HI Mailbag: The Esplanade Annex

Written by on August 19, 2014 in Mailbag - No comments
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Reader’s Question:

Our company has been renovating the Esplanade Annex for the past two-and-a-half years.  We are interested in learning a little of the building’s history, as well as who some of its past residents were.  ~ Christopher C.,  Fishers, Indiana   

HI’s Answer: 

If its walls could talk, the Esplanade Annex would no doubt have many interesting stories to tell about the people who have lived in the building since it was constructed more than a century ago.  As its name and physical proximity to The Esplanade Apartments and Flats imply, the name of the Esplanade Annex was derived from its slightly older sibling just across the street.  Both were built by the same real estate developers and in fairly rapid succession.  The Esplanade Apartments and Flats at 3015 North Pennsylvania Street was completed late in 1912. The Esplanade Annex at 3034 North Pennsylvania Street was completed early in 1913.

The vacant land on which the Greek Revival apartment building was erected was owned by Mrs. Ida O. Stanley when it was purchased in the fall of 1912 by the Plummer-Hollingsworth Company.  Ida and her husband Clarence, who was also in the real estate business, lived at 1147 North Meridian Street.  The land on which the Stanleys’ mansion once stood is now a parking lot tucked underneath Interstate 65.  At the time the Esplanade Annex’s lot was acquired, work had just been completed on The Esplanade.  The builders merely moved their workers, equipment, tools, and leftover materials across the street.

September 18, 1912, Indianapolis Star real estate announcement of land sale     (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)

September 18, 1912, Indianapolis Star announcement of the land sale (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)

In the decade between 1905 and 1915, Charles E. Plummer (1872-1939) and Charles E. Hollingsworth (1863-1948) built a number of residential properties — including apartment buildings, doubles, duplexes, and single-family homes — in what is now known as the Mapleton-Fall Creek Neighborhood.  Besides the aforementioned Esplanade and Esplanade Annex, in 1913, Hollingsworth built an apartment building two doors south of the Annex, similar to but slightly smaller than the Annex, and in 1916, Plummer built an apartment building two blocks away on the northeast corner of 32nd and Meridian Streets.  The building at 3024 North Pennsylvania Street, originally named “The Maurice” for Hollingsworth’s son, is still standing.  The building at 3201 North Meridian Street was recently demolished by its current owner, Trinity Episcopal Church.

1913 Indianapolis Star article about another project by Charles E. Hollingsworth  (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)            CLICK TO ENLARGE

1913 Indianapolis Star article about another project by Charles E. Hollingsworth  (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)   CLICK TO ENLARGE

(scan courtesy of newspapers.com)  CLICK TO ENLARGE

(scan courtesy of newspapers.com)                CLICK TO ENLARGE

Construction of the two-story Esplanade Annex began late in 1912.  The first Indianapolis City Directory in which anyone was listed as residing at 3034 North Pennsylvania Street was 1913.  Only one unit was occupied that first year. George B. Rubens and his wife Lena lived in Unit 3, on the south side of the upper level, while they awaited the completion of their new single-family home at 3316 Washington Boulevard.

January 26, 1913 ad in The Indianapolis Star     (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)   CLICK TO ENLARGE

January 26, 1913 ad for apartments to rent at the Esplanade Annex in the Indianapolis Sunday Star            (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)                     CLICK TO ENLARGE

George Rubens (1870-1929) was a colorful figure.  At the time the Rubenses lived in the Annex, George was a department manager at the upscale L. Strauss & Co. men’s clothing store.  He later became a vice-president of the Indianapolis Light & Heat Company, which was the forerunner of Indianapolis Power & Light Co.   Rubens was also a City Councilman (known today as a “City-County Councillor”).  Among the ordinances that Rubens introduced were one to regulate boxing matches and one to limit the length of hatpins.  He also led the opposition to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s petition to install surface tracks across Merrill Street between Pennsylvania and Delaware Streets, because he felt it would endanger children walking to any of the several schools in the area.  Rubens ran for Mayor of Indianapolis in 1918 but did not win.

(scan courtesy of newspapers.com)    CLICK TO ENLARGE

(scan courtesy of newspapers.com)           CLICK TO ENLARGE

Rubens appeared frequently in the local newspapers of the day, as he was always doing something interesting.  One was a road trip he took with three friends across country and back in a 1912 Marmon automobile.

Esplanade Annex resident George Rubens took a trip to California in a 1912 Marmon (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)

The Esplanade Annex’s first resident George Rubens and friends took a trip to California in a 1912 Marmon   (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)                     CLICK TO ENLARGE

By the time of the 1914 city directory, all four units were occupied.   The tenants were Harry A. Knox,  Clemens T. Strauss,  Louis F. Smith,  and Charles H. and Katherine Beckett.  Harry Knox was manager of a new automobile manufacturing company called Lyons-Atlas.  Mrs. Beckett was active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTu).

In 1913, Esplanade Annex Harry A. Knox became manager of the new Lyons-Atlas Automobile Company (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)

In 1913, Annex resident Harry Knox became manager of the Lyons-Atlas Automobile Co.  (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)

(scan courtesy of newspapers.com)

In 1914, Esplanade Annex resident Katherine Beckett hosted a meeting of the W.C.T.U.   (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)

In 1919, the tenants were Leslie Meyer,  Louis Strashun,  Charles W. Mann,  and Sidney J. Sternberger.  In 1927, the tenants were Isaac F. Nier, William Preston Snethen, Suzetta Mickle, and David H. Thomas.  Louis Strashun became president of Rost Jewelers in 1920.

