Saturday, November 25, 2017

Prominent Architect Designed Emerson Avenue Duplexes--1944

After Butler moved away from Irvington in 1929, many people began to wonder what would become of the abandoned campus structures and 30 acres. Throughout the 1930s, the college tore down most of the original university buildings. There was talk of donating the land for an Indianapolis high school and some people wanted the area to become a park. Neither idea materialized and eventually the acreage was sold for redevelopment. Beginning in the early 1940s, Meridian Construction Company began building small cottages along Ohmer and Butler Avenues in what became known as the Campus Terrace Addition. The builders worked around some of the huge trees planted by the college although some of the groves vanished with the extension of University Avenue to Emerson Avenue.

In 1944, the Meridian Construction Company partnered with architect, Leslie F. Ayres, to design fourteen brick duplexes facing South Emerson Avenue. Still a young man at 38 years old, Ayres had already designed many impressive homes and commercial buildings throughout the country. He specialized in Tudor-Revivals early in his career, but by the late 1930s and early 1940s he had embraced the Art Moderne style.  The Wilkinson Home in Muncie, Indiana represents the peak of his his design during the Art Moderne period.  He also drafted "modernized" colonial revival homes which is what he termed the Emerson Avenue structures. Most of his incredible work still exists today along streets like Washington Boulevard on the north side of Indianapolis. He also designed the very beautiful Harry Moore Chapel along East Michigan Street. Beginning in the 1930s, Ayres was awarded the prestigious honor of being the architect of several Indianapolis Home Show residences. These dwellings were constructed at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and then often times reconstructed in various neighborhoods in northern Indianapolis. His untimely death of heart disease when he was only 45 robbed the world of an amazing architect.

Today, most east side residents of Indianapolis drive by the line of unusual doubles and do not know that these residences were designed by a brilliant architectural star. Mr. Ayres was also an accomplished artist and his work was exhibited by the Hoosier Art Salon. One of his early mentors happened to be his art teacher, Frederick Polly, an instructor at Arsenal Tech High School and resident of Irvington.

On September 8, 1944, the Indianapolis News featured the duplex at 251-253 South Emerson Avenue. The unnamed author described each of the rooms beginning with the living room with its long windows and tan-striped wall paper. The dining room sat in an alcove and the L-shaped kitchen featured two rows of white-painted cabinetry. Two bedrooms upstairs had "generous" closets with another closet in the hallway. The bathroom, also located upstairs, boasted a recessed tub and a "Venetian Mirrored" medicine cabinet. The double opened on to a large uncovered terrace. Hundreds of residents moved in and out of the 28 units over the years including former Indiana House of Representative, Dan Burton.

251-253 South Emerson Avenue under construction in the autumn of 1944 (Indianapolis News, September 8, 1944, 25)

217-219 South Emerson Avenue in 1948 can be seen behind Alfred Moffitt, who dwelled at 218 South Emerson Avenue (photo courtesy of the Moffitt family via

Duplexes in the 200 block of South Emerson Avenue in 2017

Duplexes in the 200 block of South Emerson Avenue in 2017

Leslie Ayres (1906-1952), a brilliant architect, designed many homes and structures in Indianapolis. (photo courtesy of Ball State Digital Archives) 

Leslie Ayres designed this residence for the 1941 Indianapolis Home Show

Leslie Ayres designed this home for the 1940 Indianapolis Home Show. 

The Wilkinson House in Muncie, Indiana was designed by Leslie Ayres. (photo courtesy of Indiana Landmarks)
"1941 Home," Indianapolis News, April 18, 1944, 37.
"Campus Terrace Addition," Indianapolis News, September 8, 1944, 25.
Lucile Morehouse, "Drawings of Historical Interest," Indianapolis Star, August 25, 1946, 53.
Obituary for Leslie Ayres, Indianapolis Star, September 7, 1952, 21.

To see some of Leslie Ayres beautiful renderings click on the Ball State digital site below:

Leslie Ayres

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Our Lady of Lourdes Cheerleaders--1956

In September of 1956, five young ladies from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School assembled in a backyard to practice for the most exciting football game of the year. Every autumn, the Catholic Youth Organization hosted a football jamboree on the west side of Indianapolis for all Catholic schools in grades six through eight. The local diocese owned land across from Bush Stadium on West 16th Street so that local Catholic high schools could have a "home" field.

Lynda Foster (820 North Layman Avenue), Terry McDonnell (419 North Bancroft Street), Judy Lindeman (5234 East Michigan Street), Mary McDavitt (655 North Ritter Avenue), and Katy Grothaus (340 North Ritter Avenue) all worked very hard for the big day. Terry McDonell Wilgus Knisely recalls that one of the most exciting moments came when the parade of teams began and the cheerleaders rode in the back of a convertible waving their school colors of blue and gold as Our Lady of Lourdes families cheered along. Each young lady then walked across a small stage as their name was called over the loudspeaker. Teams from schools like Little Flower, St. Joan of Arc, Christ the King, St. Patricks, Holy Spirit, and numerous others would scrimmage for about ten minutes. Teams who scored could have bragging rights the next day.

