HI Mailbag: Trinity Episcopal Church

Written by on March 8, 2016 in Mailbag - 10 Comments
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Reader’s Question:

I live in the neighborhood of Trinity Episcopal Church. I understand that it was not originally called Trinity. Can you provide its previous name, as well as a little of the church’s history?  ~ Jay van S., Historic Meridian Park  

HI’s Answer:  

The congregation that has been called Trinity Episcopal Church for the last 65 years was actually established nearly a century ago. However, it was not given its current name until April of 1951, and the present building was not completed until December of 1952. From 1919 until 1951, the church on the southeast corner of 33rd and Meridian Streets was alternately known as the Episcopal Church of the Advent and Advent Episcopal Church. It held its services, Sunday school, and other parish activities in a modest chapel-like structure on the same spot as the iconic stone edifice that stands today.

1920 photo of the Church of the Advent Episcopal Church on the southeast corner of 33rd and Meridian  (Wm. H. Bass Photo Co. Collection courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)   Streets

1920 photo of the Episcopal Church of the Advent, located on the southeast corner of East 33rd and North Meridian Streets     (Wm. H. Bass Photo Co. Collection courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)

Interestingly, the Episcopal Church of the Advent’s first building began its life as a Baptist house of worship.  In 1885, a 30-year old minister named Cincinnatus Hamilton McDowell (1854-1939) was called to Indianapolis to establish new churches in the growing capital city.  He founded four churches in a little over a decade, one on each side of town.  They included the South Street Baptist Church, Woodruff Place Baptist Church, Germania Avenue Baptist Church, and University Place Baptist Church. Reverend McDowell’s north side mission opened its doors on the corner of 33rd and Meridian Streets in 1898.  That building was the forerunner of Advent.

1898 Indianapolis City Directory courtesy of ancestry.com

1898 Indianapolis Directory listed University Place Baptist Church on the corner of Meridian and 33rd   (scan courtesy of ancestry.com)                CLICK TO ENLARGE

The University Place Baptist Church took its name from the legal description of the lot on which the church was built, Atkins & Perkins University Place.  Reverend McDowell also built a home for himself on another lot in the University Place Addition.  His residing at the corner of 33rd and Pennsylvania Streets, a short block away, made it convenient for him to oversee the activities of the new church.  McDowell later built additional residences on the land to the east of his original home. Four generations of the McDowell family lived in those properties over a period of nearly 70 years.

1916 Baist Atlas map shows University Park Baptist Church on the southwest corner of 33rd and Meridian Streets (courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)

1916 Baist Atlas map shows University Park Baptist Church on the southeast corner of  E.33rd and N. Meridian Streets (courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)        CLICK TO ENLARGE

Indianapolis Star clipping

Indianapolis Star clipping

Why the University Place Baptist Church went out of existence late in 1918 is unknown.  All that was reported in newspaper articles of the day was that the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis wished to establish a church on what was then the far north side.  Motor vehicles had arrived in the early years of the 20th century, making it possible for people to live outside the core of the city and still get to work in a timely fashion.  George Kessler’s park and boulevard plan had begun to be implemented during this same time period, resulting in several wide, beautiful bridges being built over Fall Creek.  The combination of automobiles and bridges contributed to the rapid growth of north side neighborhoods.  Among those who had moved to the area were the twenty-seven men and women who were the founding members of Advent.  These parishioners had previously attended Christ Church on Monument Circle, All Saints Church at 16th and Central Avenue, and St. David’s Church at 21st and Talbott Streets.

November 1, 1918 Indianapolis News clipping

November 1, 1918 Indianapolis News clipping

After spending the winter months of 1918-19 making repairs to the building, the Episcopal Church of the Advent held its first services on April 6, 1919.

April 5, 1919 Indianapolis Star article

April 5, 1919 Indianapolis Star article

In 1923, the large residence immediately to the south of Advent became available.  The church acquired the property at 3243 North Meridian Street and made it the parish house.  The former home remains a part of the Trinity complex to this day.

