Month: October 2014

At Your Leisure: Dancing on the Roof

The back side of this 1943 postmarked postcard reads “I am dancing at the Indiana Roof, beautiful combination Night Club and Ballroom, where Indianapolis dances every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.” (Image: eBay) The Indiana Theatre stands guard over west Washington Street, between Illinois Street and Capitol Avenue, an eye-catching, terracotta-clad architectural confection, designed by famed Indianapolis firm Rubush & Hunter. Atop this historic former movie palace sits one of the most unique venues for special events in the city. Throngs of Indianapolitans have walked those vintage floors for wedding receptions, special awards ceremonies, or perhaps even at “The...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Roehm House, 1320 Villa Street

In this circa 1906 photograph, the family of Frank and Emma Roehm stand in front of their home at 1320 Villa Street. This south side street was located in a German neighborhood just north of Pleasant Run and east of South State Avenue. Roehm (1874-1954) , a son of German immigrants, made his living as house carpenter and contractor. He and his wife Emma Leota (Coble) Roehm (1875-1951 ) began their married life in this home where their three children (Robert, Frances Mary, and Dorothy Leota) were born. Typical of the area, the 1 1/2-story Folk Victorian cottage was...

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HI Mailbag: Halloween circa 1914

Reader’s Question: While doing Saturday morning errands at the hardware, grocery, and drugstore last weekend, I was amazed to see how commercial Halloween has become.  I was inundated with Halloween products everywhere I went.  It made me curious as to how the holiday was celebrated in earlier times.  Would you have any information on what Halloween was like in Indianapolis, a century ago?   ~ Chuck F., Indianapolis    HI’s Answer:  You are justified in thinking that Halloween has become highly commercial.  According to numerous sources, it’s the second-highest grossing holiday of the year.  Every Halloween, between 4 and 5 billion dollars are spent in the United States on candy, costumes,...

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Misc. Monday: Move to a New Subdivision! In 1916

Perusing the pages of early 1900’s Indianapolis newspapers, you will occasionally come across an announcement for a new suburb–plotted out, ostensibly, by some entrepreneurial soul. It frequently appears with an accompanying map, such as the following from May 1916. Though the state fairgrounds located north of this neighborhood, circa 1891, what is now the northeast tip of Mapleton-Fall Creek took almost 25 years to develop this tract. Note that what was called “Fairground” in Osgood’s offering is now known as Fairfield. This area was highly desirable. What do you think would be most appealing when they were brand new? Proximity...

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Sunday Adverts: When Indy put the “Fun” in Funeral

  Ads from the 1914 Indiana Funeral Directors Convention, Indianapolis Star Funeral directors, morticians, undertakers… They get a bad rap. Admit it. You might cringe or giggle when you meet one at a cocktail party. Or worse yet, sit in awkward silence, unsure how to proceed with conversation. But, historically speaking, the art and science of undertakering has played as big a role in public health policy as modern plumbing, and refuse disposal. Indeed, the funeral industry as we know it, emerged in the US in the aftermath of the Civil War. The foundation of this emergent industry was the process...

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At Your Leisure: Theater Under the Stars

Butler students clowning around on the stage of the newly completed Brown Theater in 1955. (Image: Butler University) Life just seems better outdoors. During summer months, it is always enjoyable to eat dinner on one of the many restaurant patios downtown, take in a concert at ‘The Lawn’ or maybe catch a baseball game. Did you know that residents used to see “the stars under the stars” in off-Broadway musical productions on the north side of the Circle City? According to The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, Starlight Musicals actually began in 1944 at Garfield Park with a one-off production of...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Askren-Rice-Eichacker House, 625 N. Edmondson Avenue

Thanks to local residents for submitting this historic photograph of their house, located just west of Shadeland Avenue at 625 N. Edmondson Avenue (formerly Rice Road) in Warren Township. The brick 1860s house  was part of the Askren dairy farm. In the circa 1900 photograph, members of the Askren and Rice families (including Carolyn “Carrie” Leona Rice on the far left) stand in front of the home’s picket fence.  Carrie married George Washington Askren in 1917 and they lived here for many decades. [Askren was the great-grandson of pioneer John Thomas Askren, who owned over 1,000 acres north of...

