(photo by Dawn Olsen)
Lloyd D. Hammond was a working man. He was a travel agent for at least a decade, servicing the citizens of Indianapolis from the late 1800s through the 1910s. He was a junior manager, too. A man of position at C. Dow Rector. And, of course, he lived in the city. Lived in the same house for approximately 20 years, in fact.
In 1913, at the same time Hammond was encouraging vacations and getaways, William E.R. Hesselgrave was working as a clerk at Kingan & Co. Hesselgrave had been living in Indianapolis for just two years, after migrating from his native Leeds, England. Hesselgrave would continue to work for Kingan for 45 years, eventually as an architect. Like Hammond, he would live in the same home for many years.
Hammond and Hesselgrave probably never knew each other. They were probably very different, as well; different interests, different senses of humor. They, perhaps, had different tastes in cigars. (Or women.) Perhaps one was an insomniac, the other, an easy dreamer. Extroverted or quietly introspective? Contagious laugh or mischievous smile? Two very different people with two very different occupations. And yet, Hammond and Hesselgrave had one thing in common: 430 N. Walcott.
The house was built around 1900, and is nestled on a side street between Vermont and Sturm. It has approximately 2,000 square feet, but what intrigued me most about this dwelling was its windows. The curved brickwork, the original panes of glass. Masonry for the early 20th-century home.
However, what had initially caught my eye (well, eyes, really; I have two) was the window-less second floor. The boarded-up windows on the north side. The discordant mixture of brick and olive-toned siding toward the back of the home. What had happened? This house, with its quaint front porch, had surely been welcoming in the past. It, like so many neighborhoods of Indianapolis, posed the recurring question of Why? Why so empty?
In previous decades, it had been filled with life and people. From the time it was built until the early ’20s, 430 N. Walcott was inhabited by Hammond. A man by the name of John H. Downes briefly resided in the property after Hammond, but he soon relocated. The home was vacant for only a short period of time, in the late 1920s, before Hesselgrave staked it as his home. And there, from the 1930s to his death in 1958, he stayed.
For the first sixty years of the home’s existence, it had three, perhaps four owners. The same cannot be said for later years. Parcel information revealed that 430 N. Walcott has had at least ten owners since 1975. By 2009, however, it was vacant. And now, nearly four years later, it is still uninhabited, exposed.
As addressed in an article last Friday, demolition is often the first (and “less creative”) solution to a neighborhood eyesore. However, empty lots and grassy patches (which are now common on Walcott Street) don’t offer a sense of “home.” They give one less neighbors, less sense of a community. They invite the depositing of trash from both wind and passerby. And, most of all, an empty hole between historic homes says nothing for the lost property, a place that hosted families, friends, memories.
For a combined 50 years, 430 N. Walcott was home to the lives and memories of two very different men. Hammond and Hesselgrave both laughed within its walls, welcomed life changes and advances. They aged, watched their families grow. They were perhaps angry with something, or sad and morose in the front room. Decades of chuckles, tears, smiles, arguments, affections, dreams, wishes, love.
It seems cruel to break down a place with such an emotive past.
Though the home is in need of rehabilitation, it can be done. It can be the quaint brick home on Walcott, the one with arched windows. It can be a home. All it needs is another working man.
Thanks, Dawn. Well done.
Dawn, again you are a very eloquent spokesperson as to why these neighborhood demolitions must stop. I hope your advocacy speaks to many others, and inspires them to take action as well.
My grandparents lived on Walcot thave to ask my older sisters where on Walcott they lived.
Please do! I’d love to learn more about the house, and the street in general. Someone on Facebook said that his great-uncle may have lived in this house in the mid 1980s. He also added that his great-grandmother lived just down the street, but that the house has since been demolished.
Such an eloquent post!
A house is not a building. A house is a story.
This blog is not only interesting for this article but also since this area was probably part of CPT Sturm’s farm where he sold the northern portion for the Indianapolis Arsenal during the Civil War, this area remained both rural and then suburban towards 1900…the Sturm farm remnant immediately south of what is now Arsenal Technical High School (my younger sister Peggy finished there and later in her teaching career came back as Tech’s first alumnus Principal..had to throw that in!) was, according to ld plat map’s I’ve seen at the downtown library branch, was the last area to be developed in this immediate area.
This house looks quite familiar. Reason being,it is a ealier version of todays tract homes. The common link,both use brick on the front elevation to give an illusion that they are made of a more substantial material than mere wood.
Thank you, everyone. I would much prefer to see a home (or commerical building, or any property, for that matter) be reused or rehabilitated. I’m also not opposed to transforming properties from commercial to residential (i.e. the <a href="http://historicindianapolis.com/sunday-prayers-tinker-flats/"Tinker Flats) or vice versa. In Greenfield, for example, a lot of the older homes along 40/Main Street have been converted into law offices, dentists offices, etc. I struggle with the easy “solution” of just tearing a building down because it stands empty. A lot of properties in Indianapolis are vacant because construction has occured outside the loop, in the “vinyl villages.” Somewhere along the line, we’ve collectively failed to make use of the space given to us. Personally, I find that there is much more heart, much more personal soul and story, involved in older buildings. Or even the nostalgia of childhood homes. Truthfully, there will come a time when my childhood home in Iowa will need to be leveled (or at least ripped to its bare bones). It’s going to be heartbreaking to watch it happen, because of the memories it contains, and the lives it hosted.
Great article. As a child in the late 1960’s we lived at 458 North Randoff, the street just east of Walcott. I do remember the house. I didn’t know anyone who lived there. However, the arched windows always interested me for some reason. I knew friends that lived across the street from it. In fack, I knew most of the children in the neighborhood back then. Thanks for writing this all up. Great work.
Hi. My step grandparents lived in this house. My step dad Reg Hesselgrave and lots of siblings.i loved going to their house. My grandmother on my Moms side lived right up the street on Walcott.