Author: Joan Hostetler

Indianapolis Then and Now: Fourth Presbyterian Church and The Milton Apartments, 26-30 E. 9th Street

Half of a stereoview of Fourth Presbyterian Church on East 9th Street, then named Pratt Street. Photographed by Charles S. Judd, Indianapolis, ca. 1875 (The Indiana Album: Loaned by Joan Hostetler) Finding photographs of Indianapolis prior to the 1880s is challenging. Between 1839 and 1860, photography consisted mainly of one-of-a-kind photographic processes known as daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes. These images were made on copper, glass, and sheet iron and most daguerreian artists or ambrotypists specialized in portraiture. Paper photography was popularized in the late 1850s and multiple prints could be made from the glass negatives. A few Indianapolis photographers...

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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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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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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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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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Indianapolis Then and Now: The Ruskaup Grocery and Tavern / The Inventorialist, 715-717 Dorman Street

The Ruskaup Grocery and Tavern, ca. 1890s. The man standing on the steps on the right is likely proprietor Frederick Ruskaup. Today the Cottage Home Park and Playground occupies the lot to the north, then occupied by two frame cottages owned by Ruskaup. (The Indiana Album: Loaned by Helen Ruskaup) Were it not for strict rules forbidding commercial buildings in Woodruff Place in the 1870s, this grocery store might not have landed on Dorman Street.  According to family legend, recent German immigrant Frederick Ruskaup wanted to build his grocery store in the newly developed exclusive Woodruff Place, but when...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Tansy Motor Service Station, 802 N. Delaware Street

Tansy Motor Service Station on the northwest corner of N. Delaware and St. Clair Streets, 8 Feb. 1949 (Courtesy of the Indianapolis Fire Department) This Indianapolis Fire Department photograph depicts fire damage at the Tansy Motor Service Station at 802 N. Delaware Street (northwest corner of N. Delaware and St. Clair Streets). Four employees escaped from a window after an explosion and fire early in the morning of February 8, 1949. As a precaution, firemen stirred residents from the fourteen adjacent apartments and ordered them to vacate the building. An article in the Kokomo Tribune reported that owner Loral R. Tansy...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: 1939 and 1945 N. Pennsylvania Street

In the digital age, many young people have no memory or understanding of the role of negatives in photography, much less glass negatives. So a word of advice: should you find boxes of glass plates with negative images on them, save them. You might have discovered a treasure trove. That is what happened in about 1980 to graphic designer David Stahl when he and his wife bought the run-down house next to the home they were restoring at 1939 N. Pennsylvania Street in Herron-Morton Place neighborhood. The house at 1945 N. Pennsylvania Street, divided into eight apartment apartments, was...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Pyle House / Board of Trade / Chase Tower, 143 N. Meridian Street

When the end was near for the delapidated Pyle House, newpaper writers looked back nostalgically at the former days when the building at 143 N. Meridian Street was a well-known inn. Situated north of Christ Church, the two frame buildings connected by a brick structure had formerly served as schools, a hotel, boarding house, and commercial building. According to Jacob Dunn’s trustworthy but long-titled book Greater Indianapolis: The History, The Industries, The Institutions, and The People of a City of Homes (1910),  the building to the right (south) in this 1901 newspaper photograph served as a boarding house for attendees...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: David Macy House, 408 N. Delaware Street

The David Macy house at 408 N. Delaware Street (The Indiana Album: Loaned by Joan Hostetler) Not many 1850s houses have survived in Indianapolis, but a unique government project begun during the Great Depression gives us a glimpse at one that stood for over eighty years at 408 N. Delaware Street. David and Mary Ann (Patterson) Macy, new residents to the capital city, built their new house near the northwest corner of N. Delaware and Vermont Streets in 1853. Macy, a lawyer and railroad mover-and-shaker who had served as a state legislator and a member of the Indiana Supreme Court,...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Plaza Service Station, 121 E. Maryland Street

Is that a government building or a gas station? Cartoonists of the 1920s often made light of the fact that service and filling stations were so ornate that they were confused with buildings with a grander purpose. (Indiana Historical Society, Bass Photo Company Collection #92298) During the 1920s people grew leery of shoddy gasoline shacks, especially near residential areas and city centers, so movers of the nationwide City Beautiful Movement promoted monumental-looking filling station designs. One local example is Vonnegut, Mueller, & Bohn’s little-remembered architectural design for the Plaza Service Station, formerly located at 121 E. Maryland Street. The building...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Volney T. Malott House, 536-558 N. Delaware Street

In about 1867 David Macy and his wife built a house at 558 N. Delaware Street for their only daughter Caroline and her husband Volney T. Malott, who had lived with the Macys since their marriage in 1862. But after a year the older couple missed her so much that the mere one-block walk between houses seemed too far. So they moved into their daughter’s corner home and built her family another nearly identical house next door. The homes remained in the family for over sixty years. Today the brick dwellings are long gone and the site serves as...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Pantzer Drugstore, 1601 S. East Street