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Sunday Adverts: Indy Soothsayers 100 Years Ago

If doubt assails you, misfortune threatens you, ruin stares you in the face, danger besets you; if you would win the love of one without whom life would be a blank, if you wish a speedy marriage with the one you love, call at once to consult this gifted lady…” Shakespeare couldn’t have penned it more poetically than Madame McNairdee did. Not only was she the self-proclaimed “greatest palmist and clairvoyant the world over,” but she could certainly write a compelling personal ad for the October 31 edition of the Indianapolis Star. Clairvoyants in the Circle City… One hundred...

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Indianapolis Collected: A Road By Any Other Name

In the fall of 2011, Indianapolis Downtown Inc. sparked a Facebook frenzy when it launched a contest to rename Georgia Street.  According to a spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard, the goal of the proposed “re-branding” was to create a “signature” name for the new pedestrian mall that would be recognized nationally, even internationally. The effort resulted in plenty of signatures, but not the kind sought by Indianapolis Downtown Inc. Instead, a Facebook petition drive created by HI’s own Joan Hostetler yielded hundreds of signatures from re-branding opponents. Three years later, Georgia Street still bears its historic name.  Indianapolis Downtown Inc., however, has...

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In The Park: Babe Denny Park

This fall, over half a million football fans dressed in their blue and white finest will visit downtown to cheer the Indianapolis Colts to victory.  As they trek to the stadium, many will unknowingly pass one of Indianapolis’ smallest parks. Babe Denny Park is located at the corner of Meikel and Wyoming streets.  This 1.1 acre park was dedicated in 1923 and today, serves residents on downtown’s south side. The park was originally named Meikel Park, after John Meikel, an entrepreneur who immigrated to the United States from Germany, making Indianapolis his home in 1840.  His family honored him...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: National Surgical Institute / Imperial Hotel, Northwest Corner of W. Ohio Street and Capitol Avenue

The Imperial Hotel, 1904 (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, 1904 glass plate negative made by the Detroit Publishing Company) This opulent Queen Anne/Romanesque Revival building, located north of the Indiana State House, has received little attention in historic circles, yet photographs commonly draw strong reactions. People either love it or they hate it. It was built in the mid 1890s as an internationally known surgical institute, serving this purpose less than a decade before housing various hotels until its demolition in the late 1940s. Dr. Horace R. Allen first established the National Surgical Institute in Charleston, Illinois...

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Penny Post: An Indianapolis Souvenir

The Indianapolis News Souvenir Post Card Indiana Soldiers and Sailors’ Monument Das Deutsche Haus – Indianapolis, Ind. This past weekend the Athenaeum and the Rathskeller celebrated all things German culture with GermanFest. But when Indianapolis’ German community formed the Sozialer Turnverein Aktiengesellschaft to construct a social, music, political and athletic clubhouse, Das Deutsche Haus (now the Athenaeum) it was home to gymnastic feats like those detailed in this 1905 Penny Post. Postmarked: Indianapolis, IND., JUN 1905 – 2:30 PM REC’D: Cleveland, O., JUN 24, 1905 – 4 AM Message (front): Just got through jumping and running. jumped 17.6 Run in...

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HI Mailbag: Music Memory Contest

Reader’s Question: I remember participating in a grade school activity back in the 1950s, called the Music Memory Contest.  I haven’t heard of it for many years, so I assume that the program no longer exists.  Can you provide a little history of it?      ~ Edward P., Carmel     HI’s Answer: The concept of a Music Memory Contest had its origins in the nineteen-teens in a private home in Westfield, New Jersey.  A music teacher named Charles Milton Tremaine started it as a parlor game with his children.  In 1916, Tremaine described the game to the city’s supervisor of music, who decided to try a version of...

