Our company has been renovating the Esplanade Annex for the past two-and-a-half years. We are interested in learning a little of the building’s history, as well as who some of its past residents were. ~ Christopher C., Fishers, Indiana
If its walls could talk, the Esplanade Annex would no doubt have many interesting stories to tell about the people who have lived in the building since it was constructed more than a century ago. As its name and physical proximity to The Esplanade Apartments and Flats imply, the name of the Esplanade Annex was derived from its slightly older sibling just across the street. Both were built by the same real estate developers and in fairly rapid succession. The Esplanade Apartments and Flats at 3015 North Pennsylvania Street was completed late in 1912. The Esplanade Annex at 3034 North Pennsylvania Street was completed early in 1913.
The vacant land on which the Greek Revival apartment building was erected was owned by Mrs. Ida O. Stanley when it was purchased in the fall of 1912 by the Plummer-Hollingsworth Company. Ida and her husband Clarence, who was also in the real estate business, lived at 1147 North Meridian Street. The land on which the Stanleys’ mansion once stood is now a parking lot tucked underneath Interstate 65. At the time the Esplanade Annex’s lot was acquired, work had just been completed on The Esplanade. The builders merely moved their workers, equipment, tools, and leftover materials across the street.
In the decade between 1905 and 1915, Charles E. Plummer (1872-1939) and Charles E. Hollingsworth (1863-1948) built a number of residential properties — including apartment buildings, doubles, duplexes, and single-family homes — in what is now known as the Mapleton-Fall Creek Neighborhood. Besides the aforementioned Esplanade and Esplanade Annex, in 1913, Hollingsworth built an apartment building two doors south of the Annex, similar to but slightly smaller than the Annex, and in 1916, Plummer built an apartment building two blocks away on the northeast corner of 32nd and Meridian Streets. The building at 3024 North Pennsylvania Street, originally named “The Maurice” for Hollingsworth’s son, is still standing. The building at 3201 North Meridian Street was recently demolished by its current owner, Trinity Episcopal Church.
Construction of the two-story Esplanade Annex began late in 1912. The first Indianapolis City Directory in which anyone was listed as residing at 3034 North Pennsylvania Street was 1913. Only one unit was occupied that first year. George B. Rubens and his wife Lena lived in Unit 3, on the south side of the upper level, while they awaited the completion of their new single-family home at 3316 Washington Boulevard.
George Rubens (1870-1929) was a colorful figure. At the time the Rubenses lived in the Annex, George was a department manager at the upscale L. Strauss & Co. men’s clothing store. He later became a vice-president of the Indianapolis Light & Heat Company, which was the forerunner of Indianapolis Power & Light Co. Rubens was also a City Councilman (known today as a “City-County Councillor”). Among the ordinances that Rubens introduced were one to regulate boxing matches and one to limit the length of hatpins. He also led the opposition to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s petition to install surface tracks across Merrill Street between Pennsylvania and Delaware Streets, because he felt it would endanger children walking to any of the several schools in the area. Rubens ran for Mayor of Indianapolis in 1918 but did not win.
Rubens appeared frequently in the local newspapers of the day, as he was always doing something interesting. One was a road trip he took with three friends across country and back in a 1912 Marmon automobile.
By the time of the 1914 city directory, all four units were occupied. The tenants were Harry A. Knox, Clemens T. Strauss, Louis F. Smith, and Charles H. and Katherine Beckett. Harry Knox was manager of a new automobile manufacturing company called Lyons-Atlas. Mrs. Beckett was active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTu).
In 1919, the tenants were Leslie Meyer, Louis Strashun, Charles W. Mann, and Sidney J. Sternberger. In 1927, the tenants were Isaac F. Nier, William Preston Snethen, Suzetta Mickle, and David H. Thomas. Louis Strashun became president of Rost Jewelers in 1920.
Homer O. Stone, his wife Hazel V., and their son Bob lived in the Esplanade Annex the longest — from 1934 to 1947. Homer was with the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions. Son Bob became a dentist and set up his dental practice in the neighorhood, across the street from Tabernacle Presbyterian Church.
Certified Public Account Stuart Tomlinson (1898-1981) and his wife, Catharine Harraman Tomlinson (1898-1982), moved to the north side from the Brightwood neighborhood, so that their children — Gloria Opal, George Earl, and Grace Iola — could attend Shortridge High School. Gloria appeared in an Indianapolis News photo in 1938 with her cousin, Anna Lee Boyer. The picture was taken in the sunporch of Unit 1 of the Esplanade Annex.
Clinton J. Ancker Sr., his wife Fern, and their son Clinton J. Ancker Jr. lived in the Esplanade Annex from 1937 to 1939. Clinton Jr. attended Purdue University, then served in the Army in World War II and Korea. He taught at the University of California at Berkeley, did research at Johns Hopkins Research Center in Washington, D.C., and was Director of the National Highway Safety Institute. His final working years were spent teaching at the University of Southern California. Ancker is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, as is his father, Clinton J. Ancker, Sr.
In 1951, the tenants were Morris Mitchell, William P. and Bess Lovell, Harry T. and Madeline Hershberger, and Lillian Evans. In 1960, the tenants were Marian L. Blacksom, Ralph O. and Joan E. Lafuze, Roba V. Krummel, and Nancy E. Starkey.
In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the neighborhood began to change socio-economically. The four original units in the building and areas in the basement were carved into nine living spaces. Maintenance of the building declined. In addition, there were at least two serious fires in the property. The fire damage had been covered up and was not discovered until the property’s recent renovation. By 1997, all but one unit in the building had been abandoned. A single occupant resided in a small portion of the deteriorating building until 2006.
Five years later, the Esplanade Annex was placed on Mayor Greg Ballard’s RebuildIndy list of tax-delinquent and (supposedly) unredeemable properties. The dilapidated structure was scheduled for demolition by the end of 2011. With only a few weeks remaining in the year, Indiana Landmarks purchased the property from the City, and on December 29, 2011, Indiana Landmarks sold the Esplanade Annex to the Congdon family’s company, LIPPITT LLC.
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