Author: Tiffany Benedict Browne

Then & Now: Wesley Hotel, 16th & Capitol

Hard to believe how many buildings in Indianapolis have been razed under the guise of  “progress” or “enhancing” a neighborhood or block. All the harder to understand when a building fronts major thoroughfares with a constant stream of visitors. Such is the case for a long lost six-story building that held down the southeast corner of Capitol Avenue and West 16th Street, directly across from the massive Methodist Hospital complex, from 1926-1978.   Looking across the acres of weed strewn vacant parking lots along 16th Street from Illinois to Capitol, it’s hard to imagine or remember that this was once a bustling area filled with commercial...

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Sunday Ads: Billingsley Florist

Though Wiegand’s and Bertermann’s operated their Indianapolis floral trades for decades, some were not so lucky, nor so long-lived. One such business was tucked into a small space on the northeast corner of Ohio and Illinois Streets.   The Billingsley Flower Shop debuted in the late fall of 1898. If you operated a flower shop before the invention of air conditioning or refrigeration, you’d probably do the same. Who wants to peddle melted flowers in a moist summer heat? Wouldn’t it be fun to go back in time and visit a Victorian flower shop? Were the flowers of yesteryear...

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Sunday Ads: Wiegand’s Sons Florist

The florist trade in Indianapolis began about ten years before the Civil War. One of the earliest to venture into that line of businesses was a German immigrant named Anthony (née Antoine) Wiegand. He arrived in Indianapolis in 1850 and made a name for himself in short order. Wiegand rented an acre of land between Kentucky, Missouri and South Streets to grow oleander trees, raspberry bushes, tomato plants, flowers and more. City directories indicate that Wiegand lived where he worked. Today, the same piece of geography dodges in and out of Lucas Oil Stadium’s shadows. Wiegand’s learned his trade...

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Then & Now: Laundering Behind Old City Hall

Local history buffs love to regale Circle City newbies with anecdotes of yesteryear about the city’s epicenter. A favorite story harkens to decades before the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument dwarfed nearby buildings. The original governor’s mansion once stood, unused, below the same spot where Victory now reaches into the southern-facing sky. However nice the house may have been, the Governor’s wife was unimpressed with the location of their assigned real estate. The indelicacy of literally airing her family laundry before the public was too much for the lady to bear. Such is the challenge of living at the epicenter of...

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Friday Fave: Indy Loves Veterans

Hoosiers will never be said to lack in appreciation for the veterans and heroes who have served our nation. Beam with pride wherever you encounter a veteran, because you, dear Hoosier, may rightfully brag that Indianapolis is second only to Washington D.C. in acreage and number of monuments dedicated to honoring veterans. Well kept green spaces dotted with monuments, statues, sculptures and fountains in the heart of our beloved “Circle City” may not be taken for granted on a day we reflect on, honor and respect those who have fought for the freedoms we Americans enjoy. With that in...

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Downtown Prices, 1821

Northwest corner of Delaware and Washington Streets, circa 2012 You already knew that Indianapolis became the capital of Indiana back in 1821. Any guesses as to how much dinero downtown real estate fetched back then? Picture this: October 1821, and this forested and muddy brand-spanking-new capital city needed to start selling the freshly platted Indianapolis lots. What would do wooded lots in a newly platted city go for, anyway? Check out this sampling of real estate sales in the first days of what would become our burgeoning metropolis: The lot on the northwest corner of Washington and Delaware Streets...

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Then & Now: Laycock Manufacturing

Recognize this view? If you frequent the canal, it will look familiar, as a view from Bugg’s Temple. Ever wonder what may have preceded the current shiny newer business buildings? For this site, it was once “The Industrial Building”, built by Thomas B. Laycock in the late 1800’s. This booklet, published by the owners, has floor plans and interior photos of this entire complex. And what a fabulous place it was. It burned down before 1920 when it was home to the T.B. Laycock Manufacturing Company, maker of  iron beds. This was a model business, far ahead of its...

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Penny Post: It is Great Here

Postmark: Indianapolis  Ind    May 12 1909   3:30PM Message: Say it is great here. Enjoying it fine. Addressee: Miss Laura Guess, Horton, Kans (Our) Post Script: It IS pretty great here, especially along this lovely boulevard–thank you, George Edward Kessler. In March 1905, despite protesting property owners who will have to bear assessments, the Moore-Mansfield Construction company, secured the contract for and began building Fall Creek Boulevard. The levying of assessments was made under the direction of the Park Board, who reduced the initial cost, but many property owners argued that they should pay nothing. A large portion of...

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Penny Post: Weather Report, 100 Years Ago

Postmark: Indianapolis Ind   Aug 22 1916  9:30PM   Message: My dear sister: Aug 22. 1916. This is ___and I never got a letter from home. Can you account for that? I can’t. Don’t let it happen again. My “ground grippers” made me sit down on the stairway today. It never hurt but I thought I was a killed girl. I was in a good posture to slide on down but I thought I would rather stay where I lit. We had a storm here between three and four o’clock and it is a great deal cooler now. Have...

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Friday Fave: After 1890 State Fair, See This!

Visitors from all over the state come to see and show at the Indiana State Fair. Check out the non-fair recommendations from the 1890 State Fair Visitor’s Guide–the last year before moving to its current location. “Visitors to the State Fair can economize time visiting public buildings by knowing in advance how to reach them. On arriving at the Union Station (which is said to be the most complete building of the kind in the United States), take particular notice of the surroundings, and on returning you will find your train on the same track, only headed the direction you...

