Month: May 2014

Indianapolis Collected: A Return Visit to Crone’s Garden Theatre

The English Opera House opened to accolades on September 27, 1880, with famed Shakespearean actor Lawrence Barrett appearing in the role of Hamlet. But enough about the theater. Today’s article is about The Theatre – or more specifically, those places of public amusement in 19th century Indianapolis where transposing the “r” and the “e” helped lend an air of respectability to the acrobats, minstrels, comedians and assorted “dances of doubtful decency” that delighted the beer-swilling crowds. I was blissfully unaware that such places even existed until I stumbled across a faded broadside for a venue on East Washington Street...

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In the Park: Picnic Time

Young girls on a picnic circa 1946. When you don’t have a picnic basket, a stock pot will work just fine! Image: courtesy Flanner House Records, Indiana Historical Society There’s nothing more relaxing than wiling away a warm summer afternoon in the park.  With nearly 200 parks in the greater Indianapolis area, you’re never far from a place to bask in the dappled shade of locust trees, fly a kite, or do a bit of bird watching.  With so much to do in the park, you’re bound to work up an appetite and be ready to enjoy a favorite...

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Friday Favorite: Can Indy Claim First Ever Auto Accident?

YOU Decide… Our fair city, whose international fame is flavored heavily with automotive lore, might claim one more dubious automobile first: Indy may have been the site of the first auto accident in the United States. That depends mostly on what you consider to be a “automobile” and how you define “accident.” It has to be asserted that our neighbor to the east, Ohio, claims the first accident involving a gasoline-powered auto. In 1891, engineer James Lambert was driving an early gasoline-powered buggy when he ran into a little trouble. The buggy hit a tree root sticking out of the ground. Lambert lost...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: 871-75 Virginia Avenue / Fountain Square Gateway

While walking on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail near Fountain Square last week, I was reminded of one of the benefits of taking a stroll:  really seeing the landscape that is overlooked when whizzing by at 45 miles per hour.  While most of us have probably noticed the sculpture at the Fountain Square Gateway on Virginia Avenue, the adjacent plaza has a more subtle beauty and meaning that is better appreciated while on foot. A triangle of land located in the 800 block of Virginia Avenue was sliced up and left isolated by preparation for the interstate in the late...

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Penny Post: I Think of You Often

Some are Hoosiers by birth; others become Hoosiers by choice. Indianapolis area residents would agree with this 1945 sentiment, we all “like it very much.” Postmarked: Noblesville, IND., NOV. 5, 1945 – 5:30 AM Message: Dear friends – I think of you often and wish we could have one of our old-time “chats” in the backyard. We moved down here 3 weeks ago, & so far like it very much. Hope to get to Hartford during the holiday season & have a good night. Best Wishes – Gordon & Ina Davey Addressed to: Mr. & Mrs. H.U. Amidon Grand...

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Sunday Adverts: The Claypool Shop

Business: The Claypool Shop of L.Strauss & Co. Year of this Advertisement: 1920 Address: 116 W. Washington Street Neighborhood: Downtown What they did: Sold ladies’ hats Years of operation: c. 1917 – 1920 (under the ownership of L. Strauss; the business was later sold to the E.O. Langen Company who expanded the business to include other ladies’ accessories) Notable: The Claypool Shop of L. Strauss & Co. was Strauss’ first foray into women’s fashion.  Before opening the Claypool Shop, Strauss dealt exclusively in men’s clothing. Additionally: Do you remember visiting a store that specialized in ladies’ hats like the...

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Friday Favorite: Frank(lin) Facts

Franklin Township If you’ve lived in Marion County for a while, you know that Franklin Township, platted in 1822, is the southeastern-most corner of the Marion county square. Even if you call that area your stomping grounds, you may not already know: – The area’s earliest known settler was William Rector. He hosted the township’s first election in his cabin, in 1824 and was elected justice of the peace. – Southeastern Avenue was built on an Indian trail. – Actress Marjorie Main was born in Acton. – The building now known as Mike’s Midway Market was once a one-room schoolhouse – The township boasts 16 pioneer cemeteries....

