HI Mailbag: 1701 Gent Avenue

Written by on May 3, 2016 in Mailbag - 4 Comments
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Reader’s Question:

Can you provide the history of who owned the property at 1701 Gent Avenue and the businesses that occupied it over the years?  ~ Jeff C.

HI’s Answer: 

For readers who may not be familiar with its location, Gent Avenue is a relatively short street on the near northwest side, extending from Indiana Avenue at its south end to West 22nd Street at its north end, between Fall Creek on the east and White River on the west.

1701 Gent Avenue is a block north of West 16th Street, between Fall Creek and White River  (map courtesy of Google)

1701 Gent Avenue is a block north of West 16th Street, between Fall Creek and White River (map courtesy of Google)     CLICK TO ENLARGE 

Prior to the establishment of building lots in the area, which was late in the nineteenth century, the land was for many years farmed by the Schürman family.  The street that is now North Harding Street was originally called Schurman Avenue.  The street that is now Gent Avenue was originally called Post Avenue.

The area that is now known as Kothe & Lieber's Addition to the City of Indianapolis was once owned by the Schürman family    (1889 map of Center Township courtesy of the Indiana State Library)            CLICK TO ENLARGE

The area that is now known as Kothe & Lieber’s Addition to the City of Indianapolis was once owned by the Schürman family (1889 map of Center Township courtesy of the Indiana State Library)                   CLICK TO ENLARGE

The area was recorded on April 1, 1892, as Kothe & Lieber’s Addition to the City of Indianapolis, but it was a number of years before anything was built on the Gent Avenue lots. The property that has the street address of 1701 Gent Avenue is Lot 73 in Kothe & Lieber’s Addition. As the history of that address is intertwined with the histories of Lots 74 through 78, all six lots will be included in the discussion here.

The 1908 Baist Atlas map shows no improvements in the 1700 block of Gent on Lots #73 to #78 in Kothe & Lieber's Addition   (map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)            CLICK TO ENLARGE

The 1908 Baist Atlas map shows no improvements in the 1700 block of Gent on Lots #73 to #78 in Kothe & Lieber’s Addition (map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)                       CLICK TO ENLARGE

In 1916, Richard J. Ward built a single-family residence on Lot 77, which was assigned the street address of 1717 Gent Avenue.  Ward was the proprietor of a bird and animal store at 17 West Ohio Street.  A newspaper article reported on an incident that occurred in Ward’s establishment.

May 26, 1913 Indianapolis Star article

May 26, 1913 Indianapolis Star article                     CLICK TO ENLARGE

Soon after occupying the residence, Richard Ward built an auto repair garage behind his home at 1717 Gent Avenue.  It was accessed by an alley between Gent Avenue and Rembrandt Street, which is the next street immediately east of Gent.   The Just Right Auto Shop appeared in a 1923 newspaper ad.

A 1923 Indianapolis News ad showed an auto shop at 1717 Gent Avenue  CLICK TO ENLARGE

A 1923 Indianapolis News ad showed an auto shop at 1717 Gent Avenue    CLICK TO ENLARGE

In 1925, the recently organized company of Hypes & Gropp Metal Spinners purchased 1717 Gent Avenue and began to manufacture products in the building at the back of the residence’s lot.

September 6, 1926 Indianapolis Star article described the metal spinning business of Hypes and Gropp

September 6, 1926 Indianapolis Star article described the metal spinning business of Hypes and Gropp

By 1929, structures had been built on five of the six lots in the 1700 block of Gent Avenue. The businesses in these buildings included Hypes & Gropp Metal Spinners, Rex Laboratories Metal Shop, and Optical Industries. The latter two companies were owned by Benjamin Dickens Aufderheide (1878-1957). Lots 73, 74, 75 and 78 were owned by the Indianapolis Plating Company, which was also owned by Aufderheide. Lots 76 and 77 were owned by John and Florence G. Cook, husband and wife.

