Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Father and Son--1929

The Finch family lived in several houses in Irvington. In these two photos, Lewis and Richard Finch stand in front of 392 Downey Avenue. Behind them you can see 373 Burgess Avenue, a Dutch Colonial style home. (Downey Avenue turns into Burgess as it crosses South Ritter Avenue) Herman Orville Brenton, the former State Highway Commissioner, and his wife Mary A. dwelled in that home in 1929. The contemporary photo shows the same scene on January 29, 2012. The historic images are courtesy of Evan Finch. You may learn more about the Finch family by clicking on the link below.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Camping in the Backyard--1930

The Finch brothers and their downstair's neighbor, Jeanine Smith pose for a photo next to the family tent in the side yard at 304 North Drexel Avenue in 1930. The home, split into two apartments, actually sits on the northwest corner of East New York Street and North Drexel Avenue. Although their front door faced Drexel, the Finch's upstairs living room faced busy New York Street. Years later, George Finch reported that the home was not a very quiet place in which to dwell with traffic whizzing by, including the city buses, whose tires sometimes hit the curb next to the house. Luther and Hazel Smith and their family lived downstairs at 4524 East New York Street. The Finch and Smith children had an easy walk to school as the Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School ( #58) was less than a block away.

In this historic photo, Richard (Dick) Finch sits behind his younger brother George. Jeanine Smith holds the baby, Robert (Bob) Finch. The small enclosed yard provided a perfect place to put up a tent. The street behind the children is Drexel Avenue. The historic image and stories are courtesy of Evan Finch.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Lost Houses of Ritter Avenue

When the Finch family took the following photos of George Finch in 1929, they had no idea that they were documenting a piece of history. Besides the cute kid in the striped sweater, they also captured 369, 373, and 377 South Ritter Avenue. An explosion in February of 2004, destroyed all three of these bungalows and damaged dozens of others nearby. Although you can only see 369 in two of the photos (far left), it was actually a Sears catalogue home! The other two might have come from a catalogue as well. City directories reveal that all three homes were built between 1923 and 1925. Richard B. Miller, an employee for the Diamond Chain Company, and his family lived in the Sears home. The Bortsfields and Craggs lived in the other two bungalows. Both Rueben R. Bortsfield and Harry C. Cragg worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The contemporary image, taken during the winter of 2012, shows the newer homes constructed since 2004. Note that the only thing that is similar is the placement of the fire hydrant. The historic images are courtesy of Evan Finch.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Backyard along Good Avenue

Lewis and Louie Finch and their sons lived briefly in a double at 368-370 Good Avenue in the late 1920s. Twelve-year-old Richard, whose name used to be Richard Gray, was adopted by Lewis after he married Louie, who already had Richard from a previous marriage. Mrs. Finch stayed at home with the children and she might have been the photographer of the historic images featured today.

In the top photo, baby George Finch stands in his formidable crib in the backyard of the double on Good Avenue in 1927. Behind him you can see the stuccoed garage that used to belong to 366 Good Avenue. That garage was torn down around 2009. The rear of the house visible in the photo is of a small bungalow at 362 Good Avenue. George grew up and served his country during World War II. He later worked as a personnel manager for the Diamond Chain Company for many years.

In the second historic image, Richard Finch (1919-1990) stands on what looks like the cistern that belonged to 368-370 Good Avenue in 1928. The photographer, who was facing south, not only captured Richard, but also the rear of the double at the northwest corner of Good and Beechwood Avenues. (384 Good/5854 Beechwood) Notice the large brackets along the roofline. The other home visible behind Richard was 5850 Beechwood. The Bell family dwelled there in 1928. Richard grew up and joined the National Guard. He was on the USS Nevada when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Thankfully, he survived the war and later settled in Keene, New Hampshire.

