LIGONIER — Ligonier businessman Charles Kidd and his wife, Janet, have spent recent days preparing to downsize their lives, selling their historic Union Street home and sifting through Charles’ several collections of things — marshmallow tins, coins, poker chips and teddy bears among others.
The couple, long active in the Ligonier community, are planning a move to a smaller, three-story home on nearby Syracuse Lake. Charles and Janet both grew up in Ligonier and said they wanted to remain nearby to stay connected to friends and family.
The magnificent English Tudor home has been sold to a couple from Columbus, Ohio, who have ties to Ligonier, Charles said. They bought the home after seeing the virtual tour.
Charles has lived in the English Tudor home twice in his life, first as a high school junior when his parents lived there for 12 years. He bought the house for himself in 1989 and has lived there ever since. The living room fireplace was the setting for Charles and Janet’s marriage 4 1/2 years ago.
The 5,300-square-foot home was built in 1908 by Franklin and Nora Wood on what was then the outskirts of Ligonier. Franklin Wood was an architect and designed the three-story home as well as other buildings. Wood was a Notre Dame graduate and owned farmland around the home.
“He was a gentleman farmer,” Charles said, “Meaning someone else did the farming.”
The Tudor-style carriage house was built behind the home to stable the Wood family’s horses. Janet said the structure houses two garages and storage space now. The horse stalls are still inside.
Janet said the home is made for entertaining the couple’s blended family of six children, 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, plus Charles’ five siblings. Charles was also involved with many community organizations over the years, and he hosted several fundraisers in the home.
“It’s a great house for Christmas and holidays,” Janet said. “We also hosted a chili dinner for family and friends.”
Charles was the fourth generation to be president of the family business, the Kidd & Company marshmallow manufacturer, before it was sold to Favorite Brands in 1996. The company made several products but marshmallows were the key to its success.
Charles learned the business from the ground up, just like his father and grandfather had.
“It was the same as growing up on the family farm,” Charles said. “I did all the jobs in the factory.”
Charles said he and his father, Robert, were good partners in the business after taking the reins from his grandfather, George, who retired in 1970. Father and son grew the business from 14 employees to more than 500 workers in two plants, one in Ligonier and the second in Henderson, Nevada.
As company president, Charles met many business celebrities such as Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, and Forrest Mars Jr., the heir to Mars Candy Company. He encountered Mars when he was scouting sites for a second marshmallow plant in Henderson.
“Mr. Forrest Mars was at Ethel M Chocolates,” Charles recalled. “We were thinking of a public tour like Ethel M had. He encouraged me to do it.”
Even as he traveled for the company, Charles found time to serve on many non-profit boards in Noble County. He was president of the Northeastern Center board for seven years, steering the project of acquiring a building in downtown Kendallville that still serves as the center’s headquarters.
Charles also served on the board of Foundations (now The Arc Noble County Foundations) in Albion. He is a former board member of the Noble County Community Foundation and still serves on its investment committee.
He was a former board member and past president of Drug Free Noble County.
“Drugs were and are a considerable problem,” Kidd said. “We work to try to make things better. We find better ways to treat addictions.”
He held seats on the boards of Oak Park Cemetery in Ligonier and Goshen Hospital in Goshen.
“I grew up here and was fortunate to retire young,” he said. “I had the time. A lot of people are out there doing good things. I learned a lot working with good people.”
Charles put some of his free time into collecting unusual items. He is dispersing his collections through online auctions, now that he and Janet are downsizing.
Not surprisingly, one of his collections is vintage marshmallow tins. The tins were used to pack marshmallows from the late 1800s to World War II. The cans are not widely collected.
Charles also collected many teddy bears, which were displayed in an upstairs bedroom. He’s already donated some of the bears to Noble House.
“The grandchildren wouldn’t sleep in here,” Janet said, “Because of all the eyes.”
Charles inherited one collection from his father — figurines of three monkeys covering their ears, eyes and mouth for “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.” The collection has grown to 200 to 300 sculptures of all sizes.
Coins, especially Buffalo nickels, stamps and poker chips were other collections that Charles amassed. He bought poker chips on his frequent trips to Nevada, gathering chips from all the major hotels in Las Vegas. He has poker chips from the Dunes and the Sands hotels, which have been demolished.
“Bellagio is my favorite hotel,” Charles said. “There are no live shows now. The virus has been tough on Nevada. Tourism and conventions dropped to nothing.”
Janet said her favorite memory of Las Vegas was seeing Elton John in concert. The flamboyant entertainer stayed onstage for two hours straight, Janet said, even during many costume changes.
The Kidds expect to move to their new home by the end of March. Even as they leave the Tudor house, Charles said he is daydreaming about buying a boat and cruising Syracuse Lake. The couple also look forward to using the walking paths around the lake and into Syracuse.
Charles and Janet both look forward to the end of the pandemic, when they are free to travel again. They would like to revisit England and Mount Etna, and be free to take trips to other places.