Month: January 2014

Friday Favorite: 1852 Balloon Scheme Goes Bust

Indianapolis businessman, J. H. McKernan, had it all arranged — a day of perfect weather and rare delights including pyrotechnics, music and… *insert trumpet flourish here* … the first-ever hot air balloon ascension in the city’s history! The “Eclipse” was to rise on Thursday afternoon, from Statehouse Square where a seating pavillion had been erected for comfortable seating. Adult tickets cost 50 cents and children’s admission was 10 cents. Standing room was 25 cents. The event was well-advertised in the Indianapolis State Sentinel weekly newspaper, which read: GRAND BALLOON ASCENSION! July 29, 1852. Mr. William Paullin WHOSE daring feats on AERIAL VOYAGING are well-known to the...

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Indianapolis Then & Now: 10th & Delaware

With deepest thanks to Jeff Congdon for the generous donation of a scanner. Without the immense contributions of the Jewish community throughout Indianapolis history, the city would not have become the place we currently know, love and enjoy. Indy’s Jewish community touched every stripe of retail establishment,  charities, art,  architecture and everything in-between. The city would present an unimaginably different visage today. And while a number of buildings of those former retail palaces still stretch across Indy’s skyline, and charities continue to further their missions, there are some ghostly corners of the city show no discernible trace of a...

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Penny Post: Indianapolis, Quite a Town

State Capitol, Indianapolis, IND. Postmarked: Indianapolis, IND. DEC 26, 1932 6:30 PM Message: Hello All – Nice trip so far. Quite a town, arrived around 6. Staying tonight. Population around 500,000. Out window shopping – Beautiful stores. Till later: Bert & Floyd Addressed to: Mr. Mrs. Monroe Fennell 411 E. 30 St Davenport, Iowa A penny for your thoughts … According to the Indianapolis City Directory for 1932, the 1930 Federal Census counted the Indianapolis population at 364,161 residents. Including the surrounding “contiguous minor civil divisions,” metropolitan Indianapolis reached a total population of 417,685 – much closer to the...

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Indy Indie Artist Colony, the Former St. Regis

The Indy Indie Artist Colony and former St. Regis Apartment building at the Corner of Pennsylvania and 14th Streets – Photo: Ryan Hamlett It seems that everywhere you look, there are new, high-end condos and apartments springing up in and around downtown Indianapolis. As transportation costs rise, the time for a resurgence in downtown living has come. However, for those in the market for something a bit more modest with more character than crisp sheetrock and granite countertops have to offer, the search is a bit more challenging. One such option is a building that has seen its own...

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What’s in a Name: Aston Inn

Aston Inn Location: 6620 N. Michigan Rd. George W. Aston, proprietor, Aston Inn When Michigan Road was the main thoroughfare that connected Lake Michigan with the Ohio River, the Aston Inn, owned by George Aston, was an important location for travelers who sought lodging along the route. Aston was born February 6, 1811. He died October 25, 1886, and is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery. He built the Inn along the Michigan Road in 1852 as a stagecoach stop. It was also the last stop on the road for people riding cattle to the Indianapolis stockyards. In addition to...

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Sunday Adverts: Richcreek Bank

In 1892, Seth M. Richcreek arrived in Indianapolis.  Before surfacing in the Circle City, he had been missing for 25 years.  Soon after his arrival, Richcreek opened a law office, but devoted much of his attention to purchasing street assessment liens.  After making a large amount of money in a short amount of time by bringing suits to collect street assessment liens and then collecting the attorney’s fees, Richcreek opened the Richcreek Bank in March 1904. The bank was seemingly successful, as Richcreek leased the building referenced in the advertisement above in 1907 for a period of 99 years,...

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Indianapolis Collected: The Day the “Big Bugs” Came to Town

*Libby is on a brief hiatus.  Please enjoy this post deep from deep in the HI archives. In 2012, a bill that would have cleared the way for the teaching of “creation science” in our public schools passed the Indiana Senate with bipartisan support.  But enough about that.  Because this is a blog about Indianapolis history, I’ll leave it to the Legislature to debate the origin of life.  Instead, I’m announcing today that through rigorous scientific research and a half-hour in the Supreme Court Library, I have been able to discover the origin of Indianapolis.   I challenge any legislator to dispute THIS  evidence.  ...

