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Playing football in what became Finch Park, ca. 1915

Finch Park, originally located on S. State Avenue between Spann and Fletcher Avenues, has long served the Fountain Square neighborhood as a playground and park. Photograph lender Elizabeth Laslie shared this ca. 1915 image of her grandfather playing football in the park that was later named after the family of Alice K. Finch.

Neighborhood resident Otto Dick is among the athletes in this community football league. A photographer captured them playing in lots that eventually became Finch Park in Indianapolis. It is unclear who owned the lots at this point since newspaper articles state that Indianapolis City Parks did not buy the property until 1923. The photograph is undated, but based on the hat and clothing of the woman in the background and age of Otto Dick, the year is about 1910 to 1915. This view looks southwest at the intersection of Fletcher and S. State Avenues.

Alice K. Finch, 1920 (www.finchroots.com)

Alice K. Finch, 1920 (www.finchroots.com)

Alice K. Finch (1852-1923, daughter of Judge Fabius Finch) bequeathed $10,000 to the Indianapolis Parks Department for playground purposes in 1923. The Indianapolis Park Board named the park at S. State and Spann Avenues “Finch Park & Playground”  in memory of the Finch Family.

According to a news report, thousands of southsiders attended the park’s opening ceremonies on July 2, 1923. City officials promised additional playground equipment and more landscaping “to make the playgrounds a real park.” Park staff praised the Southeastern Improvement Association for their efforts of civic improvement. The Marimba Band and the Policemen’s and Firemen’s Band entertained the crowd  while children played on the swings and slides in the new park surrounded by electrically-lit Chinese lanterns for the evening’s festival.

In 1927 the park board built the brick and tile  Alice K. Finch Memorial Shelter House on the east end of the grounds. It housed a stage and “comfort stations.”

IPS William McKinley School #39, ca. 2010 (Photo courtesy of School 39)

In 1988, Indianapolis Public Schools traded properties with Indy Parks and built the new William McKinley School #39 on the old Finch Park & Playground site. A new Finch Park then opened at 801 S. State Avenue in Indianapolis, just two blocks south of its original location.

The 1700 block of Fletcher Avenue at the southeast corner of S. State Avenue (Google Street View, June 2011)

The 1700 block of Fletcher Avenue at the southeast corner of S. State Avenue (Google Street View, June 2011)

Today, most of the houses on the south side of Fletcher Avenue still stand. Note the old brick street. The green commercial building in the distance (on the southwest corner of Fletcher and State) has served many uses through the years, including the E. B. Holtam & Co. Grocery (1910s and ’20s), L. V. Whybrow Grocery (1932), Allan J. Boesel Grocery (1935), Joseph Zimmerman Grocery (1945), Charles E. Williams Regal Market (1950s-’70s), Mikita’s Market (1970s-’80s). Although a spot check did not reveal the year, Kindrick’s Regal Market also occupied the building, as revealed by this advertising mural that owners discovered  in about 2010 under the siding on the east side of the store. “Fresh Up with 7-Up” became 7-Up’s slogan in 1957.

Advertising mural for Kindrick's Regal Market

Advertising mural for Kindrick’s Regal Market

If you have memories of Finch Park or the surrounding neighborhood, please leave comments below.

Sources
Biographical And Reminiscent History Of Richland, Clay And Marion Counties, Illinois 1909, p. 216
-Finch Family, 1595-Present (http://www.finchroots.com)
-William McKinley School 39 web page (http://www.myips.org/Page/2417)
-“Finch Playground Opening Attended by City Officials,” Indianapolis Star, July 3, 1923, p. 9

[Would you like to see your old photographs featured in this Then and Now column? If so, attach a high resolution jpeg or png and any details about the building within our “Say Hi” link in the footer of our website.]

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22 responses to “Then & Now: Finch Park and the 1700 Block of Fletcher Avenue”

  1. sandy barlow says:

    My 3 younger brothers and I all played in that park every day.Have so many memories there.We played in the wading pool.and enjoyed the playground equipment,.Played for hours in the sand box at the end of the shelter house..Being a TomBoy I also played foot ball there.Met my husband there while playing softball .Would love to see a pic of the wading pool,and shelter house.Thanks so much for sharing this pic.

  2. Joan Hostetler says:

    Glad to spark some happy memories, Sandy. I’ve been looking for photos of the shelter house, but no luck yet. Was the shelter house that you remember the older brick one with restrooms on both ends? If so, what era are you talking about? Do you know when it was demolished? Thanks!

  3. Janice Montgomery says:

    My Grandparents owned the Williams Regal Market on Fletcher Ave. If anyone has any pictures of the store during that time, I would love to see them. Thanks

  4. Norman Graham says:

    Thanks to all those responsible for this website. I was born in 1946 and grew up at 1620 Fletcher. We played in the park all year round: baseball, football, kite-flying, etc. I never remember the restrooms in the shelter house functioning in all my years there. I remember the Southside Y Little League having a Fish Fry/Sock Hop there for a number of years in the 1950’s. Bouncin’ Bill Baker was the DJ. I remember hearing of a couple supposedly being kicked out for Dancing the Dirty Boogie. I had no idea what that consisted of, but it certainly captured the imagination of a 12-year old boy!

