Author: Joan Hostetler

Then and Now: The Benjamin Franklin Sculpture

1929 photograph from the Indiana Historical Society, W. H. Bass Photo Collection Sculptor James H. Mahoney would probably be surprised to see that his Benjamin Franklin statue that adorned the 1873 Franklin Building has long outlasted the structure and is now a canvas for pranksters at Franklin College. The Franklin Insurance Company constructed the building on the southeast quadrant of Monument Circle in 1873, but the statue was not added for another year. The Indianapolis News reported on July 3, 1874 that “The statue of Benjamin Franklin for the new insurance building is being rapidly chipped at Carpenter’s. The...

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Then and Now: Corner of Ohio and Illinois Streets

This 1935 photograph documents the south side of West Ohio Street from Illinois Street looking east toward Meridian Street. Although this block was just northwest of Monument Circle and backing the old English Hotel, these buildings were rarely photographed by Bass Photo Company. This photograph found at Ball State University gives us a glimpse of some unfamiliar structures.  To the right is the Stewart Place Block, housing Hook’s Drugs and Beam’s Bowling and Billiards. Farther east is the Gem Hotel, Telephone Building, and the old Indianapolis Library and Indianapolis Public School’s administration building. Zoom in on the digital photograph...

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Then and Now: Clifford Place and Norways Sanatorium

As I have given Indianapolis Then and Now slide presentations through the years, along with author Nelson Price and photographer Garry Chilluffo, this particular set of photographs has drawn the biggest response. We know that not every house can and should be saved. Cities grow and property needs change. Structural condition and limited finances prevent restoration. Sadly, Victorian architecture went out of style. But the contrast of this beautifully wooded homestead to the current bland commercial building and underused concrete parking lot often elicits a collective groan from the audience as it is hard for many of us to...

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Then and Now: Harry W. Moore Peace Chapel, 2050 E. Michigan Street

Twenty-eight year old Harry W. Moore opened his first funeral home in Brightwood in 1929 and expanded to this near eastside location in about 1938. Architect Leslie F. Ayres designed this charming chapel, which is located at 2050 East Michigan Street just east of Woodruff Place. This photograph probably dates to the 1940s and shows firemen congregated outside of the funeral home following the services for a fallen comrade. (Negative made by the Indianapolis Fire Department). After this branch closed in the late 1990s, the building housed Clubhouse 2050, a private sports bar and nightclub....

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Then and Now: Court Street and Anthony’s Tavern, 128-134 E. Court Street

Court Street is one of those funny downtown alleys that somehow became a street. The short street runs east and west between Market and Washington Streets in the downtown area. An oft-told tale has it that taverns and saloons were prohibited from operating in Indianapolis alleys, so the easy work-around was to reclassify some of the alleys as streets. Sounds feasible, but does anyone have a source for this tidbit or is this just folklore? The view shown here hints at the thriving street life somewhat hidden from view. This stretch of the 100 block of East Court Street...

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Then and Now: 300 Block of Virginia Avenue

Density is a common topic at neighborhood gatherings in downtown Indianapolis. We look at the many vacant buildings and empty lots near downtown and dream of new infill housing, corner stores and thriving business blocks. With this mindset, I can’t pass by vacant land and not wonder what was there in the past. As I drove to Fountain Square recently I noticed Anthem Square, a block of green space bisected by the tree-lined Virginia Avenue. A few checks in my favorite research sources and I learned that this was once a thriving mixed-use block containing brick and wood-frame businesses...

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Then and Now: Swain Sanitorium, 608 Middle Drive, Woodruff Place

Woodruff Place was conceived as an upper-class residential suburb, but at least one house served another purpose. Pioneering female physician, Dr. Rachel (Way) Swain constructed one of Woodruff Place’s larger houses in 1898 to hold her existing business, Swain’s Home Health Sanitorium. This rare house construction photograph, dated May 12, 1898, shows nineteen contractors posing on the roof and scaffolding with hammers, L-square rulers, and saws. The gentleman in front, presumably the architect or general contractor, holds a rolled-up set of architectural drawings or house specifications. The framing is complete, the stone and brick porch is partially built, and...

