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With all of the talk of demolition of abandoned buildings, it is encouraging to see neighborhoods take charge of their problem properties and find positive new uses. The proactive residents of Englewood Neighborhood on the near east side have taken their former public school on North Rural Street and found an adaptive reuse as housing.

The Lucretia Mott Public School No. 3, located on Rural Street just north of East Washington Street, was completed in 1905. During the 1890s-1910 this area transformed from a rural setting (thus the street name) into a thriving, then suburban, neighborhood. Contractor W. P. Jungclaus Company built the brick structure for the Indianapolis Public School system for under $43,000. The elementary school was named after Quaker minister Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793-1880), a social reformer remembered for her efforts to end slavery and the promotion of women’s rights. (Indianapolis Public School)

The first open air school in Indianapolis started in the Lucretia Mott School in 1913. The open air movement (also called the fresh air movement) began in Europe and quickly spread to the United States in 1908. In an era rife with tuberculosis and malnutrition, these schools cared for children who were anemic, thin, and showing pre-tuberculosis symptoms. Promoted by the Indiana State Board of Health and the Indiana Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis, the schools encouraged fresh air and sunshine, physical activity, balanced meals, and one hour of rest each day. Activities included gardening, manual arts, and handwork. This photograph shows students in their third floor classroom. Nutritious meals were available and public nurses regularly weighed the children to track their progress. Several former students recalled that they hated school in the winter when the windows were wide open. They were given “Eskimo suits,” consisting of itchy, hooded wool coats and pants to wear over their clothes. Many questioned placing the sickest children in these cold conditions, but physicians theorized that fresh air and daylight would improve their health. The open air movement largely disappeared by World War II when tuberculosis was better understood and antibiotics reduced the incidence of the disease. (Indiana Album/From the Indiana State Board of Health)

After many decades of continuous use, the school closed in 1980 and was purchased by The Care Center (now part of Wheeler Mission Ministries). The Care Center provided shelter and services for homeless women and children. After moving this branch, the Wheeler Mission donated the empty building to the adjacent Englewood Community Development Corporation in 2009. Most members of the CDC live in the neighborhood and attend the adjacent Englewood Christian Church. Although the front façade has seen few alterations, the old school looks “scalped” due to the removal of the cornice and dentils. (Google Street View, 2009)

Construction is underway to adapt the school into 32 apartments. The Englewood CDC, along with partner the John H. Boner Community Center, anticipates spending $6 to 7 million on the building, now known as The CommonWealth. The mixed-income apartments will be evenly divided between market rate units, low to moderate income units, and apartments for chronically homeless families or individuals with a mental illness (supervised by Adult & Child Services). Tenants will share the gymnasium and other public spaces.

Learn more about the Englewood Community Development Corporation on their web page and follow the progress of the CommonWealth and other projects on their Facebook page.

Although newspapers too frequently only mention crime and negative aspects of the near east side, there are dozens of success stories like this one. Neighbors in Englewood and the other twenty neighborhoods in the NESCO (Near East Side Community Organization) area are working diligently to improve their part of the city. Learn more about Englewood Neighborhood (bounded by Rural, Michigan, Lasalle Streets and Moore Avenue) in their new book, The Electric Glory of the Near Eastside: The Rollercoaster Ride of Englewood’s Modern History. 

[Would you like to see your old photographs featured in this Then and Now column? If so, attach a high resolution jpeg or png and any details about the building within our “Say Hi” link in the footer of our website.]

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20 responses to “Then and Now: Lucretia Mott Public School No. 3 and the CommonWealth Building 23 N. Rural Street”

  1. Joan Hostetler says:

    I forgot to mention that this wonderful project is part of the Super Bowl’s Eastside Legacy Project. Learn more about the project here: http://www.indianapolissuperbowl.com/legacy-project-overview/.

    Speaking of the Super Bowl, if you disagree with permanently renaming historic Georgia Street for the Super Bowl Village and urban outdoor space, please sign the free petition (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/keepgeorgiast/) and join “Keep Georgia Street” on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Keep-the-historic-name-Georgia-Street-Indianapolis/283498898332005?sk=wall). Thanks!

