Month: November 2013

Discovering Alfred M. Glossbrenner

When my great grandfather, Alfred M. Glossbrenner, died on November 13, 1938, at the age of 69, The Indianapolis Star ran his obituary the very next day. The obit was on the front page, above the fold, right next to a story about the latest Nazi atrocity. The obit featured what I have come to think of as great grandfather’s headshot, the kind of eight-by-ten glossy that actors and musicians send out with their clips and reviews when hoping for an audition. It’s the same photo used in all of his obituaries and, during his lifetime, whenever an article by...

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Friday Favorite: Artistry of Cole Noble

Within Cole-Noble, looking towards the Circle, on Market Street, from College Indianapolis and its neighborhoods are a lot like an old family scrap quilt– colorful, unique connected pieces, (in various states of wear and repair), all contributing to the whole– yielding a one-of-a-kind work of art. Confucius said: “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” A wonderful sentiment to keep in mind when visiting old Indy neighborhoods. Though specifically commissioned pieces of art can be a wonderful addition or amenity, the truth is that in a city like Indianapolis, art is all around us. The experiential art of...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: The Circus comes to the 200 Block of Massachusetts Ave.

ca. 1911, Frank M. Hohenberger Collection, Indiana University This charming photograph of the circus coming to town has long intrigued me, but the records of photographer Frank M. Hohenberger did not include the location. With a quick check in the city directory, it’s clear that it was taken in the 200 block of Massachusetts Avenue. Hohenberger, a talented photographer best known for his “Down in the Hills o’ Brown County”  column for the Indianapolis Star, worked as a photographer for H. Lieber Company from 1909-1914. During that time he documented downtown buildings, parks, the Indianapolis 500, the flood of 1913,...

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WTH: Vile Vinyl

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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Christian Theological Seminary

Christian Theological Seminary at 42nd and Michigan Road With a not-so-subtle tie-in to this week’s What’s in a Name, we travel up Michigan Road, across the street from the north gates of the Indianapolis Museum of Art for a quick stop at the Christian Theological Seminary. As the nation grew with westward expansion in the 1800s, colleges and universities popped up nearly as frequently as new towns and cities. Often, these fledgling institutions of higher learning had religious affiliations, created both to serve a public good but also to create new leaders within the communities. Catholics had a foothold...

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HI Mailbag: Indy Parks & Recreation

Reader’s Question: I saw that Indy Parks may privatize our city’s parks, which makes me wonder about the history of the park system.  Can you tell me the who, what, why, when, where, and how of Indianapolis’ parks?  ~ Jennifer J., Indianapolis HI’s Answer: In the first few decades after the City of Indianapolis was founded, officially designated parkland was not deemed necessary.  Farms and forests throughout the county provided adequate natural settings for recreational activities.  However, as the population of Indiana’s state capital began to grow in the mid-1800s, and as the buildings erected in the center of town became larger and denser, the concept...

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What’s in a Name: Michigan Road

Michigan Rd. Lake Michigan Built in the 1830s as one of Indiana’s first major highways, the Michigan Road was the original pioneer trail connecting central Indiana with Lake Michigan to the north and Madison to the south. In the 1820s, Indiana obtained federal funds to begin building connecting roads to population and trade centers throughout the state. The state passed the Road Law of 1824, which assessed a “road tax” on every able-bodied male and required them to either help build or maintain the roads. The state legislature ordered the project in 1828 with future governor Noah Noble as...

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Sunday Adverts: Turkey Dinner at Allen A.M.E.

It’s no secret community turkey dinners to celebrate Thanksgiving have been around for some time.  This advertisement, from November 25, 1899, highlights such a dinner at the second-oldest African American church remaining in Indianapolis – the Allen African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church. The church was organized in the mid 1860’s, with the official conference of  A.M.E. churches recognizing its existence in 1866.  The church’s first leader, Reverend Whitten S. Lankford, was once a member of the Bethel A.M.E., Indianapolis’ oldest A.M.E. congregation.  By the time this advertisement ran in the Indianapolis Recorder, Reverend Lankford had moved to Maryland to...

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Vintage VIttles: Civil War Nectar

A bit unbelievable that Thanksgiving is upon us already. I’m sure your family, like mine, has many recipes included in your November meal that have been passed down from family elders. I’d love if you would leave some of those recipes in the comment section below. I’m a huge fan of recipes with “starters.” That is, recipes that have a base, but can be passed from friend to friend. There are many varieties of bread that are like this — but I’ve never come across a sauce recipe built for sharing before. We return to Sesqui Samplings for this recipe,...

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Friday Favorite: Mischief, Murder and Miscellany

Not first, second or even third… In 1891 the FOURTH Marion County Jail was constructed at the intersection of Alabama and Maryland Streets at the cost of $150,000. It was designed to house 150 prisoners. In the earliest days of our fair city, before organized law enforcement efforts came into being, “keeping the wolf from your front door,” (both literally and figuratively) was a real and daily effort. Though dead-serious at the time, those early events, documented in old newspapers and random historical ephemera, are quite entertaining for the contemporary reader. Consider the following… Felonious Firsts… Indianapolis’s first recorded prank was...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Louisa Magruder’s House, 564 N. Highland Avenue

An early resident of what is now Cottage Home neighborhood was an elderly black woman named Louisa Magruder (ca. 1808-1900), whose home stood at 564 N. Highland Avenue just south of Pogue’s Run. Born into slavery, Louisa served as a nanny for Governor Noble’s family for three generations and was given this small house and parcel of land by Noble’s granddaughter after the Civil War. Louisa’s father, Tom Magruder, was believed by many Indianapolis residents to be the inspiration for the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Tom and his wife Sarah had been slaves owned by Dr. Thomas Noble in...