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Then & Now: Indiana State Fair & Expo

Indiana State Fair and Exposition, 1873. Spanning Exposition Avenue (now 19th Street) between Hudson and Ogden (alleys immediately west and east of Alabama Street) Image: Indiana State Archives. The location, scale and wares have changed, but the premise remains the same: gather Indiana’s best art, agriculture, science and industry for concentrated display and consumption. The State Fair is a coveted Hoosier tradition begun in 1852 in Military Park. The event flirted with a handful of other locations in years following–even outside the capital city–but in 1860, the State Fair and Exposition staked out land within the boundaries of today’s Herron-Morton...

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Sunday Ads: State Fair: September 17-22, 1888

A few ads and other info from the State Fair program from the 1888 State Fair. Hotel English–before it consumed the entire northwest quadrant of the circle. General Fair information: 10 cents round trip on a street car? If only those were still around… George Merritt & Company, Woolen manufacturers; Grand Hotel; and McGilliard & Dark Insurance company were all based in Indianapolis. Lilly & Stalnaker, purveyors of hardware–successors to Willis C. Vajen and Vajen-New Company had a shop at 64 East Washington Street. Looks like they were in the same block as The Model Clothing...

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Friday Fave: State Fair Souvenirs

Image: collection Tiffany Benedict Browne Some people must have a tangible memento of places visited, others prefer photos, and still others are content to make memories. While memories may wash away like footprints in the sand, photos and souvenirs can live on long after you’ve gone. Unfortunately, we do not know any more about Helen and Mathilda’s trip to the Indiana State Fair together on September 8, 1909, beyond the fact that they picked up this post card for Herm Bense of Columbus, Indiana. Relics of past Indiana State Fairs (and the current one) are always fascinating. Check out...

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State Fair, 1874

Think about what it was like to attend the Indiana State Fair and Exposition before electricity was invented. Enjoy a couple of highlights, excerpted from an 1874 Indianapolis newspaper. “The center figure in W.L. Woods display is a most elegant glass chandelier worth in the neighborhood of seventy-five dollars. It is a beauty indeed. Wood keeps the well-known shop at 39 Virginia Avenue. At night he lights up part of the Exposition building in such a way as to make gas light look sickly. Those who prefer a good light, cheaper than gas, will bear in mind that Wood...

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Penny Post: Networking, 1906 style

Today, you can interface with any number of people through various social media channels, but 100+ years ago, you might have used…a post card. Postmark: Indianapolis, IND, December 7, 1906 2PM Olean, NY, December 8, 1906 10:30AM Message (on the front): Would you like one in return Agnes Rifner, 850 Linwood Ave. Indianapolis, Ind Addressee: Anna M. Peterson 135 N. 6th St. Olean, N. Y. Quick Recon: Agnes was  born in January 1887 and 19 when she asked to exchange post cards with Anna Peterson. One of 6 children, her father was a cigar maker. In 1910, Agnes was a milliner, living...

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Then & Now: Hawthorne School- 75 North Belleview Place

Circa 1911 or later – note the Carnegie Library in the background (courtesy HistoricIndianapolis.com) While it’s no longer called Nathaniel Hawthorne School Number 50, it still serves students today. Now the Providence Cristo Rey High School, the school has been through a few changes through the years. At the corner of Germania and Ohio Streets. Sometimes history’s mysteries aren’t so quick to yield their secrets, and this one is no exception. While an announcement was made on Hawthorne’s birthday anniversary, July 4, 1904, that School Number 50 would be named in honor of the famous author, and that building was in...

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Friday Favorite: Brick Double, Fletcher Place

There are so many special buildings and places to love in Fletcher Place, but this one is a standout, as it is so unusual compared to other homes in the area. The earliest listing for the property found in old city directories were from 1877, where residents on both sides of the double did not yet seem to have an address number, but were listed as living “ne corner Harrison and Concordia.” Those first listed occupants were railroad engineer, Charles W. Tyler, who worked for the I. C. & L. Railroad company in the western half and Orpheus Williamson,...

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Then & Now: Independent Turnverein, 902 N. Meridian

Postmarked 1917 Independent Turnverein Post Card, (courtesy HistoricIndianapolis.com) How lucky Indianapolis is that such detailed and well-crafted buildings still stand today–an unapologetic and ornate vestige of  yesteryear. This one, a magnificent red brick and limestone building started life as the clubhouse for the Independent Turnverein, on the northwest corner of Meridian and 9th streets, just north/across from another historic building much in need of an equally sympathetic restoration. But we digress. The Independent Turnverein hit the local news in January 1913 with a rendering and announcement that a $120,000 new clubhouse would be built on Meridian and Pratt (now 9th) Streets,...

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Friday Favorite: Herman Lieber House, Lockerbie Square

Herman LIeber Cottage Indianapolis has so many fabulous neighborhoods, and much to love in each. Most Fridays, we will point to a favorite place in an Indy neighborhood, so that next time you are wandering in that area, you can see the HI pick for yourself, see if you agree and/or make a selection of your own. The Herman Lieber Cottage is a gem of a home in Lockerbie Square. With a broad gable, unusual second floor window and hexagonal attic vents with pediment hoods. The house was built circa 1860 on Liberty Street, which stretched south from Massachusetts...

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Gunned Down Grocer

As a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, during the “golden age of fraternalism” (circa 1860-1920), for one “brother” to shoot another sounds unlikely. All the more when the organization was founded to promote philanthropy, charity and with the ethic of reciprocity (a.k.a. “The Golden Rule.”) Unfortunately for Indianapolis grocer, Frederick Simon, who lived and operated his small business in what is now Lockerbie Square, beginning in the 1860’s, the implausible became the actual. Just like society in general, every social group is made up of a variety of personalities and propensities. In Mr. Simon’s case, participating...

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