star-Press, May 19, 1963, 4, Newspapers.com; “Eloise Moynahan Ulen,” Indianapolis Star, October 12, 1993, 36, Newspapers.com; Beck, Bill, Witham Memorial Hospital: 1915-2015: Committed to Others Through Service and Example (Marceline, Missouri: Walsworth Publishing Company, 2015), 29-31, 34, Submitted by Applicant; Henry C. Ulen Foundation, “Mr. Ulen’s Generosity,” The Henry C. Ulen File, 2017, accessed June 22, 2021, www.ulencc.com.

Ulen’s death date is confirmed by his death certificate and obituaries.

His philanthropy was documented by obituaries in the Indianapolis Star and Richmond Palladium-Item, alongside a resume compiled by Eloise Ulen and Mrs. Charles Jones in the Ulen papers at the Lebanon Public Library. As the Star wrote, “his many philanthropic projects included a trust fund for the Witham Memorial Hospital in Lebanon and other gifts to the city of Lebanon.” The Palladium-Item noted that Ulen “made major donations to charity but rarely revealed them.” The resume compiled by Eloise Ulen and Jones listed 25 individual organizations he donated to, including the Methodist Children’s Home, Boy and Girl Scouts, Indiana Y.M.C.A., Purdue University, and the Lebanon Welfare League. Regarding Witham Hospital, Ulen donated air conditioners, furniture, televisions, and cash, mostly for the nurses’ home.

Keywords

Buildings and Architecture; Business, Industry, and Labor; Transportation