Sunday Prayers: 131 N. Gladstone

Written by on August 4, 2013 in Sunday Prayers - No comments
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(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

I’m in the heart of Tuxedo Park, trying to remember what “Indianapolis Architecture” told me. My copy of the book, which is split-right-down-the-middle, described the Tuxedo Park area as “a middle-class area, not too near the switchyards and industries, but without the ‘fashionable’ feeling of the north.” But when I look up at this particular dwelling, the book’s descriptions are fleeting. I’m not thinking of the middle class, or of rapid, post-war development. No, I’m thinking of “The Old Gray Mare.” And because I’ve an unfortunate habit of talking to myself, I’m even singing the blasted song. “The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be, ain’t what she used to be, ain’t what she used to be…”

… Okay, so the folk song mentions the color gray, and what I’m staring at is actually a brick construction. And, fine, fine, in its literal meaning, the song is about a horse, not a house. All the same, whether horse or house, the song is about being past one’s prime. And when you look at this double–with its cracked porch, its shredded window screens, its air of emptiness–you know, straight away, that it ain’t what it used to be.

The 1915 Sanborn Map (updated to 1941) shows that the vacant lot north of 131 N. Gladstone (the only brick double visible) was originally occupied by another double.

The 1915 Sanborn Map (updated to 1941) shows that the vacant lot north of 131 N. Gladstone (the only brick double visible) was originally occupied by another double.

Constructed circa 1920, the double stretches far–toward the rear of the property–and casts a shadow on the empty lot next door. There used to be a house there, too, another double. But that particular dwelling disappeared in the 1970s. The vacant lot remained, well, vacant, and by 1980, 131 N. Gladstone was likewise empty. That same year, the current owners acquired the property. And today, they are offering for sale both the double and the empty lot. The listing advertises that it is a “fantastic opportunity” and that it would “not take long to get renters back in it.” True enough, the inside of the double is … stable. And the grass remains trimmed. The owners haven’t given up. Not yet.

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

the north/left side (photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

the south/right side (photo by Dawn Olsen)

But the house has been on the market for nearly a year and a half. It’s now a monument to the souls who once lived there, to the people who moved on and passed on. Geoff Fisher. Roscoe Mills. Harry Rice. Just names now. And 131 N. Gladstone? It’s … it’s just an address. And yet, after all this time, I–and perhaps the owners as well–are left wondering, “Doesn’t someone want this? Doesn’t someone see the potential? … There are clawfoot tubs! Original woodwork! An attic that could be finished! Please! I know she ain’t what she used to be, but … please? Take her?”

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

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About the Author

Dawn Olsen is a Midwestern nomad addicted to ChapStick, parallel sentences, books, and old buildings. She was born in Iowa and grew up in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area. After graduating from Purdue University, she took a job as an editorial assistant for the Indiana General Assembly and sub sequently transplanted herself to Indianapolis. She lives in the Holy Rosary district in an old brick building with a 90-foot smokestack. She shares creative non-fiction and photos on her blog, Candidly Clyde.

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