Sunday Prayers: 2015 N. Senate Ave.

Written by on July 7, 2013 in Sunday Prayers - 13 Comments
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(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

 We meet again, plywood. Once more you grace the windows of an aged Victorian. Though you mark a property as uninhabited, you blend into the beige paint. I hardly notice you. No, I pay heed to the home’s sweet, simple gingerbread. The original touches. The carvings. The curve of wood and spindles. The fish scales. Even some of the details on the front door are visible through the layers and layers of paint.

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

You’re still a beautiful thing, 2015 N. Senate Ave.

Or is it 2015 Senate Blvd.? 2015 Boulevard Place? What about 2007 Mississippi St.? All of them? Any of them? Any at all? Bueller?

The home, built circa 1900, was constructed on Mississippi Street, a north-south roadway just one block west of Capitol (originally Tennessee). The 1887 Sanborn Map shows that the area was hardly settled. Only a triangle of farm land appears, as well as two buildings, and what was then 12th Street (now 20th). However, the 1898 Sanborn Map (updated to 1914) shows development; the area is filled with wooden dwellings. Furthermore, the Map shows that Mississippi Street had been changed to Senate Avenue. However, in 1915, the name changed again, to Boulevard Place. This particular street name stayed in place until mid-century, when it was changed back to Senate Avenue.  And today? A nearby street sign declares the roadway as “Senate Boulevard,” a blending of two former names.

2015 Senate

2007 Mississippi St. 2015 Senate Ave. 2015 Boulevard Place. 2015 Senate Ave. 2015 Senate Blvd. … house, you sure made it difficult to find you in those city directories.

The area on which the house now stands was hardly developed, according to the 1887 Sanborn Map. The area was generally labeled as “farm land.” Twelfth Street, as it appears on the Map, is now 20th Street.

The area on which the house now stands was hardly developed, according to the 1887 Sanborn Map. The area was generally labeled as “farm land.” Twelfth Street, as it appears on the Map, is now 20th Street.

The 1898 Sanborn Map (updated to 1914) shows a more developed residential area, with many wooden homes. The street name, originally Mississippi, had been changed to Senate Avenue.

The 1898 Sanborn Map (updated to 1914) shows a more developed residential area, with many wooden homes. The street name, originally Mississippi, had been changed to Senate Avenue.

The 1915 Sanborn Map is the first map to use the label “Boulevard Place.”

The 1915 Sanborn Map is the first map to use the label “Boulevard Place.”

Unlike other properties in the city—where, for years and years, a particular family resided in a home—the residents of 2015 N. Senate Ave. often changed. For example, the first two residents listed in the city directories (available online) stayed in the home for only a few years. And in 1920, the home was actually vacant. However, it was soon picked up by another owner, and changed hands in the 1930s as well. By 1940, an African-American woman named Mrs. Carrie M. Ross resided at the home. The 1940 census records showed that Ross, who was born in 1879, had three lodgers staying in the home as well: James Morrow, 20; Charline Morrow, 20; and Margaret Owesley, 41.

After Ross left the house, the Cain family purchased it. The Cain family is, to the best of my knowledge, the only family to whom the house has belonged for an extended period of time. More than 60 years, in fact. 2015 N. Senate Ave. stayed in the Cain family until just this past month, when a new owner acquired it. It is unsure, at this time, if the new owner plans to renovate the property, leave it, level it or turn it into something other than a residential dwelling. It is highly possible, after all, that the home can disappear. Originally, the street was filled with neighboring homes and carriage houses. Blocks and blocks of city residences. With the passing years, however, things changed; the Interstate was built, the hospital grew. It’s not so much about the details anymore, about the gingerbread. It’s the bigger picture.

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

Not big enough?

By the 1970s, most of the homes in the area had been leveled in order to make room for the Interstate, as well as hospital expansion and other community services. (1979 aerial image courtesy MapIndy)

By the 1970s, most of the homes in the area had been leveled in order to make room for the Interstate, as well as hospital expansion and other community services. (1979 aerial image courtesy MapIndy)

(2012 aerial image courtesy MapIndy)

(2012 aerial image courtesy MapIndy)

We need hospitals. We will always need hospitals. And in a city that’s built for the automobile, we need an Interstate. Expansion is inevitable. But in case this home is in danger of disappearing—like all of its former neighbors—let’s not leave out the option of moving it. Moving an entire home is costly, most definitely. It’s difficult and challenging and stressful. But the home is well-constructed. And quaint, in its detailed way. And it’s the last home left on the block. The last one standing. And it’d be shame if it, too, were gone.

remnants of the carriage house (photo by Dawn Olsen)

remnants of the carriage house (photo by Dawn Olsen)

As a useful Post Script/ FYI:

Should you be driving the historic streets of Indy and find a gem like this–in need of some TLC– for sale, there is a loan available, exclusive to Indianapolis right now that would allow you to roll in repair/ restoration costs to the purchase price. (Some restrictions apply.) More details on the INHP Revive Indy loan can be found here

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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.

