Hostetler’s Hudson Museum, located on Route 5 (760 S. Van Buren Street) in Shipshewana, is a place my husband and I passed over for a number of years. My husband is a serious “gearhead,” but he didn’t really have an interest in Hudsons specifically, so we always found something else to do. But last year, we were in the neighborhood and decided to invest the $8 and hour and a half or so. As it turned out, we both found the cars quite interesting—and I found the story behind the museum even more so.
The story starts in 1936 with a 14-year-old Amish farm boy in Shipshewana—Eldon Hostetler. A young man he knew drove in one day with a brand-new 1936 Hudson Terraplane four-door sedan, and for Eldon, it was love at first sight. Leaving the Amish way of life behind, he became a lifelong lover, driver, and collector of Hudson automobiles.
Eldon says on the museum’s website, “I have had good fortune in my life, which made it possible to collect old Hudson cars.” Quite the understatement… Eldon, always a farm boy at heart, left the farm at 21 and went to work for Creighton Brothers, a huge egg-producing farm in Warsaw, Indiana. He saw the need for a better way to feed and water the fowl. He left Creighton Brothers and worked on his ideas, and eventually he amassed over sixty patents in his field! In 1977 he started a company of his own, manufacturing enclosed watering systems for farm animals and birds, and as he modestly says, “The company has done very well.”
The company made him a very wealthy man. Over the years he and his wife Esta had kept the 1948, 1949, 1950, 1952, and 1954 Hudsons they had owned and driven. Now he began to buy them. Soon he was a major collector and restorer of Hudsons, and at last count the museum had over 50 Hudson, Essex, Terraplane, Railton, and Dover models—the largest and finest collection in the world—dating from 1936 to 1954. (Hudson later merged with Nash, and evolved into American Motors, Inc.)
Eldon and Esta wanted to share their collection, so in 1997 they made an arrangement with the Town of Shipshewana. They donated 18 acres of land and his Hudson collection. The town built the 60,000-square-foot museum and manages it as a non-profit. There is a website at www.HostetlersHudsons.com where there is information about hours, rates, and the collection itself.