Author: Sharon Butsch Freeland

HI Mailbag: Kurt Vonnegut and the Red Key Tavern

Reader’s Question: In recent weeks, I have seen several references on social media to an article that claims the Red Key Tavern was Kurt Vonnegut’s hangout.  Can you confirm or deny this information?  ~ Peter D., Indianapolis HI’s Answer:  Although the January 21, 2014, listing on BuzzFeed’s “12 Historic Bars Every Book Nerd Needs To Visit” is a nice plug for both Indianapolis and the Red Key Tavern, the supposed reason for this accolade is not supported by any facts whatsoever.  It simply is not possible that the Red Key was Kurt Vonnegut’s “favorite watering hole,” or that regulars could have “. . . seen him writing and drinking in his booth.” ...

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HI Mailbag: St. Catherine of Siena Church

Reader’s Question: Hi, HI.  Last weekend, I bought an old postcard of an Indianapolis church.  Can you please tell me if the building pictured on the postcard is still standing today, and if it is, where it is located?  ~ Evan F., Indianapolis    HI’s Answer:  I am very sorry to inform you that the beautiful church pictured on your recently acquired postcard no longer exists.  The former St. Catherine of Siena Church was just south of Raymond Avenue and just east of Garfield Park.  The convent school and the rectory that were adjacent to the church are also gone.  The address of the church was 2245 Shelby Street. ...

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HI Mailbag: Epilogue Theatre

Reader’s Question: I have been involved in several shows at the Epilogue Theatre at 1849 North Alabama Street.  I have heard that the building used to be a pharmacy.  I have also heard it referred to as Historic Hedback Corner, but not sure what that means.  I’d love some history on it. ~ Thank you, Justin C., Indianapolis   HI’s Answer:  If its walls could talk, the 106-year-old building on the southeast corner of 19th and Alabama Streets could speak volumes about its connections to important events and notable people in the history of the city.  Located in the historic Herron-Morton Place neighborhood, the three-story mixed-use structure at 1849...

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HI Mailbag: Jordan College of Music

Reader’s Question: In the 1950s, my parents took me to music lessons at the Jordan College of Music, which was located in a former residence across the street from Shortridge High School.  The corner where Jordan once stood has been a parking lot for many years.  I know the college is now located on the campus of Butler University, but I am wondering if can you provide a little of its early history?  ~ Mike F., Carmel      HI’s Answer: The address of the former residence in which you received music lessons was 3411 North Pennsylvania Street.  The property was located on the northeast corner of 34th...

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HI Mailbag: Origin of the Name of Kessler Boulevard

Reader’s Question: My husband (an Austrian citizen) was asking about the origin of the name of Kessler Boulevard.  I could not tell him, but I said it was surely named after some prominent man in Indianapolis history, since it probably would not have occurred to city fathers to honor a woman with a street name at the time Kessler Boulevard was named.  Are there any streets in Indianapolis named after women, which were named before the second women’s movement in the late ’60s and early ’70s? ~ Alison B., Indianapolis   HI’s Answer: Kessler Boulevard was indeed named for a prominent...

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HI Mailbag: Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne Stevenson (Part II)

This week’s HI Mailbag column is a continuation of last week’s column.  The December 3rd article discussed the locations in which Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne Stevenson lived during the early portion of her life.  As she was only twenty-four years old when she left her hometown, I thought some of the places she lived in the fifty remaining years of her life might be interesting to readers, as well.  Due to the length of the initial article, I decided to devote two columns to Fanny. If you would like to read Part I first, you can do so by clicking here. When Fanny Osbourne returned to California in 1869, after...

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HI Mailbag: Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne Stevenson (Part I)

Reader’s Question: What can you tell me about the homes in which Fanny Stevenson lived in the years before she left Indianapolis?  ~  Christy S., Meridian Hills  HI’s Answer: For HI readers who may not be aware, the wife of Scottish novelist, poet, and essayist Robert Louis Stevenson was a native of Indianapolis.  Frances Matilda Vandegrift was the oldest child of Jacob Vandegrift (1816-1876)  and Esther Thomas Keen Vandegrift (1811-1894). Jacob Vandegrift came to Indianapolis in 1836 as a young man of twenty.  He returned to Philadelphia in 1838 to marry Esther.  The newly wed Vandegrifts returned to Indianapolis soon after their spring wedding to make it their home. ...

