Yes, I say it a lot. I love finding connections and the fewest degrees of separation. As I’ve mentioned throughout the week on facebook, National Fire Prevention week is October 4-10 and in fact, October is National Fire Prevention month overall–the time coinciding with the Great Chicago Fire that started October 9, 1871late in the evening of October 8, 1871. So I thought it would be apropos to look into some history of fires in Indianapolis, which I will continue to feature this month.Browsing through my seemingly infinite collection of miscellaneous Indianapolis files, I came across a small newspaper post that caught my eye a few years ago:

from January 5, 1892: “The home of Dr. H. R. Allen, corner of Home ave and Delaware St., was damaged by fire Monday night. The first floor had caught from the furnace, but the blaze was extinguished with little loss.” It’s a small mention, but I am obsessed with said property.

Dr. Allen founded the National Surgical Institute (on the corner of Georgia and Illinois) after moving here, especially to treat orthopedic ailments. It was during Dr. Allen’s residence at ‘the castle’ (my term for the home that used to stand at what is now 1305 N. Delaware St.) that his Surgical Institute caught fire–the night of January 21, 1892. Seventeen crippled people died in the fire–it was, after all, a 4 story building.

This photo is from the era when Dr. Horace Allen resided in the Delaware Street castle. Perhaps the small newspaper notice precipitated the alteration of the southern wooden porch to brick porte cochere? It would definitely lower the flammability factor…

As I continued perusing my huge collection of clippings regarding the Bates-Allen-Parry-McGowan mansion, I was further amused when I started re-reading Anton Scherrer’s “History Behind K of C Clubhouse” of June 30, 1947:

“It turns out that the big brick house at 1305 N. Delaware St., originally the home of Hervey Bates Jr., and now the Knights of Columbus clubhouse, was designed by William LeBaron Jenney, the Chicago architect generally credited with having thought up the basic principle which made the American skyscraper possible.
Seems that Mr. Bates heard of Mr. Jenney by way of Wilmer Christian of Shover & Christian, a firm of Indianapolis building contractors. Mr. Christian had been in Chicago adjusting insurance losses in the big fire. In the course of his work up there, he ran across Mr. Jenney who, too, had his hands full cleaning up after Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.
Mr. Christian, it appears was especially impressed with the designs prepared by Mr. Jenney for those Chicago millionaires whose homes had been wiped out by the fire. That he should share his discovery with Mr. Bates was the most natural thing in the world. Shover & Christian always gave the Bates family the benefit of their best ideas, the corollary of which was, of course, that the Bates family–the one doing the most building in Indianapolis at the time–employed Shover & Christian for most of their work.
As luck would have it, Mr. Christian picked exactly the right time to tell Mr. Bates about Mr. Jenney, for at that very moment Mr. Bates was toying with the idea of providing his family with a palatial home. Indeed, he had reached the point that he knew just the style residence his family was entitled to.
It appears that Mr. Bates had just returned from a trip though Europe including Loire country of France. In that district he came across a kind of house he liked. Indeed, he brought a picture of it home with him which is why the big brick house at 1305 N. Delaware Street with its tourelles, oriels and high-pitched roofs is not unlike a French chateau.
In due time, Mr. Jenney incorporated all the fancy details called for in Mr. Bates’ dream, including several additional and original ideas which had their birth in Chicago. Shover & Christian followed the specifications without having to be watched. When finished in 1874, the house cost Mr. Bates exactly $80,000, a fabulous sum for those days–or any other time, if you ask this impecunious reporter.
For some reason, however, Mr. Bates didn’t stay in his French chateau any length of time. He decided to sell it after the marriage of his daughters. It then became the property of Elijah B. Martindale whose daughter, Susan, had married Mr. Bates’ son. Some time around 1880, the house was bought by Dr. Horace R. Allen. In 1896, David M. Parry acquired it. It wasn’t a bit too big for Mr. Parry’s growing family, which, by that time, had to have sufficient elbow room to move around in. After that, it became the home of Hugh McGowan. When he died, the chateau was sold to the K. of C. people which is the way matters stand today and, probably for a long time to come.” batesmcgowan

A later view before the change to the brick porte cochere


The look during McGowan’s tenure


Chateau de Chambord–was this the inspiration for the Bates?


Intricate Roofline of Chambord


One response to “Favorite Friday + Fire Prevention week + Anniversary of Chicago Fire”

  1. Linda L Harris says:

    Interested in seeing photos of houses 2200 and 2600 blocks of N Meridian. My husband had distant aunts and uncle living there. Also photos of old house on N West St- late 1800s.

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