The former residence at 3243 N. Meridian Street became the Parish Hall in 1923 (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

In 1923, the former residence at 3243 North Meridian Street became the Parish Hall for the Episcopal Church of the Advent     (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

1932 Indianapolis Star article

1932 Indianapolis Star article

As the church grew, it established a variety of focus groups that sponsored such activities as book discussions, fundraisers, and social events.

February 2, 1926 Indianapolis Star

February 2, 1926 Indianapolis Star

1935 Indianapolis Star photo

May 27, 1935 Indianapolis Star

November 12, 1939 Indianapolis Star

November 12, 1939 Indianapolis Star

November 4, 1956 Indianapolis Star

November 4, 1956 Indianapolis Star

By the 1940s, both the congregation of Advent and its activities had grown substantially.  As the little church that had been built by the Baptists out in the sparsely populated suburbs held only about 250 people, thoughts turned to building a new church.

Church School Beginners in 1948 (photo courtesy of Trinity Episcopal Church)

Trinity Church School Beginners in 1948         (photo courtesy of Trinity Episcopal Church)           CLICK TO ENLARGE

1951 Indianapolis Star article

1951 Indianapolis Star article

By Spring of 1951, the cornerstone for the new church was laid, and the name of the church was changed to Trinity.

1951.04.14.IndyStar_Trinity

Although weddings were performed at Advent with some regularity, they increased dramatically after the beautiful new church was erected. The first marriage to be performed in the newly completed Trinity Episcopal Church was the granddaughter of a former rector of Advent.

February 15, 1953 Indianapolis Star

February 15, 1953 Indianapolis Star

1953 Indianapolis Star article announcing the dedication of the new building

1953 Indianapolis Star article announcing the dedication of the new church and the departure of the rector who oversaw the construction            CLICK TO ENLARGE

June 6,1953, Indianapolis Star article announced the appointment of a new rector

June 6,1953, Indianapolis Star article announced the appointment of a new rector

Aerial view of Trinity Episcopal Church in the 1960s (photo courtesy of Trinity Episcopal Church)

An aerial view of Trinity Episcopal Church as it appeared in the 1960s              (photo courtesy of Trinity Episcopal Church)  CLICK TO ENLARGE

1960 Indianapolis Star article announced plans for St. Richard's

1960 Indianapolis Star announced plans for St. Richard’s School

Trinity Episcopal Church as it appeared in the 1960s (photo courtesy of Trinity Episcopal Church)

Trinity Episcopal Church as it appeared in the 1960s                  (photo courtesy of Trinity Episcopal Church)

1986 Indianapolis Star photo of Trinity's garden

1986 Indianapolis Star photo of Trinity’s garden

For three decades, Trinity’s Madrigal Dinner was a popular annual event during Advent.  Dining and entertainment were combined in an evening that featured Medieval dress, food, and music.

December 9, 1988 Indianapolis Star article about the annual Madrigal Dinner

December 9, 1988 Indianapolis Star article about Trinity’s annual Madrigal Dinner   CLICK TO ENLARGE 

In 2002, St. Richard’s, the day school founded by Trinity in 1960, became an independent entity.  This spring, the school will complete its 56th year in operation.

(courtesy of the Indianapolis Star)

(courtesy of the Indianapolis Star)        CLICK TO ENLARGE 

In 2019, just three years from now, Trinity Episcopal Church will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

(2016 photo of Trunity Episcopal Church by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

(2016 photo of Trinity Episcopal Church by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

 

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 specific families featured in HI Mailbag articles. ~ Sharon

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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.

10 Comments on "HI Mailbag: Trinity Episcopal Church"

  1. Jeffrey Congdon March 8, 2016 at 8:59 am · Reply

    Sharon,

    You mentioned St. David’s Church at 21st and Talbott. There does not seem to be any current signs of any church there except for a parking lot on the east side of Talbott at about 21st and Talbott.