The contemporary images show the rear of 384 Good/5854 Beechwood and 5850 Beechwood Avenue. You will note that the historic garage belonging to the double is still standing and that both of the homes look largely the same. The other photos show the front of both homes in 2012. The double on the corner is still very beautiful as it has been wonderfully maintained over the years. City directories reveal that it was likely built in 1923. Behind the double you can see the former Finch home at 368-370 Good Avenue. The bottom photo reveals 5850 Beechwood Avenue in 2012. It is one of the older homes in southeastern Irvington and might have been built in the late nineteenth century. Further research is needed on the interesting structure. The historic images are courtesy of Evan Finch.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Geislers of Colorado Avenue

Where is Irvington? This might seem like a simple question, but you can ask five different people and receive five different responses. Purists quote the National Register nomination completed in late 1980s as the definitive source. However, it might come as news for folks who live on the east side of Arlington and the westside of Emerson that they are not in Irvington. So where do we do draw the line? Many people who lived far from Emerson or Arlington considered themselves Irvingtonians. They attended Irvington churches, shopped in Irvington businesses, and attended schools in the area. I prefer, what one writer from the early twentieth century penned, when he stated that Irvington was a "state of mind."

Colorado Avenue is generally not considered Irvington by purists, but that might have come as a surprise to the Geisler Family, who lived along this street in the 1940s. Ed and Isabelle Geisler, both natives of Louisville, Kentucky moved to Colorado Avenue with their three talented daughters Fannie, Martha, and Carol. The young women became well known in the city of Indianapolis for their beautiful voices. All three of them sang in the Messiah at the Irvington Methodist Church in the 1940s. Ed and Isabelle were friends with the Ruhsenberger Family of 5930 East Washington. Mrs. Geisler and Mrs. Ruhsenberger were best friends. On January 16, 1942, Mrs. Geisler asked Mrs. Ruhsenberger if she would like to go with her to hear a presentation by Carol Lombard, the famous Hollywood actress. Ms. Lombard was in town to encourage her fellow Hoosiers to buy war bonds. Mrs. Ruhsenberger was not able to go, but Mrs. Geisler went on to the event. Later both families learned of the actress's death in a plane crash. Mrs. Geisler was devastated by the news. The Geislers and Ruhsenbergers remained close for many years even playing matchmaker for some of their children and friends.

In this historic picture, the Geislers gather for a photo in front of their home at 529 North Colorado Avenue. Pictured: (L to R) Fannie, Martha, Carol, Ed, and Isabelle Geisler. Both homes seen in this photo are still standing although somewhat altered. The stories and historic images are courtesy of Ann Hart Stewart.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Finches of Irvington

Lewis S. and Louie Mae Jones Finch lived in several homes in Irvington with their sons Richard, George, Robert, and John. While living in Irvington, Mr. Finch worked for the Indiana State Board of Health. It appears that the young couple rented homes along Bolton, Good, Burgess, Drexel, and Layman Avenues.

In the top photos, a very young George Finch attempts to make a snowman in front of 368-370 Good Avenue. Behind him you can see what the 300 block of Good Avenue looked like in 1928. In the first photo you will note the large triangular home at 5905-07 University. More of views of this double may be found by clicking on the "University Avenue" link below.

The contemporary images show 368-70 Good Avenue today and what the street looks like in 2012. More images will be forthcoming from the Finch family collection. The historic images are courtesy of Evan Finch.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chester Stokesberry Painting Survives Hurricane Katrina

Sometimes we receive notes from folks from all over the country. Recently, I received a query from Michael Hyde, who had questions about Chester Stokesberry, an Irvington artist who dwelled at 352 Burgess Avenue. Mr. Stokesberry was a prolific artist who specialized in oils of natural scenes although he also painted portraits.

When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, Mr. Hyde reports that the storm struck a family member's home and the house went underwater as they lived twenty miles from the eye. Unfortunately, a painting by Chester Stokesberry titled "October" went under with the deluge. Thankfully, the family was able to save the painting.

