Month: August 2012

Friday Favorite: Life in an Urban Town

You know how you can walk or drive the same strip what seems like a million times and then, one day, you notice something you hadn’t before? Such was the case a couple of days ago, as I was meandering along Mass Ave. Fair enough, these flowers probably weren’t near blooming last time I dipped into Walnut Street; whatever the case, these stopped me in my tracks. It was an unexpected joy to encounter them, mere steps from all the hubbub of one of our favorite downtown commercial corridors… All too soon, we’ll be bundled up and bracing against...

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Heritage Steward: Ray E. Boomhower

NAME: Ray E. Boomhower TITLE: Senior Editor FOR: Indiana Historical Society Press SINCE? Started working at the Indiana Historical Society on May 26, 1987, as its public relations coordinator. Became editor of the IHS’s popular history magazine Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History in 1999. Before coming to the Society, I worked as a reporter at newspapers in Rensselaer and Anderson, Indiana. Left the daily grind of newspaper work for a PR job at the Indiana State Museum when it was located in the old Indianapolis city hall. Loved coming to work each morning and watching the pendulum do...

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Then & Now: Indiana Democratic Club/Indiana War Memorial, 22 E. Vermont Street

Courtesy Indiana Historical Society, William H. Bass Photo Company #24090 Since we can’t get away from politics these days, why not review some former political sites in Indianapolis? In 1901, 82 prominent Democrats incorporated the Indiana Democratic Club to “foster a spirit of harmony and fraternity among all Democrats.” In the early years the club, led by John Worth Kern, had offices above the Western Union Building on Monument Circle, but quickly made plans to expand as membership grew. In 1911 the club paid $60,000 for a large brick house located at 22 E. Vermont Street. The house, built in...

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Building Language: Brick Courses

Brick Courses. Everyone has some understanding of brick as a building material. A wide range of building types, from small to large, residential to commercial, old and new, use brick as a primary structural or ornamental material. A brick course is the design the bricks would be laid in rows (or courses) to cover the entire wall. Historically, brick courses played a vital role in the stabilization of a wall, more notably, different brick courses could help support a wall at a window or door opening. Although there are many different types of brick courses, I thought we could...

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The Prolific and Innovative Marmon

1929 Marmon Roosevelt The Nordyke & Marmon Company later known as Marmon Motor Car Company was prolific and innovative from its start in producing automobiles.  Since the firm’s founding in 1851, it was known for its engineering prowess.  It first established its reputation as a builder of flour milling machinery before the company’s first automobile sprang from the mind of Howard C. Marmon. Nordyke & Marmon’s factory showroom was in a 19th century commercial building at the southwest corner of New York and Meridian streets in the mid 1910’s.  Plant 1 was at the southwest corner of Kentucky Avenue...

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Sunday Prayers: Delapidated Double, Talbott

I love the awnings, if only because houses of this era typically had them–hey, there wasn’t any air conditioning, they  had to get creative. This double is simple, but has so much potential. While there have been many restorations elsewhere in Herron-Morton Place, this one has been boarded up for at least a decade. And this is a picture from a year or two ago. It looked much worse last time I passed by. Here’s my prayer: if someone buys a house like this as a development opportunity, why not give the buyer a year or two to get...

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Sunday Adverts: Want to Play Dress Up?

We thank today’s sponsor, Margie’s Costumes on Illinois–if you need a costume, they are where to find one in the modern world ($5 off coupon follows). You know, it’s never to early too start thinking about what you’re going to wear for Halloween–if you’re making your own costume, you may need the time; if you’re thinking of renting, the best chance you have to get your first and best choice is to book it early. People have been renting costumes for well over 100 years, as evidenced by these two adverts from 1906 for Indianapolis costume...

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Friday Favorite: DePew Fountain

Who doesn’t love the DePew Fountain in University Park? Designed by Karl Bitter and created by Sterling Calder in 1919–the base is pink granite and the dancing figures are bronze. The fountain was a gift to Indianapolis from Emma Ely Depew, in memory of her husband, Richard Johnson DePew M.D. for a life spent giving untiring service to his fellow men. Though Dr. DePew had died in 1887, it wasn’t until Mrs. DePew died in 1913, that the fountain was built from a $50,000 bequest from her estate to the city of Indianapolis, with the direction for its placement...

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The Eagle Has Landed. Old City Hall

Earlier today, the long and much anticipated return of an eagle to the southern perch in front of the old City Hall occurred. The original eagle was damaged beyond repair and a new one was created by craftsmen at Accent Limestone in Spencer, Indiana. How does one replace an 1800 pound bird? Here’s video of the installation, crane and all. To prepare for the insertion of the eagle, an area was carved inside the large sphere–this is evidently how it was done originally as well. Check out the seam around the remaining original eagle: and what the carved out...

