There is a large white frame house on Kessler Boulevard, a couple of blocks east of the Monon Trail, that I have admired for years. It appears to be much older than the homes around it, as well as on a bigger lot. Would you have any information on its history? ~ Lois H., Indianapolis
The address of the house to which you refer is 1215 Kessler Boulevard East Drive. At approximately 130 years of age and with more than 4,100 square feet on nearly two acres of land, it is definitely older and larger than most of the properties around it.
The land on which the home was built was originally part of a larger tract that was purchased from the United States of America on July 28, 1821, by the Reverend William Rector (1792-1873) and his wife Elizabeth Smith Rector (1795-1851). In 1826, the Rectors sold their 75 acres to Elijah Dawson (1781-1858) and his wife, Mary Ann Hardin Dawson (1785-1865). It remained in the Dawson family for the rest of the 19th Century.
Born in Virginia, the Dawsons came to Indiana via Kentucky, more than a decade before Indiana became a state in 1816. The first five of the Dawsons’ ten children were born in Dearborn County. The remaining five children were born in Marion County, after Elijah and Mary Dawson moved to the center of the state. Over the next few decades, Elijah and Mary acquired several large parcels of land in Washington Township. As their sons and daughters grew to adulthood, the parents gifted each child with some of the land they had acquired.
The youngest of the ten Dawson children was Jackson Dawson (1828-1892). When Jackson turned 18 years of age in 1846, his parents deeded the 75-acre property to him. The undeveloped land was a short distance south and east of the Town of Broad Ripple. In 1850, Jackson married Lucinda Pursel Johnson (1832-1892). She was the daughter of John Johnson (1798-1854) and Sarah Pursel Johnson (1802-1848). The Johnsons, Pursels, and Dawsons are among the oldest and most prominent families of Washington Township. They, their in-laws, and their descendants, developed many areas in the vicinity of Broad Ripple, Glendale, Allisonville, Nora, Ravenswood, and Keystone at the Crossing.
Since there were no directories for rural areas in the 1800s, as there were for Indianapolis and other cities, the exact physical location of Jackson and Lucinda Dawson’s home was not ever listed in that type of printed resource. Census records clearly placed them in Washington Township in 1860, 1870, and 1880, but did not indicate a street address. The 1890 Census was lost in a fire at the National Archives, so it is not available as a reference. The first Census enumeration to provide recognizable street names and house numbers for areas outside the city limits was the 1900 Census. Unfortunately, both Jackson and Lucinda died in 1892, so they never appeared on a census that gave an address that might be deciphered today.
However, an 1889 Atlas of Washington Township shows a small black square on Jackson Dawson’s land that’s labeled “Res.” In the map’s legend, it indicated that this mark represented a dwelling. As the icon was in the exact location of the subject property, it can be assumed with relative certainty that the residence that survives today was erected no later than 1889. It’s possible that it was built earlier than 1889.
Lucinda Dawson died on March 9, 1892, of heart disease. Jackson died on July 5, 1892, possibly from typhoid fever. Jackson and Lucinda Dawson had six children, three of whom preceded the parents in death. The three surviving sons, Marcellus, Elmer, and Ulysses, plus young George Kirkpatrick, a grandson born to the Dawsons’ deceased daughter, Cenora Dawson Kirkpatrick (1854-1884), became the heirs to their property.
Years before his death, Jackson Dawson had attempted to make arrangements for dividing the land equitably among his heirs. However, he died intestate, so those plans were called into question. Some documents were not clear. Other documents were contested as fraudulent. Still other agreements were verbal and not recorded. There were also leases with the Ohio Oil Company and the Indiana Pipe Line that had to be resolved. In addition to the 75-acre tract south of what is now Kessler Boulevard, Jackson also owned a tract of land north of what is now Kessler Boulevard, a half-mile east of the home discussed here.
Elmer Dawson (1863-1964), the second-to-the-youngest of Jackson and Lucinda’s children, was named administrator of Jackson’s estate. Elmer had already built a home for his family at 1602 Kessler Boulevard on the land that his father had promised to him back in 1884. It was years before Jackson Dawson’s estate was finally settled.
On August 17, 1907, 25 acres of Jackson Dawson’s original 75 acres were deeded to Thaddeus R. Baker (1873-1956), who then deeded them to his sister, Florence Baker Holliday (1870-1947) just four days later. Thaddeus and Florence were the children of Indiana Governor Conrad Baker (1817-1885). Florence was the wife of Jacquelin Smith Holliday (1867-1944), Chairman of the Board of W. J. Holliday & Company, a wholesale steel and iron firm founded in 1856 by his father, William Jacquelin Holliday (1829-1918).