The provenance of the painting is quite interesting. It appears to have been exhibited at a John Herron art show in 1955. Almost twenty years after its creation, the painting surfaced in a Michigan antique shop which is where Mr. Hyde's family found it in the early 1970s. After learning of the Vintage Irvington blog, he kindly took out his phone and snapped these two shots of the lovely painting. The images and stories are courtesy of Michael Hyde. You may learn more about the artist Chester Stokesberry by clicking on the family link below.

Lost Irvington--222 Ohmer Avenue

This lovely American Four Square used to sit at 222 Ohmer Avenue across from the Christian Women's Board of Missions. The intended object of this photo was not the house, but rather Don Ward (238 Ohmer Avenue), who was playing ball next door at 230 Ohmer Avenue at the Pflueger home in 1945. Behind him looms the ghost of the house not seen in Irvington in over thirty years.

The house used to sit along the alley connecting Butler Avenue and essentially Butler University. In 1909, Harry Wilfred Ballard and his family dwelled here. He was the president of the Indianapolis Engraving Company. Curiously, three other engravers lived in the neighborhood during this time including Harry Simpson (5743 Oak Avenue), S.Turney Downs (5803 Oak Avenue), and Charles Hackleman (34 North Ritter Avenue).

By 1912, the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity moved in and remained in the house until 1919. The home's location next to campus undoubtedly made it highly desirable for Butler students. The dwelling's position across the street from the Missions Building also made it attractive to the Reverend Oscar W. Wiley and his wife Ida. The Wileys set up housekeeping here in 1921 and remained well into the 1940s. In the 1950s, Ada M. Mosher, a librarian, lived at 222. By the early 1960s, another minister named Spencer P. Austin and his wife Margaret called the place home. The house remained listed in both the 1970 and 1980 directory, but vanished from record shortly thereafter. Perhaps some of our astute readers will be able to tell us what became of the house. In more recent times, a small home has been constructed on the site.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Howe High School Sweethearts

Susie Westlake entered Thomas Carr Howe High School in 1948. She "lockered" with her best friend Ann Althauser and joined many clubs. Because Susie was on the honor roll, she was allowed to serve as an office messenger for Mrs. Loew, the Dean of Girls.

One day as she finished her lunch in the school cafeteria during her sophomore year, she eyed a boy sitting near the tray rack. His name was Rodney "Duff" Thompson. He also took note of her. Soon he began riding his bike by her home at 234 Ohmer Avenue. He had to go slightly out of his way to do this as he lived at 5010 Orion Avenue on the other side of Emerson.

They went on their first date together by attending a movie downtown at the Circle Theater. The teens both dressed up, but Susie decided that one date was enough for now. She went back to hanging out with her friends. With money saved from babysitting, Susie bought a record player and invited her girlfriends over to dance in her small Ohmer Avenue cottage.

Duff Thompson reappeared in her life in 1950 during her junior year. He was a member of Zeta Phi, a men's social club and she belonged to the Best of the West, a women's social club. He started attending joint meetings between the two clubs and he asked Susie out on a date again. By this time, he no longer had to ride a bike as he drove his father's 1947 Chevy. The car had a Dynatone Muffler on it and Susie reports that she could hear him before he was ever near the house. They started hanging out together quite a lot, usually with other friends. Since Duff and others had a car they cruised both Al Green's and Jones Drive-In Restaurants. They also played golf at Rustic Gardens, a local east side miniature golf course. One night several Howe students, including Susie and Duff, ventured out to the infamous House of Blue Lights along Fall Creek Boulevard. They had heard that Skiles Test, the wealthy man who lived there, kept his deceased wife in a glass coffin in the living room. They parked the car and noticed the twinkling blue lights. As they began to sneak up the hill to peek into the home, a caretaker of the house started to charge them. Thinking he had a gun, the group ran back to the car with extraordinary speed. In Duff's haste to "save" the group, he backed his car into a tree and then peeled off towards Irvington.