The 1929 Baist Atlas map shows structures on five of the six properties in the 1700 block of Gent Avenue  (courtesy of IUPUI Digital Atchives)

The 1929 Baist Atlas map shows commercial structures built on five of the six lots in the 1700 block of North Gent Avenue     (courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)                 CLICK TO ENLARGE

In 1929, the Indianapolis Plating Company quitclaim deeded Lots 73, 74, 75, and 78 to the Indianapolis Cage Corporation. The primary product of the latter was bird cages. Aufderheide was the owner of Indianapolis Cage Corporation, so the ownership was merely transferred from one of his companies to another.

October 16, 1929 deed from Indianapolis Plating Company to Indianapolis Cage Company  (image courtesy of First American Title Insurance Co.)

October 16, 1929, quitclaim deed from Indianapolis Plating Company to Indianapolis Cage Corporation      (image courtesy of First American Title Insurance Co.)

In 1933, Benjamin D. Aufderheide and his wife Helen personally purchased Lots 76 and 77 from John and Florence G. Cook, which meant that the Aufderheides then owned the entire 1700 block of Gent Avenue.

June 6, 1933 deed from John and Florence Cook to Benjamin and Helen Aufderheide (image courtesy of First American Title Insurance Co.)

June 6, 1933, deed from John and Florence G. Cook to Benjamin D. and Helen Aufderheide (image courtesy of First American Title Insurance Co.)

One of the products manufactured in the building at the rear of 1717 Gent Avenue was an ultraviolet ray lamp that was for treating respiratory and skin diseases.

January 16, 1937 Indianapolis Star article about a device manufactured by Rex Laboratories

January 16, 1937 Indianapolis Star article about a device manufactured by Rex Laboratories

In the late 1920s, the head of Chicago’s International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Michael Joseph Boyle (1879-1958), became interested in auto racing.  Nicknamed “Umbrella Mike,” because he often carried one, the powerful union leader was a tireless advocate for IBEW members.

Photo of a young Mike Boyle courtesy of The Chicago Tribune

Photo of a young Mike Boyle courtesy of The Chicago Tribune

In the mid-1920s, the union boss began the manufacture of  an engine valve under the name of the Boyle Valve Company.  Although Boyle himself did not invent the valve, he received U S Patent #1960709 for it.

The Boyle Engine Valve Company received a patent in 1934  (courtesy of Google Books)   CLICK TO ENLARGE

The Boyle Engine Valve Company received a patent in 1934 (courtesy of Google Books)         CLICK TO ENLARGE

The first Boyle Valve Special to enter the Indianapolis 500 was in 1926.  The first Boyle Valve Special to win the race was in 1934, when Bill Cummings piloted a Miller vehicle to victory.

May 12, 1935 Indianapolis Star clipping

May 12, 1935 Indianapolis Star clipping             CLICK TO ENLARGE

It’s not clear exactly when, but sometime in the early 1930s, 1701 Gent Avenue became the home of the Boyle Racing Team. Interestingly, there was never a listing for any of Boyle’s enterprises in the Indianapolis City Directories of the time period, nor did Boyle’s name ever appear on any public record as being an owner or a tenant of the property. Nonetheless, for more than a decade, 1701 Gent Avenue was well-known as the location of Boyle Racing Headquarters.

Boyle Racing Headquarters was located at 1701 Gent Avenue  (photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

Boyle Racing Headquarters was located on the near northwest side at 1701 North Gent Avenue in the 1930s and the 1940s   (photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

Michael J. Boyle circa 1940  courtesy of First Turn Productions

Michael Joseph Boyle circa 1940, courtesy of  First Turn Productions

Boyle’s most famous driver was Wilbur Shaw Sr. (1902-1954), who drove Boyle’s Maserati to victory in 1939 and 1940.

Indianapolis 500 race winner Wilbur Shaw in his Boyle special and with his trophy inside the building at 1701 Gent Avenue   (1940 photo courtesy of Indiana Motor Speedway)

Indianapolis 500 race winner Wilbur Shaw in his Boyle Special with his trophy inside the headquarters building at 1701 Gent Avenue (1940 photo courtesy of Indiana Motor Speedway)

Wilbur Shaw is also considered the savior of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The annual race had been cancelled after the 1941 race, due to the United States’ entry into World War II.  When IMS owner Eddie Rickenbacker then announced his plan to develop the property into a housing subdivision, Shaw went on a crusade to find a buyer who would keep the site as a race track.  He found that person in Terre Haute businessman Anton Hulman.  Hulman purchased the Speedway in November of 1945 and made SWilbur Shaw president and general manager.  Shaw remained in that role until his untimely death in a plane crash in 1954.

