Month: October 2013

Indianapolis Then and Now: Dr. Isaac Coe’s House / Columbia Club, 121 Monument Circle

Dr. Isaac Coe’s house, ca. 1850s 1850s: It’s hard to imagine Monument Circle as a dirt street, but this early image transports us back to a time before the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument when Circle Street, as it was known then, had a mix of businesses, houses, and churches. By the 1840s the street was home to four churches and several homes of prominent residents. This copy photograph documents the home of Dr. Isaac Coe on the northeast quadrant. Coe (1782-1855),  the city’s second physician, was born in New Jersey and originally was a glass manufacturer before studying medicine....

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WTH: Marion County Courthouse vs. CC Building

Marion County courthouse being pillaged and razed in the shadow of the ‘new’ City County Building, 1963 (photo: IHPC) WTH? Normally we ask: Will this hurt? Will this help? This happened 50 years ago, so the more appropriate question would be Did this hurt or did this help? And by “this” we mean the destruction of the beautiful Marion County Courthouse in trade for the City County Building? We’re switching it up In honor of the presence of the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference happening in Indianapolis this week. Remove economic motivations, remove excuses, and ask yourself–fom an...

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The House of Blue Lights

Once upon a time, it was a rite of passage for Indianapolis teenagers to park their cars at the end of a long, wooded drive off of Fall Creek Road on the northeast side. They traversed the steep, hilly, woods to get a glimpse of the macabre, a glimpse of a woman’s casket, wrapped in blue Christmas lights, kept in the strange house of her mourning husband. Others were so bold as to take a midnight dip in the eccentric millionaire’s elaborate swimming pool or cruel enough to place one of the dozens of cats that lived on the property...

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HI Mailbag: Indianapolis’ “Automobile Row”

Reader’s Question: What remnants of Indianapolis’ booming automobile history are still left along Capitol Avenue?  ~ Mark S., Indianapolis HI’s Answer: The earliest automobile-related companies in Indianapolis began operating in the late 1890s.  Many of the men who were innovators in the field started out manufacturing carriages or bicycles and transitioned to motorized vehicles.  Among the first were Atlas Engine Works at 1901 Martindale Avenue, International Motor Company’s Waverley Department at 139 South East Street, Charles H. Black Manufacturing Company at 44 East Maryland Street, and National Motor Vehicle Company at 1101 East 22nd Street. In the early 1900s, as more and more players joined in the car craze, the locations of automobile production plants and sales facilities migrated north...

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What’s In a Name: Mitthoef(f)er Road

Editor’s Note:  As you will note in this article, the name of the road is spelled both “Mitthoeffer” and “Mitthoefer.”  The correct spelling is explained in an earlier article – HI Mailbag: Mitthoeffer Road and German Church Road Mitthoeffer Rd. Location:  Warren Township John H. Mithoefer, early landowner Mitthoeffer was also called Flowing Well Road.  From 1885 prospectors who were digging for natural gas but found an artesian well around the corner of the present-day Mitthoeffer and 10th streets. The street was named after an early landowner John Henry Mithoefer.  He was born around 1826 in Hanover-Saxony Germany.  He and...

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Sunday Adverts: C.A. Webb

This ad, from 1903, is quite detailed compared to the other advertisements of its time, which mostly included text, or a simple drawing.  The story of the man behind the advertisement – Charles A. Webb – is even more interesting.  Charles A. Webb was born into slavery in March 1841, in Buncombe County, North Carolina.  He arrived in Indianapolis at the end of the Civil War, in 1865.  He entered the business world in the 1870’s and his coal and steam business grew into one of the largest in the city. His main office was first at the corner...

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Vintage Vittles: A Mulled Wine Cheat

As you read this, I’m ensconced in a tent somewhere in Yellowwood State Forest. To answer your unspoken question: yes, it’s cold. So cold, in fact, I prepared this week’s Historic Indianapolis recipe with this camping trip in mind. I knew we’d need something to keep us warm and toasty around the fire, and something with a simple preparation. But first, let’s dive into something not so simple. Homemade Red Wine Recipe:  Use dark grapes; prepare as for jelly. Put 2 quarts pure grape juice and 2 quarts sugar in a glass gallon jug and fill with water. Bore a hole in...

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Friday Favorite: Haunted Hannah House

Other-worldly scratch, scratch, scratching… A chill in the air… Directionless whispers… A glimpsed apparition… The stench of decomposition… *Cue the creepy music* Touted in numerous books on the paranormal and celebrated in campfire stories for generations, local legend has it that Indy’s infamous Hannah House, located on the Southside at 3801 Madison Avenue, is rife with spectral activity. Little did the builder know that one day his beautiful home, now touted as the most haunted house in the state, would be the centerpiece of childhood nightmares, and teenage fright delight. The 24-room Hannah House was built in 1858 by Alexander Hannah, a respected...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Lane Radio and Pogue’s Run Grocer, 2828 E. 10th Street

Courtesy of the Indiana Album, NESCO Collection Lane Radio at 2828 E. 10th Street near Rural Street operated at this site for over 70 years. Founded in 1927 by Melvin Lane (b. 1894 – d. 1975), the shop originally sold radios, batteries, tires, and even serviced automobile radios in a side garage located behind the Art Moderne storefront. Eventually the business expanded to sell televisions and other appliances. Owner Melvin Lane, along with his wife Gertrude, daughter Lillian, and son Robert, lived in the apartment above the shop. After serving in the Navy on the USS Savannah as a...

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WTH: Pave Paradise…

WTH? Will this hurt? Will this help? Location: 1400 block Pennsylvania, formerly occupied by Peyton Wells Remove economic motivations, remove excuses, and ask yourself: is this compatible or incompatible, good or bad, worthy or unworthy  of the fine capital city of Indianapolis? Please bear in mind: the only purpose of this series is to stand for the appropriate renovation and redevelopment of the built environment of Indianapolis. No malice, no hostility, just observation and inquiry. What does this say about this area? And how can we make it better?...

