This charming Folk Victorian cottage was built at 722 N. Highland Avenue in the 1880s by carpenter John Amandus von Spreckelsen (1859-1933). The German-born carpenter came from a family of plaster workers, carpenters, and contractors. Relatives that I interviewed in the 1980s remembered that even though he was German, the family lived in England when John was young and he still had a hint of a British accent in his old age. Here his wife Catherine poses with their children on the porch in about 1890. Of interest in this photograph are the painted turned posts and spindles, fan-like trim (including on top of the gables), functional window shutters, wooden sidewalk, and lattice fence. It is unfortunately that black and white photography of the era cannot reveal the vibrancy of the paint colors. His carpentry shop was in a two-story carriage house in the back yard. The Italianate house next door appears to be under construction since the windows are not yet installed, there is no corner trim, and some sort of bracing or scaffold is attached to the porch. After the von Spreckelsen family moved to Cloverdale, the house was occupied by several other families until it was demolished between 1962 and 1972. (Cottage Home Neighborhood Archive, loaned by Thelma Frohn)
Older neighbors recalled that the five houses in the 700 block of Highland Avenue disappeared due to fire and neglect. Mayflower Transit, located in the brick building in the background, used the lots as parking in the 1960s and early ‘70s. They later donated the five lots to the Cottage Home Neighborhood Association who have been working hard to convert the land into a community space, thanks to a grant from Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. The area will has a children’s garden and play area, 15 raised garden beds, an urban prairie, bee hives, and a circular grassy area for picnics and gatherings. In progress is shelter and stage that will be used for musical performances and movies. This view shows a 2010 neighborhood work day in the park. (From the Flicker page of antijamsect)
On May 19-20 the community space, along with 14 houses and gardens, will be showcased at the Cottage Home Neighborhood Home & Garden Tour. Tickets are available at the Lockerbie Marsh, Midland Arts and Antiques Market, and Pogue’s Run Co-Op. Check out the details and make plans to attend!
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