Author: Tiffany Benedict Browne

Then & Now: Southside Synogogue, 609 South Meridian

Merrill Street didn’t always dead end into Meridian Street. The unassuming lot dabbed in trees today betrays no hint of its bustling former life. Merrill Street continued east, all the way to Noble (Noble later became College). That’s not all– what was 601 South Meridian once welcomed untold throngs to Congregation Sharah Tefilla. “Sharah Tefilla” translates to “Gates of Prayer,” and membership for this south side Jewish Orthodox synagogue was officially chartered in September 1882, though further south on Meridian. A number of Jewish communities and congregations were a key part of the culture on Indy’s south side.  What might be referred...

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Architect for Theaters

It would be fair to say many an architect or architectural firm gets known for designing a predominant genre of building, and that appears to have been the case since the earliest days the trade first appeared in Indianapolis. Of course, this would never preclude an architect best known for designing one type of building from taking on another genre. Work is work, after all–but a satisfied client is likely to be a returning client. And if the returning client dominates one area of development, it follows that the favored architect would be asked to crank out more of...

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Then & Now: “Colored” Knights of Pythias, 701-703 North Senate

While many people consider Indiana Avenue the epicenter of early black culture in Indianapolis, few may realize how far from “The Avenue” it stretched. Bordering the Cultural Trail at Walnut Street and Senate Avenue is a mysterious old brick building, yet to be renovated, but brimming with potential. The large window openings fronting Walnut Street have long-since been closed up, along with the former doors and windows circling the rest of the building. This building and the organization that brought it into being, were a bustling intersection of black culture in Indianapolis. It was built by the “Colored” Knights of...

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Then & Now: Meridian Park- 3100 North Pennsylvania

Looking north on Pennsylvania, decades ago Historic Meridian Park is small but mighty in its vintage housing stock–which you can examine more closely this coming weekend, May 30 and 31, 2015, from 12-6pm. Now and then, you may come across an old postcard featuring one of the beautiful old streets of Indianapolis, as is the case with the above image, looking north in the 3100 block of North Pennsylvania Street. It’s hard to discern with the increase in trees and foliage since the time of this postcard, some 100-ish years ago, but these homes are in fact, still there.  Sadly, the...

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Then and Now: 19th and Delaware, Snowy

One wonders how the city of Indianapolis neighborhoods made it through snowy days 100 or so years ago. This photo at 19th and Delaware Streets (circa 1909) looks north into Morton Place and shows no evidence of plowing, while also obscuring the esplanades down the middle. But it does show (not all that clearly) the T. B. Laycock Mansion that used to stand on the northwest corner of Delaware and 19th Streets, and a snippet of the also long-gone home that once stood on the northeast corner. Hard to believe a mere 20 years earlier this strip of land...

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Misc. Monday: Early Indy High Schools

Image: HI collection As a respite from the seemingly constant negative news about education and schools, we reflect, if only briefly, to our city’s early success as a place with beloved and highly regarded schools. Since Howe High School was the last of those featured here to be opened, in September 1938, we wonder how to restore them again to a status noteworthy enough to grace the cover of a post card. Did you attend one of these schools, and if so, what do you remember most? And what advice would you have for schools...

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Misc. Monday: Move to a New Subdivision! In 1916

Perusing the pages of early 1900’s Indianapolis newspapers, you will occasionally come across an announcement for a new suburb–plotted out, ostensibly, by some entrepreneurial soul. It frequently appears with an accompanying map, such as the following from May 1916. Though the state fairgrounds located north of this neighborhood, circa 1891, what is now the northeast tip of Mapleton-Fall Creek took almost 25 years to develop this tract. Note that what was called “Fairground” in Osgood’s offering is now known as Fairfield. This area was highly desirable. What do you think would be most appealing when they were brand new? Proximity...

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Misc. Monday: What to do in Indy, 1966

At the heart of any one of the weekly printed thin copies of “This Week in Indianapolis,” readers would find a map of Indianapolis, touting “key points of interest.” While we are better served today by multiple pages of maps, so much is there to do in Indianapolis of 2014, 50 years–more and less ago– the city’s attractions could be whittled down to a page. Check out this one from 1966: Or if you prefer it by list: Any surprises here? Any you miss, wish were still around, or that  need to make a comeback? Do...

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Misc. Mondays: American Dream For Sale

If you haven’t seen or heard yet, it seems this lovely building on the Northeast corner of Capitol and 16th could soon be history. Unless an acceptable offer is received in short order, this sweet space is a goner. Evidently, the owner is willing to sell the beautiful tiles, even if the building is to be destroyed. Want a little more on its background? Click...

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Misc. Monday: Map Your Way Home via Trolley or Bus

1939 Indianapolis. Some of the streets have changed, but not the names–check out this map with street car, trackless trolley and bus stops in the epicenter of Indy. You could easily navigate from here to Broad Ripple or Mars Hill or other suburbs of old. In a recent conversation about how ‘The Circle’ could have more activity outside business and symphony hours, one person–quite rightly–asserted that without a higher concentration of immediate downtown residents, a constantly bustling circle didn’t seem likely. But what if we had a circulating trolley that dipped into the nearby neighborhoods, even two to five...

