In the 1950s, my parents took me to music lessons at the Jordan College of Music, which was located in a former residence across the street from Shortridge High School. The corner where Jordan once stood has been a parking lot for many years. I know the college is now located on the campus of Butler University, but I am wondering if can you provide a little of its early history? ~ Mike F., Carmel
The address of the former residence in which you received music lessons was 3411 North Pennsylvania Street. The property was located on the northeast corner of 34th and Pennsylvania Streets. The home was built in 1913 by Paul Helb White (1871-1946) and his wife Margaret “Daisy” Malott White (1874-1958).
Paul White was the owner of the Comet Electric Company, which manufactured generators, marine lighting sets, truck lighting sets, and magnetos. White was the designer of the first electric automobile made in Indianapolis. His wife was the daughter of prominent Indianapolis banker and businessman, Volney Thomas Malott (1838-1921).
December 10, 1926 ad in The Indianapolis Star
In 1928, the Whites sold their fifteen-year-old home to the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music. The Whites temporarily moved to a luxurious 10-room apartment in the Winter House at 1321 North Meridian Street, while they had a new home built at 4224 Washington Boulevard.
1929 Baist Atlas Map shows the the Jordan College of Music in the former White residence at 3411 N. Pennsylvania Street (map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives) CLICK TO ENLARGE
At the time the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music expanded to what is now known as the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood, the school had been in operation for more than three decades. When it was established, the original entity was called the Metropolitan School of Music. It was founded in 1895 by four music teachers who had all been giving private lessons in Circle Hall. Circle Hall was the building in the northwest quadrant of Monument Circle where Reverend Henry Ward Beecher had preached from 1839 to 1848. Circle Hall was the building in which the forerunner of Second Presbyterian Church met. Circle Hall was also the original location of the Indianapolis High School, which held the first high school classes in the State of Indiana there in 1864; the secondary school was later renamed Shortridge High School.
The founders of Jordan College previously taught in Circle Hall, located on Monument Circle at West Market Street (W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)
The music teachers who founded the Metropolitan School of Music were Franz X. Arens, Flora M. Hunter, Oliver Willard Pierce, and Richard Schliewen. The group became concerned about the poor condition of the aging Circle Hall, and they had differences of opinion with the manager there. The operators of the newly formed school rented space in the early years of its operation — first at 232 and then at 535 North Illinois Street. Today those addresses are the locations of OneAmerica Tower and the Indiana Freemasons’ Hall. Piano, violin, and voice were the first three subjects taught at the school, but the areas of study were soon expanded.
In 1907, the Metropolitan School of Music built its own freestanding building at the intersection of East North Street, North Pennsylvania Street, and Fort Wayne Avenue. Besides classrooms, practice rooms, and offices, the three-story, triangularly-shaped brick building also contained an auditorium called the Odeon (the Greek word for a performance hall). That same year, Oliver Willard Pierce left the school and founded the College of Musical Art, which was later renamed the Indiana College of Music and Fine Arts. It was located at 824 North Pennsylvania Street. A few years later, it wound up being adjacent to the new Indianapolis Public Library on East St. Clair Street. For several years, the two music schools competed with one another for students and for funding.
In 1907, the Metropolitan School of Music erected its own freestanding brick building at 106 East North Street (scan courtesy of the Indiana State Library)
By the mid-1920s, the Metropolitan School of Music had 51 faculty members. The courses being offered had expanded greatly and even included a department of dancing. An agreement was signed between the Metropolitan School of Music and Butler College of Butler University for the cooperative preparation of music teachers.
Page from booklet showing offerings of the Department of Dancing (scan courtesy of Indiana State Library)
1925 image of the Metropolitan School of Music shortly before it became a part of the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music (W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)
In 1928, businessman and philanthropist Arthur Jordan purchased both the Metropolitan School of Music and the Indiana College of Music and Fine Arts and consolidated them into the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music. Jordan had made a fortune in several different businesses, and he resolved to use his wealth to further educational activities. To that end, he established the Arthur Jordan Foundation
, with assets valued at $2,000,000. Jordan had served on the boards of directors of Butler University, the Young Men’s Christian Association, and the President Benjamin Harrison Home, and all of them became recipients of his generosity.
Former home of Paul and Margaret Malott White at 3411 N. Pennsylvania Street became part of the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music (W. H. Bass Photo Co. Collection courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)
(scan courtesy of the Indiana State Library)
Arthur Jordan proceeded to buy the former residences of department store founders Hiram P. Wasson at 1116 North Delaware Street and Lyman S. Ayres at 1204 North Delaware Street, for the purpose of housing various functions of the music conservatory in them. In addition, a portion of President Benjamin Harrison’s former home was used as a residence hall for women students.
The former residence of the H. P. Wasson family at 1116 N. Delaware St. was part of the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music (W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)
The former residence of the L. S. Ayres family at 1204 N. Delaware St. was part of the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music (W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)
The former residence of President Bemjamin Harrison at 1230 North Delaware Street was part of the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music (photo courtesy of the National Park Service)
In 1940, the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music had facilities in eight different buildings!
(scan courtesy of the Indiana State Library)
In 1949, Jordan dropped the title of “conservatory” and became the Jordan College of Music. The new name was deemed more appropriate, as the school had always functioned as a college. At that time, Jordan offered undergraduate degrees in piano, organ, orchestral instruments, voice, opera, composition, drama and speech, radio, dance, music merchandising, and musical education. Graduate degrees were offered in piano, organ, orchestral instruments, voice, composition, theory, musicology, and music education.
Side view of 3411 North Pennsylvania Street, as seen from the East 34th Street (or south) side of the Jordan College of Music (W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)
In 1951, Jordan College of Music became a part of Butler University after a merger was approved by Butler’s Board of Directors. Jordan faculty and staff became members of Butler University faculty and staff, and past and future graduates of Jordan became members of the Butler Alumni Association. Butler continued to operate out of the various Jordan College of Music locations for a time, but a new building on the Butler University campus was planned to house all functions of the college of music. In 1963, Lilly Hall was constructed to be the new home of Jordan College of Music.
Lilly Hall on the campus of Butler University (photo courtesy of Browning Day Mullins Dierdorff)
Most of the former Jordan College of Music buildings no longer exist today. The Metropolitan School of Music building at 106 East North Street is now a surface parking lot just north of the Minton-Capehart Federal Building at 555 North Pennsylvania Street. The Wasson family residence at 1116 N. Delaware Street was lost to the construction of Interstate 65, along with many other wonderful residences that were in the highway’s path. “The Ravages of the Road” was the subject of a Historic Indianapolis post last September, which you can read here
The Ayres family residence at 1204 North Delaware Street was also demolished and is now part of the south lawn of the Benjamin Harrison Home. The former women’s residence hall at 1228 North Delaware Street no longer serves that purpose and is now the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
. The former White family residence at 3411 North Pennsylvania Street is now a parking lot for Phillips Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, which is immediately to the east of the property. The church was originally the home of Third Church of Christ Scientist. The Irvington location of Jordan, which was at 5436 East Washington Street, was replaced by a newer strip-mall type of building that currently houses a dental clinic.
The former site of the Jordan College of Music at 34th and Pennsylvania Streets is now a surface parking lot for a church (image courtesy of bing)
In 1978, the name of the school was changed to Jordan College of Fine Arts to reflect the broader range of subjects offered. In 2012, Jordan College of Fine Arts again changed its name to Jordan College of the Arts. There are now five academic departments on the Butler University campus, including art, arts administration, dance, music, and theatre. A one-minute video about the school can be viewed here