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HI Mailbag: Indy Parks & Recreation

Reader’s Question: I saw that Indy Parks may privatize our city’s parks, which makes me wonder about the history of the park system.  Can you tell me the who, what, why, when, where, and how of Indianapolis’ parks?  ~ Jennifer J., Indianapolis HI’s Answer: In the first few decades after the City of Indianapolis was founded, officially designated parkland was not deemed necessary.  Farms and forests throughout the county provided adequate natural settings for recreational activities.  However, as the population of Indiana’s state capital began to grow in the mid-1800s, and as the buildings erected in the center of town became larger and denser, the concept...

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HI Mailbag: Ravenswood

Reader’s Question: I have a lot of family history in Indiana, but in Indianapolis the only area I know my family has been in for a while is Ravenswood.  Any chance you have some history on that area and/or pictures?  ~ Chris W.  HI’s Answer:  For readers who may not be aware, Ravenswood is the name of an area on the north side of Indianapolis, alongside the White River.  It’s in the center of Washington Township, less than a mile north of Broad Ripple Park.  There are actually several different legal descriptions within this geographical area, including Terrace Beach, Island Park, Light’s Melrose, Ralston Heights, River...

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HI Mailbag: Cotton Family of Pike Township

Reader’s Question: I am curious about the origins of the Cotton family, for two reasons.  First, Cotton Creek cuts directly across our back yard.  Second, members of the Cotton family are buried overlooking the creek in one of the adjoining lots.  There are also members of the Harmon family buried in this small graveyard.  Can you add any insight?  Thanks, Jerry R., Indianapolis HI’s Answer: The Cotton family migrated to Indiana from North Carolina about 1820.  They lived in Wayne County, Indiana, for several years before continuing westward in the late 1830s.  Two members of the Cotton family became early landowners in Pike Township.  Elisha Cotton...

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HI Mailbag: Mansion on Cold Spring Road

Reader’s Question: I’m pretty sure that after my father retired, he lived in Harry Stutz’s home on Cold Spring Road, which had been converted into apartments.  My dad was the “super.”  It was a beautiful home with acreage.  Nearby was a Carmelite convent.  Could you tell me if that home still exists, and what has happened to it over the years?     Thanks! ~ Esther S., Albuquerque, New Mexico HI’s Answer: You were on the right track in thinking that your father lived in Harry Stutz’s home, but the residence to which you refer actually belonged to Stutz’s business partner, Henry F. Campbell.  The property has an unusual history,...

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HI Mailbag: Indianapolis’ “Automobile Row”

Reader’s Question: What remnants of Indianapolis’ booming automobile history are still left along Capitol Avenue?  ~ Mark S., Indianapolis HI’s Answer: The earliest automobile-related companies in Indianapolis began operating in the late 1890s.  Many of the men who were innovators in the field started out manufacturing carriages or bicycles and transitioned to motorized vehicles.  Among the first were Atlas Engine Works at 1901 Martindale Avenue, International Motor Company’s Waverley Department at 139 South East Street, Charles H. Black Manufacturing Company at 44 East Maryland Street, and National Motor Vehicle Company at 1101 East 22nd Street. In the early 1900s, as more and more players joined in the car craze, the locations of automobile production plants and sales facilities migrated north...

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HI Mailbag: 411 Downey Enigma

Reader’s Question:   My great-grandparents lived first at 411, then at 417, Downey.  I have a picture of my grandfather, perhaps 6-8 years old, standing in front of the home with his sister and mother.  On the back is written “411 Downey.”  Once married, my grandparents lived at 425 Downey.  My mother was born in 1916 at 411 Downey; it’s written in her baby book. The listing of births in The Star the following day noted the parents resided at 425 Downey.   I can understand possible confusion of 411 and 417 appearing at varying times, because handwriting and the copying of old original documents...

