Concluding Preservation Month at HI, we examine one of the biggest residential architectural murders perpetrated upon the citizenry of Indianapolis.

It’s hard not to wince when passing the northeast corner of 13th and Delaware, knowing that the spires, towers and turrets of the long-gone castle should be regally climbing into the sky. Instead, a lumpy parking lot betrays something lurking beneath the surface: a graveyard.

The architect of the dearly departed building was William LeBaron Jenney (25 September 1832- 15 June 1907), best known for his large commercial buildings, but also as the pioneer of skyscraper design and for his affiliation with the Chicago School of architecture. Jenney moved to Chicago following the Civil War in 1867 and began his own architectural office, which specialized in commercial buildings and urban planning. If you’ve never seen or heard of the Ludington Building in Chicago, check out this article, identifying the building as the earliest surviving steel-frame building/ skyscraper, clad in terra cotta, and brainchild of Jenney.

Word is, that student draftsmen who learned from Jenney included Daniel H. Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Martin Roche and William Holabird. And, long before Frank Lloyd Wright worked with the innovative open floor plan, Jenney had designed a Swiss Chalet style home with that concept. For a far better (and quite entertaining) account about Jenney, click here.

Today’s subject is not such a deep loss merely because a renowned architect designed it, or its aesthetic merits, but the home’s story and inhabitants who also left marks on the city of Indianapolis. This was what Booth Tarkington had in mind when he wrote “the house was the pride of the town.” It being the model for the home of The Magnificent Ambersons, even if, in Tarkington’s made-up world, the residence was part of a Woodruff Place-esque setting.

The elaborate abode was conceived by Hervey Bates, Jr, and wife after a trip to the Loire Valley in France. The ultimate construction cost of the house was estimated at $80,000, in 1874. That, of course, was in addition to the thousands to purchase the 200 x 195 (R.B. and J. S. Duncan addition) lot upon which the castle was built.


1898 Sanborn, above–showing the corner of Delaware Street and Home Avenue -now 13th Street

And how did Monsieur Jenney come to Indianapolis to construct this edifice? Wilmer Christian and James Shover, local contractors who helped build it (in addition to the new Bates Hotel, The When building, and many others) put Jenney and Bates in touch. In Mr. Christian’s words: “Of course, I know about the Hervey Bates house, I helped to build it. I had been in Chicago adjusting fire insurance losses after the great fire and I met there Mr. Jenney, the architect, who was building some fine new houses on the North side. I told Mr. Bates about the work Mr. Jenney was doing with Ed May, the architect of the Statehouse, [who had] also praised him. Mr. Bates had brought back from Europe the designs of the kind of a house he wanted to build. Mrs. Bates had made drawings of the general arrangement of the rooms, but they were not working plans.”  Hence, the need for an accomplished architect.

The interior is described in detail in Hester Anne Hale’s book, Indianapolis in the First Century: “A visitor to the new Bates home entered into a long central hall that was crossed by another hall between the foot of the great staircase and the dining room. The staircase ran from the cellars to the ballroom at the top of the house, and the steps, six feet wide, were shallow and easily climbed. Between the first and second floors, mounted on the railing at the landing, was a clock in a gothic case. Inlays of holly wood and ebony surrounded the clock face. On the back was a picture of Father Time holding a child in his arms. An inscription read, “Dost love life, then do not squander time.”


Floorplan above and full view below, inset from rendering published in American Architect and Building News, January 8, 1876.


American Architect and Building News, January 8, 1876 (author’s collection)

“Above the fireplace in the library, down the cross hall was a Latin inscription which translated to ‘Life without books is death.’ The doors of the house were heavy and high. The ceiling there was high, and the parquetry floor laid in diagonals. Glass-fronted cases lined the walls. The names of four poets—Homer, Sappho, Byron, and Burns—were carved above a window.

But the most unusual decoration was found in the dining room. Inlaid black and white panels there depicted English storybook figures—a fisherman with his pole and catch, a jolly butler with a game pie held high, a jester with cap and bells, such as that. The panels appeared throughout the room, figures of game birds over the sideboards, figures of animals and children in a central space.” The house was finished throughout with some of the best quality wood available: curly white walnut, black walnut, holly and ebony among others.



