Considering the recent ‘to-do’ over the planned demolition of approximately 2,000 Indianapolis structures and the desire by some of us to explore other options before we eradicate more of our (potentially restored) historic homes and buildings, these adverts was an inspiring coincidence. These 1897 adverts from the business section of the Indianapolis city directory bring to mind one of many things to appreciate about early Indianapolis: that resources were not viewed as infinite or so instantly disposable.

The industrial revolution helped provide means to more easily move a building rather than destroying it. Of course, such actions are still possible, yet far less frequently employed. If you’ve ever heard the fascinating stories of the early renaissance of Lockerbie Square, you already know that the late 1960’s and early 70’s held plenty of house moving. (Even that isn’t a total win-win, since many original Lockerbie homes had been destroyed and the replacements were then plucked from their original sites). And while I do not mean to suggest house moving as the solution for all the structurally sound or historically meritorious structures on the incumbent demolition list, I do suggest that there might be an answer we’ve yet to discuss or consider. Because this process seems to be moving along at such a swift pace, and considering the many layers of legalese and various layers of government, it would seem we might need a ouija board, a shaman and a slew of game-day strategists to come up with plausible solutions. Not having that line-up readily available, looks like we will have to rely on old-fashioned ingenuity and community spirit if we are to come up with an answer that will truly do the most good for the most people.

I’m left wondering who– besides those of us with a love of local history– realizes how dangerously close we are to imitating that 1960’s-70’s era of rampant destruction. What I respect most about history, is the choice we have to learn from it. But I guess you’d have to be aware of history to do that.  So, here’s hoping someone in charge picks up a local history book and gleans the lessons inherent therein.  So many years on, can’t we craft a better future? If you have an ‘outside the box’ or other suggestion, please  share your ideas over on the Stop the Demolitions facebook page.

One response to “Sunday Adverts: House Movers, 1897”

  1. Tom Davis says:

    Charles Arthur Webb, of the Webb-Jameson Co. advertised, was born a slave in Asheville, NC in March of 1851. In addition to moving houses, the company moved a 3 story brick building on the St. Mary of the Woods College campus and the first hotel in French Lick. Perhaps his most important project was unloading Miss Indiana from railroad cars and moving her to the base of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Upon his death in July 1906 the Indianapolis News reported :There is no royal road to anything. This man’s color did not stand in his way. He showed that he could do the work and he got it.” (Source: The Negro in Indiana Before 1900 by Emma Lou Thornbrough.)

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