  2. Phyllis Money Brown says:

    As a graduate of school 3 I was wondering what ever happened to the wonderful oil painting of Lucretia Mott that hung outside of the principal’s office. Also in about 1951 or 1952 we buried a time capsule near a flagpole.

  3. Joan Hostetler says:

    Phyllis, IPS has a wonderful collection of paintings in storage and many still hanging in schools. I know that the Lucretia Mott painting did not stay with School #3.

  4. Janice Foddrill Gearries says:

    I have often wondered what happened to my class mates, graduating class, January 1954. When I saw Phyllis Money’s comment I knew her sister Marilyn was in my class from kindergarten thru 7th grade, at which time we moved to an area closer to Arsenal Tech where I attended 8th grade. School 3 has always been in my heart however and I drive by there often for the memories. Even though I now live in Franklin township. I wrote a poem for a play once while in the fifth grade, “The name of our school is Lucretia Mott,, and we love our school an awfully lot. Our school colors are green and white, and we think our school is alright.” I remember a boy, who we called Buster, fell down the outside basement stairs from the railing one summer about 1948. I have always wondered what the outcome of his injuries were. I saw him fall.
    I remember that our principal was Mr. Norris. What a great neighborhood for kids that area used to be.

  5. Janice Foddrill Gearries says:

    I had the eight grade graduation date wrong. It was Januaryn1955.

  6. Linda says:

    I am trying to remember my first grade teacher’s name. School #3 in 1950. Thank you, Linda

  7. Phyllis briwn says:

    Teachers, I think, were ms.. phegley, jordon, kronikey(sp), quakenbush, rubush, Snyder, Moore, hill, and the wonderful Mrs. Kessler. Ms Zenor was music, mr otto boys gym and ms price gym and home ec. At 78 I am lazy so please excuse no caps and and lazy typing brevity. . Mr norris put me n fresh air (I was very skinny) without talking to my mom. She came to school and nearly ate him alive. Mr. sims, vp, watched and I’m sure grateful that my moms anger was not towards him. What wonderful, sacred moments I recall at School 3. Our trips next door to Englewood for Christian lessons and trips across the alley to the library were special. These trips kept me close to Jesus and books. Ms Peed, our writing teacher is turning over in her grave with my handwriting today. So many memories are rushing back but I will end this epistle.

  8. Sue Tretter says:

    Linda, could her name have been Ms Snyder, a very small woman?
    Her room was in the the north west corner of the school on main floor.

  9. Cindy D French says:

    Does anyone remember the Home Ec and Gym teacher that would have retired around 1970? She was a small, very stern woman, and the only name that comes to me is Mrs. Fitterer. I could be totally off base though. The only other teacher I remember well was Mr. Mote.

  10. Dan W. says:

    I was there from 1977-80, 1st through 4th grade. Closed due to desegregation busing, I was told. Once local smaller schools like these closed and east side manufacturing died at same time, neighborhoods went down fast.
    I remember principal Mr Louis, 4th grade Mrs Magri, 3rd Ms Calico(I think was correct name), 2nd grade Mrs Mills, 1st grade Ms Tovson, gym teacher Mr Mingus, and my older brothers had Mr Mote. And others.
    I remember walking to school and getting their early waiting on stairs just inside for bell to ring. Also playing kickball outback at recess. Library next door was awesome but I think it is the smallest in the city, it is an original Andrew Carnegie endowment library I think.

  11. marion willey says:

    My Brother and I went to school there 1962 till 1964, we were twins Robert Willey and Marion Willey. I think that my teacher name was Mrs Mack and Miss Rockefeller.

  12. Carol Minch says:

    Phyllis, My name when I went to school 3, was Carol Stone. I had Mrs. Quackenbush for my 3rd grade teacher in 1954. I also had Mr. Otto for 6th grade, and Mrs. Price was one of my favorites for gym & home ec..I graduated 8th grade from there and then went on to Tech for high school. I am now 73 years old and live in AZ. My married name is now MINCH. I still have a lot of fond memories from school #3.