13 Comments on "Sunday Prayers: 2015 N. Senate Ave."

  1. Fred Nowicki July 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm · Reply

    The words of Thomas Jefferson are ringing in my mind as I view these photos. “A country whose buildings are of wood,can never increase in its improvements to any considerable degree……….Whereas when buildings are of durable materials,every new edifice isan actual and permanent acquisition to the state,adding to its value as well as to its ornament.

    The private buildings are very rarely constructed of stone or brick,much the greater portion being of scantling and boards, plaster and lime.It is impossible to devise things more ugly and uncomfortable,and happily more perishable. Every fifty years then our country becomes a tabula rasa whereupon we have to set out anew again.”

    It looks as tho this building is on its way to the tabula rasa Jefferson wrote would happen.

  2. Norm Morford July 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm · Reply

    Thanks, Dawn. Can the details about the support for historic preservation, repair, relocation, etc. be made available? Thanks.

    • Dawn Olsen July 13, 2013 at 1:17 pm · Reply

      For assistance with preservation, one can always contact the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (IHPC) (http://www.indy.gov/egov/city/dmd/ihpc/Pages/home.aspx). IHPC overs technical assistance when it comes to historical properties in need of restoration. They offer both advice and guidelines. Of course, neighborhood associations can provide assistance as well. If someone is looking to purchase an historic home or is in need of funding in order to renovate their home, he or she can contact the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP) (https://www.inhp.org/). They’re great to work with. Indiana Landmarks (http://www.indianalandmarks.org/Pages/default.aspx) is another institution that can be contacted as well. Last I checked, they were selling three separate properties for $1 each. The catch? The new owner has to pay to move the structure. That said, Indiana Landmarks may have some suggestions as to where one can turn to have such things done.

  3. Kevin July 8, 2013 at 10:55 am · Reply

    Great stuff. Sadly, all the houses that were formerly surrounded by Eli Lilly’s property are now gone. Hope this one next to Methodist doesn’t suffer the same fate.

  4. David Brewer July 8, 2013 at 6:16 pm · Reply

    Looks very similar to a Victorian cottage that stood for years on Blackford Street on the IUPUI campus until the mid-late 1980s. It was was also the last house on the block, but was in very good shape and being used for some kind of campus service. Then one day it was gone.

  5. Philippa Muller July 8, 2013 at 9:19 pm · Reply

    Fascinating research…I drive by here on my way home from work and have often wondered about this lonely house amidst the hospital complex. I too hope they don’t tear it down.

  6. Fred Nowicki July 9, 2013 at 4:30 pm · Reply

    Hello Dawn;

    Was a tad disappointed that you chose to not include my comment on topic. As most receiving these threads I too am a member of ILM. I do believe in preservation when it seems to make the most sense.With that said,that possibly may be where I depart from the core group. I do not believe that age alone should come to bare on the preservation of buildings. If the original builders thought so much of their project why did they not choose more durable materials from the start.

    Now we are confronted with a sagging,rotting,possibly bug infested,lead paint laden mess that is not loved and of very limited architectural significance. People are now rallying to “save ” just because it is old.

    I stood ready to intelligently and non emotionally discuss this situation with the viewers :knowing well and good that my quotes possibly could incur their wrath. My disappointment stem from the discovery that this is an open forum as long as the participants are like the King’s yes men and do not waver from his position. I was hopeful that as a moderator one would have the courage to post all ideas,even ones that were controversial. As long as one can disagree in a non combative way I have always felt that the exchange of ideas could be a healthy,stimulating endeavor. I guess you are not in that place.

    Best regards

    Fred Nowicki

    • Tiffany Benedict Berkson July 9, 2013 at 5:52 pm · Reply

      Mr. Nowicki- Dawn was out of town and I had not gotten around yet to approving your comment.

      Not sure what ILM is, but I agree with you that not all that is old must be saved.

      However, there are many stunning historic and significant homes constructed of wood and I am not sure its fair to say “if the original builders thought so much of their project” they would have used a different material.