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HI Mailbag: Celtic Federal Savings and Loan Association

Reader’s Question: I am trying to find info on what happened to Celtic Saving and Loan Association.  My grandmother had this certificate from 1936 (pictured below).  Thanks, Tom D.    HI’s Answer: Celtic Saving and Loan Association was the first institution in Indianapolis to finance home building projects.  Founded in the spring of 1874 by a group of men who lived near one another on the south side, some of its original members’ surnames were O’Connor, O’Brien, Moriarty, Rinehan, Donnehy, and Clancy.  As the men were all of Irish descent, they chose the name Celtic to honor the language of their families’ origins. Organized in a grocery on the corner of S. Delaware and...

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HI Mailbag: Westlake

Reader’s Question:  I have lived on the west side of Indianapolis for all twenty-five years of my life.  As a child, I lived in the Westlake Apartments.  I heard stories of its having been a beach club and a place where kids would go for dances, as well as having been a drive-in movie theatre.  I would love to know everything about it.  Alex W., Speedway    HI’s Answer:  Now called the Westlake Apartments, the complex at 6000 Westlake Drive was named Westlake Arms when it was built in 1973.  Before it became the largest apartment community in Indianapolis, the land north of Rockville Road, south...

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HI Mailbag: Residence at 1504 Park Avenue

Reader’s Question: My friends live in the Old Northside at 1504 N. Park Avenue. We think it may have been a Vonnegut-designed home and built at the same time as and by the same brick masons as the Athenaeum.  Can you confirm this?  What can you tell us about this property? ~ Larry Gregerson, Indianapolis   HI’s Answer: The home that has been known as 1504 Park Avenue for more than a century began its life as 358 Park Avenue.  The residence’s original owners were a Canadian-born couple named Carl McFarland Von Hake and Sarah Richardson Von Hake.  The Von Hakes had three daughters, Carlesta,...

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HI Mailbag: Canary Cottage Restaurant and Cafe

Reader’s Question: I was wondering if in your research you’ve come across a restaurant or tea room called the Canary Cafe?  My grandmother lived on the west side and worked downtown in the Aetna Building from the late-1930s to the mid-1950s.  She would often have lunch at a place called the Canary Cafe.  She mentioned wonderful stories about how distant cousin Kurt Vonnegut Sr. would come downtown and take her to lunch.  Thanks for any information you may have. ~ Amanda G., Indianapolis HI’s Answer: The Canary Cottage Restaurant and Cafe was located at 46 Monument Circle, in the southwest quadrant of the city’s celebrated signature centerpiece. ...

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HI Mailbag: Building at 122 East 22nd Street

Reader’s Question: Can you tell me about the businesses that have been located in the building at 122 East 22nd Street over the years?  ~ Jeff C., Indianapolis    HI’s Answer: In the years prior to the construction of the commercial building that is located at 122 East 22nd Street, the land on which it was built was the back yard of a single-family residence that sat on the northwest corner of East 22nd Street and North Talbott Avenue, facing Talbott.  The home was built about 1891 by Howard H. French.  He was a travel agent with Severin, Ostermeyer & Company.  After French’s death in 1894 — at the relatively young...

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HI Mailbag: Building at 1010 Central Avenue

Reader’s Question: Could you provide some history on the former warehouse at 1010 Central Avenue?  I live in one of the new apartments and am really intrigued by it.  My dad thinks at one point it was a paper mill/factory. ~ Thanks,  Alexandra Warrick, Indianapolis HI’s Answer:   The property at 1010 Central Avenue is enjoying a new chapter in its life.  Built to house a clothing manufacturer more than a century ago, the structure has also served as a warehouse for a drugstore chain and the sales office of a wholesale restaurant equipment company.  I could find no indication that it was ever a paper mill...

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HI Mailbag: R. R. 9 in Five Points

Reader’s Question: Can you tell me where R. R. 9 was in Five Points?  Thanks, Gregory Cummings HI’s Answer: The area known as Five Points is approximately seven miles southeast of Indianapolis’s Monument Circle.  The name “Five Points” was derived from the convergence of three early roads that today are known as Troy Avenue, Southeastern Avenue, and Five Points Road. The location that would eventually be called Five Points was originally part of four different contiguous parcels of land purchased from the federal government within a decade after Indianapolis was chosen as the state capitol.  Two parcels north of Troy Avenue were purchased by John Vandeman in 1828.  One parcel south of...

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