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Then & Now: 300 Block of Massachusetts Avenue

Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society, NHPRC Cirkut Negative Preservation Collection Staff at the Indiana Historical Society dated the photograph as 1906 based on a date on a poster. Before Massachusetts Avenue was known as a cultural district filled with theaters, galleries, and restaurants, it housed a variety of businesses as seen in this 1906 photograph of the north side of the 300 block. Most viewers will quickly get their bearings since Stout’s Shoes has occupied this site just east of Delaware Street since the 1880s. Other than the buildings on the ends, the block is remarkably intact. The...

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Room With a View: Lockerbie Glove Company, Westward Ho!

From a recent visit to the condos at the old Lockerbie Glove Company, we found a fantastic outdoor space on the roof and a couple inspiring views to the west. If you weren’t aware, Lockerbie Glove was the first commercial to residential conversion in Indianapolis. Ever been? In the foreground, some of the in-fill condos in Indy’s first historic neighborhood, Lockerbie...

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Building Language: Keystone

Keystones in South Elevation, Alumni Hall, Indiana School for the Deaf (1200 E. 42nd Street) Keystone. No, today’s Building Language term is not in honor of Keystone Avenue that runs north to south in Indianapolis. A keystone in architectural language refers to a wedge-shaped block or stone that sits at the center of an arch or stone feature. The keystone serves an integral function in the structural stability of a stone arch, helping to lock the other voussoirs into place. Keystones may also serve in a more ornamental capacity, placed in the center of a door or window lintel...

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Ladies Lounge: L.S. Ayres, Fall 1944 Suit

In a time when there were few designers that might be considered household names, Hattie Carnegie was well known. Not bad for a woman who didn’t know how to sew. She could make hats, but not dresses. That was left to an early partner in the business at first. Later, workers were hired to create the clothes Hattie designed. Until 1928, all Hattie Carnegie dresses were made to order, but that year, she started her first ready-to-wear line, hiring Hoosier Norman Norell to design it. Though Norell went on to produce his own fashions, he conceded: “I learned everything...

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Sunday Prayers: Holy Angels Catholic Church

Another one bites the dust. (Thanks to Vess von Ruhtenberg for the alert) Holy Angels Catholic Church at 28th and MLK is the latest congregation to bulldoze and rebuild rather than repair. Not being part of the congregation, I don’t know all the intimate details (here’s one article from almost a year ago), but if there is now money to demolish and rebuild, how was there not enough to repair a leaking roof?Yeah, yeah, yeah–some people want to say it’s so much cheaper to destroy and build anew.  I’d really love to see some actual numbers on that… and...

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Sunday Adverts: What we did before google maps

Hard to fathom today that there was a time before google maps, when we couldn’t pull up a street view, geographic topography or satellite views of a place. This advert for Thomas W. Palmer, “Topographical draughtsman,” (from the 1897 city directory) is a quick reminder of work that was once accomplished by hand, and now, pretty much obsolete. This particular Indianapolis ‘draughtsman’ lists Indianapolis Gas Company and Indianapolis Water Company amongst his references, and had an office in the Court House. At this point, one wonders how long the list of occupations made obsolete by our modern technology, and...

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Indianapolis Collected: The Devil in the Circle City

By the time H. H. Holmes checked into Room 76 of the English Hotel in September 1894, he already had seduced and murdered at least two dozen young women in his infamous “Murder Castle” just blocks from the Chicago World’s Fair. He’d also run numerous insurance scams, operated several fraudulent businesses, and simultaneously juggled three different wives – all while leaving both police and his wives in the dark about his nefarious deeds. And if he hadn’t been so greedy for a $10,000 insurance check deposited in an Indianapolis bank, Holmes just might have gotten away with it all....

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Heritage Steward: Nelson Price

NAME: Nelson Price TITLE: Host & Author FOR: “Hoosier History Live!”, a radio show on WICR-FM (88.7) that explores all aspects of Indiana history, from neighborhood and town histories to sports, art, music and rotating shows about ethnic immigration (Germans, Irish, Scottish, Italian stonecutters, Greeks, Cubans, Brazilians, etc.) I’m also the author of “Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman”, “Indianapolis Then and Now”, and other books about famous people from Indiana and city history of Indy. SINCE? The first edition of “Indiana Legends” was published in 1997; the book is now in its fourth edition...

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Then & Now: Oriental Theater, 1105 S. Meridian Street

One of our city’s more interesting-looking theaters was the Oriental Theater. Owner Louis E. Burkhart built the fireproof brick building with a Pagoda-style entrance in 1910-11. It was located on the southeast corner of South Meridian and Wilkins Streets, just north of Morris Street. The theater, which originally showcased both vaudeville acts and movies, seated 725 when constructed, but later advertisements boasted seating for 1,600. The four storefronts housed a variety of businesses through the years including a drug store, Morris Yosha’s shoe repair shop, a wallpaper store, jeweler, and Frank Lichtenberger’s Confectionary.   The theater was in operation...

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