May 30, 1946 Indianapolis Star article reported the new team operating the Indianapolis Motor Speedway  CLICK TO ENLARGE

Thursday, May 30, 1946 Indianapolis Star article reported the new team operating the Indianapolis Motor Speedway   CLICK TO ENLARGE

Boyle drivers raced again in 1941 and 1946, but did not win.  Mike Boyle then turned the management of Boyle Racing Headquarters over to his trusted master mechanic, Harry “Cotton” Henning. Sadly, Cotton died in 1948. That same year, Boyle also lost a couple of other good friends to racing accidents.  He was well into his Sixties by then and tiring of the effort required to stay in the game, so he gave it up.

1941 Baist Atlas map shows the same occupants as the 1929 map (courtesy of IUPUI Archives)

The 1941 Baist Atlas map showed the same occupants as the 1929 map had shown               (courtesy of IUPUI Archives)   CLICK TO ENLARGE

Benjamin Aufderheide, head of the companies that owned 1701 Gent Avenue during the years that Boyle Racing Headquarters was located there, passed away in 1957.

December 14, 1957, Indianapolis News obituary for Benjamin Aufderheide

December 14, 1957, Indianapolis Star obituary for Benjamin Aufderheide

Mike Boyle died in 1958, just five months after Benjamin Aufderheide.

Photo of Michael Joseph Boyle in his later years courtesy of IBEW

Photo of Michael Joseph Boyle in his later years courtesy of IBEW

May 19, 1958 Indianapolis Star obituary for Mike Boyle

May 19, 1958 Indianapolis Star obituary for Mike Boyle

Benjamin Aufderheide’s son, Richard H. Aufderheide (1905-1994), then assumed leadership of his father’s companies.

May 31, 1959 article in The Indianapolis Star

May 31, 1959 article in The Indianapolis Star

Richard Aufderheide retired in 1982.  He was succeeded by his son, Don R. Aufderheide (1927-2011). Don sold the lots in the 1700 block of Gent Avenue to Sherman Carburetors in 1984, thus ending more than half-a-century of the Aufderheide family’s ownership of some or all of the property in the 1700 block of Gent Avenue.

Pacer Industries took title in 1986. Haldex Midland Brake Corporation became the owner of record in 1998. Z Properties LLC owned the six lots from August of 2006 to October of 2007, at which time Remodel Resources Corporation received a special warranty deed to the properties.  The building was neglected and fell into serious disrepair.  The county seized the property for unpaid back taxes, and the building was scheduled for demolition in 2013.

December 7, 2013 notice in The Indianapolis Star

December 7, 2013 notice in The Indianapolis Star

A group of preservation-minded auto enthusiasts became determined to save this piece of Indianapolis’ history. With the help of Indiana Landmarks, they were able to persuade the city to give them two years to renovate the former site of Boyle Racing Headquarters.

1701 Gent Avenue as it appears today (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

The building at 1701 Gent Avenue as it appears today                     (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

The former residence at 1717 Gent Avenue as it appears today  (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

The former residence at 1717 Gent Avenue as it appears today                    (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

The property is now owned by Boyle Racing Headquarters Foundation Corporation LLC. The nonprofit group is seeking funds to restore the building.  Events are planned during the month of May, when many racing enthusiasts will be around for the milestone 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Artist's rendering of a restored 1701 Gent Avenue  (courtesy of Boyle Headquarters Foundation LLC)

Artist’s rendering of a restored 1701 Gent Avenue                (courtesy of Boyle Racing Headquarters Foundation LLC)

While working on raising the capital to repair the building at 1701 Gent Avenue, the group also managed to locate the 1934 Diamond T 211FF “race car hauler” that transported Boyle’s cars to the track.  The vehicle was custom built for Mike Boyle by Gudelhoffer Wagon Works, which was then located at 212 Kentucky Avenue. Missing since the early 1950s, the truck was located by Foundation members John Pappas, Jeffrey Congdon, and Wilbur “Bill” Shaw Jr.  They unearthed it and rebuilt it with original and replicated parts.

