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Spann Avenue
John S. Spann, real estate developer

spann and St. Paul Indianapolis

Spann was the owner of John S. Spann & Company, a real estate, loan, and fire insurance business established in 1859.
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Spann was born in Jefferson County, Indiana May 24, 1823, to John Leighton and Sara Spann.   His father John L. Spann was a farmer and politician, born in South Carolina in 1791.  John Leighton’s grandfather moved to South Carolina from England around 1750.

John Leighton was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1826 and was reelected in 1827.  He was involved in the organization and training of the state militia and was given the title General.  He moved to Vernon in Jennings County in 1836.
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John Leighton was elected to the House again in 1838 and 1839, this time representing Jennings County.  He was a leader of the effort to rewrite the Indiana Constitution in the 1840s, as a result of the state’s bankruptcy from the mammoth improvement bill.  The new constitution took effect in 1851, and he was elected to the Indiana Senate representing Bartholomew and Jennings counties, the first session of the legislature under the new constitution.  He served until 1856.

In 1839, at age 16, John S. Spann moved to Indianapolis when his father began his service in the legislature.  Young John worked as a printer’s apprentice, learning the trade and also learning much about his new hometown.  In 1846, he became a junior member of Chapman and Spann, the company that published the State Sentinel.  In 1850, he joined with EWH Ellis in establishing a weekly Democratic newspaper, the Indiana Statesman.  The papers merged in 1852 and Spann and his partners eventually sold the properties.  In 1860, he started a successful real estate company, the John S. Spann & Company, which included his son Thomas H. Spann.  They developed the neighborhood that now features his namesake street.
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John S. Spann was a member of Second Presbyterian Church, which was organized by his personal friend Henry Ward Beeher. He was also known for leading the effort in the 1870’s to beautify University Park with walkways, fountains, and benches.  He was married in 1847 to Hester Sharpe, the daughter of a prominent resident, and the couple had eight children. He died in 1897 and is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.

2 responses to “What’s In a Name: Spann Avenue”

  1. Norm Morford says:

    Thanks Steve. I’ve heard of the Indpls. Sentinel, but never seen a copy of it. Does the state library have any that they would allow to be photographed and shared? Muchas gracias!

  2. Debra Dobson says:

    I loved meadlawn Christian church, I was quite involved with that church. On spann Ave near Christian Park. I lived in that area. And I love reading about history about Indianapolis ind. Lived there 71 years. Debbie Dobson Allen

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