Susie continued to make the honor roll at Howe and because her father was a realtor, they moved away from their Ohmer Avenue home for two years, but the new house was still in the Howe district. In June of 1951, Duff graduated from Howe and Susie escorted him to the prom. Duff began to work for his father's ice and coal company while Susie finished her senior year of high school and graduated in 1952.

After high school, both Duff and Susie had jobs. Duff worked on the assembly line at RCA and at Grapho Products in Lawrence as a degreaser. In March of 1953, Duff presented Susie with an engagement ring and set the wedding date of May 22, 1953. By this point, her parents had moved into 234 South Butler Avenue near her former Ohmer Avenue home. The young couple decided that they would be married in the lovely newer home.

At 7:30PM, the ceremony began. Susie wore a white "shantung" dress and Duff wore a tailor made blue suit. Only a few relatives attended. The warm weather necessitated opening the windows of the house, but it also poured rain. Since both of them had to be back at work on the following Monday, the young couple celebrated their honeymoon in Cincinnati, where they stayed at the Netherland Plaza Hotel. Susie fondly recalls going to Coney Island and eating a delicious Italian meal at Capronis. They spent $60.99 for the entire weekend.

Within in the next year, the couple saw many changes including the birth of the first of their three children and Duff's enlistment into the U.S. army. The couple lived in several houses in the Irvington area and Sue is still active with many organizations including the Irvington Mother's Club.

In top photo, Rodney and Sue Westlake Thompson proudly pose inside the Westlake family home on the evening of their wedding on May 22, 1953. The bottom photo shows the Westlake house at 234 South Butler Avenue in 1953. Both images are courtesy of Sue Westlake Thompson. The stories for this post came from notes that Sue Thompson has taken regarding her life in and around the Irvington area.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ohmer Avenue Crew in 1941 and 1947

Many children lived with their families in the newly-built cottages along Ohmer and Butler Avenues. Some dwelled in the older and taller homes nearby. In these two photos, children pause from playing outside for a photo. In the top photo, the kids gather at the Ward Home at 238 Ohmer Avenue. The matriarch of that family, Mae Yoho Ward, worked across the street at the Missions Building. She had traveled all over the world and spent extensive time in Argentina as a missionary. Her photo is included as well. The children seen on the front porch of the Ward Home in 1941 include: Top Row--Bill Parrey (306 Ohmer), Mike and Cliff Wagoner (215 South Ohmer), Don Ward (238 Ohmer), and Morgan Sly (?) Bottom Row--Neal Lindeman (218 Ohmer Avenue), Nancy Pflueger (230 Ohmer Avenue), and Susie Westlake (234 Ohmer Avenue)

In the bottom photo taken in 1947, several neighborhood children pose near the Missions Building on the Ohmer Avenue side. This view is not possible today because the Disciples of Christ added a wing onto the structure in the 1950s. Pictured in this photo: Top--Nancy Plfueger, Tudie Applegate, Susie Westlake, Carolyn Carpenter; Bottom Row--Janet Pflueger, Melinda and Jimmy Lynch

The images showing the children of the neighborhood are courtesy of Sue Westlake Thompson.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Butler University Campus Redeveloped

After Butler University moved away from Irvington in 1928, the land proved to be valuable as there was very little space to build new houses in the neighborhood because it was largely developed. In 1940, the Hall-Hottel Company (129 E. Market) purchased part of the site and built small homes along South Ohmer and Butler Avenues. Construction largely came to a halt in 1942 with the arrival of World War II, but would resume after the war.

The Westlake family purchased 234 Ohmer Avenue in 1941. For John and Dorothy Westlake it was their first home. Their daughter, Susie, fondly recalled all of her playmates who lived in the cottages around her. Her photo albums, seventy years later, are filled with pictures of children riding their bikes, playing ball, and just having fun on summer and winter days.

