In 1926 the Studebaker Corporation purchased 850 acres from area farmers to develop an automobile proving ground. This same year, the Clubhouse was built for employee lodging, including a caretaker's apartment. The Clubhouse transformed over the next 40 years with renovations and uses, such as design and drafting rooms, as well as serving as barracks for the US Army. In 1961 Sherwood Egbert, the last president of the Studebaker Corporation, utilized the Clubhouse as his private residence.
In 1966 the Studebaker Corporation sold the proving grounds to the Bendix Corporation. They in turn donated the Clubhouse and 175 acres to the newly formed St. Joseph County Parks and Recreation Board. Bendix Woods County Park opened in 1967. Today, the parks department uses the Clubhouse as a Nature Center, with office and meeting space.
A Living Tribute to Studebaker
In 1938 over 8,000 pine trees were planted in a half mile-long area by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The living sign was planned as a salute to the growing aviation industry. It was placed on the National Historic Register, along with the Clubhouse, in 1985. The sign is west of the Nature Center / Clubhouse.
According to the 1987 Guiness Book of World Records, the Studebaker sign is the largest living advertisement in the world. Red and white pines make up the living sign. Look for them as you hike in the park!