While not for a business or a service, this postcard from around the turn of the 20th Century advertises another of Indianapolis’ long-standing organizations. While not bearing its founder’s name yet, this advertisement indicates the Superintendent of the Rescue Mission and Home was W(illiam) V. Wheeler, for whom the Wheeler Mission, located now near the corner of Delaware and New York Streets, is named.
In 1893, William’s wife, Mary, was the treasurer of the Meridian Union of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), an organization comprised of women from the Central Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church. One of the WCTU’s missions was to reach out of “homeless or fallen” girls in the Indianapolis area. That mission was later expanded to include men, women, and children. Mary secured a building at 57 E. South Street for this purpose, and The Door of Hope was born. William became involved through his wife, and offered to help with church services, as he was a well-known local lay preacher.
The Door of Hope grew to provide sewing classes and other services to the women who stayed there, and in 1895 moved to a larger location at 132 N. Alabama Street. That same year, William resigned from his job as a salesman at the Layman-Carey Hardware Company to become full-time superintendent of the newly-named Rescue Mission and Home. Sometime later, the organization again moved, this time to 49 E. South Street.
In 1901, William began a campaign to raise funds for a new building, and in 1905, he had raised $17,000 for the construction of a new building to be built at 443 E. South Street. That building is pictured in this advertisement. Unfortunately, William and Mary did not get to see much more of their hard work grow – Mary passed away in 1907, and William passed away on Christmas Day, 1908. A week after William’s death, the Board of Directors of the Rescue Mission and Home renamed the home the Wheeler Rescue Mission.
The organization has endured many changes since Wheeler’s time, including mergers with other similar-minded organizations and changes in philosophy and location. The Wheeler Mission moved to its current location in 1929.