Month: February 2014

Friday Favorite: Sissle-ing Talent!

A Pioneering Singer, Bandleader, Composer: Noble Lee Sissle Born in Indianapolis in July of 1889, Noble Sissle was destined to travel the world on his musical genius, which he came by honestly; his mother, Martha, was a school teacher who loved playing the piano. Propelled by Martha’s instruction, Sissle’s instrumental talent was recognized, even in his grade school years. His father, Reverend George A. Sissle, was pastor of the Simpson M. E. Chapel.* George encouraged his son to sing in the church choir and this is undoubtedly where Noble Sissle honed his skill as a tenor. The Sissle family briefly moved to Ohio but Noble returned to Indiana to attended De Pauw University...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: 500 Block of West Washington Street / Eiteljorg Museum

This 1953 view shows the 500 block of W. Washington Street as it appeared in 1953. (Courtesy of The Indiana Album: Photographed by J. Parke Randall) This week we share another 1953 photograph of Indianapolis taken by J. Parke Randall, a young architect/photographer charged with documenting potential areas of urban development for his boss Edward Pierre. While today the commercial district along West Washington Street ends east of the State House, prior to the 1960s shoppers continued west to White River. As seen in this 1953 photograph, which looks east at the north side of the street, the area...

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Penny Post: A $1000 to See You in Indianapolis

The front of the card says it all: It’s worth $1,000 to see you in Indianapolis, IND. This unpostmarked Penny Post was written from Indianapolis in December 1916. Presumably, the novelty, applique card was hand delivered since it does not bear any Postal Service markings. Message: Indpls Dec 1916 Dear Friend: Will send you first a remembrance to remind you of this Xmas day. recd yours & Ida’s letters. was glad to hear from you. Every body going to leave —- like my place just fine. You will have to come but went run in town yesterday and the...

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The Devil in the Old Northside

The first official home of the People’s Temple led by the notorious Reverend Jim Jones – Photo: Ryan Hamlett As time passes, any city of size will accumulate ghosts of those who have passed through it, and Indianapolis is no different. Whether it be Teddy Roosevelt speaking from the Circle in 1902, the Beatles performing at the State Fairgrounds in 1964 or Elvis’ final performance at Market Square Arena in 1977, Indy has its share of sites where the famous, or in this case, infamous, have tread. Scattered about the Circle City are a handful locations touched by an...

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What’s in a Name: Barton Apartments

Barton Apartments Location:  Downtown Mayor John Barton, 43rd Mayor of Indianapolis Barton was born in 1906 and graduated from Cathedral High School.  He earned an engineering degree from Purdue University.  He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and later joined the Indiana State Police.   He left the State Police and worked for a manufacturing company for several years until 1961, when new Gov. Matthew Welsh appointed him as Superintendent of the Indiana State Police. Two years later, he parlayed his high profile position and a stellar reputation into politics.  Although he was a novice candidate, he won the Democratic nomination for mayor of Indianapolis and...

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Sunday Adverts: Granada Theatre

On April 8, 1928, the Granada Theatre, owned and operated by Universal Pictures, opened in Fountain Square.    In 1932, it was the first Indianapolis theater to screen a foreign language film, an Italian picture called, “Tierra Madre.”  The film advertised above, from 1934, was shown in Yiddish with English subtitles.  As has been the case with many of the original theaters in Indianapolis, the Granada closed in 1951.  The G. C. Murphy Department Store took over the space, and the building is now an artists...

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In The Park: Riverside Amusement Park

A vintage view of Riverside Amusement Park (image: ebay) “In The Park” has visited Wonderland Amusement Park on the near east side and White City on Indy’s north side. The last stop on our tour of bygone Indianapolis amusement parks takes us to the near west side. For over sixty years, Riverside Amusement Park sat adjacent to Riverside City Park at 30th Street between the White River and the Central Canal. In 1902, Frederick Ingersoll of the Pittsburgh Construction Company teamed with Indianapolis entrepreneurs J. Clyde Power, Bert Feibleman, and Albert Lieber (maternal grandfather to famed Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut)...