In the winter of 1942, Susie and her friends borrowed the family camera and snuck in the Missions Building across the street from her home. Children were not really allowed to run around in the structure, but Susie and her crew managed to get to the top floor to snap two amazing photos of the newly built homes across the street on a snowy winter day. In both photos you will see 238, 234, and 230 Ohmer Avenue. Both photos are not possible today because the Disciples of Christ added on a wing in the 1950s along Ohmer Avenue. Furthermore, she also captured two structures that have not been seen in many years.

In the bottom photo you will see 222 Ohmer Avenue at the far right of the picture. It is a two-story American Four Square. In the top photo at the far left you will see the back of 5326 University Avenue. This home was demolished to make way for the 1950s wing of the Missions Building. I also happen to think that these two photos are even more remarkable because they were taken by an eight-year-old girl. The images and stories are courtesy of Sue Westlake Thompson.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Westlakes Arrive in Irvington--1941

John and Dorothy Westlake purchased their first home at 234 Ohmer Avenue in 1941. The house was brand new and had been built on speculation in the previous year on the grounds of the former Butler University campus. The college had been gone for over a decade and the buildings fell into disrepair, eventually succumbing to the wrecking ball by the end of the 1930s. The site provided a chance for many local families to build or buy a slice of the American dream.

John Westlake (1907-1976) began as a bellhop for the Claypool Hotel in downtown Indianapolis and eventually worked his way up to becoming the night auditor. His wife Dorothy Westlake (1908-1984) worked across the street for the Christian Women's Board of Missions. Their daughter Susie found plenty of friends in the area as most of the people who lived around her had young children.

The historic photos reveal Susie Westlake on her new bike in 1941. In the background you can see the Missions Building before a major addition was put on in the 1950s along Ohmer Avenue. The middle photo shows 234 Ohmer Avenue when the Westlakes purchased it in 1941. The bottom photo is of John and Dorothy Westlake proudly standing in front of their Ohmer Avenue home in 1945. These images are courtesy of Sue (Susie) Westlake Thompson. More of this interesting part of the neighborhood will be forthcoming!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

An Amazing Irvington Pet

What do a British Prime Minister, a US President, a US Senator, and Irvington all have in common? A Cat! In the following account, Ann Hart Stewart recalls her childhood in the Ruhsenberger Home at 5930 East Washington St. (demolished) and of a beloved cat who lived across the street. Mrs. Stewart is a frequent contributor to Vintage Irvington. Her wonderful account not only tells the story of "Gussie," but she also provides interesting insights into her neighbors of the 1940s. The three photos show a possible likeness of Gussie, Senator Arthur Raymond Robinson, and his house, which now faces 18 South Arlington. The builders of Texaco Company moved the home to the back of the lot and turned it when they put in a gas station at the southwest corner of East Washington Street and Arlington Avenue in the 1950s.

