This week’s column takes a departure from the norm.  The Mailbag has received a few questions that I am not able to answer satisfactorily.  I’ve kept these queries on a back burner for a while, hoping to receive some inspirations of other resources that could hold their answers.  It then occurred to me that the readers of this site are history lovers who could have knowledge of these subjects.  I am hoping that there are folks out there who can help with these questions whose answers have eluded me.

Reader’s Question: 

I wonder whether you could help with an ongoing family “mystery.”  My great-grandmother was a Conn, and family lore has it that there was (is?) a Conn Building somewhere in downtown Indianapolis, probably built in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. Would you have any knowledge of this building and its whereabouts, or any ideas on where I might research this question?  ~  J. Lunsford 

HI’s Answer:

I looked at every Indianapolis City Directory from 1880 to 1920, as well as the 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 Census enumerations.  I did find individuals named Conn throughout the time period you’ve indicated, but they were residential listings.  I could find no mention of a Conn Building in either of the above types of records.

1910 Indianapolis City Directory shows Conn households (photo courtesty of IUPUI Digital Library)

This page from the 1910 Indianapolis City Directory is an example of Conn listings found from 1880 to 1920   (image courtesy of IUPUI Digital Library)

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Reader’s Question: 

My great-grandfather, Frank Funk, worked at the C. F. Schmidt Brewery from about 1872 to 1890. Around 1890, he operated a tavern on the corner of Wyoming and High Streets, where the Lilly Corporate Headquarters is now located. My great-grandfather operated the tavern until his death in 1903. Do you have any pictures of the brewery or the tavern? ~ Ronald E. Buckley, P.E., Indianapolis

HI’s Answer: 

Your great-grandfather’s tavern was on the southwest corner of E. Wyoming and S. High Streets.  His place was literally across the street from his former employer.  I can find no photo of either the C. F. Schmidt Brewing Co. or your great-grandfather’s tavern.  There are photos of the Indianapolis Brewing Company, of which the C. F. Schmidt Brewing Company eventually became a part, but none of it before the merger.

1898 Sanborn map shows the location of High and Wyoming is across the street from C. F. Schmidt (map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Library)

1898 Sanborn map illustrates that the corner of S. High and E. Wyoming Streets is across from the C. F. Schmidt Brewing Co.(map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Library)

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Reader’s Question:

I recently acquired the attached photograph, which reads “North Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis IND.” and “Copyright 1904.”  I am a lover of history and your website (which I find myself checking several times a day!). I also live on North Pennsylvania St. in the Fall Creek Place neighborhood. I have studied this photo and can’t seem to figure out where it might be taken from. My gut tells me that it’s between 16th and 22nd looking south, and that all those beautiful houses on the right are now parking lots for the backs of Meridian Street businesses.  Any thoughts? Thanks!  ~ Aaron Rambo, Indianapolis 

HI’s Answer:  

The styles of the homes in this image that I can make out suggest to me that this photo was taken south of 16th Street.  They are of an earlier vintage than the homes north of 16th Street.   There appears to be a narrow street or an alley on the right side of the photo that ends at Pennsylvania Street.  There are only a few thoroughfares between 10th and 16th Streets that do not continue straight through to make an intersection.  They include 13th Street, 14th Street, and an alley between 10th and 11th Streets.   There may have originally been other streets that ended or that jogged at Pennsylvania, before the construction of the Interstate resulted in their being rerouted.               

1904 Street View of N. Pennsylvania Street does not indicate what block it is (photo courtesy of Aaron Rambo )

1904 street view of N. Pennsylvania Street does not indicate what hundred block it is in  (photo courtesy of Aaron Rambo )

If you have any suggestions for answering these questions, feel free to post your comments below.  Thank you in advance for your ideas.


8 responses to “HI Mailbag: Elusive Subjects”

  1. nb says:

    Turns out posted the Pennsylvania St photo awhile back, and their readers determined it was the intersection with 11th St.

  2. basil berchekas jr says:

    Nothing to contribute, except to say it would be cool to see a photo (if available) of the houses from the same period along Sturm Esplanade, south of what is now Arsenal Technical High School, or along State Avenue in the same area. The Sturm Esplanade has some beautiful homes that appear to have housed upper middle income families (similar to Woodruff Place or Saint Clair or Tecumseh Places at one time. The Sturm Esplanade area appears to have been the farm remnant of Col. Sturm’s widow, what was left of the original farm owned by Col. Sturm (he may have sold the northern half to the US Government to build Indianapolis Arsenal during the Civil War, but that’s just my undocumented opinion!)

  3. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Thanks for identifying the location. I guess I need to add Shorpy to my list of sites to search, although with a heading of “Pleasantville” on this photo of North Pennsylvania Street, I’m not sure I would ever have found it.
    I felt certain the home that you can see the best in this photo would have been located between 10th and 16th Streets. My suggestion of possible locations was based on the street configurations as they are today. As it turns out, 11th Street was repositioned when the Interstate was built, so a present-day map doesn’t help.
    Old Sanborn maps show how the streets were laid out originally. An address of 1109 N. Pennsylvania Street would have been about where the eastbound lane of Interstate-65 now whizzes by this once quiet residential neighborhood.

