Month: April 2013

Former First Friends Church, Old Northside

Former Friends Church, 1249 N. Alabama – Photo by Ryan Hamlett The former Friends Church building at 13th and Alabama in the Old North Side has had a busy year so far. The nearly 120-year-old roof finally gave way this past winter, collapsing and exposing the historic church to the elements. Fortunately, the Friends, which had been on the market for quite some time, was finally purchased not long after damage to the roof, perhaps sparing the building from complete destruction. Like the Fletcher Place United Methodist Church and Meridian Street Methodist Episcopal Church before it, the Friends building will...

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HI Mailbag: Curious Wall Lining West 52nd Street and Guion Road

Reader’s Question: What’s the story behind the concrete wall lining 52nd and Guion Road?  The property is now owned by a church, but the wall is too old and substantial for the church.  There was once what looks like a guardhouse entry on 52nd Street.  Any thoughts?  ~ Natalie Hoefer, Indianapolis HI’s Answer: The Pike Township property that today is known as 4374 West 52nd Street was owned by four generations of the same family for more than a century.  Members of the Staton family migrated from Virginia to Indiana, stopping for a few years in Ohio, as they made their way west to their ultimate destination.  Brothers...

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Sunday Adverts: Encyclopedia Britannica

Ad Courtesy of Private Collection of Bradley Keen Sixty years ago, before the days of Google and Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica was the utmost authority on all things from Aardvarks to Zebras.  It was also during this time Encyclopedia Britannica was not only advertised in newspapers, but was also frequently the subject of a salesman’s knock at the door. Unfortunately, book-bound reference is now a thing of the past, and Encyclopedia Britannica stopped publishing hardbound copies in 2010, when the page count had grown to over 32,000 and included 32...

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Sunday Prayers: Readers’ Choice

It was my co-worker who posed the question. “So, you write about dilapidated properties, right?” “Yes,” I grinned, “and I’m always up for more ideas.” Historic Indianapolis appreciates and loves your comments, suggestions, and questions. We are ever-eager to hear your memories and see your photos. We want to hear your stories—Indy’s stories—and share them with others. So, this time, instead of putting together an in-depth look at one—and only one—property, I thought I could let you—the reader, the lover of history, the resident of Indianapolis—choose. Below are six properties—two residential homes, two corner commercial buildings, one theater, and...

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Friday Favorite: Classy Vintage Address

Lockerbie Street Cruising historic neighborhoods allows for many fanciful discoveries. One of the features of most every building is its number. Indianapolis started numbering buildings fairly early in its development, but because there wasn’t an efficient system in place at the start, and buildings would crop up in between two close numbers, 1/2 numbers were introduced. And there were at most, typically 50 numbers to a block. In 1898, the city implemented a 100-numbers to a block system, and for some reason, altered the numbers again (in some, but not all places) in 1911. In the never-ending quest for...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Fountain Square at Prospect and Virginia

1927 – Courtesy of the IUPUI University Library, Indianapolis Power and Light Collection loaned by Deedee Davis The Fountain Block Building at the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Prospect and Shelby Streets in Fountain Square was constructed in 1902 with stores on the first floor, offices and apartments upstairs, and a grand hall on the upper level. When photographed in 1927, the first floor housed Sablosky’s Department Store owned by William S. Sablosky. Sablosky’s father Michael and uncle Isaac immigrated to the United States from Russia in the 1880s and owned several dry goods stores in Indianapolis. The two-story...

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WTH Wednesday: Commercial Billboard?

When an ill-fitting Mickey D’s billboard is one of the highlights of a building, you know you’ve got a problem. This poor baby is a sad polyglot of remuddling, with local favorite, vinyl encasing much of the building, but a bit of brick peeking out at the corner, like a high slit dress on a leggy blonde. Truly confounded by the painted over little square windows (?) and more vinyl underneath. Best guess that there was a smoky bar within these walls sometime in the past 40 years. The shingles up top, where more vinyl has obviously fallen away...

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The Bona Thompson Memorial Building – Irvington Historical Society

Bona Thompson Memorial Building, Irvington Historical Society – Photo by Ryan Hamlett The Bona Thompson Memorial Building has certainly seen significant revitalization since I first set foot inside, sometime in the mid-80s. At the time, it had been rather unceremoniously delegated to storage for the adjacent Missions Building, which served as headquarters of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) organization. It was from this dusty storage wing, that my father and I purchased my first desk, from surplus; a steel contraption five times larger than any child could put to use and easily the single heaviest piece of furniture...

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HI Mailbag: Hammond’s Grove

Readers’s Question: Over the years, I’ve picked up a couple of postcards showing “Hammond’s Grove.”  Can you tell me what this place was and where it was located?  ~ Evan Finch, Indianapolis  HI’s Answer: The name “Hammond’s Grove” was derived from the surname of an early Washington Township family who owned the land on which there was a recreational area in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  It was a popular destination for picnics, boating, fishing, family reunions, socials, and other such outdoor gatherings.  “Hammond’s Grove” was alternately called “Hammond’s Park.” Landowner Thomas Coke Hammond was born in Charlestown, Indiana, in 1826.  His father was Methodist minister Rezin...

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Revamped Fisher Mansion on Marian Campus

FisherMansion in 2005 It’s no surprise that the extravagant entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher also had an luxurious home. In late 1909 or early 1910, Fisher and his wife Jane purchased the old 20-acre homestead that they renovated and adapted to their lifestyle.  Renamed Blossom Heath, its 60-foot living room featured Oriental rugs, with a billiard table in one end of the room, a piano in the other, a big desk for Carl, a comfortable divan or two, and some arm chairs, with a huge fireplace where logs burned all day long.  Fisher’s added 12 bedrooms upstairs to allow for...