Postcard from the collection of Evan Finch / July 2011 Google Street View The corner store at 1601 S. East Street had a long life as the Pantzer Drugstore in what is now the Bates-Hendricks neighborhood on the southeast side of Indianapolis. John George Pantzer, Jr. (1869-1934) was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, but was one of the many German families in the medical field in Indianapolis. His older brother Hugo Otto Pantzer was a physician (and father of art collector and philanthropist Kurt Pantzer). Another brother, Frederick William, moved to Indianapolis and managed the Bates House Pharmacy but died...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Morris-Butler House, 1204 Park Avenue

Circa 1867-1885 photograph of the Morris-Butler House (Courtesy of Indiana Landmarks) As a preservationist, I really like it when the “then” and the “now” photographs look alike. Thanks to Indiana Landmarks, the Morris-Butler House in the Old Northside is one of those happy examples, despite sitting dangerously close to the original path for Interstate 65. This grainy copy photograph is the earliest known photograph of the house, dated by staff as circa 1867 or maybe even as late as 1885. It shows the house from the corner of 12th Street and Park Avenue. Notice the four unidentified people posing...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: 500 Block of West Washington Street / Eiteljorg Museum

This 1953 view shows the 500 block of W. Washington Street as it appeared in 1953. (Courtesy of The Indiana Album: Photographed by J. Parke Randall) This week we share another 1953 photograph of Indianapolis taken by J. Parke Randall, a young architect/photographer charged with documenting potential areas of urban development for his boss Edward Pierre. While today the commercial district along West Washington Street ends east of the State House, prior to the 1960s shoppers continued west to White River. As seen in this 1953 photograph, which looks east at the north side of the street, the area...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: 300 block of W. Market Street (now Robert D. Orr Plaza)

Courtesy of the Indiana Album: Loaned by J. Parke Randall, ia-30-17 J. Parke Randall was a young architect  in Indianapolis in 1953 when he received an assignment from his boss Edward D. Pierre: photographically document downtown areas for the Crossroads of American redevelopment plan. Pierre, a forward-thinking architect with a city planner’s mindset, had been hired to design a city for the future with areas designated for entertainment, transportation, government, and even fashion. Read Libby Cierzniak’s detailed article about the plan that never came to be. New to the city as a recent architecture graduate from Washington University in...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: Irvington School of Music, 269 S. Audubon Road

Photograph owned by Sandy Burton courtesy of Vintage Irvington The most common research request I hear from old house owners is “How do I find an old photo of my home?” You just know that lingering in someone’s attic sits grandma’s album full of old photographs from their era in your home. But finding these people is a complex odyssey of searching deeds, city directories, census records, and obituaries. Many people don’t have the time or know-how to track down descendants and sometimes the photo owners are not receptive to calls from strangers or are unaware of the location...

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Then and Now: The Star Store and Indiana Government Center South, 360-70 West Washington Street

L. S. Ayres & Company, Wiliam H. Block, and H. P. Wasson are the most beloved and remembered Indianapolis department stores, but many smaller stores catered to the middle class. One of them was the Efroymson and Wolf Department Store, better known as the Star Store. Brothers Gustave A. and Meyer Efroymson, along with their brother-in-law Louis P. Wolf, opened the Star Store in 1888 in a small wood structure on the northeast corner of W. Washington and Missouri Streets. Some thought it unwise to locate a store outside of the traditional Washington Street business corridor between Illinois and...

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Then and Now: St. Clair Theatre, 802 Fort Wayne Avenue

This unidentified Indianapolis Fire Department negative dated 1946 appears to document an accident near the intersection of Fort Wayne Avenue, Saint Clair Street, and Alabama Street. This view looks northeast on Fort Wayne Avenue. Fortunately, it also shows an infrequently photographed neighborhood theater named Bair’s St. Clair Theatre (see a 1929 view in the Indiana Historical Society’s Bass Photo Collection). Other businesses at this busy intersection include a Sablosky’s Department Store, McCallum’s Market, a liquor store, Davis Cleaners, and a bakery. The smokestack in the distance is for Excelsior Laundry. According to Cinema Treasures (www.cinematreasures.org), a wonderful online source for...

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Indianapolis Then and Now: The Singing Blacksmiths at 110 W. Georgia Street

From “Songs of the Streets and Byways” by William Herschell, 1915 While sources such as city directories and maps are among my favorite research tools, their lack of depth about the personalities of people and businesses is frustrating. Sanborn Fire Insurance maps reveal that an unnamed blacksmith shop was located in a one-story frame building at 110 W. Georgia Street, near the northwest corner of S. Illinois Street. City directories from 1914 and 1915 indicate that the business was operated by William P. Powell and his son George H., eastside residents who rented a house on Dearborn Street and...

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