There was a girl who hated history class. I mean DETESTED.
Let’s face it, the topic can be DRY. The people who taught it were inevitably boring, monotone and sticklers for memorizing dates of battles, generals and other minutiae that seemed irrelevant to me. Really, history 101 was the class period where I could catch up on daydreaming and note-writing to friends (this is many years before texting, of course).
Fast forward to my twenties, I dreamt of the day I’d get to live in a Victorian. After breaking up with a long-term boyfriend in L.A. and a visit to my grandmother at St. Vincent’s here in Indianapolis, I decided on a whim to move here. I had wanted to live in Portland, Oregon, but couldn’t afford it. Indianapolis had never been a consideration because my experience of the city was limited to the summer visits with the grandparents in Haughville, holed up in the one room with a/c in their smoke-filled, crooked house with the rusty well-water on a hill near Central State Hospital. For fun, we’d go to Lafayette Square Mall or Amvets or to Bloomington to visit my great-grandmother. My opinion of this place was not glowing.
However, when I came to see my grandmother in the hospital, I was stunned to see a Trader Joe’s nearby. And when I picked up one of those real estate rags at a grocery store, I quickly realized I might get a Victorian mansion for less than what I’d pay for a port-o-let in Compton. I decided I’d move to Indianapolis. My mom and I loaded up a Ryder truck and drove here from Los Angeles. I didn’t know anyone, but I knew I wanted a Queen Anne. And that is exactly what I got.
So what does all this have to do with Historic Indianapolis? Well, I made my dream come true–my home has lovely bones (though desperately in need of some Sunday prayers)–and not knowing anyone in Indianapolis, I decided to create my own fun by getting acquainted with my home’s history. This lead to spending hours upon hours in the microfilm department at the Interim Central Library (Old City Hall). Researching my home, morphed into researching other nearby homes, my neighborhood and then the city. Within a year or so, I could name every person living on my block (at least) in 1905. I co-edited our neighborhood newsletter and got involved in the local community. If I’m going somewhere, I want to make a difference.
I embraced my adopted city. And found that I was amassing a small library of vintage books, ephemera and photocopies from the library. It became a bit of an obsession. So I started a little side business researching home histories for people. I even ended up on the cover of InTake (R.I.P.) evidently, someone young(ish) with a passion for history isn’t commonplace.
After being rebuffed on the offer to contribute to another publication which was to be utilizing a “real historian” (I believe were the words), it occurred to me that a blog might be a fun way to share some of the nifty things I had unearthed in my research. So it was, two years ago today, that I started a blogspot account as a place to share some of my research and other discoveries about the city. I just started uploading things I loved and thought were cool and began a facebook page, and thought, if anyone else is interested too–great! And people have been so warm, welcoming, kind and appreciative for these puzzle pieces of the city’s past, that I love sharing them. So much so, that after losing my gainful employment last year, I thought that maybe I could find a way to live the “Oprah” way by doing something I love. I’m still working on that part, but there are some very cool ideas germinating and I am optimistic about making them a reality in the very near future.
In the meantime, I do appreciate the emails and inquiries I receive as well as the contributions of our growing list of historians and experts–who have been at this much longer than I have and have my deep admiration and respect: Connie Zeigler, Joan Hostetler, Shannon Hill and more recently, Steve Campbell and Libby Cierzniak. I hope others will follow as we evolve. I also would not have made the rapid jump forward that happened in February without the help of Nathan Bilger, who has created our current website from a very rough sketch I drafted. We have a professional marketing company, Silver Square, helping take Historic Indianapolis to the next level and I’m thankful for that too. Stay tuned, because we have some exciting plans in the works.
I am most thankful that Indianapolis is a place, as I anticipated, that I can get my arms around. People are friendly and helpful and seem to enjoy a bit of the reminiscing. And I love honing my skills of finding connections. Maybe I’m delusional, but I feel like if I keep on this path, I might actually make a difference AND a living. And that is incredibly invigorating. It’s hard to describe how exciting it is to get on the website at 1 in the morning and find over 100 people with some reason to be there. Thank you for the Hoosier hospitality, everyone! There is plenty more where this came from…