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Friday Favorite: The Dubious Drs. Bye

Home Grown Cancer Quacks Current issues of healthcare reform aside, if you’ve gotta be sick, this is probably the best time to be unwell in the history of mankind. New therapies and medicines are reported daily — and for the most part, they’re credible. That hasn’t always been the case. In the late 19th and early 20th century, your average neighborhood doctor may or may not have attended a reputable medical school. Make no mistake, genuine medical advances were made in that era, but there was no FDA… no Snopes… and no Google to help a wary consumer investigate “miraculous” claims. It was within this...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: 300 block of W. Market Street (now Robert D. Orr Plaza)

Courtesy of the Indiana Album: Loaned by J. Parke Randall, ia-30-17 J. Parke Randall was a young architect  in Indianapolis in 1953 when he received an assignment from his boss Edward D. Pierre: photographically document downtown areas for the Crossroads of American redevelopment plan. Pierre, a forward-thinking architect with a city planner’s mindset, had been hired to design a city for the future with areas designated for entertainment, transportation, government, and even fashion. Read Libby Cierzniak’s detailed article about the plan that never came to be. New to the city as a recent architecture graduate from Washington University in...

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Penny Post: 515 Churches

Cadle Tabernacle, Indianapolis, IND. Have you ever heard the Rime of the Ancient Mariner? “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” The image of thirsty sailors surrounded by vast bodies of water may come to mind reading Jennie’s short 1949 post. Postmarked: Indianapolis, IND. AUG 30, 1949 – 2:30 PM Message: There are 515 churches in Indianapolis Indiana Can not find many pictures of churches though. Love, Jennie Addressed to: Mrs. Bertha Arnold 13 Dewwy St. Worcester 2, Mass. A penny for your thoughts … In fact, according to the Indianapolis City Directory for 1949, Jennie was exactly...

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HI Mailbag: St. Catherine of Siena Church

Reader’s Question: Hi, HI.  Last weekend, I bought an old postcard of an Indianapolis church.  Can you please tell me if the building pictured on the postcard is still standing today, and if it is, where it is located?  ~ Evan F., Indianapolis    HI’s Answer:  I am very sorry to inform you that the beautiful church pictured on your recently acquired postcard no longer exists.  The former St. Catherine of Siena Church was just south of Raymond Avenue and just east of Garfield Park.  The convent school and the rectory that were adjacent to the church are also gone.  The address of the church was 2245 Shelby Street. ...

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What’s in a Name: Benton House

Benton House Location:  312 S. Downey Ave., Irvington Allen Benton, president, Northwest Christian University (now Butler University) Benton House, an iconic landmark in the Irvington neighborhood built in 1873, is named for Allen Benton who was president of Northwest Christian University (now Butler University) when the university was in the eastside neighborhood. Born in in 1822 in Cuyahoga County, New York, Benton graduated from Bethany College in 1847.  He then moved to Rush County, Indiana the following year, where he started a classical school that he ran until 1854.  He left the school to study at the University of Rochester in New York before taking a job...

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Sunday Adverts: William B. Burford Printing Company

In the 1860’s Miles W. Burford, a banker from Independence, Missouri, moved with his wife to Indianapolis to join his son-in-law, William Braden, in the printing business.  Miles and Braden operated the business together until about 1873, when Braden, who dabbled in real estate, fell victim to the Panic of 1873.  Miles died not long thereafter, in 1877. In 1875, Miles’ son, William, who served in the Civil War, took over the printing business.  The William B. Burford Printing Company eventually held the printing contract for the State of Indiana, which it held at the time of this ad...