  5. Wesley Hix says:

    I was born in 1978 and grew up 1800 block of Woodlawn Ave. So growing up i got to use Finch park in its last year I’ve got many great memories from a young age. Including one of and extremely tall and steep metal slide that was actually quite frightening

  6. Wesley Hix says:

    I eventually conquered my fear that slide. I was also part of the big change from school 39 old to new. Was excited for the new school but heartbroke about our Park. I spent my 5th and 6th grade year in the new school. But close to the end of sixth grade year our park had still not been rebuit yet. So my good friend Brian wrote a letter to the Indianapolis Star newspaper stating basically that we’d like our Park back. And within just months the park was built. But never compared to the original…. thanks for your story it brought back great memories..

  7. Wesley Hix says:

    I would love to see more pictures of the park and some of the old William McKinley School 39… that’s actually what led me to your story searching for pictures of 39 .

  8. William Skidmore says:

    I used to wade in the pool in that park with the other neighborhood kids back in 1968. I was 5 years old and lived just a few houses down from the grocery store on the corner on Fletcher Ave. The shop on the other side of Fletcher street was an ice cream parlor at that time. My mother would send me down with some change to get a half a pound of bologna ever day from the “baloney man” at the grocery for lunch. Good memories of this area. Found this story looking for the park, so I could find the house I lived in. Thanks for story!

  9. Jim Williams says:

    My grandpa Charles E. Williams owned the Regal Market.
    My dad and aunt have stories about it, if you are interested.

  10. Jim Williams says:

    My aunt and dad can tell you when Kendrick owned the regal market.

  11. Anonymous says:

    3

  12. Robert F. Henderson, Jr. says:

    We lived at 1722 Spann Ave. until 1973. My childhood home is long gone now. But remember so very well as a young child playing in Finch Park which was located directly in front of home. This was the neighborhood of my childhood. I started school in the old #39 building before it was relocated to its present day site.

  13. Travis spangler says:

    Robert Kindrick was my grandfather… my mom says they bought the Regal Grocery from the Williams family in the spring of 1957 and sold it back to them in the fall of 1958.

  14. Cleia tupper says:

    Travis – I would love to know more about the building! Does your family have old pictures of the grocery store?

  15. Cleia tupper says:

    Janice – I would love to know more about the building! Does your family have old pictures of the former grocery store?

  16. Beverly Morisset says:

    My goodness. What nostalgia. I happened onto your website while surfing the net to find current photos of the house I grew up in located at 1919 Hoyt Avenue. Hoyt is also my maiden name so we were the Hoyts of Hoyt Avenue. I was born in 1946 and had a pleasant surprise when I read the comment from Norman Graham of April 16, 2015. Norman and I went to school together from kindergarten (in an old school turned library and kindergarten off Prospect street) and then 1st through 8th grade at old school 39. Our mothers knew each other and I used to hang out with one of his sisters when we were young teachers.

    I, too, remember the Southside Y Little League Fish Fry/Sock Hops. I used to dance up a storm! My brother played in that league and my dad was one of the founders. I also remember in 7th and 8th grades watching the School 39 baseball team practice at Finch park. Boys galore – Wow!

    I married a Frenchman and have lived in Belgium and France for the last 50 years, but I still have wonderful memories, sometimes bittersweet, of growing up on Hoyt Avenue. I was heartened to learn that a lot of the older homes in our neighborhood have been renovated. So is the case of my former home which is presently on sale. On a realtor’s website I saw several photos of the interior and they did a really lovely job refinishing the wooden floors, stairs and window casings.

    I wish you continued success with your website.

  17. Norman Graham says:

    Beverly,
    How nice to see your post. My wife, Judy, and I were supposed to depart for Paris at 5PM today. We were scheduled to do a River Cruise with her two brothers and their wives. We were to sail from Paris to Normandy and back. Unfortunately, Judy fell last week and broke her right kneecap and left arm causing us to cancel our trip.
    How adventurous living abroad! Hope all is well with you and your family.
    Wonderful hearing from you,
    Norman

  18. Tiffany Benedict Browne says:

    I really appreciate your kind words about the website, and also sharing your memories of Indy. I see your friend just replied as well. If I can help the two of you connect, please let me know, since email addresses are not publicly accessible.

  19. Norman graham says:

    Tiffany,
    I would love to take you up on your offer to obtain Beverly’s email address.

    Thank you,
    Norman Graham

  20. Tiffany Benedict Browne says:

    Hi Norman, Please check your email just sent it –assuming my eye glasses are working properly today! I cc’d Beverly. With my best wishes. – Tiffany

  21. Beverly Morisset says:

    Thank you, Tiffany, for getting me in touch with Norman Graham. We are now in contact by E-mail. I would be glad to share with you the memories I have of my former neighborhood for future articles on your website or in your newsletter.

  22. Norman Graham says:

    Thank you, Tiffany, for helping to reconnect with a friend/classmate from 64 years ago. I enjoy your website. Thanks again.

    Norman Graham.

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