(Apologies for the quality–these are photocopies of microfilm)

Jenney reportedly selected the artists who made these panels, as well as the furniture makers and wood carvers.

“On the first floor also, were the drawing room, music room, billiard room, den, and kitchen. On the second floor belonged to the family, of course. Ellenore, the Bates daughter, who was about fourteen when the family moved into the house, in her room had a dressing case of curly white walnut and a large closet with shelves and deep drawers. But perhaps the finest feature in the mansion was the ballroom, large enough for fifty couples and an orchestra. Adjoining the ballroom was a small anteroom from which the Bates served when they lived there. An unusual little room, it had a platform in a bay window and a ceiling that rose to a peak. It truly was a grand mansion.”

An newspaper article on the home included in its description of the second floor—that the initials of members of the family were incised on the door jambs. “Hervey Bates III, now living at the Columbia Club, gave the names of those to whom the ciphers belonged. E.C.B. indicated the room of his sister, Ellenore Cathcart Bates, now Mrs. John Perrin of California; H.B. II marked his father’s room; C.C.B.—Charlotte Cathcart Bates—was on the left hand lintel of his mother’s room, and across the hall, M.M.C. showed where Mrs. Bates’ sister, Miss Margaret Cathcart, had her particular place…The incising of ciphers on the door casings is not known in any other houses of the period.”

The earliest known photos of the home show a long wood frame porch on the south side of the home. Later photos show the removal of this porch and the addition of a porte cochere, that was later enclosed. After the home was sold to the Knights of Columbus (for a pittance) in the early 1920s, there were further alterations to the building—including all that remains standing today—an auditorium addition built in 1922.



Four families occupied the home before the Knights of Columbus took ownership. Following the Bates family, who lived there  until the fall of 1880, it was sold it to Elijah B. Martindale, who sold it the following day to Dr. Horace Allen and his wife, Harriet. The Allens lived in the home for the next sixteen years. Their four children ranged in age from eight to twenty-one. The twenty-one year old, Miss Harriet Allen was reportedly the model of Isabel in The Magnificent Ambersons according to Mrs. Donald Jameson, niece by marriage of Booth Tarkington. The aforementioned little studio off the ballroom was her art studio. She married in 1883.

While the Allens were in residence, they kept a myriad of pets-—a macaw, a monkey, a pony, a donkey and a cow. “In those days that corner was very nearly in the country.”

Amateur theatricals in Indianapolis took a big step forward in the home as well. The earliest of these theatricals were composed of females—-both audience and actors. They would perform in parlors and drawing rooms for the enjoyment of friends. Then during the Christmas holidays of 1888-1889, the Dramatic Club, for the first time, allowed men into the activities. “It was a great and joyous occasion, and the scene of it was the ballroom of the splendid Allen house…The Allen ballroom had a real stage; there were footlights, curtains, wings ‘and everything,’ and I think Henry Hart’s orchestra then first played the curtain up and for the dancing after the play.’”

One of the most notorious fires in Indianapolis history occurred at Dr. Allen’s National Surgical Institute in January 1892. There were many deaths and injuries and Dr. Allen was unable to re-establish his hospital after that tragedy. Presumably, this played a part in the family’s exit from the home.


The home was next sold to David M. Parry and his wife. They changed the driveway from the south to north side of the home and the city’s address numbering changed that of this home from 679 to 1305 North Delaware Street. At the time, Parry had established himself as a prosperous and self-made buggy manufacturer after trying out a number of vocations. Around 1890, he began manufacturing four-wheeled vehicles: piano-box buggies, surreys, phaetons, and road and spring wagons.

Much later the company changed into the Parry Auto Company. D. M. Parry had also become president of the National Association of Manufacturers and had considerable influence. The Parrys left the Delaware Street home in 1903, relocating to a 100-acre estate near the old Country Club and built a house there. The area is now known as Golden Hill.


Photo courtesy Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission

The final family to reside at 1305 North Delaware Street was the Hugh McGowan family. As with Parry, McGowan was a self-made man. He worked fifteen to eighteen hour days and was dearly respected by those who worked for him. From a Missouri farm boy to raking cinders under a Wabash locomotive, McGowan exemplified the American Dream of turning hard work and brainpower into an improvement to the world, and made himself rich in so doing.

