Reader’s Question:

What’s the story behind the concrete wall lining 52nd and Guion Road?  The property is now owned by a church, but the wall is too old and substantial for the church.  There was once what looks like a guardhouse entry on 52nd Street.  Any thoughts?  ~ Natalie Hoefer, Indianapolis

HI’s Answer:

The Pike Township property that today is known as 4374 West 52nd Street was owned by four generations of the same family for more than a century.  Members of the Staton family migrated from Virginia to Indiana, stopping for a few years in Ohio, as they made their way west to their ultimate destination.  Brothers Joseph, George, and Smith Staton obtained several land patents in the early 1830s for tracts in both the northwest corner of Marion County and the southeast corner of Boone County.

One of several land patents issued to the Staton family in Marion and Boone Counties (image courtesy of Ancestry.com

One of several land patents issued to  Staton family members  in Marion and Boone Counties  ( Ancestry.com)            LEFT CLICK TO ENLARGE

Other early Pike Township settlers included names such as Boardman, Bridgford, Conarroe, Crist, DeBruler, Guion, Hightshue, Hollingsworth, Kissell, Klingensmith, Moller, Rodabaugh, Trester, and Wright.  Eventually, the extended Guion family owned so many different parcels in the area that one of the roads through the township began to be called Guion Road.

The oldest of the three Virginia-born brothers, Joseph Staton (1796-1862), passed his land on to sons George Washington Staton and Reuben Staton.  The property on the northwest corner of 52nd and Guion Road went to the older son. G.W.  That plat consisted of almost 29 acres, with a creek meandering through it, which they called Staton’s Creek.  In later years, Staton’s Creek was renamed Guion Creek, the name by which it is known today.  George Washington Staton then left this parcel of land to his son, Rufus George Staton.

The final generation of the Staton family to own the property was Lewis S. Staton.  Lewis and his wife, Martha Ann McCray Staton, had only one child, daughter Florence Olive Staton, who was killed in an interurban accident in 1919.  Florence was a passenger in a car driven by her neighbor, Leroy Guion, son of Mr. and Mrs. Asbury Guion.  They were returning home from an evening service at Crooked Creek Baptist Church at 56th and Michigan Road.  A rather detailed description of the event appeared in The Indianapolis Star.

Article in The Indianapolis Star

LEFT  CLICK  ON  ARTICLE  TO  ENLARGE  Jan 6, 1919, article in The Indianapolis Star   

Some time after the 1930 Census (on which the Statons appeared) and before the 1940 Census (on which the Statons did not appear), the property was purchased by Victor and Alex Krannert.  Victor was the younger brother of Inland Container Company president, Herman Krannert, and was vice-president and secretary of the company from 1934 until his death in 1951.

1941 Wagner Map shows who the property owners were at that time (map courtesy of Indiana State Library)

Wagner’s Map of Marion County, Indiana, shows who the property owners near 52nd Street and Guion Road were in 1931   (map courtesy of Indiana State Library)                  LEFT CLICK TO ENLARGE

After Victor Krannert died, his widow Alex reportedly became paranoid about living alone on a large and densely wooded piece of property.  Born in France in 1900, she had lived through World War I, as well as other European conflicts, and she feared the United States could some day be invaded.  Mrs. Krannert and a servant proceeded to build a concrete block wall around the property with their own hands, in an effort to provide her with some security and privacy.

A concrete block was was built along the entire south and east property lines

A concrete block wall was erected at 52nd and Guion Road, extending the entire length of the south and east property lines  (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Unfortunately, neither the wall nor the gatehouse at the entrance to the compound kept intruders out.  Apparently it was a rite of passage in the ’50s and ’60s for teenagers to climb the wall and trespass on Mrs. Krannert’s property.  Vandals came on to the grounds on multiple occasions over the years, damaging the property and stealing her possessions.  The home invasions escalated, and in September of 1969, a group of adults — some of whom had formerly been employed by Mrs Krannert — beat and robbed her.  The final act of unkindness occurred on September 26, 1970, when her house was set on fire.  Alex Krannert died on December 15, 1970, from injuries suffered in the fire ten weeks earlier.  She was 70 years old.

Brief obituary in The Indianapolis Star reporting the death of Alex Krannert in December of 1970 (scan courtesy of Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

A brief obituary reporting the death of Alex Krannert appeared in The Indianapolis Star in December of 1970  

Following Alex Krannert’s death, it took a quite a while to settle her estate, and the property was tied up in probate for many years.  Damaged beyond repair by the fire, the old Staton family homestead was eventually torn down.  Guion Creek Elementary School, directly across the street on the south side of West 52nd, was built on some of the Staton family’s former land.

In 1978, local developer Gil Templeton, Jr., purchased the property with the intention of building several condos on the east side of the creek and a few single-family homes on the west side of the creek.  Templeton had recently completed the construction of The Overlook at Williams Creek, near 86th and Spring Mill Road, and he was hoping to build another similar project at 52nd and Guion Road.  However, neighbors in the area felt the project was too intense and opposed it.  After neighborhood meetings and remonstrations dragged on for a period of time, the proposed project was defeated.

The property changed hands a few more times in the 1980s and 1990s.  Title holders included Ash Realty Co., Merchants National Bank, and MWM.  One of those owners (I’m not certain which) erected a commercial building on the property, in roughly the same location that the original Staton family home had previously stood.  In September of 2006, the Solid Word Bible Church bought the property and adapted the structure for its present use as a church.