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WTH: No Use Abuse

This week, let’s consider more than just the physical, but enter into the philosophical also. This large building on 21st Street has been shuttered for 10+ years. Many neighborhoods have similar properties within their boundaries. Does this hurt or help–having an expansive commercial property in a neighborhood not being used? (At one time, this building was part of a bustling Talbott Village.) Large commercial buildings like this can add or subtract from its neighborhood. What do you think? Should there be limits to how many years a commercial space can be shuttered or is this irrelevant? If you lived...

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HI Mailbag: Ravenswood

Reader’s Question: I have a lot of family history in Indiana, but in Indianapolis the only area I know my family has been in for a while is Ravenswood.  Any chance you have some history on that area and/or pictures?  ~ Chris W.  HI’s Answer:  For readers who may not be aware, Ravenswood is the name of an area on the north side of Indianapolis, alongside the White River.  It’s in the center of Washington Township, less than a mile north of Broad Ripple Park.  There are actually several different legal descriptions within this geographical area, including Terrace Beach, Island Park, Light’s Melrose, Ralston Heights, River...

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What’s In a Name: Mollenkopf Road

Although a small segment of Mollenkopf Road is in Marion County (a few blocks between Fall Creek Road and 96th Street), most of Mollenkopf Road is actually in Hamilton County. This picture is from slightly over the Marion/Hamilton County line. Mollenkopf Road John J. Mollenkopf Sr., early settler Mollenkopf was born in Germany in the 1790s and moved to Baltimore County, Maryland in 1821 where he became a paper maker.  In 1825, he married Julianna Painter, and the couple would go on to have nine children, many of whom would live in Marion County for decades. He moved to Wayne County, Indiana in...

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Sunday Adverts: Prest-o-lite

What would become known as the Prest-o-lite Battery Company, Inc., in this 1941 advertisement began as the Concentrated Acetylene Company, a business venture between James Allison, Carl Fisher, and P.C. Avery.  The business originated in 1906 from Avery’s idea to equip cars with nighttime driving lights by means of acetylene compressed into portable containers.  The Concentrated Acetylene Company was located at the corner of 28th and Pennsylvania Streets. In 1907, Avery left the company and Allison and Fisher renamed the business Prest-o-lite after the acetylene canisters that had become a mainstay in the American automobile industry.  An explosion near...

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Indianapolis Collected: The Last of the Civil War Soldiers

During the summer of 1949, an elderly man named Joseph Clovese bought a new pair of shoes.  Made of kangaroo leather and reportedly “soft as a kitten’s fur,” the shoes were purchased specially for Clovese to wear at a national convention of Civil War veterans in Indianapolis.  This would be the first Civil War reunion for the former Union soldier who had been born into slavery 105 years earlier, and the last hurrah for the once-grand Grand Army of the Republic. The GAR was a fraternal organization for Union veterans that was established shortly after the Civil War to preserve the memory...

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Friday Favorite: Bright Idea, Snuffed!

Who Am I? From 1863 to 1867 this tall and gaunt young man drifted around the Midwest as a “tramp telegrapher.” He bounced along, moving through larger and larger cities, using telegraphy jobs as a means of support — and also as laboratories for his experiments. In the fall of 1864, he arrived in Indianapolis and approached John F. Wallick, superintendent of the Western Union Telegraph Company, for a job. Wallick hired him for the night shift operator position at Union Depot. His wages were to be $75 a month and the young man who was perceived as “just an ordinary operator,” kept mostly to...

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WTH: Recent Reno

WTH? Will this hurt? Will this help? We are not sure if this just closed or is about to open and has nothing to do with the windows being boarded. The renovation (?) looks new, yet totally mismatched for an old building. This looks like it was grafted from a petite CVS onto a small old corner building. If anyone has the scoop, we’d love to hear it. 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...

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Frances Farmer Will Find Her Peace in Fishers

A newly discovered Frances Farmer in 1935 The internet. In 1994, almost none of us had heard of it, even fewer of us had reason to use it. Twenty years later, it’s how we communicate, shop, and learn. For many of us, the internet’s greatest potential is an insanely grand tool for procrastination. Whether it be keeping up to date on celebrity gossip, scrutinizing fantasy football stats or seeking out one piece of information that links to another and another and another until you’ve realized that you’ve intended to look up a pumpkin pie recipe for a family get...

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HI Mailbag: Cotton Family of Pike Township

Reader’s Question: I am curious about the origins of the Cotton family, for two reasons.  First, Cotton Creek cuts directly across our back yard.  Second, members of the Cotton family are buried overlooking the creek in one of the adjoining lots.  There are also members of the Harmon family buried in this small graveyard.  Can you add any insight?  Thanks, Jerry R., Indianapolis HI’s Answer: The Cotton family migrated to Indiana from North Carolina about 1820.  They lived in Wayne County, Indiana, for several years before continuing westward in the late 1830s.  Two members of the Cotton family became early landowners in Pike Township.  Elisha Cotton...

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