As I have given Indianapolis Then and Now slide presentations through the years, along with author Nelson Price and photographer Garry Chilluffo, this particular set of photographs has drawn the biggest response. We know that not every house can and should be saved. Cities grow and property needs change. Structural condition and limited finances prevent restoration. Sadly, Victorian architecture went out of style. But the contrast of this beautifully wooded homestead to the current bland commercial building and underused concrete parking lot often elicits a collective groan from the audience as it is hard for many of us to understand how past generations let so many architectural gems meet the wrecking ball.
Clifford Place was the name of the grand Victorian home of Stoughton A. Fletcher (1831-1895). He was the son of prominent early Indianapolis resident Calvin Fletcher, but was known as Stoughton A. Fletcher, Jr. so as not to confuse him with his uncle. Year-by-year, Calvin acquired many farms on the near eastside between East Tenth Street, Massachusetts Avenue, and Sherman Drive, although he only lived on the farm for a very short time after his retirement from banking and law. After Calvin’s death in 1866 his family sold and divided the property, although their dreams of developing a residential district with expensive villas never came to fruition. Stoughton had the home built in the early 1870s at a time when the city was expanding in all directions. This particular property was north of the newly platted Woodruff Place, just northeast of the United States Arsenal (now Arsenal Technical High School), and situated on Clifford Avenue (renamed Tenth Street in 1897) with a bustling streetcar line. After careers in railroad and banking, Stoughton became president of the Indianapolis Gas Company and the Atlas Engine Works. He lived here with his wife Ruth Elizabeth Barrows and their four children, and subsequently his second wife, until his death in 1895. (1880s albumen photograph from the Indiana Historical Society)
Neurologist Dr. Albert E. Sterne purchased Clifford Place and opened Norways, a private sanatorium, in 1898. It was a hospital for people with nervous and mental disorders at a time when mental illness was starting to be understood as a disease. The facility attracted customers from across the country and, at an average price of $50 per week by 1918, this was an expensive stay. Advertising mentions that the sanatorium was for people who were “used to luxury.” Attendants treated all forms of “constitutional maladies,” (including rheumatism, diabetes, stomach and kidney troubles, paralysis, and drug addictions) particularly those cured by the use of electricity, baths, massage, diet, and rest. Norways was the first mental institution in the state to employ insulin, metrazol, and electric shock therapy. After Sterne’s death in 1931, Dr. Larue Carter served as the hospital’s chief consultant.
Early advertisements promoted the hospital’s ideal location next to the fountains, flowers, and trees in Woodruff Place and a short walk to Pogue’s Run Parkway (now Spades Park) and Brookside Park. The large tract of natural forest trees in Technical Institute Park protected Norways from the dust and odor of the city. This postcard, made before 1907, shows the beautifully landscaped grounds on the four-acre facility. Although first named Sterne’s Sanatorium, Dr. Sterne changed the name to Norways due to his love for the many large Norway maple trees on the property. (From the collection of Heritage Photo & Research Services) See another ca. 1907 view at the Indiana Historical Society.
These illustrations of a typical patient’s room, the library, reception room and the sunnery give us a glimpse of the home’s former beauty. (The Journal Handbook of Indianapolis by Max R. Hyman, 1907)
This 1949 Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map shows several additions and outbuildings. Literature stresses that “at no time are undesirable patients allowed to mingle with those upon whom the slightest deleterious influence might be exerted through contact.” Mild mental patients were housed in separate structures. Norways was on the northeast corner of East Tenth and Sterling Streets. (IUPUI University Library/Indiana State Library)
A plan drawn by architect Edward D. Pierre indicates that Norways considered expanding in 1949, but the improvements were never made. (Ball State University, Pierre and Wright Architectural Records Collection)
Norways operated until 1957 when Kroger razed the old house and other structures to build a supermarket in 1958. By the 1970s the store was nicknamed the “Fellini Kroger” (after the Italian movie director) due to the colorful cast of customers similar to the eccentric characters in his movies. After a long run, Kroger closed in the spring of 2007 and leases the building to Teacher’s Treasures, a nonprofit group that provides free school supplies to teachers. (Google Street View, ca. 2010)
Question to Historic Indianapolis readers: Why did the avenue and homestead include the name Clifford? In my research I find no mention of the name Clifford in the Fletcher genealogy and no prominent Clifford family on the near eastside. An 1876 map shows a Clifford Park a little farther east, but not on Clifford Avenue. I’m stumped.