He was known locally as the “Traction King,” after merging 125 miles of street railway into a single system. Later, he also effected a merger of six traction lines into the Terre Haute, Indianapolis, and Eastern Traction Company. When he died, the Kansas City Star published: “No accident made Hugh J. McGowan’s career. No opportunity offered itself to him. He made his opportunity; he achieved his career, every step of it.” And further offering: “Whatever he said was true. His word was relied on because he always made it good.”


After the porte cochere had been enclosed and auditorium added; image on file at Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commision, courtesy the late Charles Latham– who lived across the street

Hugh and Kate McGowan had four daughters, were members of the Art Association and the Country Club and had a second home above Broad Ripple, listed as “S.R. Williams Creek, Indiana” in the 1910 Blue Book. Though unverified, one account has the home where the current Blind Institute Stands on a property on North College.

In other McGowan related news, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, displays a small woven Indian basket, donated by Mrs. Kate McGowan in one of the older sections of the museum. How did this little basket fit into the decor scheme in the giant mansion on the corner of 13th and Delaware. Where would it have been displayed?

One of the McGowan daughters married at the home– Miss Louise McGowan, from The Indianapolis Star, July 5, 1914


It would be interesting to locate relatives of the four daughters.

Virginia Keep Clark composed a portrait of the young ladies in the 1890s.

One of the daughters married and moved to England. Miss Louise McGowan married race car driver, Spencer Wishart, who came in 4th place, driving a Mercedes, at the 1911 “Indianapolis race,” as it was referred to, and in 2nd place in 1913, behind the wheel of a Mercer. He participated in each “500-mile international sweepstakes at Indianapolis,” until his tragic early death at age 24, in a race in Elgin, Illinois in August 1914. The other daughters have been more difficult to trace and there has been scant available information on them. This invites the audience participation part of our site.


After Hugh McGowan died at home in December 1911, age fifty-four, Mrs. McGowan continued living at the home for a number of years before relocating to the Spink-Arms on Meridian Street. She sold this glorious mansion to the Knights of Columbus for a fraction of its worth. And this generous, but tragic choice led to the demolition of one of the most storied, beautiful and worthy homes in the city of Indianapolis.


As converted to Knights of Columbus Clubhouse with auditorium addition- on file at Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission; courtesy of the late Charles Latham


Robert Braun, the first president of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana begged the Knights of Columbus to spare the building, but they would not be prevailed upon, saying the heating bills were too expensive. (insert expletives here)

So now, rather than an impressive castle envisioned by one of the city’s earliest pioneers, constructed by some of the most prolific contractors, planned by the father of the modern skyscraper, inspired by Chateaux of the Loire Valley, experienced and enjoyed by decades of Indianapolis’ most notable citizenry and immortalized in a way by “The Magnificent Ambersons,” there is a wavy parking lot (the home and its rich woods, stones and bricks under that uneven asphalt), and a frequently smoke-filled bingo parlor for the Knights of Columbus, Council 437 that remains.

This is why preservation is essential and so deeply moving. Had someone had a little foresight, a little heart, a little imagination—this would still be one of the tourist attractions of the city—as it was listed in many tourists booklets throughout the early decades of the 20th Century. 1963 is a year that will forever mar Indy’s architectural history.




32 responses to “Preservation Denied: 1305 North Delaware Street”

  1. Sandra Jarvis says:

    I have asked the Knights of Columbus if they could track down the vintage sign and any other architectural elements. We’ll see what they come up with.

    I can just imagine the secret passages in this incredible estate. . .

  2. Angela E. Gilmer says:

    About 20 years ago I lived in the condos at the corner of 13 and Alabama..some one told me they were built upon the debris of an old home that was demollished years prior to 1990..I don’t think it was the McGowan house..but the one behind it on 13th street..yes, such a tragedy like so many in this city..
    How different the Circle would be if they kept the English Opera House..We need to perserve our heritage..

  3. Trudy Belinski says:

    Hugh McGowan used to attend St. Joan of Arc church and was a lovely and generous man. His relatives own an insurance agency. I’m sure you can find it in the phone book.

    Your story about this home was very interesting and I enjoyed it very much.