  4. d mikels shea says:

    Sharon: LOVE your research and articles…but reading re “Conn” building makes my shaky memory think that perhaps it was a “Kahn” building –downtown but memory doesn’t produce a location.

    But one wonderful memory that eludes me — as late as l940-early 50’s before downtown demolition changed the footprint of the multiple intersections of Washington, Illinois with intersecting Kentucky Ave. creating the “triangular” corner, there was the last public toilet on one point (in front of Lincoln Hotel area), down a flight of stairs from which a distinctive odor was always present –blending uncertainly with the Doggy Levitt Hot Dog restaurant on facing corner in first block of S. Illinois. And, here is my question:

    As you walked across Kentucky, south on Illinois, there was a site where obviously some kind of an entertainment theater ? had once stood–because in the sidewalk there was a permanent inscription along the lines of “5 Girls, five” or something like that. As a reporter for the long ago sadly lost Indianapolis Times, my daily route took me down slanting Kentucky Ave., past the public lavatory, the ornate Lincoln entrance (I have the cap from uniformed doorman in my hotel collection) past a shoe repair shop, check cashing store, and for a while the last “Chinese Hand Laundry.” ***All on my way to reporting in at 6 a.m. on City Desk of The Times, 214 W. Maryland St. (again, the slanting streets created another multiple intersection as Maryland, Kentucky and Capitol all crossed. All these slanting intersections lost after demolition of facing Lincoln, Claypool Hotels, roughly where Hyatt now stands.

    ** Maybe it isn’t still funny. but I was always so intrigued by that tiny “Chinese Hand Laundry” that I had a whimsical thought. Times Columnist Ed Sovola frequently did “prank” columns–like posing statue-like among the mannequins in a big Block display window–only moving,winking,grinning when by-passers could be startled and puzzled. Or counting leaves on trees downtown. So I induced him to do a column –going in to the Chinese hand laundry to inquire “How much would you charge to wash my hands?” and thereby puzzling and annoying solemn laundry proprietor. Funny then – perhaps not now.

    But no one could ever tell me why the 5 girls 5 or whatever it was had been left behind when the venue disappeared–or what theatre had been there. The burlesque Fox was farther north, roughly where Indiana Ave. cut in at a slant into Illinois. And a final wonderful line. The Times had a feature writer named Sherley Uhl (male), who had a wonderful way with words. In those days Indiana Ave was a world of its own where music and street violence mingled….and at the intersection where it began stood Dock’s Pawn Shop. And reporter Uhl, covering one of the many crime/violence/sudden death incidents started his story with a memorable line:

    “Indiana Avenue — the street that begins at a pawn shop and ends at the City Morgue…”

  5. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    Shorpy has very few Indianapolis photos, and when I could have helped identify some places in some of his photos, he would not approve my comment–even though I also offered to link back to him. No longer a fan.
    Sharon, you would probably do better than identifying photos than most of his readers, I think.

  6. Joan Hostetler says:

    Interesting questions. Just a couple of comments:
    1. I too, wondered if the family’s memories of the Conn Building might refer to the Kahn Building at 7 N. Meridian (the wonderful ca. 1915 terra cotta building on the NE corner of Washington and Meridian Streets, sometimes referred to as the King Cole Building). Kahn also had other downtown buildings for his tailoring business.
    2. I’ve seen photos of Schmidt Brewery, but at the moment do not remember where (probably at the Indiana Historical Society). I’ll keep my eyes open for others.
    3. Since Lilly demolished the brewery and the old bar, I would check with the Eli Lilly & Co. archives to see if they photographed the old buildings before building on the site.
    4. And a reminder to beware when using IUPUI’s Sanborn Maps titled 1898. The Wyoming Street map above is actually an 1898 map updated to 1913 (as noted in the metadata/cataloging field “Date Updated”). This confuses a lot of researchers and many people believe their houses are older than they actually are because of this odd title quirk.

  7. Brent says:

    I wanted to respond to one of the e-mailer’s questions. The Indiana State Library has a photo collection of the C.F. Schmidt Brewery (later Indianapolis Brewing Company). Our online finding aid to the collection can be found here,

    Brent Abercrombie, Manuscripts Librarian, Indiana State Library

  8. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    When I first read the reader’s question, the Kahn Building did come to mind. However, I dismissed that notion, because the writer spelled it Conn, and I thought surely the writer would have known the correct spelling of his or her great-grandmother’s surname. I couldn’t imagine anyone mistaking the name Kahn for Conn. In retrospect, though, since it was reported as family lore, if it was only spoken verbally, then Kahn and Conn would of course sound the same.
    You referred to the “Doggy Levitt Hot Dog restaurant.” I’m not familiar with that establishment, but I think I know the person to whom you refer. Manuel D. “Doggy” Leve operated the Saratoga Bar at 16 S. Illinois Street. It was where Kentucky Avenue and Illinois Street formed a point on the south side of W. Washington Street. My father used to go there with his composing room co-workers during his years at both The Indianapolis News (1940-1954) and The Indianapolis Times (1954-1965).
    Regarding your question about “5 Girls 5,” could it have been the Regent Theatre at 42 S. Illinois Street? Here’s the link to a photo of it:

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