Saturday, April 23, 2011

Davidson Home Renaissance--5428 Lowell Avenue

For decades it sat hidden behind a forest of trees neglected and abandoned. For years I admired the beautiful wreck as it stood against the elements. I often wondered about the mysterious property with the giant gingko tree towering over Lowell Avenue. I looked for any signs of life as if the Charles Dickens' character Miss Havisham might appear in the window in her wedding dress at any moment. I photographed the place often and imagined what it might have been like when the Davidson family dwelled here. Then a miracle happened. A wonderful young couple purchased the house and began to bring the home back from the brink. By 2011, they had restored the splendor of the place.

While many people have lived in the house, Robert F. and Mary Galvin Davidson and their children lived in the home from the early twentieth century through the 1930s. Mr. Davidson was a prominent attorney and made his money defending insurance, railway, and telegraph companies. He met his wife while a student at Butler University. Mary Galvin came from a prominent Irvington family who dwelled along Downey Avenue. They married on April 18, 1900. They would have four children although their only son Robert Jr. died at age five on November 26, 1917.

Mrs. Davidson was an active club woman and she frequently hosted meetings at her lovely home. She was very much involved in her children's lives. In 1921, she took all three of her daughters, Margaret Layne (age 19), Katherine K. (age 17), and Mary Elizabeth (age 12) on a tour of Europe. They departed New York City on October 1 and sailed on the Rochambeau for Hauvre, France. For several weeks they traversed the French countryside. Then they departed for Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, and Great Britain. They would return to Europe again in 1927 and follow a similar path. Mr. Davidson stayed home to earn money.

While the ladies of the house vacationed in Europe, Mr. Davidson volunteered their home to serve as a temporary dwelling for Dr. Robert J. Aley, the new President of Butler University. Mr. Davidson served on Butler's Board of Directors through part of the 1920s. It also appears that Butler students rented rooms as well.

The family frequently summered in the Adirondacks. Their oldest daughter Margaret studied voice under renown teacher Oscar Seagle at his summer school in Northover Camp at Bound Brook, New York. Mr. Davidson frequently joined the family at the summer cottage, but he did not stay for the entire summer.

The Davidsons, like many Irvington families, are now gone. Each house in the neighborhood tells a different story. A once beautiful home, falling into ruin, and now beautiful again, is testimony to the continuum of life in this community. The family who saved this house will have their own stories to add. Perhaps someday, one hundred years from today, someone will walk by this house and wonder who lived here?

About the images: The historic photo was taken during the winter of 1920. Note the sleeping porch had not yet been added. The photos that show the house in a neglected state were taken during the winter of 2005 and the spring of 2006. The newest photos were shot during the early spring of 2011.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lost Irvington--Two Houses on East Washington Street

In these rare photos, James Thompson Layman and his daughter Isabelle Layman (5731 E. Washington Street) pose for photos in their side yard around 1916. Behind them you can see a large Italianate home that has been gone for decades. The early Baist and Sanborn maps give the home's address as 5783 (sometimes 5753) East Washington Street. You can also see the rear of 5803 East Washington Street (demolished) as well. The homes sat on the southside of Washington Street two squares west of Bolton Avenue. The Irvington Edition, a supplement to the The Indiana Woman (1897), lists John E. Smith as living in 5783. Mr. Smith apparently owned two acres of ground around the house and it looks like that land was still not yet subdivided by the time the Laymans posed for these photos. Today, mid-twentieth century commercial buildings occupy the once park-like setting. These images are courtesy of Isabelle Layman Troyer.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Irvington Dancing Club--1963

2014 marks the centennial anniversary of the Irvington Dancing Club. Founded in 1914, members have continuously kicked up their heels for nearly one hundred years. The original charter forbade any drinking of alcohol at the meetings and dancers always began with the "grand march." The club has met in a variety of locations over the years including Moore's Hall (demolished) on South Audubon Road, the Masonic Building on East Washington Street, and in some of the schools. Alan Kleman is currently compiling a history of the club and needs your help. If you have any information about the Dancing Club or any of its members please drop Alan or myself an e-mail. You may reach Alan at Happy Dancing!!

Mr. Kleman sent the following newspaper article that appeared in the Indianapolis Star in 1963. Some of the people mentioned in the article include Mr. and Mrs. Deane E. Pinney (731 N. Audubon Rd.), Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Husted (727 N. Audubon Rd.), Mr. and Mrs. Elbert Glass (5748 E. Michigan Street), Mrs. Harry E. Barnard (5050 Pleasant Run Pkwy), and Mrs. Robert B. Long (222 S. Ritter Avenue)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Irvington Quest Club--1941

Irvington had numerous clubs for women and men to join throughout the 20th century. Many women actually joined more than one club. They were usually literary in nature, but there were an array of choices for the discerning member. Meetings were generally held in various homes throughout the neighborhood although some organizations met in churches or in lodges.