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Then and Now: The Historic Steer-In, 5130 E. Tenth Street

The Historic Steer-In was featured on the popular Food Network show Drive-ins, Diners and Dives in early March introducing the country to one of the east side’s most beloved drive-ins. The site of 5130 E. Tenth Street, just east of Emerson Avenue, has been home to a drive-in restaurant going back to the early 1930s. History of the early years is spotty, but by 1935 a company named North and South Poles, Inc. sold frozen custard here and probably built this whimsical drive-in around that time. Like many drive-ins and other roadside businesses, the vernacular structure mimics the product sold...

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Then and Now: Ruskaup Store, 715 Dorman Street

According to family legend, recent German immigrant Frederick Ruskaup wanted to build a grocery store in the newly developed Woodruff Place on the east side of Indianapolis. Because the exclusive suburban town only allowed residential buildings, Ruskaup bought land on the west side of the United States Arsenal (today Arsenal Technical High School) where his entrepreneurial spirit eventually made him a wealthy businessman. This 1890s photograph depicts the brick grocery store and tavern constructed by Frederick Ruskaup in 1875 and expanded a decade later. His family lived upstairs until 1891 when they moved into their new brick house next...

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Then and Now: Ohio and Alabama Streets

Looking East on Ohio Street from Alabama Street, Indianapolis This intersection was not photographed often, so I was thrilled to find this small diner documented in the background of an accident negative made by the Indianapolis Fire Department made on February 3, 1952. Stachler’s Grill, shown in its Art Moderne glory, was a popular hang-out for policemen and city employees. Catty cornered from Indianapolis City Hall and a block from the jail, it served food remembered as typical greasy spoon fare.  The only other surviving building in the 1952 view is the Gulf Insurance Company building. In the distance...

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Then and Now: The Potential of Blighted Little Houses

As debate continues about the fate of four 1870s-1910s houses that Keep Indianapolis Beautiful might demolishin Fountain Square’s North Square Neighborhood, I feel a sense of déjà vu from the 1980s. Indianapolis’s preservation movement had kicked off in the 1960s and 70s and Lockerbie, the Old Northside, Herron-Morton Place, Woodruff Place, and a few other neighborhoods were recognized as historic. Having lived in three of these districts, I saw this energy coming to the near eastside and purchased an 1870s cottage in an iffy area known today as Cottage Home Neighborhood. Some older residents referred to the neighborhood as...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: NW Corner of Capitol Avenue and Ohio Street

This opulent late Queen Anne Victorian building, which was 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. I welcome comments and memories of the structure and would particularly like to learn the name of the architect. Dr. H. R. Allen first established the National Surgical Institute in Indianapolis...

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Then & Now: Hannaman Building, 40-42 E. Washington Street

One of the oldest commercial buildings in Indianapolis is in the news again as it suffers yet another “remuddling,” a derogatory term preservationists use to describe remodeling projects that have gone awry. On February 17 Property Lines, the Indianapolis Business Journal’s real estate blog, reported that the City has placed a stop work order on the historic Hannaman building at 40 E. Washington Street. The owners received permits to stabilize and repair brick and as scaffolding appeared hope was high that something positive would finally happen to this neglected structure. No such luck as dismayed onlookers watched the window...

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Then and Now: The Milano Inn, 231 S. College Avenue

In my work I love finding historic photographs of off-the-beaten-path Indianapolis locations. While the Bass Photo Company collection at the Indiana Historical Society wonderfully documents the city, particularly new construction near downtown and in wealthier north-side neighborhoods, Bass photographers seldom worked in older neighborhoods. Their “greatest hits” photographs are used over and over again so it is fun to discover new old sections of town in other collections. Documentary photographs from insurance and utility companies show neighborhoods not usually photographed by commercial studios. These images of 231 N. College Avenue reveal the progression of the building that houses the...

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Then and Now: Southwest corner of New Jersey and Vermont Streets

Then: Hyde School #1 was constructed by the school system in the 1860s and stood for many decades.  The camera faces west in this 1907 view of the playground. Buildings to the right face Vermont Street and include the Oxford and Wil-Fra-Mar (1897) buildings. Now: Today the old school site is a parking lot for a former Sears and Roebuck store converted into O’Malia’s (now Marsh) grocery store in the 1980s. The surviving Vermont Street buildings now house the Old Point Tavern, Mass Ave Toys, and Schmidt...

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