The Gladden-Stempfel home, located at 1564 N. Park Ave., was constructed in 1898. This undated photo shows the home in pristine condition. (Copyright IHPC Collection, IHPC, courtesy Digital Collections of IUPUI University Library. Photo used with permission.)
The wooden giant on the corner of 16th and Park has always intrigued me. Its curved windows draw my eyes up and around to each detail. The modillions, the columns, the arch on the second floor, even the “cornerstone” in the brick chimney. From what I can see, the roof is intact. And from what I know, there isn’t mold. It doesn’t appear to be exposed, lonely, forgotten, partially collapsed, or utterly crumbling. But it still worries me, because each time I stopped by the 16th Street Kroger, I would glance at it forlornly, milk in hand, and mutter about the peeling paint. I wished for a full rejuvenation.
Like so many other homes in the Old Northside (and in Herron Morton as well), 1564 N. Park Ave. is one that most likely exhausts its owners with maintenance requests. Repairs, replacements, and preservation efforts can be costly, most definitely, and so it is unsurprising that certain parts of the house are left unfinished. For example, the decorative “bracket” under the northern oriel window is a bit bare. The detail on the bracket is exquisite, and it mimics the ridges and contours of a scallop shell. But the paint is patchy, or even nonexistent. The remnants of renovation work remain tacked to the exterior. True, as seen from 16th Street, the house lacks curb appeal (though it did catch my addicted-to-the-unpolished eye). However, there is always a reason why a project goes unfinished, or why an owner is unable to fully maintain a residence. Things happen. Materials cost money. It’s just … hard—to keep up, to pay for things. That said, my prayer this week is for those unfinished projects. Because little things can turn into big things, and if there is anything I’ve learned from touring Sunday Prayers properties, it’s that the interior of a home depends on the stability of its exterior.
Today, this home is situated near redevelopment sites included in the 16th Street Strategic Redevelopment Plan. However, in the late 1800s, the area was not yet filled with homes. In fact, the 1887 Sanborn Map shows that half of the 1500 block of Park Ave. was green space. Relatively empty, it was. But where there were houses, there were columns, front porches, fish scales and dormers. And when 1564 N. Park Ave. was constructed, many of those same details made an appearance. The original owner of the property, Alfred H. Gladden, had the home built in 1898 (the “cornerstone” embedded in the top of the chimney dates it as such). Gladden owned and operated Gladden Lumber Co. and lived in the residence for 20 years. Other architectural features included in the home’s construction were fluted porch columns, modillions, oriel windows, hipped dormers and balustrades. There are even a few historic photos of the home available through the collaborative efforts of IHPC and the Digital Collections of IUPUI.
In 1909, the ownership changed, and a man by the name of Theodore Stempfel moved into 1564 N. Park Ave. Stempfel was born in Germany in 1863 and immigrated to the United States in 1883. He married Flora Koster two years later and, together, they had a son, also named Theodore. The elder Stempfel remarried in 1895. He and his second wife, Anna Lieber, had three children together. Stempfel apparently held a variety of occupations before working as an assistant cashier at the American National Bank. He remained in the banking business for several years, but also became involved in real estate. According to the 1979 Old Northside Historic Preservation Plan, Stempfel also assisted Rudolph Schwarz in “completing the research for the historical groups on the Soldiers & Sailors Monument.” Stempfel died on Christmas Eve, 1935, and the house was left to his eldest son, Theodore. (The son’s full name appears alongside the property in the 1930 city directory.)
It was not long, however, before 1564 N. Park Ave. was more than a residence; it was the home of the Floyd Jones School of Sacred Music. According to a July 29, 1939 article that appeared in The Register-Guard (a Eugene, Ore. publication), Floyd Jones was known throughout the country for “his ability as an evangelistic song leader and tenor soloist, and for the past 10 years, has directed summer school sessions for young people wanting training in sacred music and church leadership.” The article, which advertises a local performance by “The Floyd Jones Singers,” states that Jones and his wife, starting in 1933, had taken a group of singers on an “extended tour” each summer. The reputation of Jones was indeed widespread; a public invitation to a concert appeared in The Ada Evening News (from Ada, Okla.) on Nov. 11, 1945. But after his tours and travels, Jones always had a place to come home to: 1564 N. Park Ave. (He remained a resident during the home’s use as a school of music.) There was also a “rear unit” in which another tenant simultaneously resided.
By the 1950s, however, 1564 N. Park Ave. was once again a single-family residence. A woman by the name of Laura S. Dickerson was listed at the home in the 1951 city directory. By 1960, the home had been divided into apartments. Specifically, there were 10 units, three of which were vacant. The rate of vacancy in the 1960s was nothing compared to that of the 1980s, however. A tumultuous number of units were vacant at that time; only two of the eight units in the house were occupied.
Today, the house isn’t forgotten. It’s … in the process. It’s hard. So while new apartments and new businesses appear along 16th Street, let’s hope for the ability of the owners, for the future of the house. Because it deserves to be a knockout, there on the corner of 16th and Park.