Saturday, March 31, 2012

Butler Football Field--1922

Irwin Field sat south of University Avenue, east of South Butler Avenue and West of Ohmer Avenue. In this incredible shot, the photographer is facing east towards Ohmer. All of the distant houses in the photo are still standing along that street. Like a mirage, in the upper right part of the photo, you can see the brick "tower" of the Irvington Ice and Coal building in the 400 block of South Ritter Avenue. The Baltimore and Ohio Rail Line is to the far right of the photo as are houses along Burgess Avenue south of the tracks. Irwin Field served as the football stadium for Butler University until it moved out of Irvington in 1928. In the 1940s and 50s, the site was redeveloped into housing. This historic photo, taken in 1922, is courtesy of Amy Friedly.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Father and Son--1945

Robert Fields proudly embraces his father, Russell Fields, in the front yard of their home at 326 North Ritter Avenue in 1945. The young boy in the photo would grow up to become a successful accountant and raise his own family. Although the Fields family had lived in Irvington since the 1930s, they only lived in the Ritter Avenue home from the mid to late 1940s. Behind the pair, you can see homes on the east side of North Ritter Avenue (300 block--near Michigan Street). A photo taken in the early spring of 2012 shows the houses today. The historic image is courtesy of Ron Flick.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

North Ritter Avenue on a Snowy Day--1945

The Fields family dwelled at 326 North Ritter from the mid to late 1940s. In this photo, taken around 1945 in the front yard, Dorothy Hathaway Fields stands to the right of her son, Robert F. Fields. Dorothy's mother, Jesse Forest Williams Hathaway of Logansport, Indiana stands to the left. In the photo, you can see some of the houses north of the Fields home on the west side of Ritter. The brick home in the background actually faces Pleasant Run Parkway. A few houses on the east side of Ritter can also be seen. This historic image is courtesy of Ron Flick. The contemporary image shows the same houses in 2012.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Early Color Photograph of Layman Avenue--Circa 1950

This early color photograph of Layman Avenue might have been taken in the late 1940s or early 1950s. The Zoercher girls (52 North Layman Avenue) and their friends were the subject of the photographer. Behind them, you can see the east side of Layman Avenue looking north. It must have been a cold day perhaps in late autumn as there were still yellow leaves on the ground, but all of the trees remained bare. Someone has leaned a bike against the brick apartment building. The American Four Square visible behind the girls is 65 North Layman. Notice the wonderful street light long gone from the block. I am not good at identifying cars so if anyone knows the make or models of these automobiles please drop me a note. I have included a photo of the block today, but a giant evergreen obscures the apartment building. You will note that 65 North Layman Avenue has been restored. The historic image is courtesy of Andrea de Mink.

Thanks to an astute reader, we now know that the girl standing in the rear and closest to the car has been identified as Barbara Schulmeyer Near.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Wedding Celebration on Layman Avenue

The Zoercher family dwelled in a beautiful American Four Square at 52 North Layman Avenue from 1934 to 1955. In the early 1950s, the family joyously celebrated the wedding of a daughter in the home. These photos show the wedding party and happy bride. Many Irvington homes served as lovely places for such ceremonies. These wonderful historic images are courtesy of Andrea de Mink.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dates and Dances

The Zoercher family dwelled for many years at 52 North Layman. By the early 1950s, the Zoercher daughters began to enter high school. In these two wonderful photos, you get a snippet of life for an Indianapolis teenager. In the top photo, it appears that the young man has just given his date a lovely corsage. They are both smartly dressed and ready for a fun night out.