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Sunday Adverts: Charles Mayer & Company

Ad Courtesy of Private Collection of Bradley Keen In 1840, German immigrant Charles Mayer opened a small store at 29/31 West Washington Street.  Originally called by Mayer’s name, it became Charles Mayer and Company when Mayer made the business a partnership with his clerk of eleven years, William Haueisen.  Mayer’s store later expanded into a five floor building, selling many fine gifts from around the world.  The ad above, from 1953, appeared in the Indianapolis Star just a year before Charles Mayer and Company closed its doors and sold its inventory to LS Ayres in 1954 because there were...

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Sunday Prayers: A Pair on South Park Avenue

421 S. Park Ave. (left) and 423 S. Park Ave. (right) are currently for sale. They were built in 1865 by William H. Loomis. (photo by Dawn ) We’re curious beings, humans. The “air of mystery” is what attracts us but, ultimately, we prefer answers. Solutions. The backstory. We spend hours searching the details, combing references, and talking to locals. And we curse time and ourselves, especially on the second floor of the Indiana State Library, where we quickly rewind microfilm with increased frustration. Nope, not this one. Nope, not here, either. Damn, my half-hour lunch is already over....

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Flats Saved: The Woessner

Corner facade, 2013, (c) photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton The Woessner Building, located at 902-910 Virginia Avenue and 843-849½ Grove Street, was built in 1915. The building is named after Jacob Woessner, a prominent Southside resident who operated a successful meat market, on the site of the structure as early as 1877. Born in Germany, he settled in Ohio in 1866 (IHPC Fountain Square Plan, 1984). The Democrat was a member of the Board of Public Works, Board of School Commissioners, and was sheriff for two stints (1908-1912) (“Civic League Issues Its Report,” IndyStar, 10/21/1908.) He was often discussed...

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Friday Favorite: Decorative Iron

One of the things I miss most when encountering brand new commercial buildings is the lack of little surprises and details like those found on iron front  façades. This example, found on Massachusetts Avenue never fails to captivate. Can’t help wondering how many people have walked under these arches or stopped to admire the detail at the top of the columns. What architectural elements captivate...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: 52nd and College

  1927 view looking west on 52nd Street from College Avenue. Zoom in here for more details. Identical photograph taken in 1936. Zoom in here to see more details.   Today this corner is a thriving commercial area in the SoBro (short for South Broad Ripple) neighborhood. Although many businesses have come and gone through the decades, the intersection is best known as the long-time site of the Red Key Tavern, known for former owner Russ Settle’s strict rules of decorum and its role in Dan Wakefield’s 1970 novel “Going All the Way.”...

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WTH Wednesday: Like Somebody’s Watching Me

Sometimes, staring at a property conjures little more than the title of this series: WTH?  Or maybe in this case, the 80’s Rockwell song “Somebody’s Watching Me.” . One wonders how the look of this structure looked as first built and through the years, prior to now. Location: NW...

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The Golden Hill Totem Pole

Site of the Golden Hill Totem Pole – Photo by Ryan Hamlett Spring has sprung around Indianapolis, especially so surrounding the former site of the Golden Hill Totem Pole on Indy’s Northwest side. The neighborhood of Golden Hill was once the estate of early 20th century buggy and automobile magnate, David MacLean Parry, on which his dilapidated Italianate mansion is currently under restoration. How an Alaskan totem pole came to be in Indianapolis is a strange tale that was unraveled by Indianapolis physician and Golden Hill resident Dr. Richard Feldman. Curious about the history behind his Totem Lane address,...

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HI Mailbag: North Meridian Street and Meridian Hills Boulevard

Reader’s Question:  On the northwest corner of North Meridian Street and Meridian Hills Boulevard, there is a wooded lot surrounded by a fence.  There were maybe two buildings on an aerial photo from 1962, but a 1971 aerial photo showed the land to be vacant.  I’d love to know who lived there and why the property remains vacant and fenced in to this day.  ~ Becki H., Indianapolis HI’s Answer: Every day, thousands of cars pass through the intersection where Meridian Street, Meridian Hills Boulevard, and 71st Street come together.  The wooded property in the northwest quadrant of that corner has been an enigma...

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Ladies Lounge: 1942 Suit, HP Wasson

Evidently, the second floor of Wasson’s was abuzz with these suits less than a year after the United States entered into WWII. This, from October 1942 says: “All along the fashion front- the word is moire! Quick as a flash, Wasson’s presents a little moire masterpiece! A two-piece suit full of gentle detail, twinkling with huge glitter buttons, tuned to the times want to be  your loveliest for HIM! And last but not least–attractively low-priced.” Wondering if it was hard to go on fussing about a new suit or shopping when family members were away fighting for the country?...

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Sunday Adverts: Tasti-Diet

Ad Courtesy of Private Collection of Bradley Keen As bathing suit season neared in the 1950’s, many men and women turned to a new line of products called “Tasti-Diet.”  Marketed first in 1952 by Tillie Lewis, who had already made a name for herself in the food industry as owner of the Flotill Canning Company, Tasti-Diet was one of the first diet-food product lines that encouraged dieters to eat. Though no longer a household name, Tillie Lewis is considered by some to be “America’s First Woman in Dietetic Foods.”  Tasti-Diet was featured in Good Housekeeping, and the use of...

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