Recently restored 1934 Diamond T 211FF "race car hauler" custom built for Mike Boyle by Gudelhoffer Wagon Works    (2016 photo by John Pappas)

The recently restored 1934 Diamond T 211FF “race car hauler” custom built for Mike Boyle by Gudelhoffer Wagon Works  (2016 photo by John Pappas)

If you wish to contact members of the Boyle Racing Headquarters Foundation, click here.  To visit the group’s Facebook page, click here.

Readers who have memories of Boyle Racing Headquarters are encouraged to leave comments below this article.

 

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About the Author

Sharon Butsch Freeland is a freelance researcher, writer, proofreader, and editor. She's a proud alumna of Shortridge High School and MacMurray College and over the years has also taken courses at Herron School of Art and Design, Indiana University, University of Colorado, Colorado Academy of Art, and the Indianapolis Art Center. She's been the executive director of a nonprofit association, a newspaper columnist, a residential real estate broker, and a political campaign staff member. Fascinated by Indianapolis history from an early age, Sharon's passion for bygone eras became even more compelling when she discovered that her ancestors had settled in Indiana in 1828. Since learning that she's a seventh generation Hoosier, many details about both the State of Indiana and the City of Indianapolis have taken on new meaning for her. Sharon enjoys helping others get excited about the history of Indianapolis, as well as the histories of their own families.

4 Comments on "HI Mailbag: 1701 Gent Avenue"

  1. JoAnn (Laxen) Green May 4, 2016 at 10:25 am · Reply

    Born in 1937, I vaguely remember the racing business at that location. I lived at 1224 West 18th Street, one-half block west of Gent till age 11. My grandmother owned the huge double house at the southeast corner of 15th and Gent, so walking to her home, I frequently passed that location. There was one falling apart shed across 15th Street where “bums” would often sleep; one was found dead inside once. An occupied house was next door; possibly the McManns lived there. Daugherty’s Old Homestead Tavern sat on the southeast corner of 18th and Gent; a popular neighborhood watering hole. It was across 18th Street from Glidden Feed Mills/Central Soya with the huge grain silos. At age 11, my family moved to 2019 Gent, I lived 2 houses north after married and with my first child, so I remember the area but have forgotten what was located in the 1700 block of Gent. Thanks for this history; very interesting. Drove through that area about 5 years ago; disheartening and frightening condition at that time. Did turning Victory Field into Stadium Lofts help renovation of that area?

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland May 4, 2016 at 11:48 am · Reply

      JoAnn,
      .
      Thank you for posting a comment here. It was interesting to read your reminiscences of the neighborhood surrounding 1701 Gent Avenue. I am sorry that I am unable to answer your question about whether or not Stadium Lofts has helped in the renovation of the area, but perhaps other readers of this article will have some knowledge of that subject.
      .
      I do have a question for you, though. Is Gent pronounced with a soft “G” or a hard “G”? I could not find anyone who could tell me (absolutely, positively) the pronunciation. Using city tax records as my guide to the names of the present owners, I looked up the phone numbers of about a dozen people who currently are in title to homes on Gent Avenue. When I tried to call the phone numbers I found listed for them on the Internet, I got an automated recording that the number was no longer in service for every single phone number I tried!
      .
      Sharon

  2. Tom Davis May 6, 2016 at 11:43 am · Reply

    Indiana Landmarks is hosting a bicycle tour of 500 personality-related graves at Crown Hill on Sunday May 15 (sorry, it’s already sold out) that will include a stop at Cotton Henning’s grave, where I believe a representative of the effort to restore the Boyle Facility will be present.

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland May 6, 2016 at 1:42 pm · Reply

      Great! Thanks for letting us know.

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