Gussie The Famous Cat
By Ann Hart Stewart
Long, long ago when the world was much more innocent, particularly Irvington, and east Washington Street was only slightly commercial, there lived a United States Senator, Arthur Raymond Robinson, Republican. Oh, he didn’t live there most of the time, he stayed in Washington DC, but his wife, Frieda, did live there, in a big white frame four-square on the southwest corner of Washington and Arlington. Mrs. Robinson was very big in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, but still served wine for important occasions, because, after all, her husband was a senator and wine was “not spirits”. I know this because she would borrow table linens from us, we didn’t have silver or crystal, but we did have “important” table linens, inherited from long gone relatives. “We” were the Ruhsenbergers, Harts, and Dillards, and we lived directly across Washington St. from the Robinsons. There were three Robinson children, all grown, the eldest approaching 40.
Their daughter, Katie Petross, was the youngest, pretty, vibrant, full of fun and a very good golfer. She played regularly at Pleasant Run Golf Course, just up Arlington Avenue. Katie was a young Navy wife, and her husband, “Pete” was away at sea, which was one reason she stayed at home with her mother, and her eldest brother, Ray, who was single and divorced. (Ray had married into another of Irvington’s prominent families, the Zoerchers, but it didn’t last.) We knew Ray because our dog, Tuffy, absolutely adored him and slept regularly during the summers in the Robinson’s yard, next to Ray in his tent. We knew Katie because she loved to come over and visit with my mother and grandmother, and because she, my dad, and my mother’s brother, who was also a Naval officer, would play golf together whenever they could. Katie’s husband, Lt. L.C. Petross, (Pete to all of us), had graduated from Annapolis in 1925, just a year after my uncle, Lt. J. Roger Ruhsenberger.
As I said, Katie’s husband was away at sea - he was stationed aboard the USS Augusta. The Augusta was a very important ship! Early in 1941, (about the time I turned eight), Roosevelt and Churchill chose her as their meeting place, where they wrote the North Atlantic Charter, which eventually became NATO. It was still a peacetime Navy, at least where the US was concerned. Roosevelt snuck out of Washington DC on his yacht, and eventually transferred to the Augusta, Churchill braved the Atlantic on the HMS Prince of Wales, and then he too transferred to the Augusta, then lolling about off Nova Scotia. She was a heavy-duty cruiser. An important member of her crew, besides Lt. Petross, was the ship’s cat - Gussie, a large marmalade and white ex-tomcat with a loving disposition. After the conference was concluded, the ship received word that they might be going into harm’s way - the Orient, they’d been there before, and the situation was tense. Great Britain and Germany were already at war. No one knew what might happen. No one wanted to put Gussie at risk, so when Lt. Petross got leave and came home to Indianapolis, he brought Gussie with him, and he, that is, the cat, came to live at the Robinson’s. Well, it wasn’t long before Gussie discovered our house! He had to be very careful because E. Washington was a very wide street, and there were streetcars in those days, but he always made it across, and up the steps to our house. No animal was ever turned away. Bummy (Mrs Ruhsenberger, my grandmother) welcomed them all, she even crumbled peanut butter cookies on the hall runners so the squirrels could have treats! She adored cats, Gussie knew this, and he would come in, get up on the furniture, sit in our laps, play with toys, and roll sillies on the catnip enhanced living room rugs. Of course we all adored him too, well, maybe my grandfather did not, but Gussie wisely did not stay late in the afternoon. He was always a welcome visitor.
Sad things happened then, a little old lady on Shank Avenue saw cats in her yard, and as she raised chickens, she poisoned them all. My kitten died, but Gussie, being very large, just got very sick. He went to the vet, who rescued him: my dad, who could be very intimidating, went to the little old lady, and no more cats were poisoned, but Katie decided that was enough, and went out west to be near her husband’s next posting, taking Gussie with her. Lord, we all missed that cat, he was so much fun, and so loving and affectionate. I got other cats, and they all fell victim to the traffic, until I was eleven, when my dad brought home another kitten, a very wise soul even when he was young. He lived until I was twenty-seven!
But Gussie was probably the most important visitor our home in Indianapolis ever entertained - after all he had been witness to one of the most important events in world history, had met both Roosevelt and Churchill, but preferred to roll around and inhale catnip on our living room rug. We were very honored.
The Robinsons, that is, the Senator and Mrs. Robinson are interred at Washington Park East, Katie lived to be 90 and died in Mesa, AZ, Pete died in 1978, but Gussie lives on in my memory.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

5743 Oak Avenue Then and Now

In 1985, Laraine and Kevin Robbins purchased 5743 Oak Avenue in the dead of winter. They knew that the home used to belong to Florence Wiese, who had lived into her nineties. They had also been informed by another Wiese family member that Miss Wiese, who had gone blind, used to rent the upstairs of the home out to widows or single women. At the closing, the Robbins family received a 1920s era photo of their "new" historic home. So who was Miss Wiese and was there more to the story of this charming Arts and Crafts era home? It turns out there was.