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In The Park: Ellenberger

Indianapolis’s Irvington neighborhood, located five miles east of downtown, is a well-established community.  The quaint homes lining its streets have stood for decades.  Neighbors share conversation over breakfast at local eateries like The Legend. It is home to Indiana’s oldest tree, the Kile Oak, a burr oak estimated to be between 300-400 years old.  So it’s no surprise that Ellenberger Park, located on the north side of Irvington, is a community destination steeped in history and tradition. Ellenberger Park is a 42-acre stretch of land located at 5301 East St. Clair Street.  It features two playgrounds, sand volleyball and...

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Friday Favorite: Oldfields

Oldfields Estate and gardens in warmer months. Image credit: IMA Oldfields: 100 Years at 4000 Michigan Rd An earlier article on the Four Winds Estate, relates to another well known property — the “Lilly House” located on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. While many believe (probably because of it’s aforementioned nickname) that the beautiful 26-acre manor was built by J.K. Lilly Jr., Oldfields (its original name) was actually built between 1909 and 1913 by Indianapolis Water Company executive Hugh McKennan Landon. The property had been established as part of the Town of Woodstock — a tract of farm land purchased and developed by Landon and Linnaes C. Boyd. The...

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Then and Now: St. Clair Theatre, 802 Fort Wayne Avenue

This unidentified Indianapolis Fire Department negative dated 1946 appears to document an accident near the intersection of Fort Wayne Avenue, Saint Clair Street, and Alabama Street. This view looks northeast on Fort Wayne Avenue. Fortunately, it also shows an infrequently photographed neighborhood theater named Bair’s St. Clair Theatre (see a 1929 view in the Indiana Historical Society’s Bass Photo Collection). Other businesses at this busy intersection include a Sablosky’s Department Store, McCallum’s Market, a liquor store, Davis Cleaners, and a bakery. The smokestack in the distance is for Excelsior Laundry. According to Cinema Treasures (www.cinematreasures.org), a wonderful online source for...

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Penny Post: Educational Meeting for Embalmers

Indiana World War Memorial and Plaza, Indianapolis, IND. Many shows, events, and conferences are held in Indianapolis on an annual basis, ranging from the Indiana State Fair to Gen Con. Out of town visitors would have an array of postcards to send news of their stay to friends and family back home. In 1938, George Essex was no exception– his penny post marked a specialized visit to Indianapolis. Postmarked: Indianapolis, IND 2 MAR 29, 1938 3:30 PM Message: Indianapolis, Ind., 3-29-38 Dear Friends: – Here attending the Indiana annual Educational Meeting for Embalmers. It’s compulsory to attend to renew...

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What’s in a Name: Flanner House

Flanner House Location: Near Northwestside, 2424 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. St. Frank Flanner, Indianapolis mortician and civic leader Flanner was born in a Quaker village in Ohio in 1854 and moved to Indianapolis when he was a young child. He attended local Indianapolis schools. In 1881 he became an undertaker and built the state’s only crematory at the time. Several years later, he and a new partner Charles J. Buchanan founded the mortuary of Flanner & Buchanan. Aside from his business, his Quaker upbringing spurred him to be an active civic leader. He was involved wit the development...

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Sunday Adverts: Acme-Evans Company

Some may remember E-Z-Bake flour, as it was a grocery staple in the 1960’s.  By that time, part of the company that produced the popular baking product was over one hundred years old. In 1820, Revolutionary War Veteran Isaac Wilson moved from Kentucky to the new state of Indiana and settled in Indianapolis.  In 1821, he built a flour mill on the banks of the White River, where the IUPUI campus now stands, and built his first house on the land which is now the Indiana Statehouse.  He died a few years later in 1823, and was buried in...

