Home of J. Chester and Elizabeth Fletcher Allen, 501 East Howard Street
A powerhouse couple, both lawyers were instrumental in causes involving the fight for justice for African American residents—including fighting discrimination at the Engman Public Natatorium.
The Allens lived in this house their entire lives. Although a family residence, the home also served as a meeting place for civic engagement, politics, and neighborhood gatherings. Their son, Dr. Irving Allen, said his grandmother would give music lessons at the home. Others would practice music for formal events in the African American community. The Allens maintained a law practice with their office located in the Lafayette Building (115 S. Lafayette St.) for forty years.
Elizabeth Fletcher Allen was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), established a nurse’s aid training program for Black women, organized meetings to combat housing discrimination, and although as a woman her name did not appear on some of the documents, she is presumed to have written the legal complaints against discrimination at the Engman Public Natatorium. She also served as a Judge Protem (a substitute judge), becoming the first African American woman to serve as a judge in a South Bend courtroom.
J Chester Allen Sr. was also a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and served as a member of the South Bend City Council, and the South Bend School Board. He was the first African American president of the St. Joseph County Bar Association and was elected to the Indiana State Legislature. As an NAACP lawyer he participated in national efforts to desegregate public accommodations and other civil rights issues as a member of the local chapter.