Month: September 2015

HI Mailbag: 2147 North Talbott Street

Reader’s Question: I own several properties in the vicinity of 22nd and Talbott.  I am intrigued by a building at 2147 N. Talbott Street, which has the word “POWER” carved in a stone above its entrance.  Can you provide me with any information on the significance of this word or the history of the building?  ~ Jeff C., Indianapolis HI’s Answer:  The building at 2147 North Talbott Street was completed in 1929.  The one-story commercial structure was not the first improvement on that site.  There was previously a two-family dwelling on Lot 89 in Meridian Place.  The two-story frame property had the addresses...

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A Ku Klux Quaker?

Daisy Douglass Barr, Imperial Empress of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan, circa 1923. Women are often the most fascinating characters in Hoosier history. Their lives continue to be relevant to pressing issues today.  Yet while most notable Indiana women could still be held up as role models, a few figure into the dark side of history. One especially complicated Hoosier woman was Daisy Douglass Barr.  In the mid-1920’s, Barr — a Quaker minister and touring evangelist since the age of 16 — served as the Imperial Empress of the Queens of the Golden Mask, the women’s auxiliary...

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At Your Leisure: That’s the Spirit!

It’s easy to pick out an out-of-towner at the grocery store on a Sunday. Often times he or she will walk confidently up to the cash register holding a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine, only to be turned away due to Indiana’s Blue Laws. It’s a list of common complaints among visitors: the hassle of not being able to buy cold beer at a grocery, not being able to bring your children into a bar, and the dreaded no Sunday sales. Things always could be worse. When looking at the history of liquor regulations in Indy, Big...

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Of Spirits and Soldiers

Fall is here.  So it’s time to keep on the spectral side of life. On June 6, 1910, the Indianapolis News carried the obituary of a woman once hailed as the patron saint of Hoosier Civil War veterans.  Appearing above a death notice for the great William Sydney Porter — pen name “O. Henry” — who died the same day, it’s tempting to think the short story writer famous for surprise endings couldn’t have improved much on hers. Within a year of her passing at age eighty, Lovina Streight’s reputation for color took on a rather literal twist.  A...

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The Crumbling Crossroads of America

“Practically every great city has to be a geographic crossroads before it can become a great city,” the National Geographic Society wrote in its November 1925 bulletin. The crossroads of the sea at the Panama Canal, the crossroads of cable lines in Guam, the crossroads of the air in Prague and the crossroads of history in Palestine were among the world’s more remarkable crossroads, the article noted. But closer to home, “[o]ne of the most important men in the United States is the traffic policeman at the intersection of Washington and Meridian streets, Indianapolis. ….The Washington and Meridian streets intersection in Indianapolis...

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At Your Leisure: Football Fantasies

This simple black and white press guide introduced the Capitols during their championship season. (Image: Amazon) Monday night kicks off another exciting slate of home games for the Indianapolis Colts. The nation’s eyes will be on the Circle City for what will be one of the most watched sports programs of the week. Expectations are high for the home team, which has become woven into the fabric of the community over the past two generations. But it hasn’t always been this way in our basketball hotbed. Many remember when the Colts arrived under the cloak of darkness in 1984,...

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HI Mailbag: Indianapolis’ First Public Schools, Part Two

Reader’s Question:  In your recent article on schools, I did not see any information about the Calvin Fletcher School.  Wasn’t it one of IPS’s earliest grade schools?  ~ Peggy H., Indianapolis HI’s Answer: In the previous Mailbag column that discussed Indianapolis’ first public schools, only the seven primary schools that opened immediately upon the establishment of a school system were featured.  There were seven wards in the city at that time, and one school was located in each ward.  As it turns out, the school about which you have asked was the very next school to open after the first seven were in...

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100 Years of Allison

September 14, 2015 is a special 100th anniversary day in the history of Indianapolis.  It was on September 14, 1915 that Frank Wheeler, Theodore Myers, Arthur Newby, James Allison, and Carl Fisher, filed the Articles of Association with the Indiana Secretary of State to create the Indianapolis Speedway Team Company.  Allison, Fisher, and Frank Sweet in a separate filing also created the Prest-O-Lite Racing Team Company.  Wheeler, Newby, Allison and Fisher were the four founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 1915, with automobile manufacturers going out of business or curtailing their racing programs, and the lack of participation...

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At Your Leisure: A Lost Oasis

Sometimes you just can’t stop “progress.” As the sprawl of Indianapolis spreads further past the boundaries of Marion County, small, independent communities are being gobbled up, their identities lost. Today, t appears that this phenomenon is happening to a west side crossroads known as Six Points. The area known as Six Points can trace its history back to 1851, during the construction of the Terre Haute and Indianapolis Railroad. The railroad crossed the old National Road near the Marion and Hendricks County lines at the intersection of another north and south road, creating a six-pointed intersection. This setup had...

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The Scientific Scrapper Who Played Uncle Tom

If you’re into sports history, you’re probably familiar with the great cyclist “Major” Taylor, who was all but exiled from his hometown of Indianapolis, where he helped spark a craze for bicycles.  Coming up against the barriers black athletes faced in America, Taylor went overseas to France, New Zealand and Australia — and won global fame. Yet the Land Down Under had already sent athletes to the U.S.  Though born in the Caribbean, one of the best-known black boxers of his time came to Indy from the Southern Hemisphere.  At English’s Opera House in 1894, the “great and scientific...

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Indianapolis Collected: Tribute to a “Hero in Overalls”

Classes were dismissed early on the afternoon of April 12, 1907, so that students and teachers at Shortridge High School could attend a funeral in the school’s auditorium, Caleb Mills Hall. The deceased individual was an elderly man named James M. Biddy. This was the first time that the doors of the high school had ever been opened for a funeral, and according to The Indianapolis Morning Star, it would likely be the last.  Although the venue was unusual, it was appropriate, because — as the school’s principal told the Star — there had never been a man in the history of  Shortridge...

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At Your Leisure: It’s Fun to Stay

You can certainly see the result of residential growth when driving around downtown Indianapolis and encountering numerous construction sites. All of these new people will certainly need more places to shop, eat, and play. A brand new recreational facility is under construction at the corner of South and Delaware Streets. However. the YMCA is hardly a new name to the downtown community. The Young Men’s Christian Association has a history in Indianapolis dating back to 1854.  Did you know that the organization’s flagship facility once sat at 304 North Illinois Street? A bold move was in the works in...

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HI Mailbag: Indianapolis’ First Public Schools

Reader’s Question: What were the first public schools in Indianapolis, and where were they located?  ~ Ann F., Indianapolis HI’s Answer:  From the time non-native settlers began to populate the area that in 1821 became the City of Indianapolis, people met in churches and homes to learn about subjects that were of interest to them. However, these study groups were private assemblies.  Various seminaries and institutes also operated in the early and mid-1800s, but they charged tuition, and none of them survived for any length of time. It wasn’t until 1847 that Indianapolis voters overwhelmingly supported a local referendum asking for free public schools,...

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