Indianapolis Then and Now: Hasselman-Fahnley House and the Indianapolis Athletic Club, 350 N. Meridian Street

Written by on November 29, 2012 in Then & Now - 6 Comments
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Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society, Bass Photo Company #74372

The yard sign for the Indianapolis Athletic Club hints at the fate of the Hasselman-Fahnley house at the southwest corner of Meridian and Vermont Streets. This limestone Italian Renaissance house was constructed for the Hasselman family in the early 1860s. It stood among the mansions on prestigious North Meridian Street just three blocks north of Circle Street, now Monument Circle. Across the street stood University Park, making it a prized residential location.  The William H. Bass Company documented the home in 1921 just prior to its demolition.

Stereoview by W. H. Potter (from eBay, 2012)

Lewis W. Hasselman made his fortune with the Washington Foundry (later Eagle Machine Works), fabricators of steam engines, grist and sawmill equipment, and agricultural implements. Hasselman hired Francis Costigan, Indiana’s most prominent architect, to design the home and fortunately an original architectural drawing of the facade is preserved at the Indiana Historical Society. Costigan is known for buildings such as the Lanier and Shrewsbury houses in Madison, the Institute for the Education of the Blind, and the Indiana Hospital for the Insane in Indianapolis. Oolitic limestone for the exterior was cut from the Big Creek Quarry in Stinesville, Indiana, and skilled Italian workers finished the interior. Photographer William H. Potter made this stereoview of the home in about 1875.

1889 Indianapolis Illustrated / Courtesy of IUPUI University Library

1908 Art Work of Indianapolis / Courtesy of the IUPUI University Library / Collection of the Indianapolis Public Library

The Hasselman family last lived in the house in the late 1870s. German immigrant Frederick Fahnley, founder of Fahnley-McCrea Millinery Company (the city’s first wholesale millinery), purchased the property in about 1880. Beautiful photographs made of the interior in 1897 are not yet digitized, but can be viewed at the Indiana Historical Society by asking for the Lucille Winkler Voigt Collection. Fahnley was a member of and served on a number of boards including Merchants National Bank, Indiana Trust Company, the Columbia Club, and the Indianapolis Athletic Club (IAC). In the early 1920s he sold his home to the IAC to be razed for their new nine-story clubhouse.

Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society, Bass Photo Company #86567

The Indianapolis Athletic Club laid the corner stone in May 1922 and opened in 1924, a time when Indianapolis saw a large number of new high-rise structures replacing the old mansions close to the heart of the city. Traditionally a Democratic organization, when new the Indianapolis Athletic Club featured three floors with 160 sleeping rooms for members, an apartment for women, a swimming pool, billiard and smoking lounges, and dining rooms. Architect Robert Daggett modeled the bronze doorway and carved limestone surround after the Venice Palace in Rome.

Swimming and athletics obviously played a large role in the club’s programming and IAC members participated in many Olympic games. Classes included diving, water ballet, and life saving. In addition, for over thirty years the Downtown Indianapolis Rotary Club offices were located in the IAC.

Tragically, on February 5, 1992 a fire caused by faulty refrigerator wiring killed one overnight guest and two firemen. As a tribute, every year during the St. Patrick’s Day parade a battalion of city firemen pause in front of the building, turn in formation, and salute before continuing.

Indianapolis Athletic Club Condominiums, ca. 2010

The club closed in September 2004 after eighty years of operation. Today the building houses the Indianapolis Athletic Club Condominiums. The space was renovated into eighty-two units ranging in size from 752 to 4,200 square feet. Although the swimming pool is gone, amenities include a gymnasium, racquetball and squash courts, virtual golf, conference room, fitness center, and a rooftop deck.



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About the Author

Joan Hostetler and John Harris own Heritage Photo & Research Services. The company specializes in house and building research and historic photograph preservation, interpretation, archiving, and digitization. Since they see so many cool photographs tucked away in attics and basements, they recently created "The Indiana Album" to borrow, scan, and share hidden Indiana images with the public. Like them on facebook or send them an email to share your photographs.

6 Comments on "Indianapolis Then and Now: Hasselman-Fahnley House and the Indianapolis Athletic Club, 350 N. Meridian Street"

  1. Kevin J. Brewer November 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm · Reply

    The Indianapolis Athletic Club and its pool was the site of my Eagle Scout Board of Review in 1971.

  2. Joan Hostetler November 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm · Reply

    Mrs. Elder recalls in an oral history conducted in about 1980 that some fireplace mantles were salvaged from the Fahnley house. Please share if you know of any of parts of the house that still survive.

  3. Tom Davis November 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm · Reply

    His small monument is very hard to read, but Francis Costigan is buried in the southwest part of Section 1 at Crown Hill. Daggetts Sr. and Jr. are also buried in a different part of the cemetery., as are the Fahnleys.

    I found the 1921 picture interesting because it showed the effect that air pollution (coal burning furnaces?) had on the limestone facade over the years, almost black except where water from a downspout occasionally offered some cleaning.

  4. Joan Hostetler November 29, 2012 at 10:30 pm · Reply

    Interesting observation, Tom. It’s hard to imagine how sooty the city must have been, but many books and oral histories recall how hard it was to keep the interiors clean from the black soot when the windows were open.

    • Kevin J. Brewer November 30, 2012 at 6:44 am · Reply

      From this, you can imagine the condition of people’s lungs in that era.

  5. David Brewer November 30, 2012 at 9:00 pm · Reply

    My dad grew up in Kansas City in the 1930s and 1940s and said that walking to school, you could kind of taste the soot in the air.

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