HI Mailbag: Wood Lawn and Fletcher Place

Written by on December 23, 2014 in Mailbag - 3 Comments
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Reader’s Question: 

I am interested in the history of Wood Lawn, Calvin Fletcher’s farm.  By all accounts, the Fletchers came to Indianapolis in the 1820s, and the land that had been their home was known as Fletcher Place as early as 1860.    ~ Glenn B., Indianapolis   

HI’s Answer: 

Calvin Fletcher Sr. was among the earliest settlers of Indianapolis.  Born into a Vermont farming family in 1798, he left home at the age of 19 to seek employment.  His travels took him first to Boston, Massachusetts, and then to Urbana, Ohio, where he studied law in the office of an established attorney.  Fletcher was admitted to the bar in 1821, the same year that Indianapolis was selected to become the capital of the State of Indiana.  Envisioning the potential opportunities in a newly created city, he decided to move to Indianapolis.  Calvin and his wife Sarah arrived on Monday, October 1, 1821.  Soon thereafter, Fletcher opened a law practice, thus becoming Indianapolis’ first attorney.

Calvin Fletcher (from the book Greater Indianapolis by Jacob Piatt Dunn

Early Indianapolis settler, Calvin Fletcher Sr. (from Greater Indianapolis, 1910, Chicago, by Jacob Piatt Dunn)

In 1825, Fletcher began investing in land in several counties around the state.  At that time, the family lived in the heart of Indianapolis.  The parcels that Fletcher purchased in Marion County were all outside the city limits.

On December 4, 1835, Fletcher wrote in his diary that Nicholas McCarty and he purchased 264 acres from Dr. John H. Sanders.  However, Marion County records show that the lots actually totalled 269 acres.  A few days later, The Indiana Democrat reported that Dr. Sanders had sold his Wood Lawn estate, which would seem to indicate that the name of the property already existed prior to the Fletchers’ acquiring it.

Fletcher moved his family to the farm, just southeast of the Mile Square.  Although spelled as a single word, “Woodlawn,” in some newspaper articles and reference works, the two-word name of “Wood Lawn” is how it appeared on maps and in Calvin Fletcher’s handwritten diary.

1838 map by William Sullivan, Surveyor, Cincinnati, Ohio from the personal collection of Georgia Cravey

Section of 1838 map by William Sullivan, Surveyor, Cincinnati, Ohio on loan from the personal archives of Georgia Cravey  CLICK TO ENLARGE

An article appeared in The Indianapolis Star on Sunday, December 21, 1930, that helps to convey what life was like at the Fletchers’ Wood Lawn farm at Christmas time.   A yellowed copy of the original 1930 newspaper clipping can be found on the Indiana Landmarks website here.

Sunday, December 21, 1930 article in The Indianapolis Star  (scan courtesy of Indianapolis Public Library)

Sunday, December 21, 1930, article in The Indianapolis Star described Christmas at Wood Lawn, Calvin Fletcher’s home  (scan courtesy of Indianapolis Public Library)               CLICK TO ENLARGE

In the 1850s, Calvin Fletcher sold half of Wood Lawn to a group of businessmen that included his brother Stoughton.  Fletcher platted the remaining half of his acreage and named the subdivision of building lots “Fletcher Place.”

1855 Condit, Wright, & Hayden map shows the building lots Calvin Fletcher laid out in 1854 (Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)

The 1855 Condit, Wright, & Hayden map shows the subdivision of building lots that Calvin Fletcher laid out in 1854  (map courtesy of the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)

Among Calvin Fletcher’s business associates over the years were other well-known names in the growth of Indianapolis.  They included Ovid Butler,  Francis Churchman,  Horatio Newcomb,  Simon Yandes,  Nicholas McCarty, and Thomas H. Sharpe.  After nearly three decades of hard work, farming his land, practicing law, and investing in real estate, Calvin Fletcher paid all of his debts and became financially independent.  He was able to support his eleven children in their educations and business ventures, as well as to make donations to a number of charitable organizations.

Calvin Fletcher Sr. was involved in so many different activities in his 68 years of life that it would be impossible to mention them all in the space allotted here.  Several will be listed below, but they represent only a partial list of his many accomplishments.  Fletcher served as an Indiana State Senator, Trustee of the Indianapolis Public Schools, Trustee of DePauw University, Trustee of the Marion County Seminary, and Chairman of the Free Soil Party Convention.  He founded the Marion County Agricultural Society and served as its president.  He provided financial support to the Indianapolis Benevolent Society, Widows and Orphan Society, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  He was active in the Methodist Church and aided in the construction of several churches.  Fletcher was also an abolitionist and lobbied the government for the establishment of black troops to fight for the Union in the Civil War.  He then allowed the soldiers to use his land for training.