  4. Anna Bair says:

    How interesting this article!! I have been in the KofC Building many times since 1978 and I never knew the history of the building. Was the McGowan home torn down except for the gym? I always thought the basement was different from the rest of the building and now I know why. Why did the KofC make changes to this beautiful home?

  5. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    I thought I said it in the article, but yes, all but the ‘gym’ was torn down and because of high heat bills and maintenance. I spoke with Mr. Bob Braun who was president of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana at the time, and he said he BEGGED them to reconsider, but they would not be prevailed upon. They said the house was old and in poor condition. (To which I say: who’s fault is that?!) sniff, sniff. One of the biggest architectural losses to this city, EVER.

  6. Ben Risinger says:

    Very interesting website. Thank you for all of your insight.

  7. John Lethen says:

    Great article! It is so sad that this home no longer exists. This had to have been the most beautiful home in all of the midwest. If it were still standing today, it would probably still be the most beautiful home in the midwest. Shame on them for destroying it! Hopefully they can save the Gamble House in Cincy. That too is a beautiful home!

  8. Kathy Smuz says:

    Thanks for this article, my grandmother was a cousin of Spencer Wishart who married Louise McGowan in 1914 in this beautiful home, so I was glad to see the information. I have often wondered what happend to Louise after Spencer’s death, I have found a great deal written about him but virtually nothing on her. What a gorgeous home — and what a shame it is no longer there.

  9. omar espinosa says:

    This building is not culturally relevant, Its just a grand old home that had its day in the sun.

    Though as nice and significant as you may find it to be its not culture, or at least relevant culture.

    Your mistaking someones lavish home, foppery if you will for anything of import.

    Concentrations of wealth were great especially before personal income tax, so of course the robber barons of their day could build to excess.

    Those that amassed great wealth in this era usually at the expense of others never gave anything back,
    unmitigated ego and greed drove the building of these idolic structures.

    Most people of means in their day were in a great competition led mostly by dithering idiots (aka Victorian wives) to build the most, the greatest, to stand out amongst those with real money or real power.

    If i had to take a wrecking ball to every last one of these grotesque and outlandish avaricious tombs of greed, to give but one meal to a homeless person, or one shoot in the arm to a poor child i would.

  10. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    Omar, you’re entitled to your opinion, but you are speaking in sweeping generalizations rather than specifically about this home and the people who lived here.

    Maybe you didn’t read the article or maybe I didn’t write a good enough or clear enough article, but this home inspired Booth Tarkington and was home to some of the earliest settlers of Indianapolis–some of whom started with nothing and worked hard to make their way in the world. The Bates family owned one of the most successful early hotels in Indianapolis, so I don’t think the “robber baron” moniker applies.

    And, the notion that taking a wrecking ball to a beautiful historic home somehow equating to a meal for someone homeless…sounds bizarre and nonsensical. Helping homeless people may be a noble endeavor, but it has nothing to do with the existence of the home of someone well-to-do.

    There will always be large, perhaps ostentatious homes, belonging to wealthy people–wrecking historic homes is wasteful and sad.

    Like my mom says: “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

  11. John Lethen says:

    It is shocking to me that Omar and others share this mentality. He knows nothing about Bates yet he generalizes and states that he was a robber baron. Does he know this for a fact? I think it is jealousy. He’s prolly jealous of the guy up the street from him with a nicer house. He’s prolly jealous of the guy with a nice sports car. There’s a name for people like you. We call them “haters”.

  12. Willie Miller says:

    What a great article on a little piece of history that has been all but forgotten! Thank you for sharing.

  13. Mark Dill says:

    Great article Tiffany. I share your passion for Indianapolis history, culture and architecture. The connection to Spencer Whishart was a delightful surprise.

  14. Chris says:

    Tiffany gave a good response, but I would just add that your comments are crazy and absurd. As Tiffany noted, the individuals in the family that originally built the home were not “robber barons.” The home is culturally relevant as it inspired a great piece of literature. It is also historically relevant because of the individuals who lived in it. Finally, tearing down a historic home (or any home for that matter) would not provide a meal or a shot to anyone. Demolition would just waste many thousands of dollars that could go instead to provide food and medicine to someone in need. Also, wrecking a viable structure is not an environmentally friendly action, and it is a huge waste of resources, in addition to the money wasted.