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Behind the Scenes at HI: Optimistic Talk

If you didn’t yet know, we’ve cracked the door open to an awesome new….weekly HI newsletter. We want to make sure our loyal readers don’t miss out on new ways to fall in love with Indy through its history. Newsletter readers may be privy to exclusive offers, advance notice (and a deal or two) on local events–and some extra Indy history exclusives we won’t feature elsewhere. HI Team member Anne Schneider pulls together our weekly love letter to your inbox. (Thank you, Anne!) What else is included? Weekly highlights (and HI-5’s) for restoration work going on around town; a (sometimes obscure)...

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Misc. Monday: Porch Parties

Good news for those of us who love old traditions. A beloved early Indianapolis ritual has returned–drum roll please:     the porch party. A quick and brief backgrounder on the front porch, in case you were wondering: From about the mid- 1800’s, porches became a more prevalent architectural element on homes. In the few decades following, the popularity and use of porches continued to grow. Socially, porches became a prime gathering place, and became seen as almost an extension of the home’s interior. As you might guess, those were the days before the invention–and noise, smell and accidents–...

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Misc. Monday- It wasn’t just zoning…

…that kept the use of the southeast corner of Illinois and Georgia Streets the same for so long. It was proximity to our transit hub–Union Station. Before the Severin Hotel was built in 1913, The Normandie, European Hotel stood one block from Union Station. It was opened in September, 1894 and room rates were 50 cents and up. One of the “finest appointed cafés in the city” was also found on the premises. Where and what is the shortest distance you’ve traveled between the transit hub and your lodgings? And the longest? Do tell, dear...

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Misc. Monday: Bicycling Indy in 1896

In the 1890’s, bicycles were more than a hot commodity, but also an obsession– nationally and in Indianapolis. A contentious, relevant topic of the era was “Sidewalk Riding.” A May 1896 article lead with: “West Indianapolis bicyclists are rebelling against the strict enforcement  of the law against riding on the sidewalk. They say that the air will be the only place left for them to ride in soon.” Evidently, navigating horse-drawn wagons, carriages, and street cars on the streets of our city held too many obstacles for bicyclists, so they would ride on the sidewalks. And though that was...

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Behind the Scenes at HI

Hi Friends, Fans and Readers: If  you have ever wondered about any behind-the-scenes/ inner-workings of HI, this will be your chance. Two things: I’d like to share an invitation to the public launch of Plan 2020, the Bicentennial plan for Indianapolis. This coming Wednesday, June 11, from 6:30-8 at Old City Hall, come meet members of the Plan 2020 team. Why? For one, yours truly is one of the five Project Managers helping craft a compelling future for Indianapolis. Those of us who love the past are also invested in the future–as HI readers, you know better than most...

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Indianapolis Then & Now: 10th & Delaware

With deepest thanks to Jeff Congdon for the generous donation of a scanner. Without the immense contributions of the Jewish community throughout Indianapolis history, the city would not have become the place we currently know, love and enjoy. Indy’s Jewish community touched every stripe of retail establishment,  charities, art,  architecture and everything in-between. The city would present an unimaginably different visage today. And while a number of buildings of those former retail palaces still stretch across Indy’s skyline, and charities continue to further their missions, there are some ghostly corners of the city show no discernible trace of a...

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Friday Favorite: Artistry of Cole Noble

Within Cole-Noble, looking towards the Circle, on Market Street, from College Indianapolis and its neighborhoods are a lot like an old family scrap quilt– colorful, unique connected pieces, (in various states of wear and repair), all contributing to the whole– yielding a one-of-a-kind work of art. Confucius said: “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” A wonderful sentiment to keep in mind when visiting old Indy neighborhoods. Though specifically commissioned pieces of art can be a wonderful addition or amenity, the truth is that in a city like Indianapolis, art is all around us. The experiential art of...

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Piccadilly Penthouse & Apartments

When you imagine Indianapolis of the 1920’s, what images come up? Flappers, pearls, speak-easies, opulence? For some, the 20’s will always evoke images of romance, possibility and (all that) jazz. One thing that proliferated during that dazzling decade in Indianapolis was apartment buildings. Many apartment buildings in Indy’s beloved historic neighborhoods are representative of that decade more than any other. Industries and the population needed to make, buy, sell and move those industries were booming. The city pushed ever farther from its bustling center and meager beginnings. The life cycle of so many city lots started with humble lodgings,...

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Friday Favorite: Thirsty Scholar & The Penn Arts Building

Of the “8 million stories” in our naked city, a 90+ year old building originally designed with 80 apartments has seen its fair share. The same can probably be said for most large apartment buildings. But what about the part of the building used as frequently by visitors as residents? It too, has stories to share and  more to be created. More often than not, you’ll find the present echoes the past when you start delving into the history of a place; that is no exception with the Penn Arts building on the southeast corner of 16th and Pennsylvania...

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Want to own some Indy History? Salvage of Schwitzer mansion

Exquisite Schwitzer Mansion, razed earlier this year. Some elements you see here are available for purchase. You could have owned a beautifully crafted piece of architectural history… Art and architectural treasures from the recently razed 1930s Art Deco mansion built by Louis Schwitzer were available to become part of your home the weekend of  of October 5, 2013. You may recall from Libby Cierzniak’s article in May, that Louis Schwitzer was a legendary figure in the history of auto racing, as well as automotive design and engineering. In addition to winning the first automobile race held at the Indianapolis Motor...

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Learned something new? Question answered? New connection made? Generally inspired or entertained? Love Indy more?

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