Vajen Exchange Block
Location: Wholesale District, Meridian Street- relocated from Pennsylvania Street, between Wabash and Market Streets
John H. Vajen, Indianapolis businessman & Indiana’s Quartermaster General
John Henry Vajen was born in Hanover, Germany in 1828 to a university professor and his wife. His family came to America in 1836, settling in Baltimore and Cincinnati before moving to Jackson County, Indiana where he helped organize a large German Lutheran settlement. When John’s father died, he returned to Cincinnati to work as a clerk for a family friend and later earned interest in the company. In 1851, Vajen moved to Indianapolis and started a wholesale and retail hardware business, which had tremendous success.
In 1861, as the Civil War began, Governor Morton appointed Vajen as Quartermaster General of Indiana, the position charged with equipping Indiana soldiers. Vajen was reported to have been unenthusiastic about the position, but he ensured that Indiana troops had the comfort and equipment they needed for success. In 1864, he helped organize the bank of Fletcher, Vajen & Company. He also began investing in real estate around the city and built more than twenty commercial and residential buildings. In 1871, he sold his interest in the hardware store to his partners and retired. He came out of retirement six years later when he purchased the Story, New and Company Hardware Store.
He died in 1917. At the time of his death, he was the last surviving incorporator of Crown Hill Cemetery and the last survng member of Governor Oliver Morton’s Civil War military staff. Honorary pallbearers included Charles W. Fairbanks, John H. Holliday, Volney T. Malott, Thomas Spann and Charles E. Coffin. He was married to Alice Fugate and had seven children.
Photos courtesy of Ryan Hamlett.
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