    If you truly care about helping those in need, then instead of posting insane comments you should go out and volunteer at a charity with a mission you support.

  15. Douglas G. Kiovsky says:

    Hi Kathy.

    My name is Douglas Kiovsky and I’m a member with the Roebling Museum in Roebling, NJ.

    The museum is dedicated to anything regarding the town, family, and their contributions to society like the Brooklyn bridge. At the turn of the 20th century, the family helped to establish the Mercer automobile. As you know, Spencer Wishart was an early pioneer of automotive racing and drove Mercer cars for the last two years or so of his life. Sadly, his early life came to an end in one. What we would like to do is have a small exhibit at the museum honoring the Mercer car and its early drivers. Although I have found photos on ebay of drivers such as Ralph DePalma and Barney Olfdfield, finding anything on Spencer Wishart is extremely hard. Does your family have a photo or personal item that belonged to him that the museum could have to tell the story? Any original items are great but if you don’t have one, a copy of a photo will do.
    Please let me know. I hope to hear from you. Thanks. Doug

  16. Kathy Smuz says:

    Hi Doug — Nice to hear from you! Unfortunately I don’t have any original photos of Spencer Wishart, although I’ve been able to find several reproductions online through Google Images. Most of what I know about Spencer was either relayed to me by my dad, whose mother was Spencer’s cousin, or gleaned from research online and in various books about the early days of racing. I hope you do find something! My husband is from south NJ (Salem) and the next time we get up home we’ll make a point of checking out the museum at Roebling. Good luck!

  17. Robert Newport says:

    A fascinating and thorough account of one of Indianapolis’ grand estates. Pardon the short novel that is about to ensue. When I joined the Mater Dei (mother of God) Knights of Columbus council in 2013, I was dismayed to learn that my earlier brothers felt they had no other choice but to demolish this beautiful home. I have always had an appreciation for historic architecture and preservation, and was almost grief-stricken when my fellow Knights took me upstairs to the Grand Hall for the first time and showed me the doorway that used to lead into the McGowan home as we call it.

    Hugh McGowan himself was a knight, as was his cousin Joseph A. McGowan, who was Grand Knight of our historic council from 1908-1909. Taken from the national K of C “Columbiad” newsletter in June, 1908: “Joseph went to Indianapolis in 1903 to become associated in the traction business with his cousin, Hugh McGowan, who is recognized as the greatest traction magnate in the Middle West, having at present under his management electric lines extending from Illinois to the eastern boundary of Ohio, the crowning event in his busy life being the erection of a ten-story traction building in Indianapolis, the largest and finest building of its kind in the world. Brother Joseph A. McGowan is Secretary and Treasurer of these large interests.”

    No doubt Hugh contributed greatly to the charitable interests of the Knights, and his contributions, combined with the sale of stock much like the turnvereins who built the Rathskeller, also facilitated the growth of the Knights’ physical assets. After Hugh’s death, the family connection led to the purchase of the ‘castle’ at 1305 N. Delaware from Mrs. Hugh McGowan in 1919. At the height of its membership (over 2,000 at the time), the chapter constructed the auditorium building, adjoined to the mansion, in 1922 that still stands today (rumored to contain an indoor swimming pool and bowling alley at the time of its construction).

    The chapter enjoyed a thriving membership base and the auditorium/mansion were host to many charitable fundraisers and social events. I met a woman a couple weeks ago who said her father boarded up in a bedroom upstairs in the home as he underwent a program similar to AA in the 1950s. The building withstood the great depression and world war 2 before membership decline and urban sprawl finally started to take its toll on the vitality of the council in the 1950s. As other K of C councils sprouted up across the city, membership disbursed and according to meeting minutes, expenses outweighed revenue for years before the mansion’s demise in 1963.

    The 60s was a strange time in many ways, and the prevailing attitude in many organizations was progress and change. The national registry of historic places and the Indianapolis Preservation Commission weren’t founded until 1965…sadly, 2 years after the mansion was gone. I appreciate Mr. Braun from Indiana Landmarks pleading with leadership to keep the structure, but I would ask, were there anywhere near the amount of resources and funding available to save aging structures such as this as there are now?