On May 3, 1910, Florence Holliday sold the subject residence and 10 acres immediately surrounding it to Walter Jerome Goodall (1860-1934), who was secretary of W. J. Holliday & Company. Florence retained the land alongside the Monon Railroad, which she later signed over to her son, Frederick T. Holliday (1897-1951). Most of the latter parcel of land later became the Canterbury neighborhood.
Walter Goodall and his wife, Lulu Osterman Goodall, resided at 2107 North Pennsylvania Street at the time they purchased the former Dawson property. Their two-story frame home in the Herron-Morton Place Historic District, built around 1895, is still standing today.
The Goodalls purchased the rural Washington Township property as a country retreat to which they could escape from the noise, dirt, and bustle of the city. In those days, six miles from the center of town was out in the country. The Goodalls only child, daughter Eleanor Josephine, married Ralph Clemens Vonnegut (1896-1985) in 1922. Ralph was vice-president and treasurer of the Vonnegut Hardware Co. and a first cousin of Kurt Vonnegut Sr., the author’s father. Living relatives of the Goodalls recall their elders having many fond memories of time spent at the family’s summer home.
In 1913, the Goodalls purchased a lot at 4156 Washington Boulevard. In 1914, they began construction of a much larger home than their Herron-Morton Place abode. The new Goodall residence was in the area that organized as the Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood in 1965. In 2008, a portion of the MKNA area immediately around the home was designated the Washington Park Historic District. The home was a 5-bedroom Prairie Style brick home with a ballroom on the third floor and servants quarters, situated on a 300′ deep lot.
In 1951, 4156 Washington Boulevard mysteriously disappeared from city directories and area maps. Some creative sleuthing resulted in the discovery that 4156 Washington Boulevard had been renumbered to 4106. The new owners of the Goodall residence in 1950 were Sampson B. Moxley (1912-1988) and Lucina Ball Moxley, who chose a different address for the property using numerology.
On December 18, 1915, the Goodalls gave up their country getaway and sold it to abattoir Albert R. Worm (1870-1944) and his wife (“et ux”). More information about Albert Worm, his businesses, and the home can be found in a 2015 Historic Indianapolis article by Libby Cierzniak here.
A 1931 newspaper article by Agnes McCulloch Hanna mentioned two Dawson properties that were still standing at that time. The Dawson home that was on East 62nd Street / Broad Ripple Avenue, west of Keystone Avenue, was demolished in the late 1950s. A Kroger Supermarket, Haag Drugs, and Huddle Restaurant were built on that corner around 1960. In more recent years, a Marsh Supermarket was built on that site. The other Dawson home mentioned in the 1931 article was 1215 Kessler Boulevard East Drive.
In 1934, Margarethe D. (Lockhenhoff) Worm passed away. She was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.
Two years after his wife’s death, Albert Worm placed a personal notice in the newspaper.
On April 10, 1937, Albert Worm married Anna Kupfersberger. Anna had been the Worms’ live-in housekeeper since the early 1920s. The Worms and Kupfersbergers, all of whom were German immigrants, were members of Zion Evangelical United Church of Christ at North and New Jersey Streets.
The 1941 Baist Atlas showed the 10 acres that Albert Worm bought from Walter Goodall, as well as the land west of it and south of it that had once been part of the Dawson farm.
In 1943, the Worms divided their 10 acres into 31 residential building lots, which they named Oakridge Addition. Seven of the lots — Lots 3, 4, 5, 6, 28, 29, and 30 — are part of the property at 1215 Kessler Boulevard East Drive. The remaining lots had homes built on them in the 1940s and 1950s.
In 1944, Albert Worm passed away. He was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery alongside his first wife, Margarethe. His second wife, Anna Kupfersberger Worm, was his only survivor.
Since the 1960 death of Albert Worm’s second wife, Anna, the home at 1215 Kessler Boulevard East Drive has been passed on to later generations of Anna’s family.
Upon the death of Elsa M. Hubert in 2013, the property passed to her nephew. Out of respect for his privacy, I will not publish his name here. Although there were attempts to sell the landmark home in 2015, it would appear from public records that the nephew is still in title to the property.
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