All five girls faced a big decision that year as they would have to decide where they would go to high school. Lynda Foster, Terry McDonnell, and Judy Lindeman chose Scecina High School while Mary McDavitt selected Our Lady of Grace in Beech Grove. The Grothaus family moved to Mississippi so Katy attended a high school there. The young women had no inkling on that autumn day in 1956 that they would not all be together again in one room for fifty years! They reunited at an Our Lady of Lourdes class reunion in 2007 at DuFour's Restaurant in Irvington and three of them gathered to pose for a photograph. 

The photographs and the memories of this day are courtesy of Terry McDonnell Wilgus Knisely.

Our Lady of Lourdes Cheerleaders posed in the backyard of the McDavitt family at 655 North Ritter Avenue in September of 1956.  Pictured from left to right: Lynda Foster, Terry McDonnell, Judy Lindeman, Mary McDavitt and Katy Grothaus

Our Lady of Lourdes Reunion Photo in 2007. Pictured left to right: Katy Grothaus Boeding, Judy Lindeman Johns, Terry McDonnell Wilgus Knisely  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Lost Irvington--A Church

In 1900, the Indianapolis News announced that the Methodists of Irvington would be getting a larger building. There had been members of this faith in the neighborhood since its founding in 1870 and they had met in a variety of places. Mrs. Frances Barbour (possibly Barber) donated two lots on Layman Avenue north of East Washington Street with the stipulation that the Methodist build a brick edifice. The building committee seemed thrilled at the donation, but they had planned a wooden chapel. Mrs. Barbour's requirement forced the Methodists to raise some additional cash which they managed to do. By the winter of 1901, they moved into their new Gothic and Romanesque-inspired church.

For the next 25 years, the congregation met on Layman Avenue. However, by the late 1910s and early 1920s, the church membership had grown dramatically. Eventually, the congregation built a stunning church at 30 North Audubon Road. They kept the Layman Avenue structure and used it for a variety of purposes. In 1937, the Irvington Church of Christ moved into the facility and remained until 1964. Revivals and radio broadcasts could be heard from the older chapel throughout the mid-twentieth century. The Church of Christ grew too large for the smaller structure and they also moved out.

In 1965, the Irvington Methodist Church once again acquired the structure and demolished it for a parking lot for their booming congregation.  The site is still a parking lot in 2017 and most local Irvington residents do not know that a beautiful brick church once stood on the site.

In this photo, taken around 1948, Cynthia Hopping posed for parents, Don and Helen Louise Brown Hopping, on the steps of their home at 21 Layman Avenue. Behind her, you can see the former Irvington Church of Christ. The second image came from an advertisement in the Indianapolis News in 1944.

Cynthia Hopping posed on the steps of 21 Layman Avenue c1948. Behind her you can see the former Irvington Methodist Church/Irvington Church of Christ at 25 Layman Avenue. 

An ad in the Indianapolis News 1944. The church was torn down in 1965.
The historic image is courtesy of Ted Lollis.  

Sources:  "Irvington's New Church," Indianapolis News, October 6, 1900.
                "Meeting," Indianapolis Sentinel, February 22, 1885, 5.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Life along Rawles Avenue

Perry and Lucille Owen Roehl moved into their modest bungalow at 5715 Rawles Avenue in 1937. Their two children, Perry and Marilyn, were already in school and would spend the next five years of their lives in the residence. Their backyard abutted the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad so it was not the quietest location, but like most Irvingtonians in this part the neighborhood, they likely became accustomed the rumble and call of the trains.

Mr. Roehl was a rising businessman while living in the home as he opened a firm called P.W. Roehl Trucking Company. The couple incorporated the business in 1940. Mr. Roehl's obituary noted that he was a member of many Irvington clubs and he was an avid bowler. Mrs. Roehl stayed at home and raised the couple's two children although she was a partner in the trucking firm and later in a paint store. She was an active member of the Irvington Methodist Church.

Perry O Roehl, their son, was a talented student and athlete at Howe High School. He might have received some of his athleticism from his Dad, who was also an athlete at Arsenal Tech High School. Perry, Jr. later fought for the country during World War II.

The bungalow was not the forever home for the Roehl family. As their income increased and most likely their desire for a larger home, the family moved from Rawles Avenue in 1942 to a beautiful residence at 969 North Campbell Avenue.

