Author: Jordan Ryan

Flats Saved: Virginia Avenue

Renna, 1912, Bass Photo Co., courtesy Indiana Landmarks What’s your favorite bar or shop on Virginia Avenue?  Chances are it’s a two-story building that used to contain flats or rooms for rent on the second floor and stores on street level.  Virginia Avenue is full of rich history and charming one-, two-, and a few three-story buildings.  The first two buildings, the Renna and the Bower, are part of the Fletcher Place neighborhood on the south side, commonly referred to as Holy Rosary or Fletcher Place II.  The last building, the Hoffman, stands further south on Virginia Avenue in...

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Flats Lost & Saved: Honorable Mentions Pt 2

Is it a death sentence for a building if it doesn’t make the National Register? Not always. Continuing with the list of apartments from the last post, the remaining half of the list ends with three buildings standing, two demolished. Listed as the Legacy Flats in the nomination, they were called the Madison Flats up until 1982. The Madison Flats were built on a small triangular strip of land bounded by Madison Avenue, Pennsylvania Street, and Merrill Street. They were built at 607-611 Madison Avenue and 608-616 South Pennsylvania Street in 1908. The explanation for not being included in...

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Flats Lost & Saved: Honorable Mentions

What happens to buildings that never receive historic protections?  Is it the kiss of death?  Interestingly, there is a list of ten buildings downtown in the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for apartments that are specifically singled out with justifications.  You may be surprised by how many buildings on this list of honorable mentions are still around today.  The first half of the list includes: The Avondale, 545-551 North Senate Avenue; The Celeste, 402-404 East New York Street; The Coburn, 205 East New York Street; The Deauville, 548 North Senate Avenue; The Eugenia, 302-310 West New York...

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Flats Lost: I-65 Construction

Do you remember the Indiana highway construction of the 1960’s and 1970’s? Many apartment buildings, and even more homes, were demolished during the construction of I-65 – impacting all areas, but particularly Fountain Square and the Old Northside. Both areas were severed from downtown and their close neighbors, Fletcher Place and St. Joseph, respectively. Entire blocks were erased. In 1957, the state announced that it would plan freeways connecting downtown Indianapolis to the outer belt system (I-465) that was also being planned. In the early 1960’s, the state began purchasing homes, commercial buildings, and every other structure in the...

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Flats Saved: Heier’s Hotel

The Heier Hotel, located at 12-18 South New Jersey Street, is named after original owner Fred Heier. Heier had multiple business ventures, including Heier & Shea and Heier & Son. Heier & Shea, with partner John D. Shea, operated a saloon at 25-27 West Pearl Street. Heier & Son was an imported and domestic wine, liquor, and cigar business with a sample room at 12-14 South New Jersey Street which he operated since 1889. He also dabbled in the real estate business. Around the same time, Heier and his brother, August, began running the European Hotel – a two...

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Flats Lost: Lorraine Building

The Lorraine Building, an extended-stay hotel constructed in 1891, was located at 201 West Washington Street. The location was incredibly desirable even from the beginning, because of its proximity to the current State House (completed in 1888) as well as being on the National Road, also known as Washington Street and U.S.-40. The National Road was incredibly important for early Indianapolis business and commerce.  Prior to construction, the location was used as “State Offices,” presumably during the shuffle of governmental offices during the construction of the fourth and current State House. The Lorraine Hotel had the same footprint as...

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Vacant: Old City Hall

How many great memories do you have at the old City Hall building? The event coordinators of Vacant, a one night art gala on May 3rd, approached me to put a presentation together on the old City Hall building. Last night’s successful event was thrown by three graduating seniors from the Herron School of Art & Design – it was part a senior painting thesis show and part a juried art competition open to Herron students and artists in the community. Considering the last two usages of the structure have been for well-publicized art exhibits, do you have any...

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Flats Saved: The Woessner

Corner facade, 2013, (c) photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton The Woessner Building, located at 902-910 Virginia Avenue and 843-849½ Grove Street, was built in 1915. The building is named after Jacob Woessner, a prominent Southside resident who operated a successful meat market, on the site of the structure as early as 1877. Born in Germany, he settled in Ohio in 1866 (IHPC Fountain Square Plan, 1984). The Democrat was a member of the Board of Public Works, Board of School Commissioners, and was sheriff for two stints (1908-1912) (“Civic League Issues Its Report,” IndyStar, 10/21/1908.) He was often discussed...

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Flats Saved: the L’Avon

What’s your favorite flatiron building downtown? This apartment building is a potential contender–one of the oldest apartment buildings in Indianapolis. Six years after the Blacherne was constructed, the L’Avon was built in 1901 at 615 South Noble Street – now College Avenue. This three-story brick flatiron, full of bay windows, is roughly in the Queen Anne style, very rare for an apartment building in Indianapolis. One of four apartments in the Fletcher Place district (the others being the Ada, B&B, and Briggs Flats), it is shaped by a unique triangular lot. The building utilizes the two more obtuse points...

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Flats Lost: Falling Through the Cracks

How do historic properties, listed on multiple National Registers, become abandoned neighborhood eyesores? Lawsuits were filed against the owners of two such buildings, the Chadwick and the Lodge apartments two years ago. While National Register placement does not provide any additional legal protection, building codes and ordinances can be utilized to help protect such properties. One must question how did these properties get into such a degraded state before any such legal action was taken. On April 11, 2011, the property owners of both buildings were handed lawsuits by city prosecutors for “allowing their historically designated properties to become...

