Last week’s Then and Now column about the Hammond Block Building at 301 Massachusetts led me to wonder about its builder, Rezin R. Hammond. Although Hammond sold the flatiron building to a physician within a year or two after constructing it in 1874, his name remains associated with the structure nearly 140 years later. But his name is otherwise unknown to me and he’s not remembered as an early promiment citizen of Indianapolis. Luckily, his descendants have kept his memory alive via a web page created by Roger Kemps (with contributions from William Worth Kemps, Jr. and William Wayne McCall).
Rezin R. Hammond (1828-1897) was born in Clark County, Indiana but spent the majority of his life in Indianapolis as a farmer, property manager, and realtor. At age nineteen he attended the Bryan and Stratton Business College in Cincinnati, followed by a job as a purser on a steamboat in Mississippi. In 1851 he moved to Indianapolis to manage his family’s property. His father Rev. Rezin Hammond, a Methodist minister, had attended the first auction for Indianapolis land in 1821 and bought hundreds of acres (including the land that later became Woodruff Place). He purchased many acres in Washington Township bounded by Pennsylvania Street east to the Monon Railroad tracks and 38th Street north to 46th Street. This farm was known as Sugar Grove Flats due to the the many sugar maples in the woods.
Either Rezin R. Hammond, who was only 23 upon his arrival in 1851, or most likely his father replaced the farm’s log cabin with this home, partially constructed in 1848 with a front addition and tower built in 1871. Posing in front of the house in this ca. 1880 photograph is Rezin R. Hammond, possibly a daughter (right), and his wife Martha (Howland) Hammond, whose sister married Oliver Johnson, of Oliver Johnson’s Woods fame. Rezin’s brother Thomas C. Hammond owned nearby property that was known as Hammond’s Grove. The sixteen-room house was described in a 1922 Indianapolis Sunday Star article as one of the most pretentious houses in the area, noting: “the beautiful old house, painted a dark green that blends well with the elms and maples that line the drive leading up to it, stands well back in the yard, guarded in front by two tall pines. It is built after the fashion of many Pennsylvania and New York farmhouses, with double porches across the front and side.” In its heyday, many people from Indianapolis attended sleighing , skating, and “sugaring-off” parties at the Hammond farm. The property had a pond, a sugar camp, and many outbuildings including a smokehouse, woodshed, and barns all surrounded by a split-rail fence made of black walnut. The family of Rezin R. Hammond lived in this house until about 1882, when life appears to have gotten complicated. Citing intemperance as one of the reasons, Martha filed for divorce in 1885 and the couple moved to separate downtown houses. Rezin worked in real estate and invested in an orange grove in Florida, where he often vacationed. After several years as a rental property, the Hammond house and twenty acres were purchased by attorney Granville Wright, who lived there with his unmarried siblings Benjamin and Anna. Anna owned the land until her death in 1939 and the house appears to have been demolished in the 1930s.
Today the property is numbered 4154 Central Avenue. The current home was constructed on the site in the early 1950s by the Queisser family and features a basement bowling alley and a tennis court.
Researching this property reminds me not to trust newspapers as sources. While helpful, these two articles give conflicting details about the construction date of the property. If you know octogenarians (and older folks) who are familiar with the Meridian-Kessler area, please ask them if they recall this house and share their memories in the comments. I would especially like to know when and why the home was demolished. (And as always, we encourage you to share links to photographs of your families’ Indianapolis homes.)
To learn more about the Hammond-Wright House:
Lot at 4150 Central Has Changed Hands Only Twice, by Agnes M’Culloch Hanna, Indianapolis Sunday Star, 9 Feb. 1930, pt. 1, p. 18 (kudos to the Herron Art Library and Indiana Landmarks for digitizing the Hanna articles about historic Indianapolis houses)
Perfect Example of Old Farm House, in Midst of Modern Homes, Carries History of Century, by Edith S. Dorsey, Indianapolis Sunday Star, 5 March 1922 (posted by Roger Kemps)