      Your assumptions about comment moderation and approval are not accurate–but perhaps you have not yet read any of the dissenting voices–they are out there, and we do allow for them.

      Thanks for your participation.

      • Fred J. Nowicki July 9, 2013 at 7:50 pm · Reply

        Hello tiffany;

        Thank you for your reply. I do wonder though, my response was the first sent in and posted only directly after my follow up response. It seems a bit strange to say the least, who was approving the other posts if Dawn was away ? I imagine someone was yet some were “overlooked” and required a bit of prompting.

        ILM,as in Indiana Landmarks.

        Best regards

        Fred Nowicki

    • Dawn Olsen July 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm · Reply

      Hi, Fred. As Tiffany already stated, I was out of town last weekend. I was attending a family wedding in my home state (Iowa). When I’m out of town, I am rarely able to check comments. It’s unfortunate, yes, but–more often than not–I’m more concerned about pecking out something on the keyboard, and hoping that I can secure some wifi in order to share it. A lot of times, comments do get lost in the shuffle. HI receives hundreds each day, and, yes, many of them are spam. However, it’s frustrating to sort through them, and I sometimes forget to reply to “real” comments even when I have read them. I have a personal blog as well, and, in order to make sure I respond to each comment, I have them emailed to me. It truly is difficult to keep up with all the thoughts, queries, and comments that I receive … let alone what HI receives. That said, I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to read my article and to post something. I really do appreciate it. We’re always looking to create discussion, and I understand that that is what you were trying to do.

      Now, about your Jefferson quote and subsequent response: I sense that you are not particularly fond of this property, and wouldn’t miss it if it were to disappear. (If my assumptions are wrong, please correct me.) As you said, the Jefferson quote–which comes from “Notes on the State of Virginia”–states that, “A country whose buildings are of wood can never increase in its improvements to any considerable degree. [Their] duration is highly estimated at 50 years.” True, a country needs stable buildings–icons, have you–in order to function. We have state capitol and national capitol buildings. We have county halls. We have stone churches. Brick post offices. However, a country is not made out of limestone buildings and stone halls. It’s made out of people–people who live in brick homes, in wooden homes, in the “huts of logs” Jefferson described. To me, A home isn’t necessarily important because of its building materials. It’s important because of its use, its history, and the life its residents made there. If the national capitol were made of wood, would it still be as grand? Yes. In a different way, but yes. Have you ever heard of the Kizhi chuches in Russia? They’re built out of wood, without metal joints, and are just as stunning as the Kremlin. They were built in the 17th century, which far surpasses Jefferson’s 50-year estimation.

      The property pictured here–2015 N. Senate Ave.–is significant in that it is the only residential home still standing in this multiple-block radius. How fascinating that it is still there, after all these years. It has not fallen. And despite the boards over the windows, it was, in its own way, the most charming empty property I have visited during my five months with HI. Just because it is wood, and just because it wasn’t the home of a former president or state legislator, doesn’t mean it should be leveled and forgotten. Would anyone want the crooked, creaky wooden buildings of Mark Twain’s childhood to be torn down? The log cabin where Abraham Lincoln’s parents lived? What about the Indianapolis home of Samuel Merrill, Jr.? (It’s a beautiful Italianate located on Broadway, in the Old Northside.) In other words, there have been many significant people and many different constructions since Jefferson’s statements. Would it even be possible to start over with a blank slate, a “tabula rasa,” with so many historical landmarks?

  7. Philippa Muller July 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm · Reply

    HEY!!!! When I drove by early this afternoon there was a truck parked beside the house, the board covering the front window had been removed and the front door was open! HOPEFULLY, anyone who was planning to demolish it would not have bothered to remove boards. Now, if I was my (dearly departed) Dad I would have stopped and struck up a conversation and found out just what was going on!

    • Tiffany Benedict Berkson July 10, 2013 at 5:00 pm · Reply

      Oooh, I do hope this is good news!

    • Dawn Olsen July 13, 2013 at 11:47 am · Reply

      That is good news! Actually, when I visited the property last week, I noticed that the trash out back was “recent.” (Meaning, it didn’t have weeds growing up all over it, and it wasn’t as dirty-looking as the belongings at other abandoned properties.) I had a feeling that someone had been in the home recently, trying to clean it out. I do hope the home will be refurbished into … something. I’m okay with it being transformed into something other than a residential home, given its location. I would just be sad to see it leveled, considering it is the only residential home still standing in that entire area! Perhaps I’ll have to do another drive-by myself.

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