Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Kile Oak as Art

Irvington is extraordinarily proud of the Kile Oak, one of the oldest trees in the state of Indiana. Located on Beechwood Avenue near Arlington Avenue, the majestic white oak has towered over the area for nearly 400 years. Irvington has only been part of that story for about 140 years. I have often wondered about the native peoples who might have seen it prior to the arrival of the nineteenth-century white settlers. Who were they? Did they notice it? Perhaps the tree was part of a forest.

Named for an Irvington family, the Kiles lived in a nineteenth-century home just east of the tree at 5939 Beechwood Avenue. The home is no longer standing. The Reverend Oliver Kile was a Civil War veteran and he requested that his funeral service be conducted under the beautiful tree. In May of 1924, dozens of members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), came from all over the state to assist with his funeral. Most of the soldiers who attended his funeral were themselves elderly Civil War veterans. Mae L. and Lois Kile also dwelled in the large home next to the tree.

Today the home is gone, but the lot and the tree are protected by the Irvington Landmarks Foundation. The site has been declared a natural habitat so nature has begun to reclaim parts of the parcel. Several artists over the years have been inspired by the towering tree.

In the first image, Frederick Polley (1875-1957) sketched the tree for the Indianapolis Star on August 1, 1926 (p.8). He worked in the Graphic Arts Department for Arsenal Technical High School from 1917 to 1941. Mr. Polley, who also happened to dwell at 371 South Emerson Avenue, sketched Indiana landmarks and his work and stories appeared in the Indianapolis Star from 1924 to 1947. This talented artist deserves more recognition. In his sketch, you can also see the Kile Home.

In the second work, Patareka Korbly has painted a beautiful oil color of the Kile home and tree. Little is know of this artist so any help from the general public would be most appreciated. The Korbly family dwelled at 425 N. Audubon Road and at 5814 East Pleasant Run Parkway North Drive in the 1940s and 1950s.

Contemporary artist Wayne Kimmell, who sadly just passed away, painted a wonderful rendition of the tree shortly before his untimely death.

The photos show the tree as it appears in September of 2011.


  1. The Kile (haunted) House and Kile Oak tree served as years of amusement for the kids of Irvington in the late 1950's. It was a daily event for us kids to meet up at Irving Circle and then bike to the Kile property on Beechwood. Only we saw it as the haunted house with the scary tree and little old lady who lived there. We would race our bakes from the circle to the Kile property and the last one there had to go knock on the door and ask for water. When the Lady (Mrs Kile??) would answer the door we would all take off running scared to death that we would be had. That property on Beechwood created many years of fun and scary stories for the kids of Irvington.

    I am truly enjoying your vintageirvington blogspot. Thank you for what you do. I look forward to continued reading. Pam Rivers Harsin.

  2. Pam, I LOVED your stories of the Kile Oak and home. I could just envision it all happening. If you have any photos of your youth in Irvington then I would love to feature them on this blog. You can reach me at Happy New Year from your old "haunts." Sincerely, Bill