Saturday, October 8, 2011

Gustav Stickley Comes to Irvington

Renown architect and furniture designer, Gustav Stickley is highly admired today. His furniture is worth hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars in 2011. Only one known Stickley-designed home exists in the state of Indiana and it happens to sit at 59 North Hawthorne Lane in Irvington.

Furniture salesman Carlos Recker (1873-1951) and his wife Elizabeth Anne Butler Recker (1877-1973) likely purchased Stickley's No. 28 plan in 1905. They built their dream home three years later in 1908. It is very possible that Recker sold Stickley furniture in his downtown furniture shop called Sander and Recker Furniture. The furniture company operated in Indianapolis from 1901 to 1935. Mr. Recker also moonlighted as an interior decorator and was sought after by numerous wealthy clients. In addition to decorating homes in the Indianapolis area, he was also commissioned to design the interiors of the Columbia Club, the Indiana and Circle Theaters, and the Indiana Ballroom on Indiana University's campus. In his later years, he was highly sought after to appraise antiques.

His wife, Elizabeth Anne Butler Recker, certainly made her mark on the city of Indianapolis as well. The great granddaughter of Butler University's founder, Ovid Butler, Mrs. Recker served on several committees regarding child labor and poor relief. At the height of the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918, Mrs. Recker helped to provide quarts of milk to families afflicted by the plague.

The early years of this home's history are filled with stories from the Recker family. They would live in the house for over a decade along with their son Carlos Jr. The couple enjoyed playing bridge and the society pages of the Indianapolis Star document several tournaments in the home. On April 29, 1911, five tables of guests competed in a bridge tournament.

Although Mr. Recker was born in Indiana, his parents hailed from the Baden region in Germany. His father Gottfried was one of the organizers of the Indianapolis Maennerchor Society, a German social group. Carlos and Anne frequently attended masked balls held by the German organization. On February 25, 1911, Mr. Recker donned the costume of "Romeo" while Mrs. Recker dressed up like a Russian peasant girl. Over 200 people showed up in costumes for the ball at the Maennerchor Hall.

The Reckers attended numerous other social events during these years including an opera at the Murat Theater on October 13, 1912. The Indianapolis Star paid close attention to Mrs. Recker's outfit as she wore a "charming toilette of two-toned chiffon in deep rose shades." She also donned a "picture hat of rose velvet with a plume of white ostrich." Her sister, Cordelia Butler, could be seen in a "beige gown of old rose crepe de chine combined with maline lace with pearls and diamonds."

Sadness descended upon the home when Mrs. Lina Kunz Recker, the 73-year-old mother of Carlos, died in the house in early February of 1913. The Reckers held the funeral for Mrs. Recker in the bungalow on February 5, 1913.

Numerous people came to live with the Reckers during their tenure including Mrs. W.H. Tefft and her daughter Julia Anne. Mrs. Tefft was the sister of Mrs. Recker and her husband departed the United States for Europe on May 5, 1918 to fight in World War One. Mr. Recker donated $120 to the War Chest, a campaign to raise money for the war.

By the early 1920s, the Reckers moved out of their fashionable Stickley home for a Tudor Revival house at 3916 North Pennsylvania and finally to 116 E. 36th Street. More research is needed on this talented Irvington family. Carlos Jr. eventually married Elizabeth Royce and moved to Virginia where he died in 1989.

The historic photo was likely taken around 1940 while the Hartsock Family lived in the house. They will be featured in future posts. The current photo was taken on October 8, 2011. The historic image is courtesy of Brian and Emily Mack.

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