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Vintage Vittles: A Veritable Wonderland of Local Cookbooks

Welcome to 2014, lovelies! It seems impossible it’s 2014 already (full disclosure: I wrote 2013 on a two different checks this week). As we skyrocket into the future, I want to make sure that we don’t forget the past. For that, we have wonderful people like Historic Indianapolis’ creator Tiffany Benedict-Berkson to thank. Thank you, Tiffany, for your stewardship of this website. I stumbled upon something most wonderful this week — something, frankly, I can’t believe I didn’t know about until now. I was digging for my next recipe when I found IUPUI’s University Library’s “Service Through Sponge Cake”...

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Friday Favorite: The Mysterious Case of the Tiffany Orphan

The item in question: Rumors have it that this Tiffany design was once located on the Bobbs Merrill Publishers property. Occasionally one article leads directly to another. Such is the case this week. In corresponding with commenters on last week’s Friday Favorites article, What About Bobbs?, a mystery surfaced that you, my dear Watson, might be able to help solve! Here is the comment in question: “I work with the James Whitcomb Riley Home in Greenfield, Indiana.  I have a mystery that is connected to Bobbs Merrill.  A couple of years ago, an original Tiffany stain glass window design that...

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Penny Post: Shortridge High School

Thumbing through stacks of postcards, on the hunt for pictures and stories from a particular town … in a particular time frame, I’ve discovered that it’s inevitable to find duplicates. Imagine the postcard rack in any town you’ve ever visited. There are anywhere from ten to 50 copies of the same card available for purchase. Since beginning the Penny Post feature, I’ve noticed a trend in which Indianapolis images are most popular (the Monument … and the former bear cage at Riverside Park). The more I look through the cards, the more I find something so endearing about the...

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History of the St. Vincent Hospital Fall Creek Building

There were an improbable number of mustard bottles littering the kitchen table as we poked our heads through the doorway. In some ways, this apartment was just like every other in the crumbling edifice most recently known as Weyerbacher Terrace. Every kitchen featured an upturned refrigerator, unceremoniously stripped of its compressor. Every interior wall sported massive holes punched into the sheetrock where the pipes were removed prior to their trip to one of the city’s less reputable scrapyards. Still, regardless of its impressive assortment of condiments, this particular apartment stood out from the others. Giant stacks of newspapers, magazines,...

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What’s in a Name: Spruance Basin

Admiral Spruance Basin Location: Downtown, north end of canal Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, U.S. Navy Raymond Ames Spruance was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 3, 1886, to Alexander and Annie Spruance, but grew up in Indianapolis. He graduated from Shortridge High School and went on to the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1906. He advanced quickly through the ranks, becoming an admiral in 1944. During World War II, he was commander in the Pacific Theater. Right before the famous Battle of Midway, famed Admiral William Halsey was preparing to led he battle, but was hospitalized with psoriasis. Halsey...

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Sunday Adverts: (Wheeler) Rescue Mission and Home

While not for a business or a service, this postcard from around the turn of the 20th Century advertises another of Indianapolis’ long-standing organizations.  While not bearing its founder’s name yet, this advertisement indicates the Superintendent of the Rescue Mission and Home was W(illiam) V. Wheeler, for whom the Wheeler Mission, located now near the corner of Delaware and New York Streets, is named. In 1893,  William’s wife, Mary, was the treasurer of the Meridian Union of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), an organization comprised of women from the Central Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church.  One of the WCTU’s...

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Indianapolis Collected: There’s No Place Like Dome

When the Indiana General Assembly convened for the first time in the new Statehouse on January 6, 1887, House Speaker Warren Sayre had high praise for the “magnificent structure.”  Unfortunately, Harper’s Weekly did not share his rosy view of the nearly completed building. The following August, Harper’s published a scathing review of the Statehouse, blaming the “sad failure” of its architecture on penny-pinching legislators who “ruthlessly sacrificed” architectural effect in order to keep the project within its $2 million appropriation. Huh? I’ve spent most of my working life at the Statehouse, and the only sad failure I’ve ever found in...

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