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Jacob Dorsey Forrest House / Irvington United Methodist Church, 30 N. Audubon Road

Part of the charm of historic Irvington, a suburban town platted east of Indianapolis in 1870, is the winding, tree-lined streets and two circles on Audubon Road. Butler College graduate and Irvington resident Vida Tibbett Cottman wrote in 1912: “The first street in town to be graded and graveled was Audubon road, then called Central avenue. The two circles on this street make it unique. The circle south was designed for a park, set out with trees and a statue of Washington Irving was to grace its center. The north circle was given to the town with the understanding...

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Penny Post: The First Lap into the North Turn

Photo by F.M. Kirkpatrick Happy Race Week 2014, Indianapolis! Wilbur Shaw may have won his third race in four years during the 1940 Indy 500 on May 30, 1940, but “Mother’s” short Penny Post was about the weather. Postmarked: Seymour, IND. May 31, 1940 1 PM Message: We had a nice trip but got a lot of rain Mother Addressed to: Leonard A Smith 4121 Scotten Detroit, Mich. A penny for your thoughts … If you’re headed out to the Speedway this weekend, take a look at the north turn. How has it changed from this late 1930s view...

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Karl Bitter, Elmer Taflinger, and the Holliday Park Ruins

Last episode, we learned of the short but prolific life of Austrian born, Indianapolis transplant Rudolph Schwarz, sculptor of the Soilders’ and Sailors’ Monument. After his untimely death, his art school friend and fellow Austrian ex-pat, Karl Bitter, came to Indianapolis for his friend’s funeral and to make sure Schwarz’s family was provided for. It was to be the last visit Indianapolis by Bitter, before he too met a sudden death. But some four decades later, some of Bitter’s finest works would echo his journey from New York to Indianapolis to face an uncertain fate of their own. Karl...

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Sunday Adverts: Indianapolis Light and Heat Company

Image Courtesy of IMCPL Digital Collections From 1904 – 1926, the company now known as the Indianapolis Power and Light Company was the Indianapolis Light and Heat Company, as indicated in this advertisement from the May 1922 issue of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce Bulletin.  However, the history of electrical service in Indianapolis begins in 1881. In 1881, the Brush Electric Light and Power Company, a subsidiary of the Cleveland company of the same name, incorporated in Indianapolis under the direction of former Indianapolis Mayor John Caven; George W. Stokely of Stokely Brothers & Co.; and Horace P. Clough....

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Indianapolis Collected: The Most Interesting Man in the World

Wulfson in one of his many disguises Isidor Wulfson was an international opera star, a Yiddish stump speaker, a master of disguises, and a famous detective. He also was the Chief Weights and Measures Inspector for the City of Indianapolis and quite possibly The Most Interesting Man in the World. I stumbled upon Wulfson’s strange tale completely by accident while researching some old Indianapolis postcards. Around 1910, the Polar Ice & Fuel Company issued a series of postcards that showed one of its horse-drawn wagons in front of various local landmarks, including several long-demolished buildings. Since May is Preservation Month,...

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In the Park: Fairview Park

Long before the grounds of Butler University became the home of the Bulldogs, this picturesque 246 acres on the city’s northwest side was known as Fairview Park. The suburban trolley park was located north of Crown Hill Cemetery along the Central Canal. Like other trolley parks, including Wonderland Amusement Park, Fairview was developed by a streetcar company to increase ridership by giving passengers an enjoyable destination at the end of the line. Indianapolis historian Connie Zeigler wrote in her thesis paper that in 1889 the Indianapolis Street Railway Company, headed by John C. Schaffer, publisher of the Chicago Post...