    Thank goodness there are people like you, Tiffany, to advocate for these buildings rich with history. They do indeed enrich our cultural heritage. Along with many other members of our chapter, I catch myself staring at that doorway in the auditorium, thinking that if I had a strong enough imagination, that home would reappear and I could walk right into it….If you think there is anyone that mourns the vacancy of that masterpiece more than the current members of the K of C council, you’re dead wrong.

    Although not as elaborate and intricate as the McGowan mansion, we think our current structure merits preservation, and we are doing our best to hold on to what we still have…Visit our website to learn more: It is my hope that the Knights of Columbus will be remembered more in this city for the countless service hours and charitable contributions than for demolishing a beautiful home. One can only hope.

    Again, thank you for your love of history and preservation.

    To anyone still reading, feel free to drop by sometime, and I’d be happy to show you around over a cocktail.


    Robert Newport

    Chancellor, K of C 437

  18. donna mikels shea says:

    A FASCINATING article and one that I have printed out to keep and share–and my comments relate to some of the names which leapt out to me as I read the article–not relevant to the subject but perhaps my own memories (at age 92) might augment —particularly since some of the names mentioned in the article popped up during my career as a reporter, columnist for the Indidnapolis TIMES–the actual articles can probably be found in the state library since regretfully I did not keep all my most “fun” clippings.

    First, however, the name Virginia Keep jumped out at me. I have some books which wonderful long-ago Elizabeth Eitel Miesse (beloved niece of James W.Riley, daughter of banker Edmond Eitel and a belle of the ball in her youth who also lived into her 90’s) When she was a young elegant lady she and other daughters of families of means volunteered at the then-new Children’s Museum–and she kept into old age some wonderful books which she gave my daughter Kelly Mikels Shea–and which we still have . The Virginia Keep book is I think “The Book of Living Dolls” or something close. I have kept it during a recent move and downsize because a motivated collector of historic ephemera Andrew Potts has a consuming interest in –and probably much more knowledge of–ViKeep than I. So that is point No. 1.

    The other name which evoked a replay moment–and laugh–concerns the name “Cathcart.” One of my first feature stories for The TIMES became an office legend –not for the story itself but for my passive-aggressive handling of the related “expense account” stemming from the assignment…so here is the story:

    Our iconic CityEditor Ed Heinke, who ran the city desk at the top of his lungs and inspired fear and awe in even the most seasoned reporters, had a soft spot. He had an almost religious attitude when handling “old names” –the city’s “Cap S” society. I was a young reporter from another city, and one name was pretty much like another to me which put me frequently in his cross-fire: “Dammit Mikels, you have to learn who’s who and who’s important…” was one of his oft-tirades when I stumbled on names like Athenaeum, Propylaeum–no such rarities existed in my home town of Marion, In. and so I was still in this learning process when one day—a day filled with murders, criminal tires, 4 alarm fires and all the things I regarded as”real news” –Heinke’s voice boomed across the room…”Mikels–get a photog and go out to 9th and Pennsylvania Street–…” as he handed me a scribbled copy paper assignment note. “Get a picture and do a story on these 2 ladies brushing their cat’s teeth…” (NO–I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP–this was his actual assignment and words. It seems that one of 2 elegant spinster sisters named Cathcart –(A CAP-S NAME in the little “important names” box kept nearby) had called Mr. Heinke, he who dealt with Mayors, Governors, city leaders with ruthless gruffness. But he was always gentle as a lamb when the caller was a “cap S” name or a nun.) Thus, he had actually been polite and attentive when a lady named Miss Cathcart called telling him she thought it newsworthy that their cat BOZO “loved to have his teeth brushed daily.” Would the TIMES consider taking and running a photo of this newsworthy daily event? Well, they would indeed said Mr. Heinke and thus he assigned great photographer Dean Timmerman and neophyte r

  19. donna mikels shea says:

    Part 2 above comment–I ran out of space–to resume “and neophyte reporter D Mikels who didn’t know a Cathcart from an ice cream cart. But that day had already started out bad-Friday was the day we had to turn in our expense accounts–and a New Edict from on high had set up a new rule–NO MORE MISCELLANEOUS! From now on, even a .20 cent taxi tip had to be documented with A WRITTEN RECEIPT!!! No More Miscellaneous–and his assignment interrupted my attempts to itemize some l0 cent bus tokens!

