Leah in her art studio, weaving one of her artworks.

TITLE: Archivist and Historic Researcher FOR: Myself and Riley Area Development Corporation (RADC)

SINCE: 2000-RADC received a grant to hire me to Archive over 50 Bank Boxes of loose material. At this time I also did all of the Historic research for each building that (RADC) was in the process of reconstructing. RADC has won several National Awards for our work on Historic buildings. When the year’s grant was over, I continued without pay.

ORIGINALLY FROM : Hammond, Indiana

YOUR JOB ENTAILS: I volunteered my time at RADC. I also have completed deep searches for many clients owning property in Indianapolis, such as Crown Liquors and Axis Architecture. I charge by the hour for my research.

YOU WORK HOW MANY HOURS WEEKLY: I have no set time. Once I get a specific project, I concentrate on that project several hours a day until I have a finished collection. I furnish my clients with an artistic presentation in a notebook full of my found documents , maps, photographs and related materials from my collections. I then take this collection and create a cd for the client.

PROJECT/S YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF: Creating a Library for the RADC collections and encouraging students of History to use this collection. Several students have used our material for their thesis. I have a list and collected letters from all of these groups.

BEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO: I  have been able to save valuable material that clearly shows the development of the Downtown Historic Neighborhoods of Lockerbie, Chatham Arch and the St. Joseph Historic Neighborhoods. RADC founded all three of these neighborhoods and have given extensive assistance to the development to the East Side Development Corporation.

WORST PART OF WHAT YOU DO: Not having enough time! However, when we move this summer to our new building, “Trailside” in the 800 block of Massachusetts Ave., we will have a special Library and I will have an office of my own!

HOW YOU DEFINE PERSONAL SUCCESS: Sticking to the job at hand.

ADVICE TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO DO WHAT YOU DO? Volunteer first to see if you have the ability to work with many documents from a thirty year period or a request of a shorter period…discover if you have the ability to shift gears constantly without getting taken in by all of the great material!

IF YOU WERE GRANTED ONE WISH RELATING TO YOUR ORGANIZATION, WHAT WOULD IT BE? It would be great to be able to find funding for some of my time. Right now I only work one day a week…this gives me time for my paid work of Historic Research.

WOULDN’T HAVE MADE IT TO WHERE I AM WITHOUT: Friends who share the same passion to research and share History.


HOW DO YOU ‘RECHARGE YOUR BATTERIES’? By sharing- through lectures with people wanting to know more about a topic. Watching old TV shows, searching for Historic materials on ebay and keeping this collection in order.

WHO WERE/ARE YOUR MENTORS AND HOW DID THEY HELP? Perhaps in being asked by Bill Gray (the Executive Director of Riley Area Development Corporation) to “go through” the file boxes and save what should be saved. He inspired me to create a (necessary)  job and now we have a working Library with photographs, letters, meeting notes, “Linear History”, newspaper clippings, Development processes of several Historic areas and all of the Design Reviews of these areas.

The Rink Apartment House, with The Blacherne in the background

WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN HISTORY: The request for information by the Construction Crew, RADC Development and Architects of the Rink (building). That was my first collection. It consists of three parts: Biographical, the Period of History in Indianapolis and Influences of Mr. Joseph Rink (the third person to build a large apartment in Downtown Indianapolis; the two first units were the Blacherne , built in 1894, the Nyswander or Savoy built in 1896 and the purchasing of the Savoy in 1896 by Joseph Rink and the addition called the Rink, completed in 1901.

MOST INTERESTING BIT OF INDIANAPOLIS HISTORY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED? I managed to find a newspaper clipping which had an actual Architectural drawing of the inside of the Blacherne. This drawing clearly showed how furniture was built into the walls to save space–such as beds, tables etc. It also clearly showed how there was a separate hall for the “staff” to use. I found this article only by reading all of the main papers from that time period. There was no indexing. An Indiana University Professor found I had this source and asked for permission to use it in a filmstrip. I made sure that RADC got credit for this find.

FAVORITE PERSON FROM INDIANAPOLIS PAST? WHY? George J. Marott. George was not only a talented Shoemaker, but he was also a person with vision: buying up land for future development and for starting the Massachusetts Ave. Business Association around 1903, which gave several well known individuals the ability to develop large parcels and provided the means to have transportation part of their plans….thus creating an Economical way to keep the City interesting and growing.

One of Leah’s ebay acquisitions

ANY INTERESTING FAMILY CONNECTIONS TO INDIANAPOLIS PAST? No I have seen no connection. I came from Hammond, Indiana, my Dad was from Chicago,Illinois and my Mother grew up in the Woods of Wisconsin

FAVORITE VIEW IN THE CITY? At night looking at the Downtown buildings before dark and then after all the lights are on in the darkness.





COLLECT ANYTHING? Books about Natural means of Health, Gardening and Herbs and many Biographies. I also collect antique books from Ebay…such as an 1868 book of the Early Doctors and their Hospital buildings such as the Hammond Block building on the 300 block of Massachusets Ave. This was the main School for Physicians and Surgeons, now known as Indiana University. Joseph Eastman was a leader in this regard and had a womens hospital at the corner of Vermont and Delaware. This hospital survived through three generations of doctors! I also find really old 1800 letters about orders from resources in Early Indianapolis and also Political requests in writings.

FAVORITE QUOTE-“All things come to those who wait”….I believe if you have an interest in something and allow that to grow in your own time….it then becomes a reality.

7 responses to “Heritage Steward: Leah Orr”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    This is rather trivial, but my Dad had an apartment at the Rink immediately prior to getting married. He worked at the state highway commission road lab then located south of military park next to the canal. Then upon marriage they moved to the apartment building at Penn & Fort Wayne which had a “7-UP” neon sign on the roof for decades, above the Elbow Room Tavern. General Lew Wallace, after serving as US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (“the sublime porte”, as the Ottoman foreign office was nicknamed) in Constantinople, visited the old Byzantine Blacherne Palace, a red brick palace still in Ottoman royal use at the head of the Golden Horn estuary to the Bosporus. Upon returning to the US, he built the Blacherne Apartments in red brick, resembling the original Blacherne. Just trivia here!

  2. Roger A. Zimmerman says:

    Googles Joseph Eastman and came across this site. I too acquire a postcard of the Eastman Hospital and was trying to figure out where it was located.. The postcard I have is similar view but also includes the nurse’s cottage. Vermont and Delaware. Also learned that he was the previouse owner of the Lilly House.
    Roger Z

  3. Kathy Beckom says:

    Thanks for the picture of the Joseph Eastman school. My husbands grandmother went to nursing school there, as I understand it. I have a picture of her with a Dr and other nurses in the operating room at Eastman Hospital. I’d be glad to share a copy if it’s interesting to you.

  4. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    We’d love to see it, Kathy! Feel free to email us! feedback (at) our url address

  5. Joseph Eastman says:

    The hospital was razed about 1963-64. My father took me out of school that day so I could see the inside.
    I would be interested in seeing the picture of my grandfather. Thank you.

  6. Joseph Eastman says:

    He built the house, now 4050 Washington Blvd, with wood/lumber from the lot.

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