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Friday Favorite: Post card 1910

One of the first of its kind: an automotive technical institute in the early days of the car – immortalized on a postcard. The Thing About Postcards… You could almost think of them as proto-Twitter: the fastest and easiest way to communicate in as few words as possible since 1893, when the Postal service changed regulations to allow images on one side of what had been known as a postal card. But, for decades, the postcard served as much more than a mere communication device. For businesses, they were an excellent advertising medium. For hobbyists, they were treasured souvenirs of travel, events, alma maters, and celebrities — prized, collected,...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: The Thompson-Mesker Cottage, 1014 N. Arsenal Avenue

Many times determining the construction date of an old house is nearly impossible, but the Queen Anne cottage at 1014 N. Arsenal Avenue is a researcher’s dream. It features a prominent sign above the front window reading: “BUILT AD 1889.” The city’s population swelled from 50,000 residents in the 1870s to over 105,000 in 1890 and streetcars made suburban developments such as Milligan Park Front Addition north of the U. S. Arsenal a popular option for builders. This eastside house was constructed a half block north of East 10th Street (then Clifford Avenue) in 1889 for Catherine Thomas, widow of...

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Friday Favorite: Arsenal Tech Trivia

Bet You Didn’t Know…” Regardless of the side of town in which you live, if you’ve been in Indianapolis for a while you know some things about historic Arsenal Technical High School… A.K.A. “Tech” to those most familiar with the school.            But how well do you know it? For those who need a little refresher, the property was once part of the US Army’s Arsenal system.  In 1863, Army planners chose the present-day 1500 East Michigan Street site, because it was close to Indianapolis — but not too close.  The densely forested acreage was purchased from an immigrant by...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Darko and Sons Cleaners, 2659-61 Shelby Street

Circa 1940s advertising blotter for Darko & Sons Cleaners (top) and photograph from May 2014. (Courtesy of the Indiana Album) Every building, no matter how forlorn, has a story. Known only to me by this 1940s ink blotter advertising Darko & Sons Cleaners, I can imagine that the building at 2659-61 Shelby Street must have fulfilled a dream for its owner, who clearly had pride in the building as he lined up his 17 uniformed delivery men in front with their vehicles for this business portrait. Company founder Sandor “Alex” Darko and his wife Rosa were Hungarians who immigrated...

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Penny Post: Indianapolis, a pretty place

Postmarked: Indianapolis, IND., SEP 7, 1907, 11-AM Received: Buchel, KY., SEP 8, 1907, 11-AM Message: Indianapolis must be a pretty place judging from some of the cards I have gotten. I cannot tell, however, as I have not left the Claypool since my arrival, and I arrived at about 11:45 P.M. so you know I did not see much. Will probably leave on the 3:55 for Louisville this afternoon. Tell Bernard hello. Addressed to: Mrs. B.W. Connor R.F.D. #10 Buechels, KY A penny for your thoughts … If you aren’t from here, when was your first trip to Indianapolis?...

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Indiana’s S & S War Memorial Sculptor

A close up view of “The Dying Solider” on the east side of the Solider’s and Sailor’s Monument. Every day, thousands of people pass the Soliders’ and Sailors’ Monument at the heart of downtown Indianapolis. It stands in remembrance and honor of the scores of Hoosiers who fought in the war between North and South. Did you know, however, that the man responsible for the grand scenes depicted in Indiana Limestone was a fresh art school grad from Vienna, Austria who was born a year after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox? Rudolph Schwarz was born in Vienna,...

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What’s in a Name – The Hannah-Oehler-Elder House

Hannah-Oehler-Elder House Location:  3801 South Madison Street Named for: Alexander Hannah, Roman Oehler & Romena Oehler Elder The house was built in 1858 by Alexander Hannah, a harness maker from Wayne County, who earned a small fortune in the California gold rush and used his earnings to purchase property south of Indianapolis. Throughout his life, Hannah served in the Indiana General Assembly, and as sheriff and postmaster. Hannah and his wife Elizabeth had no heirs when they died, so the home and its 21 acres were purchased in 1899 by Roman Oehler a German immigrant, Civil War veteran and successful...

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