Harry C. Simpson (1883-1954) left Aberdeen, Scotland in 1908 at the age of 24 for a new life in the United States. He departed on the SS Victoria bound for Canada in April. He entered the US via St. Albans, Vermont. His immigration papers describe him as 5'7" with brown hair and brown eyes. He had a total of $230 in his pocket as he made his way towards Indianapolis. He had been trained as a lithograph artist in Scotland and he took a similar position with the Indianapolis Engraving and Electrotyping Company. How he came to meet Grace L. Pritchett (1885-1973) is unclear, but they fell in love and married at the Irvington Presbyterian Church on July 11, 1911.

Immediately following their ceremony, Harry and Grace departed Indianapolis for Montreal and then on July 15, they sailed for the United Kingdom so that Grace could meet his parents in Scotland. They stayed away for the entire summer and lingered in the eastern United States before settling at Sadie Pritchett's (Grace's Mom) home at 5743 Oak Avenue in Irvington. It appears that Mrs. Pritchett built next door to Samuel Downs, another employee of the same firm as Mr. Simpson. Perhaps Mrs. Pritchett was connected with the firm in some way and discovered the lot via Mr. Downs. The two-story Arts and Crafts era house would be now be home for the newlyweds who would eventually have a son named James G. and a daughter named Grace L.

In 1920, the Simpsons moved from their Oak Avenue home for the country. As an artist, perhaps Mr. Simpson longed for nature to inspire him as he illustrated for others. They sold the house to Peter Winkel, a printer, and his wife Minnie. Both of the Winkels approached 50 as they moved in and they welcomed their 23 year-old son Raymond and his wife Edith to join them. The elder Mr. Winkel died in 1923 so Mrs. Winkel sold the home to the Wiese Family.

Harry C. Wiese tried out many business adventures throughout out his working life. In 1923, he managed the Claman Lunch and Recreation Billiard Parlor at 207-11 North Delaware. (also known as Claman Cafeteria). By 1930, he worked for the Beech Nut Packing Company as a traveling salesman. Back home his wife Odessa or Tessa managed the affairs at 5743 Oak Avenue. Also living with the Wieses in 1930 included Anton Wiese, the 82 year-old father of Harry, and Harry Wiese, Jr, their 30 year-old son and electrician. So, who was Florence Wiese? As it turns out, Florence was the spinster sister of Harry C. Weise. She had lived with her father for years and then moved into 5743 Oak Avenue with everyone else. Florence worked as a stenographer and secretary for several doctors and businessmen on the east side including William Tomilinson, John R. Swan, and Edwin Tether. By the 1960s, only Florence remained in the large bungalow so she started renting out the upstairs rooms. Some of the women who lived up there during this time include Helen R. Johnson, Helen Miller, and Linda Chambers.

Upon the death of Florence Wiese in the mid-1980s, her distant family members longed to sell the house quickly. Laraine and Kevin Robbins had no idea that the home would take years to restore, but they have faithfully done it. With one photo and some scant information, we now at least know a little more about the families who dwelled here. The historic image is courtesy of Laraine and Kevin Robbins. The contemporary image was shot on January 3, 2012.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

As we usher in 2012, I want to take the opportunity to thank the many contributors to this blog. Your photos and stories have been invaluable. Each house on every block tells a different story. I hope to document even more of the neighborhood in the coming year. Keep coming back and if you know someone who might have some interesting photos or stories about Irvington then drop me a note at

We shall begin the year with a page from a Butler Yearbook from 1910. Bloor Scheppey, a student at that time, wrote this ode to his beloved university. I particularly liked the Arts and Crafts look of the page and his final line. And when, adown the length'ing years, We see our heav'n-kissed dreams come true, Shall not our high achievement owe its jeweled crown, Butler, to you?

It has been my pleasure to bring you what really happened "adown" those "length'ing years."