  13. Joseph M Lahr says:

    Not trying to “butt in” on your conversation, but I recall the first grade teacher in 1948 was Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Snyder was my fifth grade teacher. I also recall Mr. Mote, 7th grade and although none of us knew it at the time he was a highly decorated paratrooper in WWII and participated in the D-Day landings. Mr. Otto was, I believe in the Marines… we could sometimes get him telling war stories and skip the regular lesson .

  14. Gary J. says:

    Hi. I attended School #3 from 1959-1968. The home-ec teacher was Mrs. Price. I had Mrs. Fitterer for the first semester of 6th grade. Then in the second semester, they divided the 6th grade into 2 groups. 1 half stayed in class with 1 teacher all day. The other half had different teachers for each subject. I remember Mr. Moss. He taught social studies. Other teachers I remember are Mrs Shaner ( kdgrtn), Mrs. Bearswilt (my 1st grade teacher), Mrs. Latimore ( 1st grade), Mrs. Heustis and Mrs. Wiker (2nd), Mrs. Proctor (3rd), Miss Mack (4th), Mr. Vanvorhees (4th), Mrs.Keller( 5th), Mrs. Fitterer (6th), Mrs. Motto (language arts), Mr. Stein (math), Mrs. Chambers (music), Mr. Harrington (math), Mr. Wright (language arts), Mr. Mote (ss), and I believe there was a 3rd or 4th grade teacher who had the classroom way at the top of the building (3rd floor) named Mrs, Neil.

  15. Larry Dougherty says:

    My Mother was born in 1911. She went to school #3. The only story I recall from her (about the school) was that a fellow student ended up working with Lucille Ball later in life. Mr. Mote was a fixture at #3. He & his family lived off of 38th street by the Fair Grounds… as I would later befriend his son at Tech Highschool. Mrs. Keller (5th) Mrs.Nall (3rd) who rode a Grayhound bus each school day to/from Greenfield. Her classroom was the one on the 3rd floor… as shown in the picture. The fire escape was around back…very cool to climb on (after school.) I remember the air raid drills… going to the basement & setting on the floor.
    Georgia Fay (Roberts) Dougherty 1917-
    Sue Dougherty 1945 – 1953
    Byron Dougherty 1955- 1963
    Larry Dougherty 1961 -1969

  16. Linda McMeins Tuttle says:

    These comments bring back a lot of wonderful memories of School #3, Englewood Christian and the neighborhood. I lived on Rural Street at the alley and we crossed the street there to go to school. Then the School Board decided it was too dangerous and we started crossing at Washington Street. Longer walks, cold, snow and windy during the winter, and rainy mornings were not happy mornings. I had Mrs. Phegley, Mrs Brumleavy, Miss McCarty, Mrs. Snyder for third grade, Mrs Keller, Mr Motto and Mr Otto, Miss Schultz and Mrs Price for Home Ec and gym. The gym was built while my brother, John, and I were there, and we all got our polio shots. Miss Conner was the principal if I remember correctly. I’m still friends with several who attended school #3. Oops, can’t forget Herman Hoglebogle.

  17. Charlie says:

    I hit a ball and broke out one of the dourtys windows they live right behind school ,3 are play ground was black top

  18. Tina says:

    I went to school 3 for only 2 years. My teachers were Mrs. Dawalt and Miss Harp. May have been 1969 and 1970. Does anyone remember these teachers and is there a way to see pics of students or names of kids during that time frame

  19. Kyle says:

    My grandmother (Ruth Bramblett) taught at PS 3 for several years in the early 1960’s. I went with her for a couple years, from K-3, but only remember my 3rd grade teacher’s name — Mrs. Nall, who had the room right next to my grandmother’s, way up on the third floor. You can bet that I rarely misbehaved that year. (LOL)

  20. troy d. says:

    I was there around that time also, for 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades. I remember I had a crush on my 1st grade teacher, and then when I went to 3rd grade she was my teacher again. We moved after the 4th grade. So that would have been 77-79 I believe. I sure wish I could remember her name. Lol

    I often had dreams as an adult of going back there and trying to find out her name. I had no idea until I read this article that it closed so soon after I went there. I remember the library next door also. We lived up the street on E. Washington next to the Mallory factory. My mom worked at the Wendy’s on E. Washington and I can still remember what she smelled like when she would come home from work with Frosty’s. Lol

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