Rollin Hall McCrea, Fahnley & McCrea Millinery Company
McCrea St., now a small alley in the Wholesale District, was once the home of Fahnley & McCrea Millinery Company.
The company was originally a wholesale millinery under the name of Stiles, Fahnley & McCrea, which Rollin McCrea established with partners Daniel Stiles and Frederick Fahnley around 1865. Around 1869, Stiles retired from the business, which continued under the name Fahnley & McCrea. In 1875, the business, which had continued to grow, bought land across the street from their first store on South Meridian Street. The company is probably best known for the February 1905 fire that destroyed the building and much of the Wholesale District, one of the worst fires the city had seen to that point. The company later rebuilt a five-story brick building on the same site.
McCrea was born in Ohio January 8, 1836, to William and Sarah Hall McCrea. He grew up in Dayton, but was in Indianapolis by 1870. He died October 21, 1907 in Indianapolis and is buried near his parents at Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.
All photos courtesy Sergio Bennett
My grandmother, Edyth Brown Cantwell, worked at that millinery starting in about 1916 or 17. Born in 1900, she grew up in Jeffersonville, where her father, James Camel Brown, was a conductor on the train that ran from Jeffersonville to Seymour and thence to Madison. She undoubtedly used her rail pass as a family member of a railroad employee to make the trip to Indianapolis from Jeffersonville. The millinery was one of the first employment opportunities, once she had arrived at Union Station. A few years later she married Edward Michael Cantwell, who himself spent 30 years working as a car inspector at the Hawthorn Yards. More than once, again using a family rail pass, she took me to Chicago for the day to visit museums.