D. Martz, D.S. Oakes, Charles W. Hansing, John Riddle, Franklin Ott, Jacob C. Hirschman and Andrew Kramer purchased the acres to provide a permanent camp meeting ground for the church. The site consisted of a large guest house on the hill, a barn down the north slope of Conklin Hill, and an ice house at the edge of the swamp, which ran from Peach Point Field east to behind the present hotel.
Cottage 58, a three-story white clapboard structure, has been a presence in Oakwood Park since 1898. It has always been in the same family. It was known as “Lakeside Cottage” then and is now known as the Soltau/Rodabaugh cottage. “My great-grandfather John A. Soltau built the cottage himself using full-dimensional oak lumber. I have enjoyed coming here since I was a child,” said Edward Rodabaugh, current owner of the cottage.
According to papers found following the death of John C. Hirschman, a managing committee was appointed by the Indiana Conference to have control of the grounds and empowered to make improvements, lay out lots, determine prices and make sales. At that time, the property was officially named “Oakwood Park.”
John A. Soltau signed a 99-year lease for lot No. 41 (Cottage 58) on Jan. l0, 1896 for $1 soon after the 40 acres were purchased by the Indiana Conference. The lot was considered “waterfront” because there was lake water where the Oakwood Resort parking lot is now.
Soltau built the four-room, two-story cabin the summer after the “big windstorm,” which occurred about 1898. The storm destroyed the original tent tabernacle used by the church and blew down most of the camping tents. “There were only leases given out by the Indiana Conference for years. The leases were converted to deeds about 1927. John A. Soltau paid $70 for his deed at that time.
In the early 1900s, John A. Soltau moved the cottage closer to the lake. He added small “kucken kitchen” under the two -story cabin. “The church gave my great-grandfather the cement blocks that still are part of the kitchen for the lower level in consideration of moving the structure. The church directors wanted the cottage moved away from the tabernacle,” said Edward. A long L-shaped parkside and roadside porch was then added.
In the 1940s, the porch was enclosed, and the ground-floor kitchen/family room was expanded under the full exterior of the cottage.
Grace Soltau continued as owner until the cottage passed to Edward Rodabaugh’s mother Jessie Rodabaugh (Corbin) in 1977 when Grace died at 94. Jessie later conveyed the property to current owner Edward Rodabaugh in about 1994.
“The entire park and hotel were our playgrounds during the summers as I was growing up,” said Edward. “ I remember how much we enjoyed the Chinese Family Camp’s Friday Night Festival in the 1960s to 1980s,” said Edward. Paper dragons and lanterns made by young campers were often shared with residents of Oakwood Park.
After Navy duty and graduation from Indiana University, Edward married his wife, Susie, in 1954. He joined the nuclear medicine division of Picker X-ray and moved to Ohio. He retired in 1985. “We have always spent our summers at Oakwood Park and the cottage and entertained friends there. The cool porch hosted many bridge games with my mother’s friends and many poker games with my grandmother Grace’s friends!“
Cottage 58 is distinctive for its green shutters held up by long wooden poles. The lower level is still used as a kitchen and family gathering spot. A narrow stairway leads up to the second floor family living space. A porch encircling the second floor is filled with sofas, chairs and lake mementos. The cozy bedrooms on the third floor are often filled with friends and family. The “Crow’s Nest” or “Roost” bedroom overlooks the lake and is popular with younger members of the family. “This house actually slept 10 adults and 13 small children (our close friends) one week,” said Edward.
Over the years Edward and Susie have installed new wiring, electric outlets, windows, bath amenities and heating and some air conditioning. “The hill steps were put in with rail ties sawed to fit with John A. Soltau’s cross-cut two-man saw in 1974 and bricks we carried to the lake in our car,” said Edward. “John A. Soltau left many of his carpentry tools and we use them all!”
When Oakwood Park put in sewers and attached to Syracuse, the septic tank area was filled in and a brick patio was finished by Edward and Susie. In 2009, a new roof to the 1-inch oak sub-roof boards was installed. This process involved removal of the original cedar shingles from 1898. “They were still almost like new,” said Edward.
The Rodabaugh family continues to enjoy their time at the lake. “Our sons Charles (Chuck), Thomas (Tom) and Scott, along with their families, often come to the lake for long weekends and holidays,” said Edward.
James S. Hook, author of “Oakwood’s First Century 1893-1993”, said that the real history of Oakwood Park is not about land, or prices, or buildings, or even about programs. “The history of the park is about lives changed, lives enriched, vows made, relationships developed, dreams encouraged, hopes renewed, prayers said and the spiritual experienced.”