(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.