    But to be told was to obey in those Front Page Days–and even as we were leaving Heinke was instructing “get a picture of the cat with a toothbrush and be sure to get both Cathcart sisters…” etc etc etc. So, off we went, to the southeast corner of 9th and Pennsylvania Street–a several-storied apartment building you entered from 9th St…up a few stairs as I remember, then through a central door to turn left up a few steps where there was a wooden large newel post–and on that large post sat a very large cat. A mean cat! As I climbed to make the turn the cat’s paw lashed out to put a big scratch across my hand–just as we turned the corner to knock on the door of the first apartment. So there we were–Tim carrying the big Speed Graphic camera of the era, me searching for a Kleenex for my bleeding hand as 2 lovely ladies of mature years opened the door to welcome us–and to call lovingly to the monster cat now following uin. When my wound was noticed, and dismissively apologized for with a “oh, dear, that’s Bozo, he loves to sit there as people climb the stairs and sometimes he’s naughty…” etc. “Doesn’t that bother the tenants,” I asked and then one sister indignantly responded “WELL–if they don’t like it they can just move somewhere else!) (actually they couldn’t because the postwar l940’s were the scarcest housing periods in our nation’s history.) But so much for my intro to Bozo. Now on with the assignment. Tim set up his lights, I took notes and spelled names correctly and –remembering the City Editor’s exacting instructions, asked them to pose with Bozo holding his toothbrush so it was visible…”oh my dear–” their answer in unison “Bozo doesn’t like a toothbrush–we just use a soft rag.” Well, they didn’t know Ed Heinke–if he said a toothbrush, it had to be a toothbrush. But fortunately, just across 9th next to the Toodle House (Gee, I remember and miss Toddle Houses) there was a small convenience store–so off I went across 9th and came back with a new l0 cent Tooth Brush (with a receipt!) BUT–when Bozo was posed again–this time with toothbrush–out came that claw and fury erupted–and consternation abounded. The 2 protective Cathcart sisters acted as if we were cat-molesters—BUT I Had An Inspiration: Back I went, across the street–because as I had shopped for the brush I had noticed a small grocery counter with a stack of small tins–SARDINES! So, another purchase–this time .20 cents or so I think and again–I demanded and got a receipt. So–to wrap up this assignment, back I went, off came the little key that unwrapped the flat sardine cat and by now Bozo was as genteel as the little lace doilies on the back of his chair. I rubbed the tooth brush generously into the smelly oily sardines–his mouth opened–the flash camera flashed–the doting 2 sisters smiled lovingly and sure enough–the next day the TIMES ran my somewhat censored feature about the cat-who-liked-having-his-teeth-brushed .(So much for truth in journalism!) And, that would have been the end of this too-long story except, at day’s end, I got back to finishing that incomplete weekly expense account. “taxi to cover fire–.85 cents” “tip-10 cents (no receipt.) “toothbrush for cat-.10 cents (receipt)/ sardines for toothbrush for cat-.20 cents (with receipt.) AND WITHIN MINUTES AFTER I PUT IT ON THE EXPENSE ACCOUNT SPIKE CAME THAT BOOMING VOICE””MIKELS–WHATTHEHELL IS THIS-???? YOU CAN’T TURN THIS IN…..COME UP HERE AND RE-TYPE IT and that is how I became the expense account heroine of the TIMES City Room staff when his voice lowered to a confiding whisper ”’Just Make It Miscellaneous, damn it!!!!?

    So there==that is my long way of updating at least 2 of the names mentioned in your wonderful story–I later bought and have a little book titled something like “On Our Corner” by the sisters Cathcart with a picture of that building which I wonder if it still stands at 9th and Penn…I am a stranger in my own town downtown anymore.


  20. Nick R says:

    Donna, looks like I found this article a few months after you, but thank you for your story above. I laughed heartily!