In the final years of his life, Fletcher retired from his law practice and land speculations and got into banking.  He helped establish the State Bank of Indiana, serving as a director for 16 years and president of its Indianapolis branch.  Fletcher then helped organize the Indianapolis National Bank.

Calvin Fletcher died in 1866, a few weeks after sustaining injuries in a fall from a horse.  Following his death, Calvin’s son Stoughton continued to develop Fletcher Place, as well as some of Calvin’s other holdings.

April 1, 1854 newspaper ad promoted the lots in Fletcher Place (scan from the personal collection of Georgia Garvey)

April 1, 1854 ad in The Locomotive weekly newspaper promoted the new building lots   (scan from the personal archives of Georgia Cravey)

Prior to his death, Calvin Fletcher donated parcels of his land for the building of a school and the building of a church.  School No. 8 (later named for Calvin Fletcher) was constructed in 1857.  After it no longer functioned as a schoolhouse, it was used as an office building for a time.  It continues today as an apartment building.   The Fletcher Place Methodist Episcopal Church was erected in 1872 (becoming Fletcher Place United Methodist in the 1960s.   That building still stands today, as well.  After it ceased to serve as a church, it became a neighborhood center.  In recent years, it has been converted into unique upscale condominiums by Fletcher Point Partners LLC.

Originally Fletcher Place United Methodist Church, this gateway to the neighborhood is now condominiums (2014 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Originally Fletcher Place Methodist Episcopal Church, this highly reognizable gateway to the neighborhood is now condos    (2014 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

When community-minded area residents and business owners decided to organize the neighborhood in 1977, it was only fitting that the association take its name from the man who had once owned much of the land in the area and who had made many important contributions to the establishment of the City of Indianapolis.  Fletcher Place Neighborhood Neighborhood Association, Inc. (FPNA) chose logical boundaries for its perimeter — East Street on the west, Louisiana Street on the north, Interstate 65/70 on the east, and Interstate 70 on the south.  The organization has a website and a Facebook page on which it publicizes its mission, bylaws, officers, minutes, activities, meeting times and locations, etc.

In 1980, Fletcher Place was designated an IHPC Historic Preservation District.  In 1982, Fletcher Place Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1986, Holy Rosary-Danish Church Historic District (alternately known as Fletcher Place II) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In recent years, the Holy Rosary Neighborhood Association was formed within the boundaries of the Fletcher Place Neighborhood Associaton.  Reportedly, the newer organization seeks to promote the special interests of the parishioners of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church.  Unfortunately, no website or Facebook page for the organization nor any details about its meetings or activities were found elsewhere on the Internet.

The Fletcher Place Neighborhood Association has been a registered entity with the Indiana Secretary of State since 1994.  It has renewed its active status as a nonprofit domestic corporation annually.  The Holy Rosary Neighborhood Association was registered with the Indiana Secretary of State in 2010.   However, its current status is listed as “Admin Dissolved.”  Its entity has been “Inactive” since 2/13/2014, as no reports were filed with the State of Indiana in 2012, 2013, or 2014.  Hopefully, those who are involved in the newer association within the boundaries of the older neighborhood association participate in the established organization.

(map courtesy of mapquest.com)

(map courtesy of mapquest.com)

Living descendants of Calvin and Sarah Hill Fletcher and Stoughton and Julia Bullard Fletcher are among us today.  As a result of the marriages of daughters, surnames of descendants besides Fletcher have included Baldwin,  Barnard,  Daly,  Hare,  Haueisen,  Hodges,  Hollingsworth,  Jarrett,  Jelliffe,  Ritchey,  Ritzinger,  Tappan,  Tarkington,  Troxel,  Van Nostrand,  and Wagner.

Historic Indianapolis articles about Fletcher Place have been written in the past.  An “Indianapolis Then and Now” article can be viewed here.  A “Flats Saved” piece can be viewed here.

 

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.

3 Comments on "HI Mailbag: Wood Lawn and Fletcher Place"

  1. Basil Berchekas Jr December 23, 2014 at 12:42 pm · Reply

    My late Mother, Velma (Rohn) Berchekas started her teaching career with IPS at School 8 as a substitute; after a semester Dr. Ostheimer (the then Superintendent of IPS) offered her full time employment, and she went from there (School 43 and School 101, assistant principal).

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland December 23, 2014 at 1:25 pm · Reply

      Thanks for sharing, Basil.

      • Basil Berchekas Jr December 23, 2014 at 7:22 pm · Reply

        You are welcome, Sharon.

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