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Piccadilly Penthouse & Apartments

When you imagine Indianapolis of the 1920’s, what images come up? Flappers, pearls, speak-easies, opulence? For some, the 20’s will always evoke images of romance, possibility and (all that) jazz. One thing that proliferated during that dazzling decade in Indianapolis was apartment buildings. Many apartment buildings in Indy’s beloved historic neighborhoods are representative of that decade more than any other. Industries and the population needed to make, buy, sell and move those industries were booming. The city pushed ever farther from its bustling center and meager beginnings. The life cycle of so many city lots started with humble lodgings,...

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HI Mailbag: 411 Downey Enigma

Reader’s Question:   My great-grandparents lived first at 411, then at 417, Downey.  I have a picture of my grandfather, perhaps 6-8 years old, standing in front of the home with his sister and mother.  On the back is written “411 Downey.”  Once married, my grandparents lived at 425 Downey.  My mother was born in 1916 at 411 Downey; it’s written in her baby book. The listing of births in The Star the following day noted the parents resided at 425 Downey.   I can understand possible confusion of 411 and 417 appearing at varying times, because handwriting and the copying of old original documents...

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What’s In a Name: Oliver Avenue

Oliver Avenue John Holliday Oliver, dean Indiana Medical College & early landowner The land surrounding Oliver Ave. was once owned by Dr. John Holliday Oliver, a professor of surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine.  He also worked on the staff of St. Vincent Hospital, Indianapolis City Hospital (now Eskanazi Hospital) and the Protestant Deaconess Hospital.    He also was the dean of the Indiana Medical College. He was born May 16, 1859, in Clermont to Dr. Dandridge and Martha Oliver.  Dandridge and his family moved to Indiana in 1836 and settled on a farm eight miles south of...

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Sunday Adverts: The Melody Inn

Photo courtesy of Evan Finch. According to the current owners of the Melody Inn, known by many as a punk rock mecca of sorts, over 7000 bands have played at “The Mel” since 2001.  However, over fifty years before its current incarnation, The Melody Inn began as a piano bar called Lou Swain’s Melody Inn. The Melody Inn has changed through the years – in the 1970’s, it had a famous popcorn machine, and in the 1980’s it served lunch and dinner to the older crowd.  As one of Indy’s oldest still-existing bars, it continues to pay homage to...

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Indianapolis Collected: Street Lights and Red Lights

At the risk of sounding like Captain Renault from Casablanca (“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”), I was dumfounded when I recently discovered that brothels were once regulated by the city of Indianapolis.  Workers were required to register with the police, have weekly health check-ups, and limit their theater-going to one night a week. And electric piano-playing was strictly prohibited, except on nights when big conventions were in town. I stumbled upon this strange tidbit of historical trivia while researching what I hoped would be (oxymoron alert!) a fascinating article about the history of streetlights.   But...

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Flashback Fridays: Walter Smith

Indianapolis history is not just made up of buildings, historic homes, and age-old events. After all, it IS people who make history happen, so what better way to know Indianapolis history than to hear from life-long Indy residents? Every other week, HI is featuring some of Indianapolis’ oldest residents to unlock the personal memories and nearly forgotten stories of this great city. _ Meet Walter Smith, a life-long Indy resident born in the early 40s in the thriving hub of black Indianapolis. Though he came from humble beginnings, Walter has done well for himself through hard work and encouraging motivators. Not only...

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Friday Favorite: Indianapolis Makes the Big League by Playin’ the Blues!

Many a (field of) Indy dreamers has hoped for a major league franchise to lead off from the Circle City. For one fleeting year, 1878, the Indianapolis Blues were members of the National Baseball League — the same league that exists today with the likes of the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago Cubs, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the LA Dodgers, and others. According to W. C. Madden in his book “Baseball in Indianapolis,” the Indianapolis Westerns became Indy’s first professional baseball team in 1876. The following year, 1877, the Westerns won the International Association pennant and changed their name to the...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: SE Corner of Ohio Street and Capitol Avenue

This series of photographs shows the progression of the southeast corner of W. Ohio Street and Capitol Avenue from the 1890s through the present. Located opposite the Indiana State House, the block has progressed from houses to freight warehouses to a gas station and eventually the Greyhound Bus Terminal. Looking down from the National Surgical Institute, this bird’s-eye view reveals that the block was still partially residential in the 1890s, with a large brick house to the right (facing the Indiana State House) and a four-unit brick rowhouse facing Ohio Street (listed as a tenement on early Sanborn Fire...

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WTH: Sells

WTH? Will this hurt? Will this help? Location: South side Remove economic motivations, remove excuses, and ask yourself how far has this strayed from its original design? From an aesthetic point of view: is this compatible or incompatible, good or bad, worthy or unworthy  of the fine capital city of Indianapolis? Please bear in mind: the only purpose of this series is to stand for the appropriate renovation and redevelopment of the built environment of Indianapolis. No malice, no hostility, just observation and inquiry.  For those who need help or guidance in how to sympathetically restore or alter historic...

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Reminders of Indy’s Transit Past

As summer road construction season comes to its seasonal decline, workers downtown have been diligently ripping Delaware Street into shreds, producing waist-deep holes through which they can repair the city’s subterranean infrastructure. In one such pit, it was interesting to watch workers try to navigate a narrow strip of street-level steel that bisected the crevice, obstructed their work. While for the most part, Indianapolis’ vast network of interurban rail lines were pulled up and scrapped there are a few places in and around downtown where the lines were simply paved over. Above, the actual tracks and brick lined street below...

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