In the second photo, a Zoercher daughter poses in the foyer of her home. We are searching for her name so if anyone reading this post recognizes her, please drop me a note. You can imagine how wonderful it must have been for the current homeowners to receive this early color photograph. My eyes are drawn to several items in this picture including the Gone With the Wind inspired wallpaper, the classic 1950s orange furniture, the beautiful clock, and the original light fixture. In her lovely gown, she might be going to the prom or some other special dance. You may see exterior photos of this home by clicking on the "Zoercher Family" link below. These historic images are courtesy of Andrea de Mink.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Zoerchers of 52 N. Layman Avenue

The Zoercher family dwelled at 52 North Layman from 1934 to 1955. Like many Irvington families of this era, they took the time to document their lives. Most of the photos in today's post show the Zoercher children outside playing or going to school. Mrs. Zoercher and one of the grandparents appear as well. All of these photos were taken outside either in the backyard or along the side of the house. These snapshots were likely shot from the mid-1930s and into the late 1940s.

The Zoerchers were not the first to live in the home, which was likely constructed in 1906. Other early families include the Wiggins and Walkers. The Griffins moved in after the Zoerchers.

The historic images are courtesy of Andrea de Mink.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Zoercher Family of Layman Avenue

Finding historic photos of one's house can be difficult and for some of us, elusive. For others, it is as easy as a knock on the door. How many of us have longed to go into a childhood home or the former house of a grandparent? That is exactly what happened when members of the Zoercher family returned to 52 North Layman over fifty years after leaving the beautiful American Four Square.

James Zoercher (1909-1965) grew up in Irvington at 68 N. Whittier Place. His father was a prominent attorney. On January 24, 1931, James, married Eleanor Hadd (1908-1982) and began working for Indianapolis Power and Light. Mrs. Zoercher lived in both Boston and Baltimore prior to moving to Indianapolis. The young couple eventually set up housekeeping at 52 North Layman Avenue in 1934 and remained until 1955. They raised their children in the home and thankfully took many photos of their beloved family and of the Layman Avenue area. These photos are now treasured by the current homeowners.

In the top photo, you can see an image of the house taken around 1940. A contemporary shot of the same side of the dwelling was shot on March 19, 2012. In the other historic photos, you will see various members of the Zoercher family gathered on the front steps. Most of the shots are of the children although you can see Mrs. Zoercher in a few of them. You will note that most of the photos date from the late 1930s throughout the 1940s. The Zoerchers were clearly fashionable people based upon their stylish clothes. Mrs. Zoercher eventually worked as a therapist at the La Rue Carter Hospital. More photos of this interesting family will be forthcoming. The historic images are courtesy of Andrea de Mink.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Big Reveal! Bruckman Coal Building

As I type this note, workmen have begun to peal away the layers aluminum and vinyl siding at the former Bruckman Coal building at 203 Good Avenue. The current owners were delighted to find that the wood siding on the south side of the building was in good shape and completely salvageable. The removal also found ghost windows and doors. Twentieth century Irvingtonians were practical and thought that if they sheathed their homes and businesses in various sidings they could save money. Thankfully, many residents in the twenty-first century have begun to strip away those layers and are restoring the original footprints. Vintage Irvington has learned of another big reveal coming soon! Stay tuned. You may discover more about this interesting structure by clicking on "Bruckman Family" below.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Layman and Lowell--Then and Now

Sometime in the mid-1940s, a member of the Zoercher family went for a walk after a winter snowfall and took this photo. In the picture, you can see North Layman Avenue as it intersects with Lowell Avenue. Diligent residents had already cleared the sidewalks, but several inches of snow remained on the lawns and trees along Layman. The Zoerchers lived at 52 North Layman. More information on this family will be forthcoming. The contemporary image shows the same intersection on March 15, 2012. The historic image is courtesy of Andrea De Mink.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tennis Anyone? Butler Team in 1899

Two members of the Butler University tennis team posed for this photograph in 1899. Carl McGaughey, who was related to the prominent physician Samuel McGaughey, is on the left while E. S. Powell is the right. The McGaugheys lived on East Washington Street near the site of the present Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

Note that the court is marked and appears to be grass or dirt. Although tennis is an old sport, it really did not take root in the United States until the 1880s. By the turn of the last century, the sport was growing in popularity.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lost Irvington--15 South Ritter Avenue

Some Irvington houses have been lost over the decades because of the proximity to commercial businesses along East Washington Street. With the proliferation of the automobile, the need for parking rose exponentially. This lovely early twentieth-century home used to sit at 15 South Ritter Avenue behind a bank and the Irving Theater, but it was removed for a parking lot.

