Month: November 2015

Indianapolis Collected: The things we leave behind

There are two kinds of people who buy old houses, according to The New York Times:  old house people, who know what to expect, and regular house people, who don’t.  But I would argue that there is a third kind of purchaser: the temporarily crazed but otherwise rational person who walks into an old house and suddenly decides to buy it because of a feeling, a sense — or in my case, the ghost of a dog that had been dead for more than a century. In 2002, my husband and I were on our way to make an offer...

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HI Mailbag: The Meadows

Reader’s Question: I grew up in Ft. Wayne in the 1950s and 1960s, but I often spent weekends and holidays in Indianapolis with my grandparents.  I have fond memories of visiting their apartment in The Meadows, as well as walking to the nearby Meadows Shopping Center.  Can you tell me when the area was built?  ~ Cyndi T., Ft. Wayne, Indiana    HI’s Answer: The area on the northeast side that has generically been called “The Meadows” since the mid-1900s actually consisted of a number of different adjacent developments that were built over a period of more than 20 years. These separate projects included the...

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Grasshopper Jails & Other “Monkey Business”

If you peek into newspapers from any decade, it doesn’t take long to find some downright strange human activity going on.  In spite of the often ego-stroking tales we tell ourselves, human behavior, of course, can be as bizarre as that of any other species.  Perhaps we’re even the weirdest of them all. Animals have often shared a front seat on our rocky ride through life — sometimes literally, as you’ll see in a moment.   Here’s a few stories that came out in the Indianapolis Times and other papers during the last years of Prohibition and the first...

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Indianapolis Collected: Free textbooks & the IPS music man

In the closing days of the Civil War, Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent Abram Shortridge found himself in a unique situation — an “adventure,” as he called it. Almost every position within the state’s largest school system was filled by a woman.  Every principal, every assistant, and all but two teachers in the IPS schools were women, and young women at that. “It is due to the administrative abilities displayed by these young women … that the discipline and good order of the schools has been sustained at a high standard, and the several grades were never in better condition...

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At Your Leisure: Indy’s Once Favorite Pasta

Shorter and colder days, increase cravings for comfort food. And comfort food means everybody’s favorite carb group: pasta dishes. Unfortunately, Indy doesn’t have ethnically named enclaves like other culture-rich cities. No “Little Italy,” “Little Tokyo,” or “Chinatown,” exists in Indianapolis. The closest approximation is a small enclave of Italians in and near Fletcher Place neighborhood, on the near southeast side, which connects to the owner of a once-favorite downtown Italian eatery. The Fletcher Place neighborhood gave us David Page, who grew up near the intersection of College and Virginia Avenues. For nearly twenty years, Page owned one of downtown’s...

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HI Mailbag: Martindale-Brightwood Families

Reader’s Question: I was wondering if you had any information on prominent families in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood, from the late 1800s to the 1940s?  Can you provide any names and addresses?  ~ Jerome J. HI’s Answer:  The near northeastside neighborhood that is known today as Martindale-Brightwood was originally two separate entities. Each area can trace its beginnings to the 1870s, and each settlement can be attributed to its proximity to a railroad.  It wasn’t until the formation of the Martindale-Brightwood Community Development Corporation in 1992 that the two neighborhoods were linked together. Brightwood, the further east of the two, was platted in 1872.  It was incorporated as...

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Bacteria, Blood & Bad Dreams: The Unsolved Murder of Helen Knabe

How did one of Indiana’s pioneer investigators into STDs and rabies come to a gory end?  The mystery of Dr. Helen Knabe’s death remains one of the great cold cases in Indianapolis murder history.  So, too, are the whereabouts of her spirit in the afterlife.  Did she really become a ghost lingering around the Athenaeum — or as it was called in her days, Das Deutsche Haus? The sad tale of the doctor’s demise, which begins one autumn night barely a hundred years ago, is still occasionally told on the local ghost-lore circuit. Future Indiana state bacteriologist Helen Knabe...

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At Your Leisure: The Marion Political Party!

Did you do your civic duty on Tuesday by voting? Unfortunately, it looks as if many people skipped the polls. Nevertheless, Joe Hogsett will become the 22nd Democrat to hold the Mayor’s Office in Indianapolis. Many feel uncomfortable discussing political matters at work or in public, and even here, when it’s in an historic context. These feelings have existed for generations though; private clubs have existed for years to put like-minded people in a more comfortable setting to engage in political discussion. Many are familiar with the venerable Columbia Club, which has always been a stronghold for Republicans, but did you know that...

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The Rise and Fall of the Billy Goat Beer

If you strolled down the streets of Indianapolis in 1900, you would have needed a bale of cotton stuffed in your ears not to hear a conversation or two auf Deutsch. Thanks to Germany’s turbulent 19th-century history, many Germans had to leave their homeland behind.  In the wake of failed revolutions, some came to Lockerbie Square, a place known colloquially as Germantown.  Both religious freethinkers and religious conservatives — Protestants, Catholics, atheists, and Jews — found Indiana an alluring destination, a place where the government would leave them alone. A few great Indianapolis monuments, in fact, owe their origin...

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Learned something new? Question answered? New connection made? Generally inspired or entertained? Love Indy more?

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