    I just finished The Magnificent Ambersons, watched the film (which was terrible), and presently my brain is completely steeped in turn-of-the-century (the last century, that is) Indianapolis history. This article has utterly broken my heart. What it must have been like to be in the original ballroom and watching a stage performance or listening to the orchestra. A poster above mentioned that the door is at the KofC, I wonder what happened to the rest of the original woodwork?

  21. Tiffany Benedict Browne says:

    It is indeed a heartbreaking loss. Another reader of HI alerted me to the existence of some of the original woodwork from one of the rooms a few years ago at White River Architectural Salvage. Last I heard, they had taken it to Nashville, TN (their other location), which bummed me out.

  22. Robert Newport says:

    Hey Sandra! We have sure tried. No luck so far…Let me know if you hear anything!

    Robert Newport
    McGowan Hall Executive Director

  23. Robert Newport says:

    One of our members, a master carpenter, does restoration work. 100% by chance, he came across a pile of beautiful wood trim with a note, “K of C Mansion.” We pleaded with the owner to sell the woodwork to us. We did not retrieve all of the stock but we did retrieve some.

    Robert Newport
    McGowan Hall Executive Director

  24. Anonymous says:


  25. Rita A Costin says:

    What a wonder full story of the history of indianapolis. My granddaughter was in the play Oliver at McGowan hall. I never realized the history behind this. Is McGowan hall all new or is there still some of the mansion attached. Was the house se used for apartments in the 60s. I remember someone saying they lived there.
    It makes my heart so sad that because of expenses this beautiful wonderful structure had to be torn down.

    There used to be a song “they tear down paradise and put up a parking lot ” so sad if I had my druthers. and the money I would redo an old mansion than build a brand new modern home

  26. B says:

    Hi Tiffany.
    What a great article. I have re read it several times since published.
    I am Ronn Benedict Perrin. I believe I am a decendant of the Bates/ Perrin family. And related to James J Perrin founder of Indiana National Bank. Lafayette IN.
    As a preserver and researcher of history myself I thank you for all Indianapolis and America for saving the at least the memory of this great architectural landmark and for illustrating its relevance .
    I also find it curious we share the same middle name.
    Carry on your good work.

  27. Tiffany Benedict Browne says:

    Very kind of you to leave this message, Ron. Thank you. Benedict was my surname, but I retained it after being adopted by my stepfather, and now, being married. I am obsessed with this beautiful lost mansion and cannot pass that corner without thinking of it.

  28. Kassie Ritman says:

    Hi Tiffany,
    While researching for my book Meridian Whispers (stories of the homes in the North Meridian Street Historic District) I “bumped into” Marjorie McGowan. She was killed in an automobile accident near Yale University in 1916. She was a passenger in a former Indianapolis 500 entry that had been sold to the Murdock Brothers (James and Alexander)of Indy as a Street car. The Packard had previously belonged to daredevil driver Ralph DePalma.

  29. Robert Newport says:

    Hi Rita,

    Sadly the mansion and carriage house were completely demolished…however radar surveys reveal the intact foundation. Two mansion walls and one carriage house wall remain as load bearing walls only for the existing McGowan structure, built in 1922. Yes, people lived in the mansion up until its demolition…mostly returning service members from WW2, college students, and residents of alcohol cessation programs. The Catholic Theater Guild also had its headquarters in the mansion for a time, performing plays regularly in the McGowan Hall auditorium.

    -Robert Newport, McGowan Hall

  30. GREGORY fILARDO says:

    So what have you left as a legacy? Having worked with the homeless, many are addicted to drugs, smoking or other self destructing idioms. It takes will power and determination to over come these. The Lord gave us the ability to create as he does and will things into existence. I saw the house at 16th and Delaware in 1972 and fell in love with it (Men of Harmony-Barbershop) hopefully still using it, I moved to Milwaukee, WI. and bought one of the old castles which was abandoned. I restored it on a school teacher’s earnings for 28 years, I taught over 25,000 middle school children in the inner city of Milwaukee. They learned respect and discipline. I took a class of my students to city hall for a hearing to save a mansion(owned by the Knights of Columbus) soon to be demolished by Marquette University in 1980. In front of 1000 people when the mayor asked if anyone had further comments, one of my students raised his hand and said “Your honor, how can you expect us to respect things when you do not….. Those were not my words but what a legacy of thought is all about….

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