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.  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Beloved Neighbors--The Long Family of 346 South Audubon Road

George and Barbara Long dwelled at 346 South Audubon Road for many decades. Their good friends and former neighbors, William and Inez Kistner, lived down the street at 263 South Audubon Road. Mr. Long worked as a ruler for a ledger company. Robert Kistner, the son of William and Inez Kistner, wrote of Mrs. Long in his unpublished memoir, "I learned about being kind from Barbara Long." Mrs. Long had been in a terrible traffic accident and was blind in one eye. She had been a teacher and had no children at the time that young Bobby was growing up so she treated him like one of her own. She took him to see Snow White at the Irving Theater and she held Easter egg hunts in her yard for him. In 1940, the Longs joyfully announced the birth of their son, George.

Inez Kistner, who is closest to the photographer, visited with Barbara and George Long in their home at 346 South Audubon Road c1941.   (photo courtesy of Robert Kistner and Elizabeth Bodi)

Barbara and George Long posed with their son George in the spring of 1941 in the front yard of their home at 346 South Audubon Road. (photo courtesy of George William Long, IV) 

The Long Bungalow in September of 2015

Barbara Long posed with her son, George, Jr, Bobby Kistner, and Joseph Cummings, a neighbor at 340 South Audubon in 1942. Mr. Cummings was a factory foreman. His wife, Marceine was not pictured.  (photo courtesy of Robert Kistner and Elizabeth Bodi) 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Childhood Along South Audubon Road

Robert Kistner, or Bobby as he was known in the 1930s and 1940s, grew up at 263 South Audubon Road.  He was the youngest child of William and Inez Kistner. His twin sisters, Teresa and Dolores did not live in the house for long as they were both married by the early 1940s. His older brother Jack enlisted in 1942 for service in World War II so little Bobby was practically raised as an only child. He recalled that there were few other boys in the vicinity other than Dickie Gilmore at 262 South Audubon so he frequently played with many young girls who lived nearby. In an unpublished memoir, he jokingly tells that the young ladies enjoyed dressing him up and adding him to their stories. In the fall, they would rake leaves to create floor plans and play house.

Mr. Kistner noted that his bedroom, the smallest in the double, was at the rear of the home and without a closet so his parents added a chifforobe for his clothes.  He also had a small desk in the room where he displayed his rock collection. He remembered that his parents received many items delivered to the home including milk on a daily basis, eggs weekly, and sometimes fresh bread. A fruit vendor passed through the neighborhood and rang a bell so that folks would know where he was parked. Bananas and oranges were expensive in those days so the family only purchased these items once in a while.

For entertainment, he was allowed to go to Saturday matinees at the Irving Theater. Mr. Kistner recalled one amusing incident in 1939 when he decided to purchase some popcorn after the cartoons were over and instead of going home as he was supposed to do, he stayed for the next film, Gone With the Wind. His parents became frantic when he did not return so his father rushed to the theater and walked up and down the crowded rows to try to find his son. He finally found his wayward child and just as he was about to reproach him, young Bobby told his father, "Dad, the Yankees are about to burn Atlanta." The elder Kistner was intrigued and sat down next to his son and watched the remainder of the film. Mrs. Kistner was not happy with either of them when they finally returned home.

Mr. Kistner noted that World War II "was our constant companion." After his brother enlisted, the family constantly worried about his fate. Some Irvington soldiers did not come back from that conflict. Mr. Kistner recalled the day his brother left because he was in second grade at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School and the parish was in the middle of construction for a new church. His brother Jack came to the school to say good bye and he tried to reassure Bobby that he would be okay. It was an emotional departure, but it was a joyful day three years later when Jack Kistner returned home upon the conclusion of the war.

The Kistners moved out of the double in 1948. In the spring of 2017, Robert Kistner and his daughter, Elizabeth Bodi, returned to Irvington so that he could visit his childhood haunts. With a gleam in his eyes, he told both funny and touching stories as he pointed to various houses in the area.

  Mrs. Edwards lived at 261 South Audubon Road. She collected beautiful antiques. 
  The Wettles resided at 269 South Audubon Road. I used to play in that backyard. 
  The Weidekamps were a large Catholic family who dwelled at 266  South Audubon Road. 
  Dr. Lamb, a dentist, lived in the large brick house (5631 University Avenue) on the circle. The Lambs always had a beautiful harp sitting in the parlor window.  

He spoke wistfully of his parents and his siblings and I watched as his daughter carefully helped him across each crevice in the sidewalk and up each step. It was a beautiful spring day not unlike those in Irvington seventy five years ago.

Birthday Party 1939: Friends gathered in the backyard of the Wettle home at 269 South Audubon Road. The home most visible is that of the double at 261-63 South Audubon Road. The children pictured are (left to right starting with the girl in the light top):  Jo Ann Windisch, Flavian Skeets, Alicia "Mitzi" Weidekamp (266 South Audubon Road), Mary Lou Wettle, and Bobby Kistner (263 South Audubon Road)  

Sibling Fun 1937:  Teresa and Bobby Kistner enjoyed a snowy day. Behind them, you can see the rear of the double that faces both Audubon Road and University Avenue (255 South Audubon Rd and 5703 University Avenue). If you look closely, you can also view the homes at 5714 and 5718 University Avenue.  

Bobby Kister posed on a snowy day in 1937 in front of his house at 263 South Audubon Road. Behind him, you can see the Irving Circle Park and many homes on the east side of the street.  

Dolores Kistner posed with her brother Bobby along with Spot in the front yard at 263 South Audubon Road in 1937. Behind the siblings, you can see the homes located at 269 and 275 South Audubon Road.  

John W. (Jack) Kistner posed with his little brother, Bobby, and Miss Muffet in their front yard at 263 South Audubon Road in 1944. Behind the brothers, you can see the double at 245-47 South Audubon and the home at 251 South Audubon Road.  

Reunion: John W. (Jack) Kistner on leave from World War II, posed with his parents Inez and William Kistner along with his younger brother Bobby in 1944. The family is standing in front of their home at 263 South Audubon Road.  

The stories and historic images are courtesy of Robert Kistner and Elizabeth Bodi. The author met both on the sidewalk as they were taking photographs of the neighborhood.