Butler fraternity members called the dwelling home throughout the 1920s. The following set of photos, taken in 1920, shows the home when it housed many local Butler students. In the top photo, you can not only see the house, but the Masonic Lodge and some homes along Johnson Avenue behind it. In the bottom photos, members of the fraternity pose for photos. Notice the wonderful woodwork, hardwood floors, and fireplace. You will also likely enjoy the interesting furnishings including the phonograph machine in the second photo. These photos are reminders that we must do better in our generation of preserving this wonderful neighborhood so that structures like this are never again demolished. The historic images are courtesy of Amy Friedly.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

An Orion Avenue Cottage

Orion Avenue is a quiet street located south of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, west of Emerson Avenue, and north of Brookville Road. It is a short street that most Irvingtonians have not likely driven down. While most of the housing stock along the avenue dates from the 1920s and later, there is at least one very old cottage located at 5014.

The 1889 map of Irvington shows a structure on the site. Orion used to be called Nora and South Bancroft was formerly known as Parker. Irvington founder, Levi Ritter owned the acreage around the home, but he lived in a grand place at the southeast corner of East Washington Street and Ritter Avenue.

The earliest known family to call 5014 home were the Coffins. George W. and Louisa Fulwider Coffin planned to spend their retirement years in the home and they moved into the house in 1908. The large lot was perfect for Mr. Coffin because he loved to garden and he sold his vegetables and flowers at the Indianapolis City Market. The house used to have the address of 4876 Orion, but it was changed in 1917 to 5014. The Coffins, both in their sixties, usually kept boarders. In 1910, two ministers named Summer Robinson, 21, and Frederick Jacobs, 27, lived in the home. By 1915, Mrs. Coffin's health appeared to be failing and the couple left to stay with children. Eventually, she passed away in Oak Park, Illinois on October 17, 1915. Mr. Coffin would live until 1926. Both were buried in their native Montgomery County, Indiana.

The Rubush family moved into house in 1915 and remained until the 1930s. William Rubush was a brick mason and contractor and worked on many landmarks and memorials around the city of Indianapolis. His wife, Clara Jenne Rubush, ran the household. Both of the Rubush's were members of the Universalist Church in Oaklandon in northeastern Marion County. They raised five children in the house. Their daughters Zerelda and Ada attended the Hibben Dance School in Irvington in 1921 and Zerelda later sang in the opera The Pirates of Penzance at Butler University on January 11, 1923. Both daughters would become teachers with Zerelda moving to Paris, France. One son, Jack Rubush, became a sheriff in Hancock County, Indiana, while another son, Richard Rubush, worked in a variety of jobs.

Tragedy awashed the Rubush family on May 28, 1923, when their twenty-two-year-old son, Theodore was struck by a train and killed. Theodore had just married Dorothy King and was living at 4001 East Washington Street. He was on his first day of a job delivering the Indianapolis Sunday Star near Julietta, Indiana in eastern Marion County. He had recruited his fifteen-year-old brother-in-law, David King, to drive his auto while he passed out newspapers. As young David was driving the car, it stalled on the Baltimore and Ohio tracks. A new driver, he threw the car into reverse and the auto stalled once again. Theodore was killed instantly while David survived with some terrible injuries. The Rubush's held the funeral in their home at 5014 Orion Avenue. Sadly for the Rubush family, the property abuts the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad so they likely thought of their son daily as the train conductors blew their whistles to announce the train's arrival to Irvington at Emerson Avenue.

The Swain family lived in the home in the early 1940s and then the Thompsons moved into 5014 in 1944. They would remain for several decades. Rodney Thompson worked for Irvington Ice and Coal on South Ritter and eventually worked his way up to managing the facility. The Thompsons raised their children in the cottage on the large lot. More information will be forthcoming on this interesting family.

