Indianapolis Free Kindergarten class in front of the Brightwood Hall, ca. 1904 (Butler University, Irwin Library, Special Collections, Rare Books, and University Archives, Eliza Blaker Collection)
Life would be much easier for archivists and historians if everyone would simply label their photographs. But since our lives are busy or we’re just not motivated when we already know the people and places captured, many photographs end up unidentified in our albums, attics, and archival collections. When we’re lucky, photographs provide enough to clues to solve the mystery.
Dozens of kindergarten class photographs are available online at Butler University as part of the Eliza Blaker Collection. Blaker, an early educator, was instrumental in operating the Indianapolis Free Kindergarten Society from the 1880s until her death in 1926. The free schools gave children in neighborhoods throughout the city the opportunity to attend pre-school from ages three through five. Operating on a shoestring budget, classes were held in houses, storefronts, and churches. The kindergarten photographs depict the students and their teachers in front of and inside the schools, but unfortunately many of the locations were not noted.
Luckily, this image contains a few clues. A sign advertising “E. B. Fox Dry Goods & Notions” hangs above one of the ground-level stores in the brick commercial building in the background. The date block at the top reads “Erected by the Brightwood Hall Association / AD ???.” Although the scan’s resolution is too small to decipher the year, the original may be more legible. City directories show that Elijah B. Fox operated a dry goods store at 2419 Station Street in Brightwood from about 1902 through 1905, which coincides with the clothing and hairstyles of the teachers. The three-story building was constructed in about 1890 and the upper floors served as a meeting hall for many local fraternal organizations, including the Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, Rebekah, National Union, and Knights of Honor. As with most lodge buildings, it also served as a community gathering place for voting, concerts, dances, political meetings, lectures, and starting in about 1903 it housed Brightwood Kindergarten #13.
Brightwood Hall stood on Station Street in Brightwood’s primary commercial district. Previously the building was numbered 2417-2419 Station Street, but was changed to 2345-2347 by 1910.
Brightwood was a thriving suburb until the 1970s and the two storefronts in the Brightwood Hall had many tenants through the years with up to eight upstairs apartments known as Brightwood Apartments.
1899 – Orville L. Hahn Dry Goods
1900 – William M. Pollard Grocery, Dr. Samuel L. Witham (2417, rear office)
1907 – Shoemaker Miles Buchanan (2417, rear office)
1914 – Benjamin F. Gibson Grocery and Joseph Entwistle Plumbing
1920 – Tatman & Sharp Drugs, Myron C. Gould Dentist, Benjamin F. Gibson Grocery
1926 – M. Sablosky & Son Dry Goods and Kroger Grocery & Baking Company (named the Tatman Block)
1934 – Brightwood Cleaners and the Brightwood Athletic Club
1942 – Brightwood Cleaners and Mounce 5 & 10 Cent Store
1949 – Anna S. Eberle Gift Shop and John A. Johnson Variety Store
1955 – Walter E. Michael Gift Shop and Bernard Goldman Dry Goods
1961 – G & G Outlet Store (owned by the Goldman family)
1973 – G & G Outlet Store
1976 – G & G Outlet Store
1978 – Not listed
1982 – Vacant
1986 – Vacant
1990 – Vacant
With the loss of major employers and demographic shifts in the 1960s and ’70s, Brightwood suffered economic decline felt heavily on Station Street. The Brightwood Hall, once a social hub for the community, sat vacant in the 1980s and ’90s and from aerial photographs appears to have been demolished between 1995 and 1999. Today the once-welcoming site is a paved parking lot surrounded by a razor wire-topped fence.
Do you remember Brightwood Hall? Let us know by commenting below! As always, we seek additional memories and photographs of Brightwood Hall or the Brightwood area. In particular, we would like to learn when the building was constructed and the name of the architect, details about other building occupants, and the fate of the hall and why it was razed.
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