Bendix Woods

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Bendix Woods County Park
Studebaker track.jpg
Aerial photo of the track
Bendix Woods
Type County park
Location Olive Township, St. Joseph County, Indiana
Coordinates 41°40′11″N86°29′18″W / 41.66972°N 86.48833°W / 41.66972; -86.48833
Area195 acres (0.79 km2)
Operated by St. Joseph County Parks and Recreation Department
OpenAll year; Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day [1]
Studebaker Clubhouse and Tree Sign
Studebaker "D" in Bendix Woods Park.jpg
Studebaker "D" in Bendix Woods Park, November 2013
USA Indiana location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location32132 State Road 2, south of New Carlisle, Olive Township, St. Joseph County, Indiana
Area21.1 acres (8.5 ha)
Built1926 (1926), 1938
ArchitectYoung, Ernest W.
Architectural styleColonial Revival
NRHP reference No. 85002430 [2]
Added to NRHPSeptember 18, 1985

Bendix Woods County Park is the name of a park located in Olive Township, St. Joseph County, Indiana, south of New Carlisle. The park is under the control of the St. Joseph County Parks and Recreation Department.


The name Bendix Woods originates from the Bendix Corporation which donated the land to the county for the creation of a park. The park's historical significance, however, dates to its establishment by the Studebaker Corporation, formerly of nearby South Bend, Indiana as the first model test facility for an American automobile company.

Studebaker developed the 840 acres (3.4 km2) of land in 1926 as the first-ever controlled automotive-testing grounds for its product lines, beating Packard, Studebaker's future business partner, by one year. Studebaker heavily promoted the grounds as a "million-dollar outdoor testing laboratory" in advertisements. The test track that ran through the grounds simulated a variety of terrains and road conditions. Studebaker landscaped the park by keeping natural features—and planted a huge grove of trees which spell out "STUDEBAKER" when viewed from above. [3]

Following the collapse of Studebaker's U.S. production facilities in 1963, the land was acquired by Bendix Corporation which used the grounds for corporate purposes. In 1996 Bosch purchased the property; in 2015 Navistar acquired it from Bosch and renamed it "Navistar Proving Grounds". [4] [5]

The park was also home to a toboggan roller-coaster that was never opened after its owners were thrown off when making a trial run. [6]

Studebaker Clubhouse

The Studebaker Clubhouse is a historic clubhouse. It was built in 1926, and is a two-story, "U"-shaped, Colonial Revival style brick building. The front facade features a one-story frame porch supported by Tuscan order columns. The building was remodeled in 1947, 1961, and 1966–1967. It was built as a place for the approximately 100 proving ground employees to eat, relax in off hours, stay in bad weather, and board if they so desired. It currently houses the parks Nature Center and offices. [7]

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 along with the Tree Sign. [2]

Tree Sign

In 1938 the company planted 8,000 pine trees in a pattern that, viewed from above, spelled "STUDEBAKER". [8] [9] [10] [7]

Tree grove spelling Studebaker. 86.48851W 41.66850N Studabaker Trees.jpg
Tree grove spelling Studebaker.

In late December 2004, the "STUDEBAKER" tree planting, recognized as one of the world's largest living advertisements and on the National Register of Historic Places, was severely damaged in a Christmas week ice storm. [11] However, it continues to stand; in 2011 a grant was awarded for its long-term management and preservation, [9] and a management plan was completed in 2012. [10] Dead and diseased trees were removed in 2013 and 2014, and volunteers planted replacement saplings between April 15 and April 19, 2015. [12] [13]

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  1. "Parks Hours, Closed Dates & Fees". St. Joseph County Parks Department. Retrieved 28 September 2015. All County Parks are closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day
  2. 1 2 "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  3. Living Landmark: The Giant Studebaker Tree Sign of South Bend, Indiana
  4. "Navistar Opens Proving Grounds In New Carlisle, Indiana" (Press release). Navistar. 2015-05-18. Archived from the original on 2015-07-03. Retrieved 2015-05-21.
  5. "Navistar buys former Studebaker test track". South Bend Tribune. 2015-05-21. Retrieved 2015-05-21.
  6. Toboggan at
  7. 1 2 "Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database (SHAARD)" (Searchable database). Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. Retrieved 2016-07-01.Note: This includes Elizabeth A. Straw (February 1984). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Studebaker Clubhouse and Tree Sign" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-07-01.
  8. Quinn, Richard (2000-09-10). "Growing 'Sign' Made Studebaker's Presence Known". South Bend Tribune . Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  9. 1 2 Fosmoe, Margaret (2011-11-07). "Grant to Help Studebaker Pine Tree Sign". South Bend Tribune. Retrieved 2011-11-11.
  10. 1 2 Gray, Amanda (2013-08-03). "A Piece of Living History". South Bend Tribune. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  11. Steve (18 September 2015). "White Pine Fever: The Studebaker Tree Sign". Web Ecoist. Momtastic. Retrieved 28 September 2015. A devastating ice storm in December of 2004 severely damaged many of the trees though reports of the sign’s deterioration seem to have sparked renewed interest in its preservation.
  12. "Community Briefs: Studebaker sign planting this week". South Bend Tribune. 2015-04-14. Retrieved 2015-04-17.
  13. Stang, Stephanie; Kusz, Brandon (2015-04-15). "Volunteers work to save sprawling Studebaker tree sign". WNDU-TV . Retrieved 2015-09-28. Efforts continue to save what's been called the world's longest-living outdoor sign. On Wednesday, volunteers gathered to plant more trees in an effort to restore the Studebaker tree sign at Bendix Woods County Park.