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Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society, William H. Bass Photo Company Collection,
Neg. 35980-F

John Koch’s furniture store occupied this ca. 1900 brick building located between Fountain Square and Fletcher Place for over five decades. Today most of us have driven past the ghost of the building as we speed by on Interstate 65-70 southeast of Indianapolis.

At the time the store was photographed by the Bass Photo Company in 1914, the John Koch store sold stoves, furniture, Hoosier cabinets, rugs, and dry goods. Koch (1866-1918) was the son of a German-born cabinet maker. He started his furniture store in the 1890s and moved to this location by 1901, eventually expanding south into the adjacent two-story brick building. [IHS, Bass Photo Co. 35980]

Indianapolis Sanborn Map and Baist Atlas Collection, Indiana State Library, Digitized by the IUPUI University Library

Like much of Virginia Avenue, the 800 block had a mixture of businesses and houses. Koch was nestled among a flour and feed store, wallpaper store, wood-frame houses, and upstairs lodges such as the South-Side Republican Club and the International Order of Odd Fellows on the third floor of his furniture building. The Indianapolis IOOF Lodge #465 met weekly and also served as a meeting site for the Rebekah Lodge, the women’s group affiliated with the IOOF. Former US Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks was a member of this IOOF Lodge and spoke at the group’s anniversary celebration a year before this photo was taken. (1898 Sanborn Map updated to 1913)

City of Indianapolis, Indy Brownfields Map

After John’s death in 1918, son Harold J. Koch operated the furniture store until his death in 1948. Within a couple of decades the building was doomed by the planned path for Interstate I-65/70, seen superimposed above on a 1956 aerial photograph.

City of Indianapolis, Map Indy

By the time this 1972 aerial photograph was captured, broad swaths of land had been cleared for the interstate.

Google Street View, July 2009

Today it is almost hard to imagine that this stretch of Virginia Avenue had once been a vibrant and thriving neighborhood. Thank goodness for photographers such as Bass Photo for documenting our city’s history and archives and libraries, including the Indiana Historial Society, who diligently preserve these two-dimensional treasures that remind us of how our city once looked.

6 responses to “Indianapolis Then and Now: IOOF Lodge and John Koch Furniture / Interstate 65-70, 824-30 Virginia Avenue”

  1. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Four successive generations of my family lived in a home on Greer Street, just three short blocks from today’s featured building. No doubt my forebears must have made purchases from the Kochs many times over the decades (from the 1880s to the 1960s). However, the construction of the Interstate system seriously impacted the neighborhood — cutting them off from businesses, friends, and activities they’d been accustomed to for the better part of a century. Ultimately, my relatives left Greer Street, never to return. Sometimes, I daydream about what it would have been like for me to live in that house, as the fifth generation to occupy it. Unfortunately, during the years that the area suffered from blight and neglect, the residence was demolished. It made me sad to learn it was gone, knowing that my great-great-grandmother had built the home with help from a pension she received after my great-great-grandfather died in the Civil War. The lot where my Butsch ancestors’ home once stood is now part of the side yard for the house immediately north of it.

  2. Ben McGhee says:

    Really neat juxtaposition of those images. It is indeed very hard to imagine Fletcher and Fountain being connected like that. That last image of the bridge got me thinking. Wouldn’t be awesome if we had treated Virginia like Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Link here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Italy_and_Greece_105.jpg

  3. Amy JL Cook (Koch) says:

    Koch Furniture Company listed here is almost certainly the same started by my great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Koch who was born in Niederstotzingen Germany and emigrated to the United States in 1852. Thomas and his wife Christina had five children: William J (who moved to Washington Territory and changed the spelling to my “Cook.”), Elizabeth, Christina, Martha, John, and Christian. John and his children later managed the store according to the records I have found. Seeing this picture makes my day. Thank you!

    Amy JL Cook, DDS
    Auburn, Washington

    (Thomas Koch – William Jennings Cook – Robert Harvey Cook – Calvert Lund Cook – William Calvert Cook – Amy JL Cook)

  4. Joan Hostetler says:

    I’m glad you found a connection here, Amy. Should your family have any other photographs of the store, or even their home in Indianapolis, I would love to have scans. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Mary says:

    Is there any contact information for this site, like an email address?

  6. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    The email for this website is listed as feedback (at) historicindianapolis.com. Thank you.

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