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Sunday Adverts: Hoosierdini

This advertisement promoting the famous Harry Houdini’s performances at B.F. Keith’s Theater (March 1910) was recently found Ebay. Indy was Wild about Harry Though born Erich Weisz on March 24, 1874 in Hungary, the man we know as Harry Houdini moved with his family to Wisconsin as a toddler. He was fascinated from boyhood with magic, and began performing illusions for money to support his family as a teenager. Though he loved magic, he drew his greatest commercial success from daring feats of escape. These spectacular stunts would make him one of the most famous performers of all time —...

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At Your Leisure: At the Museum

John Herron Art Institute as it appeared in 1906. (Image: eBay) The Indianapolis Museum of Art is one of the crown jewels of our city. Few may realize that the facility near 38th Street and Michigan Road is one of the ten largest and oldest encyclopedic art museums in the United States. The galleries feature over 54,000 works. Permanent galleries focus on European, American, African, Asian and contemporary art and provide a great diversion, no matter the weather. Beyond galleries, visitors shouldn’t miss the restored stately former home of  J.K. Lilly, lavish grounds and a recently completed nature park, 100...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Columbus Day Parade on Massachusetts Avenue

Cabinet card looking south on Alabama Street, October 21, 1892. The house-like float is on Massachusetts Avenue and Vermont Street runs east and west at this intersection. (Courtesy of the Indiana Album: Loaned by Joan Hostetler) This unidentified image by photographer Kreitlein appeared on eBay recently and luckily clues within helped pinpoint the location to the intersection of Alabama and Vermont Streets and Massachusetts Avenue. Playing photo sleuth we were even able to determine that the event was the Columbus Day parade held on the afternoon of Friday, October 21, 1892. Photographs can usually be dated within a five-year...

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An Indiana History of Craft Beer

Beer—drinking the frothy beverage has been a part of the Hoosier identity for generations. From pre-prohibition production to the rise of craft beer in the 2000’s, the beer industry has been prevalent in Indiana. The first brewing operations in the state were in New Harmony and Richmond, both opening in 1816. In Indianapolis, beer has been made for over 100 years.  In fact, in 1864, Indianapolis had 57 saloons that served its population of 20,000. Seven years later, the number of saloons increased by 126%, as the population doubled. Prior to Prohibition and the 18th Amendment going into effect,...

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The Courtroom Where Jack Daniels “Got Served”

During the height of 1920’s Prohibition, the Federal Courthouse in downtown Indianapolis was home to a trial that exemplified many of the issues surrounding prohibition. It was dubbed “The Jack Daniels Whiskey case.” At the time, the Federal Courthouse was also home to the central post office and housed an array of federal agencies. Though the courthouse has undergone many changes in the decades since the trial, the murals on the walls in the courtroom, the judge’s bench, clerk’s bench, and attorney’s tables all remain the same in what is now the Honorable William E. Steckler’ Ceremonial Courtroom. “The...

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Sunday Adverts: Death as a Salesman

Death adorns a poster distributed by the Indiana Board of Health in the early part of the 20th century, advertising the abandonment of “unhealthy” practices. You can find many such gems online. The Indiana Public Health Historic Collections are located at scholarworks.iupui.edu Pestilence was no stranger to early Indianapolis. Built on swampland in a time when poor sanitation compounded the general ignorance of disease-causing mechanisms, Indy residents suffered enormously from outbreaks of malaria, dysentery, whooping cough, scarlet fever, measles, pneumonia, pleurisy, erysipelas, and something called, “milk sickness.” Documented epidemics of typhoid fever, smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera killed scores...

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In the Park: Highland Park

Welcome to Highland Park in the Holy Cross neighborhood Indianapolis’s second highest elevation is found in a park in the Holy Cross Neighborhood, near 1100 East New York Street.  The park’s unimaginative name?  Highland Park.  But what this green space lacks in clever naming, it makes up for in beauty, history, and community involvement. The 4.09 acre neighborhood park is one of Indianapolis’s oldest and is set in one of its most venerable communities.  The area we now know as Marion County was originally inhabited by the Delaware tribe of the Miami Nation.  The United States government entered into...

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