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
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 and Pennsylvania Streets. The home was built in 1913 by Paul Helb White (1871-1946) and his wife Margaret “Daisy” Malott White (1874-1958).
Paul White was the owner of the Comet Electric Company, which manufactured generators, marine lighting sets, truck lighting sets, and magnetos. White was the designer of the first electric automobile made in Indianapolis. His wife was the daughter of prominent Indianapolis banker and businessman, Volney Thomas Malott (1838-1921).
In 1928, the Whites sold their fifteen-year-old home to the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music. The Whites temporarily moved to a luxurious 10-room apartment in the Winter House at 1321 North Meridian Street, while they had a new home built at 4224 Washington Boulevard.
At the time the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music expanded to what is now known as the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood, the school had been in operation for more than three decades. When it was established, the original entity was called the Metropolitan School of Music. It was founded in 1895 by four music teachers who had all been giving private lessons in Circle Hall. Circle Hall was the building in the northwest quadrant of Monument Circle where Reverend Henry Ward Beecher had preached from 1839 to 1848. Circle Hall was the building in which the forerunner of Second Presbyterian Church met. Circle Hall was also the original location of the Indianapolis High School, which held the first high school classes in the State of Indiana there in 1864; the secondary school was later renamed Shortridge High School.
The music teachers who founded the Metropolitan School of Music were Franz X. Arens, Flora M. Hunter, Oliver Willard Pierce, and Richard Schliewen. The group became concerned about the poor condition of the aging Circle Hall, and they had differences of opinion with the manager there. The operators of the newly formed school rented space in the early years of its operation — first at 232 and then at 535 North Illinois Street. Today those addresses are the locations of OneAmerica Tower and the Indiana Freemasons’ Hall. Piano, violin, and voice were the first three subjects taught at the school, but the areas of study were soon expanded.
In 1907, the Metropolitan School of Music built its own freestanding building at the intersection of East North Street, North Pennsylvania Street, and Fort Wayne Avenue. Besides classrooms, practice rooms, and offices, the three-story, triangularly-shaped brick building also contained an auditorium called the Odeon (the Greek word for a performance hall). That same year, Oliver Willard Pierce left the school and founded the College of Musical Art, which was later renamed the Indiana College of Music and Fine Arts. It was located at 824 North Pennsylvania Street. A few years later, it wound up being adjacent to the new Indianapolis Public Library on East St. Clair Street. For several years, the two music schools competed with one another for students and for funding.