In 1920, Esplanade Annex resident Louis Strashun became an owner of Rost Jewerlers (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)

In 1920, Esplanade Annex resident Louis Strashun became president of Rost Jewelers (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)

Homer O. Stone, his wife Hazel V., and their son Bob lived in the Esplanade Annex the longest — from 1934 to 1947.  Homer was with the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions.  Son Bob became a dentist and set up his dental practice in the neighorhood, across the street from Tabernacle Presbyterian Church.

Certified Public Account Stuart Tomlinson (1898-1981) and his wife, Catharine Harraman Tomlinson (1898-1982), moved to the north side from the Brightwood neighborhood, so that their children — Gloria Opal, George Earl, and Grace Iola — could attend Shortridge High School.  Gloria appeared in an Indianapolis News photo in 1938 with her cousin, Anna Lee Boyer.  The picture was taken in the sunporch of Unit 1 of the Esplanade Annex.

1938 Indianapolis News article pictured an Esplanade Annex resident (newspaper clipping from the personal collection of Sharon Butsch Freeland)

1938 Indianapolis News article pictured Esplanade Annex resident Gloria Tomlinson and her cousin Anna Lee Boyer in the apartment unit’s sunporch      (newspaper clipping from the personal collection of Sharon Butsch Freeland)                CLICK TO ENLARGE

Clinton J. Ancker Sr., his wife Fern, and their son Clinton J. Ancker Jr. lived in the Esplanade Annex from 1937 to 1939.  Clinton Jr. attended Purdue University, then served in the Army in World War II and Korea.  He taught at the University of California at Berkeley, did research at Johns Hopkins Research Center in Washington, D.C., and was Director of the National Highway Safety Institute.  His final working years were spent teaching at the University of Southern California.  Ancker is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, as is his father, Clinton J. Ancker, Sr.

One of the Esplanade Annex's former residents is buried at Arlington National Cemetery  (image courtesy of FindAGrave.com)

One of the Esplanade Annex’s former residents is buried at Arlington National Cemetery (image courtesy of FindAGrave.com)

In 1951, the tenants were Morris Mitchell, William P. and Bess Lovell, Harry T. and Madeline Hershberger, and Lillian Evans.  In 1960, the tenants were Marian L. Blacksom, Ralph O. and Joan E. Lafuze, Roba V. Krummel, and Nancy E. Starkey.

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the neighborhood began to change socio-economically.  The four original units in the building and areas in the basement were carved into nine living spaces.  Maintenance of the building declined.  In addition, there were at least two serious fires in the property.  The fire damage had been covered up and was not discovered until the property’s recent renovation.  By 1997, all but one unit in the building had been abandoned.  A single occupant resided in a small portion of the deteriorating building until 2006.

The Esplanade Annex as it appeared in 2012 (image courtesy of Jeff congdon)

The Esplanade Annex as it appeared in 2012          (photo courtesy of Jeff Congdon)

Five years later, the Esplanade Annex was placed on Mayor Greg Ballard’s RebuildIndy list of tax-delinquent and (supposedly) unredeemable properties.  The dilapidated structure was scheduled for demolition by the end of 2011.  With only a few weeks remaining in the year,  Indiana Landmarks purchased the property from the City, and on December 29, 2011, Indiana Landmarks sold the Esplanade Annex to the Congdon family’s company, LIPPITT LLC.

3034 North Pennsylvania Street after the vines were removed from the structure    (photo courtesy of Jeff Congdon)

The Esplanade Annex after the vines were removed from the structure      (photo courtesy of Jeff Congdon)

The Esplanade Annex as it appeared in July of 2014 (photo courtesy of Jeff Congdon)

The Esplanade Annex as it appeared in July of 2014, nearing its completion              (photo courtesy of Jeff Congdon)

Looking into the dining and kitchen area of Unit 3 in the Esplanade Annex (photo courtesy of LIPPITT LLC)

Looking into the dining and kitchen area of Unit 3 in the Esplanade Annex (photo courtesy of LIPPITT LLC)

Fireplace in the living room of one of the new condominiums in the Esplanade Annex  (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Fireplace in the living room of one of the new condominiums in the Esplanade Annex (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Sunporch off the living room in one of the units in the newly renovated Esplanade Annex  (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Gorgeous oak doors lead from the living room to the three-seasons sunporch in four of the six units at the Esplanade Annex  (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Bedroom in one of the new units in the Esplanade Annex  (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Bedroom in one of the new units in the Esplanade Annex                          (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

One of many attractive ceramic-tiled baths in the new condominiums at the Esplanade Annex on North Pennsylvania Street     (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

One of many attractive ceramic-tiled baths in the new condominiums at the Esplanade Annex on North Pennsylvania Street (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

New garages were built behind the Esplanade Annex and are accessible through an alley on the west side of the property    (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

New garages were built behind the Esplanade Annex and are accessible through an alley on the west side of the property (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

After being vacant for a number of years and narrowly escaping the wrecker’s ball, the lovingly renovated Esplanade Annex awaits new residents to begin making their own memories in the historic building. Four two-bedroom condominiums and two one-bedroom condominiums are available for purchase.  Several open houses are planned in coming weeks.  You can “Like” the Esplanade Annex’s Facebook page to stay informed about the latest happenings.
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If you have a question about Indianapolis history, please send it to historicindianapolis(at)yahoo(dot)com, with “HI Mailbag” in the subject line.  We will do our best to answer it.  Sponsors and Subscribers are given preference for extensive research on specific properties or families featured in HI Mailbag articles. ~ Sharon

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This article and a portion of this website are generously sponsored by Axia Urban. You can visit their website here.

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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.

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