Morris property goes to auction

About a mile and a half of riverfront property in Berrien County went up for auction today in South Bend.

The land represents just part of the massive 868 acre Morris Farms founded in 1932 in Niles Township.

The Morris Farms property is twice the size of St. Patrick's County Park, although some 300 acres smaller than the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

The late E.M. Morris was a prominent businessman and philanthropist having founded the Associates, and what is now 1st Source Bank. South Bend's Morris Center for the Performing Arts also bears his name.

"It's bittersweet," said Nancy Butler, Morris' granddaughter. "We're, we have been a part of this farm for, since 1930."

While very few people get to live the kind of life that E.M. Morris did, suddenly everyone has a chance to live in the very same house that E.M. Morris did.

One parcel includes a 15,000 square foot riverfront home with a walk-in Roman bath. "George Bush Sr. came for a fundraiser, right here, in this very house," said Gene Klingaman with Schrader Real Estate and Auction Company.

Klingaman said that the family chose to go the auction route because it wanted to offer the land to the community at large.

Along those lines, the mammoth 868 acre parcel was divided up into 40 bite sized pieces.

The result is lots of lots on the riverfront-16 in all, although only one features a covered bridge.

Another of the lots features a colonial horse stable.

"I have wonderful memories of even riding horses with my grandfather when I was too little to ride, he would lead me," said Butler.

As for what would lead the descendants of E.M. Morris to part with the property now: "We had a plan to develop it and because of the economy and the lack of real estate interest at this particular point in time, we decided that this is the right way to do it for now," Butler said.

Butler stressed that the family was keeping some of the land, and family members planned to continue to live there: "Hopefully some people will come and be our neighbors."

The majority of the acreage is tillable farm land.

The parcels began heading to the auction block at about 3:30 Tuesday afternoon at the Century Center.

An estimated 200 people were in attendance.

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