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland March 8, 2016 at 9:45 am · Reply

      Jeff,
      .
      The address of St. David’s Episcopal Church was 2115 N. Talbott Street. It was on the second and third lots north of the northeast corner of East 21st Street and about eight lots south of the Talbott Theatre. The church was torn down and replaced by a garage in the mid-1920s. That building is still standing, but it has the address of 150 East 21st Street, rather than a Talbott Street address. I don’t know what goes on in that building.
      .
      Sharon

  2. D MIKELS SHEA March 8, 2016 at 2:22 pm · Reply

    Sharon–
    .
    As always, you amaze me. Did you ever think of turning your columns into a book, perhaps IHS-sponsored? I ask because one of the most enthralling series of local history columns (by the late Anton Scherrer) are a forgotten treasure, because they should have been a book. I would love to go with you, if you have never read…and share the history of how an architect did not know he was a genius writer.
    .
    BUT back to your great Trinity piece, a fragment of history also forgotten. I cannot pinpoint the year, I can only give a window that it was in early 50’s, before then teen genius Avriel Christie became the iconic Avriel Shull, wife of R.K. They were “dating,” and it does seem to me that this project was either just before or after their marriage, the year forgotten but someone out there knows the wedding that made headlines year.
    .
    Anyway, it was a time when the late G.H.A. Clowes family were foremost in a big re-do at Trinity, installing a lichen gate or something?–and there was a very valuable ancient parchment that Mrs. Clowes had purchased. The plan was to create an illuminated parchment to showcase the donors. It may still be there as the plan was to turn a page a day, etc. I know there was a search for someone who could do the kind of illuminated script of ancient monks, but it ended up with a teenage girl, Avriel, hired to do the gilded script of names. She was an absolute genius who could do calligraphy as easily as doing cursive writing. I recall seeing her at work with gold, silver gilt, sable brush, and magnifier so strong that her nose almost literally touched the paper she was embellishing. (Privately she made fun of the size of the names, from big to mini, reflecting the $$$$ donor;s gift.) Is it still there? Worth seeing. If you call me, maybe we can look together, and I will treat you to lunch?

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland March 8, 2016 at 3:10 pm · Reply

      Donna,
      .
      R. K. and Avriel married on April 7, 1951, at the Marott Hotel. She was born on February 9, 1931, so she must have been 20 years old at the time of their marriage. Her obit says she started her first business, Avriel Art Associates, when she was 19. Among the many services she offered were lettering, illumination, engraving, and illumination.
      .
      Sharon

    • Tom Davis March 10, 2016 at 8:10 am · Reply

      I just did a search, and the manuscripts for Anton Sherrer’s columns are in the IHS collection, so apparently all is not lost if one is interested enough.
      .
      I didn’t realize, or had forgotten, that he was also an architect like his father.

      • Sharon Butsch Freeland March 11, 2016 at 8:22 am · Reply

        Thank you, Tom.
        .
        I visited the Indiana Historical Society website and learned that Anton Scherrer’s column, “Our Town,” appeared in the Indianapolis Times from 1936 to 1940. I will take a look at his articles the next time I am at the IHS or one of the libraries that has the Times on microfilm.
        .
        Sharon

  3. Tracey Lemon March 8, 2016 at 3:38 pm · Reply

    Dear Sharon,

    Wonderful to meet you last week. Thanks for digging up more history on this beautiful church!!

    -Tracey Lemon, Director of Communications at Trinity

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland March 8, 2016 at 4:20 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Tracey,
      .
      It was great to meet you, too.
      .
      Are you familiar with the illuminated parchment of donors, to which Donna Mikels Shea has referred in her comment? Thanks for any info you might have on that subject.
      .
      Sharon

  4. Tracey Lemon March 8, 2016 at 5:03 pm · Reply

    We do have what is called a “Memorial book” that is from the time period, and includes parchment with calligraphy and contains many lists. In fact just recently, we used a local artist/calligrapher to update some names (Rector, Wardens).

    Happy to show you anytime.

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland March 8, 2016 at 5:10 pm · Reply

      Thanks,
      I will talk to Donna to find out when she is available, and then we will make an appointment with you. In the meantime, I will send you some info on Avriel Christie Shull.
      Sharon

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