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Vintage Vittles: A bevy of beverages

Happy late Valentine’s Day, readers! This week, the yield of combing through recipe collections this week is a selection of beverages — some boozy, some not — to tempt you with.  As faithful Hi readers, you surely wonder what dinner date is complete without the perfect historic drink?  From the City Market Cookbook, Jim Peachy provides this spiced tea recipe. Perfect for this cold that just won’t quit. Add a splash of rum if you choose! Dig this description from the forward: “Like a decorous old lady suddenly coming into affluence, the City Market, discreetly shaking dust from its...

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Friday Favorite: In Love with Early Indy Newspapers

Loving Indy’s Early Newspapers If you’re a history lover, there’s no cozier Indy place to perch on a brisk winter afternoon than the architecturally beautiful Indiana State Library. A recent visit to the card catalogs there — yes, they still have several card catalogs, alongside digital directories — leads to hours of research-tainment, combing through the microfilm collections that document the earliest city news. The particularly eye-catching illustration (above) from the February 14, 1900, edition of the Indianapolis Press newspaper catches the imagination, exploring the world of politics and sensibilities of that era through stories and opinion pieces. Similar to other newspapers of the time, the two-to four-page Press issues are...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Irvington School of Music, 269 S. Audubon Road

Photograph owned by Sandy Burton courtesy of Vintage Irvington The most common research request I hear from old house owners is “How do I find an old photo of my home?” You just know that lingering in someone’s attic sits grandma’s album full of old photographs from their era in your home. But finding these people is a complex odyssey of searching deeds, city directories, census records, and obituaries. Many people don’t have the time or know-how to track down descendants and sometimes the photo owners are not receptive to calls from strangers or are unaware of the location...

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Penny Post: Loved and Lost

Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Public Library Digital Collection, copyright 2009. Over the course the postcard design evolution, vintage Valentines may be some of the most intricate and ornate. From intricate art deco cherubs to applique and bas relief, the vintage Valentine postcards sent in the 1900s were works of art. However, as we celebrate the sweet sentiment of love this week, let’s be reminded that not all Indianapolitans were so lucky in love. This week’s Penny Post is a nod to all of those who suffer from unrequited love this Valentine’s Day. Postmarked: Indianapolis, IND, NOV 25, 1910...

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Indianapolis Fire Station Two

Ever suddenly “discover” an interesting detail or other gem–even though you’ve passed it countless times? Station Number Two Fire Museum, situated between Mass. Ave. and St. Clair Street is indeed a gem worth discovering. It is worth making a visit to the museum when it reopens in the spring. Until then, here’s a glimpse into Indianapolis’ firefighting past. By 1872, Indianapolis had grown too large to be adequately protected by its network of volunteer fire brigades. To better protect a city still consisting of predominantly wood buildings, four fire stations were built within the mile square of downtown Indy. Wedged...

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Sunday Adverts: American Box Ball Company

James I. Holcomb (the namesake of the J.I. Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium) and Jacob Frederick “Fred” Hoke met during a Jefferson, Kentucky, Sunday School class in 1894.  The two men could not have been more different intellectually – Holcomb attended the University of Michigan, Hoke did not finish the 8th grade.  Together, the formed a company  – Holcomb & Hoke – which would last over 100 years and produce many different types of products, including the Box Ball Bowling Alley Lanes advertised in the 1907 clipping above. Holcomb & Hoke, then primarily producing brushes and located in Sullivan, Indiana,...

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Saturday in the Park: Wonderland Amusement Park

Welcome to Wonderland Amusement Park! As Punxsutawney Phil scampered back to his lair, frightened by the sight of his own shadow, Mother Nature was preparing to dump this winter’s 44th inch of snow on our fair city.  Six more weeks of subzero temperatures and record snowfall?  It’s probably safe to say that Indianapolis is growing weary of this “winter wonderland.”  At the turn of the 20th century, however, residents flocked to the east side of town for a day of frolicking and recreation at a different kind of wonderland—Wonderland Amusement Park. Wonderland was located at the corner of Washington...

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