Talk with most anyone about what they’d like their legacy to be and they won’t enumerate an endless list of specific things, but rather, speak in general terms, like: “I want to have contributed/ made a difference to …..” (fill in the blank).
I often think of this when examining the pieces and/or stories of the past. Some of the people who made a difference ‘live on’ through buildings, names, traditions and the like. Much like a dog remarking an already damp lamp post, those of the current generation appear ever eager to wipe away remnants of the former.
One of the goals of HistoricIndianapolis.com is to resuscitate places, names and events in danger of being lost to the dusty and rarely visited archives of the past.
Wouldn’t we all love to say we’d left some kind of legacy? Ever contemplate how quickly we disregard the last great doctor, philanthropist, or innovator in favor of the latest? You’d think we could more creatively make space for the new, without having to combo that with erasing the old–but all too frequently, that’s how it goes. We will do our best to continue celebrating what little we’ve saved by reminding everyone who’ll listen to remember our past…even if it’s too long ago even for first-hand memory.
Let’s take for example, a place like Cadle Tabernacle. Some of a more mature generation have heard of it, and possibly even glimpsed it or visited it, before being razed by Indiana National Bank in 1968 . Another building, long gone–so, why should we care?
Was E. Howard Cadle worthy of our remembrance? One may find inspiration in the remotest of places, no? Here’s the shorter digest on his story: born in Fredericksburg, Indiana in 1884 and in the midst of a life filled with drinking and gambling, Mr. Cadle was informed he had mere months to live. As so often happens in such cases, he suddenly embraced Christianity and eventually regained his health–which he credited to his mother’s prayers. He, as many before and since, decided that he should promote his Christian beliefs and endeavored to build a large convention center for cultural, educational and other activities–and with his own money. Seems that once his spiritual life turned around, his business one did as well– as he made a fortune through a chain of shoe-repair shops and eventually shelled out over $300,000 (in 1921, no less) to construct his religious convention center.
With a front exterior modeled after the Alamo, and creating a stark contrast to other nearby architecture–like City Hall, just yards away, Cadle seated in excess of 10,000 people plus room for an additional 1,500 people in the choir stalls above. That choir loft would be home to what was reportedly the largest permanent choir of its kind in the world. (How ’bout that, Indianapolis?). Cadle lost control of his brainchild for a period of years, eventually regaining control, but regardless of who controlled the space, gatherings of interest to most all of us were assembled there at one time or another. Hard to believe that meetings of the Ku Klux Klan, prize fights and dance competitions were held in the same space where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would later visit and speak on December 12, 1958.
In other parts of its colorful past, and perhaps the first thing called to mind by those who are aware of Cadle Tabernacle, was its association with beloved Hoosier actress, Carole Lombard. On January 15, 1942 (yep, 70 years ago today, and incidentally, on aforementioned Martin Luther King, Junior’s 13th birthday) Carole Lombard lead visitors in singing the Star Spangled banner, inside Cadle Tabernacle after fundraising at the state house earlier in the day. Lombard sold $2,017,513 in war bonds in one hour, with buyers receiving a red, white and blue receipt bearing Lombard’s likeness and signature, along with the message: “Thank you for joining with me in this vital crusade to make America strong.” She continued to urge sales later that evening also at Cadle. It turned out to be the last night of her life.
We continue losing places that have meaning to our city’s history. Can we all agree to hold each other accountable to do better?