2100 block of Pennsylvania, Riley’s Rental?

Today is James Whitcomb Riley’162nd s birthday which brought to mind a Herron-Morton Home in the 2100 block of Pennsylvania that has a paddle with the years “1892-1908” and the name James Whitcomb Riley engraved on it. The Herron-Morton Place Historic Area Plan entry on the property says that James Whitcomb Riley owned this house between those years and that it was occupied by Frank Payne who was a telegraph operator for the Indianapolis Journal, for which Riley wrote.

Neither the Greenfield nor Indianapolis Riley homes had any knowledge of this place. Is it an urban legend, like “John Dillinger drank here/ slept here/ robbed here.” Or did the Hoosier poet really own a rental property?

Where is the poem about being a landlord?

5 responses to “James Whitcomb Riley, The Landlord?”

  1. Steph Mineart says:

    Frank Payne was the husband of Riley’s niece – can’t remember her name off the top of my head, but she’s buried near him at Crown Hill. Frank and his wife lived there together. The owner of the house did some research on it; I used to own the house next door.

  2. Steph Mineart says:

    Also, I have a bunch of photos of this house before it was restored on my Flickr site. When I first bought the orange house next door, this house was a wreck and a regular flop house for homeless guys and drug dealers. It was fixed up in 2004/2005.

    The house I owned was originally owned by Thomas J. Steele, who was the managing editor of the Indianapolis Journal in the early 1900’s. He was a friend of James Whitcomb Riley; Riley wrote for him occasionally. I did some research at IHS on my house and came across the connection between them.

  3. Mike Perron says:

    It’s a beautiful home on the inside. I listed it for sale a few years ago right after it was rehabbed. I believe the owner has documentation connecting Riley to it as an owner and even an old photo of Riley sitting in a rocking chair on the porch. Keep me updated on what you find out.

  4. Tom Davis says:

    According to Elizabeth Van Allen’s bio of Riley, Mary Riley, JWR’s sister was married to Frank Payne, though she did eventually leave him because he was abusive. See p. 333 n120. Mary and her daughter, Lesley Payne, are buried at the top of Crown Hill with JWR.

  5. Brigette Cook Jones says:

    Frank Charles Payne (1862-1949) was married to James Whitcomb Riley’s youngest sister, Mary Elizabeth Riley Payne (1864-1936). Frank and Mary Elizabeth married June 30, 1888 in Marion County. Frank and Mary Elizabeth had one daughter – Leslie Payne (1891 – 1976). They are in the 1900 Census as living in Indianapolis – where Frank was listed as working as a newspaper editor.

    By 1910 – Frank is living in New York City, divorced, and working as a theater manager.

    It is very likely that Riley owned the home and rented the property to his sister and brother-in-law. For a definite answer – – a title search would need to be done to confirm Riley’s ownership.

    I do have a picture of Frank Payne – several pictures of Mary Elizabeth Riley Payne – and some of Leslie Payne. JWR paid for Leslie to take violin lessons in France and Mary traveled with her.. Mary and Leslie are both buried with JWR at the top of Crown Hill – Like Tom Davis stated.

    I work for the Riley Home in Greenfield and would be interested in any info that you have on this house.

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