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Flats Saved: Fletcher Avenue

Due to the large population increase of downtown in 1890-1920, the addition of apartments was absolutely necessary; Fletcher Place was one neighborhood that built flats very early during this increase. The irregularly shaped Fletcher Place neighborhood was one of the “first developments adjacent to the Mile Square” and housed many residents that were significant in regards to the “architecture, religion, commerce, education, and social life in the city.” (Interim Report, Center Township, Marion County, Indiana Historic Site & Structures Inventory, 1991) Named after Calvin Fletcher, Sr. (1798-1866), who originally owned the land as his farm, which he called Wood...

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Flats Saved: North Pennsylvania Street

Limestone detailing of the Sylvania, 2013, (c) photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton What’s your favorite apartment building on Pennsylvania Street? Many flats, including the Sylvania and Glencoe, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places Apartments & Flats and are also included in the NRHP St. Joseph Neighborhood.  Did you know that the Apartments & Flats nomination is the largest historic district for apartment homes in the United States?  These structures received a great deal of TLC when 25% tax credits for rehabbing historic homes was still available on a federal level in the early 1980’s. The St....

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Flats Lost & Saved: Two Alamedas and the Avenue Hotel

The 400-block of Massachusetts Avenue is one of the most interesting blocks in the city – historically and architecturally. Doesn’t it seem like it’s been neglected in history, compared to the blocks just northeast and southwest of it?  What started as a riddle on two buildings given the same name has resulted in the following information, with a focus around a key building that many of you may know as the Hoosier or Davlan. The original Alameda building stood at 442-446 Massachusetts Avenue.  According to the 1898 Sanborn maps, it was called the Patterson Flats – this three-bay, three-story...

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Flats Lost & Saved: Northwest Quad

The St. Clair, built at 107-109 West St. Clair Street in 1899, is a true example of a flat saved then lost.  According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for apartments and flats, John James Cooper of 740 North Meridian Street purchased the undeveloped plat in 1897; he constructed the flat for $12,000 two years later.  Cooper (1830-1906) moved to Indianapolis in 1868 and ran unsuccessfully for Marion County sheriff eight years later; he was however state treasurer in 1882 and 1884 (NRHP Nomination Form, 1983).  He was also the owner of the Indianapolis Sentinel in...

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Flats Saved: North Delaware Street

Arundel, Vendrome, and Delaware flats; photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton Not too far from Massachusetts Avenue or Meridian Street, the 400 and 500 blocks of North Delaware Street were quiet and full of single family homes, duplexes, and flats.  Although not a centralized location, the area was quite accessible because of the 1890-established street car system.  The Arundel, Vendrome, Delaware, and Colonial flats are all similar in style and mostly in materials. All built in 1902, the Arundel, Vendrome, and Delaware Flats were built at 507, 505, and 503 North Delaware Street.  The Delaware was constructed by Charles A....

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Flats Lost & Saved: Mass Ave & Vermont Street

The Sanborn map above is of the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Vermont Street, and Alabama Street in 1914.  Originally, the 400 block of Mass Ave was set aside for ‘religious purposes.’  However, by 1870, the area had established its popularity as a main shopping corridor surrounded by residential blocks.  According to the National Register of Historic Places – Massachusetts Avenue Commercial District Nomination Form from 1977, the most “striking physical characteristic of the district as a whole is the uniformity of size, scale, materials, style, and age of the commercial buildings.”  This is apparent in many of the buildings...

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Flats Lost & Saved: Corner of Delaware & New York

The picture above is from the Indianapolis Illustrated book of 1889. The block, not even ten years later, would become densely redeveloped as the commercial center of the city expanded and the need for more apartments increased along with the population. The Algonquin was built in 1898 at 225-227 North Delaware Street.  This Italianate/Romanesque revival structure boasted three room plus bath flats for only $20/month back in 1909.  Referred to as “one of the oldest downtown buildings,” the three-story brick front, two-story in back structure had a forty foot frontage on Delaware Street and went 193 feet deep.  At...

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Flats Lost: Memorial Plaza

The Chalfant, Courtesy Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society Have you admired the Indiana World War Memorial lately?  Or walked through Obelisk Square or University Park?  Before the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza was constructed, the area contained many upscale apartments and residential homes.  This desirable neighborhood, just north of the commercial district and in a very centralized location, was home to many apartments, including the Chalfant and the Cambridge. The Chalfant was constructed in 1896 with funds from John Chalfant New.  The building at 20 East Michigan Street was designed in a Romanesque Revival/Richardsonian Romanesque style.  Important...

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Flats Lost and Saved: The Lower Canal

Before the Canal District we know of today, the one filled with contemporary art, public spaces, statues, and monuments, the canal functioned primarily for businesses – water supply, waste removal – along downtown’s west side. The original lower central canal, begun in 1835, took up parts of Missouri Street, in an area inhabited generally by commercial businesses and warehouses. Along the canal in 1902, two apartment flats were constructed, the Emelie and the Eugenia. The area right off of the canal contained mostly homes in the 1910’s; with the popularity of the automobile, large chunks of real estate morphed...

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Flats Lost: The 300 Block of North Street

The Arlington, Marina, & Clarina Flats circa 1905 Courtesy Bass Photo/Indiana Historical Society If you ask anyone to list a few important or eye-catching buildings downtown, I’m sure you would hear the Murat Theater and the Riley Towers often. While this isn’t intended to be another lecture about how the parking lot explosion of the mid 20th century did this or that, please consider a time when such grand buildings could have co-existed alongside quaint apartments. These three apartment buildings on the south side of East North Street are mirror images of each other, built in the Beaux-Arts style...

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