The images for this post are courtesy of the descendants of the Roehl family via

Lucille and Perry W. Roehl stood in their kitchen at 5715 Rawles Avenue c1937

The Roehl family gathered in the living room of their home at 5715 Rawles Avenue c1938. (left to right: Lucille, Perry O., Marilyn, and Perry W. Roehl) 

5715 Rawles Avenue in 2016

Friday, October 13, 2017

Alfred and Lettie Trefz of Audubon Road

Alfred and Lettie Trefz moved into their Tudor-Revival dream home at 953 North Audubon Road shortly after it was built in 1929. Although the nation was beginning to struggle with the onset of the Great Depression, developers continued to erect houses in the Irvington Gardens area just south of East Tenth Street. Mr. Trefz did not lose his job as a tool engineer for the Detroit Division of the Allison plant on the west side of Indianapolis. Mrs. Trefz taught elementary children for Indianapolis Public Schools so she too had a steady income. The couple would remain in their lovely dwelling for the next several decades.

By all accounts, Mr. and Mrs. Trefz seem to have been very involved both in Irvington and throughout Indianapolis. Mr. Trefz's obituary noted that he was an amateur photographer so it was perhaps he who took the photos of the house a few years after its construction. He was a member of the Masons, the Murat Shrine, and the Nature Study Club. One has to wonder what became of his other photographs?

Mrs. Trefz never seemed to rest. She was a member of numerous clubs and civic organizations. She received several awards including one for "Woman of the Year" from the Business and Professional Women's Club of Indianapolis. She hosted meetings in her home and even in retirement she remained a consultant for the Indianapolis Public Schools.

An Indianapolis Star article noted that the couple took a cruise in 1949. They departed from New Orleans and sailed down to Guatemala and Panama. Upon their return, Mrs. Trefz plunged into more work for various sororities and committees. The couple were active members of the Irvington United Methodist Church. Mrs. Trefz, a graduate of Butler University, also remained involved with her Alma Mater. They died within months of each other. Mr. Trefz passed away in April of 1982 at the age of 86 while Mrs. Trefz died in June at the age of 83.

The historic photos for this story were provided by Todd Cloud.  

953 N. Audubon Road c1930

953 N. Audubon Road c1930: The woman in the photograph might be Mrs. Lettie Trefz. Also seen in this image is part of 957 N. Audubon Road.

The rear of 953 and 957 N. Audubon Road c1930

The home of Alfred and Lettie Trefz c1930. The vacant lot would later be the site of 943 N. Audubon Road. 

Mrs. Trefz was very involved in numerous organizations. Here is a photograph of her from 1961 as she was part of an organization that loaned money to senior citizens. (Indianapolis News, April 7, 1961)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Lost Irvington--28 South Audubon Road

Built for Thomas Carr Howe in 1901, this stunning home, formerly located at 28 South Audubon Road, was one of the most elegant in the neighborhood. In 1946, James and Patricia McWilliams purchased the residence from the Cassell family. Mr. McWilliams owned a Shell Gas Station at East 38th Street and Fall Creek Road. Mrs. McWilliams was busy at home with seven children and soon four more! The large dwelling was a perfect place to raise eleven children.

Jerry McWilliams, who grew up in the house, remembers many stunning architectural details about the place including the large porch, a widow's walk where he could see downtown, and gorgeous woodwork throughout. The home sat on an immense lot with two outbuildings so there was plenty of room for play. In 1963, James and Patricia McWilliams sold the house to the Irvington Presbyterian Church, who demolished the entire property in 1964 for a parking lot. Throughout the demolition, workers would place pocket doors and other architectural features along Audubon Road with price tags on the salvage.  It was a staggering loss for the neighborhood.

More stories and photos about this property will be posted so stay tuned.  The historic images and stories are courtesy of Jerry McWilliams.

28 South Audubon Road in 1946

Ellen McWilliams rides her tricycle in front of 28 South Audubon Road in 1953

Group shot of the McWilliams family in 1958:  Richard, Joe, Ken, Jerry (driving), Ellen, and Ed in the backyard of 28 South Audubon Road

Monday, July 31, 2017

South Audubon Road in 1943 and Now

Bobby Kistner and George Long, Jr, enjoyed a playdate on Easter Sunday in 1943. The home behind the lads, located at 326 South Audubon Road, belonged to Clarence and Mary Mobley. Mr. Mobley was a factory worker at Bridgeport Brass. Some of the trees remain from 1943 and so does the Mobley residence although a front porch with a turret was added much later.

Bobby Kistner of 263 South Audubon Road pulled his friend, George Long, Jr. of 346 South Audubon Road, along their street. Behind the boys, you can see the home at 326 South Audubon Road as it looked in 1943.
You can somewhat see 326 South Audubon Road through the trees. (Photo taken on July 30, 2017) 
The historic image is courtesy of Robert Kistner and Elizabeth Bodi.