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We pass so many names throughout the city–mostly of people long forgotten. So let’s rescue one from the history books and affirm that Spades Park did get its name from a man who donated the land upon which this park is situated. Many of us will head to Spades Park tomorrow for the Feast of Lanterns, so here’s just a bit about the park’s namesake.

His name was Michael H. Spades and he was born in Cincinnati in 1854. He was the eldests of 12 children and his father died when he was 7 (Yeah, do the math on that one! Must’ve been some twins in that family). He moved to Indianapolis at age 15 in order to work–for a Dry Goods (the superstores of their day) company called Robertson & East. At age 19, he opened his own Dry Goods store at 20 East Washington Street (in 1873 by my calculation). After a year at his first location, he moved to the southwest corner of Washington & Meridian Streets (where the old L.S. Ayres building still stands) where his business remained for 10 years. But so much for the various moves of his dry goods business. In the end, he got out of the retail trade of the city and moved onto real estate business.

Mr. Spades, at one point, had acquired the William H. Morrison House on the northeast quadrant of the circle, and it was from Mr. Spades that the Columbia Club purchased the real estate upon which the organization resides up to this day. Mr. Spades married Hester Cox, daughter of one of the first revered artists of Indianapolis, Jacob Cox, in 1872 and had three children: son Cyril (named for his father) and Myron and daughter, Julia, who married Frncis P. Fleming, of Jacksonville, Florida. Mr. Spades eventulaly moved to Chicago, and continued in the accumulation of real estate, but retained holdings here. Mr. Spades loved music, played the violin, and his wife was an accomplished singer. He is noted to have contributed generously “an enthusiastic promoter,” he was called, in relation to “May music festivities.”

It was 1898 (coincidentally, the same year as today’s earlier post on the Feast of Lanterns) when Mr. Spades “donated to the City of Indianapolis six acres of land bordering Pogue’s Run, on both sides, and to this two acres more were added later, making an attractive park from Newman street to Jefferson street. This park bears the name of Spades Park, and in addition, to other improvements, a handsome band pagoda and shelterhouse, with toilete rooms, was erected by the city park board, an improvement that was paid for by Mr. Spades.”

Reference: Greater Indianapolis, Jacob Piatt Dunn, 1910

One response to “How Spades Park got its name”

  1. Michael Fritsch says:

    Hi Tiffany:

    Thank goodness for you and your commitment to history. I am a relative of Michael Henry Spades and wanted to let you know that the primary source (the Book “History of Greater Indianapolis”) cited his year of birth as 1854 but it is incorrect. This is a transposition of the 5 and 4 and his actual birth year is 1845. When you look at the book and it states when he came to Indianapolis in 1864 at age 19 – the typo is fairly obvious. His father Cyrill died in 1851/52 and his mother Rufina (nee Fritch) remarried a gentleman named Michael Rink. The Spades/Rink family plot is located in Holy Cross and Saint Joseph Cemetery in Indianapolis. Although I believe Cyrill is buried in Cincinnati or Dearborn County Indiana. Most of this information I noted above can be verified on familysearch.org or ancestry.com. Now….. if I could find the name of his dry goods company and who he sold it to in 1885.

    Keep up the great work.

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