In this photo officers of the Quest Club pose in front of 5930 East Washington Street in March of 1941. The three women are identified as Mrs. McKay (5910 Lowell Avenue), Mrs. Ruhsenberger (5930 East Washington St.), and Mrs. Hughes. The house that is visible behind the ladies belonged to Charles and Helen Owen at 5934 East Washington St. (demolished) This photo is courtesy of Ann Stewart.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Emma Cook in 1907: African-Americans in Irvington

African-Americans made up a small portion of Irvington's population in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many lived along Arlington, Rawles, Dewey, Campbell, Webster, Sheridan, and Catherwood Avenues. Some lived in the Glenco settlement at East 21st Street and Emerson Avenue. The black population worked in and around Irvington as blacksmiths, liverymen, carpenters, barbers, and as domestic help. In these photos taken in 1907, Emma Cook holds newly born Isabelle Layman (5731 East Washington Street). Many wealthy Irvington residents employed African-Americans to work as nannies, cooks, maids, and butlers. The 1900 and 1910 census reveals that dozens of local families employed black and white servants.

Little is known of Ms. Cook other than her name. The 1900 census does list an Emma Cook, age 35, living with her husband Charles and other relatives at 1116 East 22nd Street. I do not know if this is the same Emma Cook seen in these photos seven years later. She is not listed as living with the Laymans in the 1910 census. These rare photos are courtesy of Isabelle Layman Troyer.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Phi Delta Theta House--1908/1925/2011

Most Butler University fraternity and sororities bought or leased existing homes throughout Irvington. Sometimes they would only stay in a house for one or two years before moving on to a larger home. Phi Delta Theta Fraternity is one of those rare exceptions as they actually built a house in the neighborhood. Founded in 1859 at the downtown campus, the organization was one of the most active while at Irvington. They originally met above Moore's Hall (demolished) on South Aududon Road. In 1908, they constructed a house at the intersection of what was then Emerson Avenue and East Washington Street. The home sat in a beautiful location and was a lovely site for campus dances and parties. However, within two years the structure sat in the way of a planned boulevard called Pleasant Run Parkway designed by George Kessler. The chapter lost most of their real estate and the house was moved to the back of the lot.

You will note that on the facade of the fireplace, the Phi Delts placed part of their crest, a sword shaped like a cross. In the top photo, you can see the home shortly after it was built in 1908. Some features look like they were changed when it was moved to its present location in 1910 or 11. In the second photo you can see the Phi Delta Theta crest. In the third picture you can see the home as it appeared in 1924. By this point, members of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity moved into the home as the Phi Delts needed a larger house and they moved to 15 North Hawthorne Lane. In the bottom photos you can see what the home looks like in 2011. The home has had a variety of addresses as the city struggled to decide what street it was really on. For many years it was known as 6 North Pleasant Run Parkway, but today it is numbered at 5020 East Washington Street. After Butler moved out of Irvington in 1928, the home served as private residence for many families.

Underneath that vinyl siding is dark stained wood just waiting to emerge. You will note that the porch has also been enclosed. Perhaps someday this home shall return to its original craftsman era design.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Layman Children--1912

The Layman children of 5731 E. Washington Street enjoy a pony ride in their backyard in 1912. The Layman home is no longer standing. You may read about this family and their home in previous posts. This image is courtesy of Isabelle Layman Troyer.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Interior Photo of 5435 Pleasant Run Parkway--1928

This wonderful photo of a young Martha Scott sitting in her living room at 5435 Pleasant Run Parkway is a gem of a shot. I love her "lost in the book" face as well as her fabulous reading light. Her mother was quite a decorator and you can see her subtle touches with the flowers in the window and the blanket draped over the couch. Martha's beauty later provided her the opportunity to serve as a model during the 1930s. This photo was taken around 1928. This image is courtesy of Martha Scott Baum.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tony Hinkle in Irvington--1921-1928

Paul D. "Tony" Hinkle (1898-1992) began his storied coaching career at Butler University's Irvington campus. After playing football and basketball for the University of Chicago, he was asked by his friend and Chicago alum, Harlan Page (320 North Ritter Avenue) to assist him at Butler in 1921. Hinkle's first task for the Bulldogs was to coach the baseball team. Eventually, he coached both football and basketball. When Page left Butler for Indiana University in 1926, Hinkle took over as the athletic director. Hinkle and the rest of Butler left Irvington in 1928 for the Fairview campus where he inaugurated the 1928-29 season with a win over Notre Dame in one of the largest fieldhouses in the nation at the time. The huge arena would later be named for him in 1965 while he was still the athletic director for Butler.

Hinkle boarded and rented in a variety of houses and apartments while coaching at the Irvington campus. He lived above a storefront at 5604 East Washington Street (demolished) and he dwelled the longest at 14 North Irvington Avenue. (demolished) He and his wife Jane eventually moved into an apartment on North Meridian Street in the early 1930s to be closer to the Fairview campus.

In the images posted above, Tony Hinkle poses for a Butler yearbook photographer in 1922 and 1928.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Butler Bulldog Mascot Began in Irvington

The tradition of having a bulldog as a mascot for Butler University teams began at the Irvington campus. Prior to 1919, the team was known as the "Christians" because of the college's association with the Disciples of Christ denomination. By 1920, the athletic department adopted the bulldog as a mascot after student George Dickson drew a cartoon in the school newspaper of the canine to represent the football team. The very first "dawg" was Shimmy so named because you could not shake him. Shimmy's cartoon image then appeared in subsequent newspapers biting into various opponents. The actual dog lived in various fraternity houses. This image shows Shimmy in the early 1920s.