Each house has its own story to tell. What other tales remain from this one small home on this quiet street? More research is needed not only on this house, but on many others along Orion Avenue.

In the top photo, courtesy of Kathleen Lynch, you can see Louisa Fulwider Coffin, as a passenger in her brother's car. The three women in the backseat of the car, are Louisa's sisters. She was visiting the family in Montgomery County, Indiana near New Richmond when this photo was taken around 1910.

In the second photo, you can see two views of 5014 Orion Avenue. The bottom part of the photo shows the home in 1944 just after the Thompsons planted some evergreen trees. In the top part of the photo, you can see the house in 1950. The trees had started to grow. These photos are courtesy of Sue Thompson.

It is nearly impossible to get a contemporary view of the house in 2012 because the Thompson trees now tower over the home nearly seventy years after these photos were taken, however, you will note that the dwelling has been enlarged.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lost Irvington--Julian/Layman Villa

In 1952, the wrecking crews began to dismantle one of Irvington's original homes. First built for Jacob Julian, one of the founders of Irvington in 1871, the home passed to the Layman family in 1887. The three-story Second Empire villa was the site of the first wedding in Irvington on February 24, 1875, when Edgar Brown married Martha Julian, the daughter of Jacob Julian. The next day, the house became the site of one of the first crimes in Irvington when a thief entered the home and stole the bride's wedding gown and slippers.

Thirty-five years later on February 15, 1910, the Laymans celebrated the the joyous wedding of their daughter, Katherine to Harvey Elam. The next day, a terrible blizzard paralyzed the city of Indianapolis.

One of the Layman sons helped to develop the Audubon Court Apartments on the southeast corner of East Washington Street and Audubon Road in 1914. Land became highly sought after as developers strove to construct apartment buildings along the National Road.

Entrepreneurs knocked down the house at 29 South Audubon Road in the winter of 1952 to make way for the Saxony Apartment Complex. The new site included 69 apartments and cost about $651,000 to build. Unfortunately, the neighborhood lost several of its crown jewels during this period of history. To view the home in its glory click on the "Julian Family" or "Layman Family" links below.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Boys Play Near Farmer's Field--1940

Duff Thompson and Bill Wilkins lived in the 6100 block of Dewey Avenue in 1940. The boys had plenty of room to play as Dewey Avenue dead-ended into a field east of the neighborhood. Most of the folks who lived in that block rented or owned small bungalows built in the 1920s. In this photo, you can see the two boys and the wide open space behind them. After World War II, a developer built several small brick homes on the open land. This historic image is courtesy of Sue Thompson.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Staggering Loss--5400 block of East Washington St.

Nothing is more staggering than to see what Irvington has lost in the way of its historic commercial corridor. This photo, taken in 1950 for an Indianapolis newspaper, depicts a vibrant street. Every structure in this photo with the exception of the the brick building barely visible at the end of the row is now gone. East Washington Street became a victim of the mass exodus of businesses out of the Irvington and towards Shadeland Avenue and beyond. This trend began in the 1960s and continued unabated until 2000. Residents also fled the neighborhood for greener pastures.

By the 1980s, a bookstore featuring pornography, cash and pawn shops, and a host of other businesses of the same ilk began to take root. In the 5400 block, several buildings sat empty for years and derelict landlords allowed the structures to crumble. When Walgreen's entered the scene in the early 1990s, Irvington residents jumped at the chance for revitalizing a sagging corner. Walgreen's came into the neighborhood with caveat in that they would not only tear down historic buildings, they would place a parking lot in front of the building. This was the beginning of the end for the historic structures on the north side of East Washington Street in that block. By 2002, the destruction was complete with the addition of a suburban strip mall.

Thankfully, brighter times now exist for Irvington. The neighborhood is protected under the auspices of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. The 5600 block is as vibrant now as when it was first built in the 1920s. While it is too late to save two blocks of historic buildings, we can now do our parts to be caretakers of this lovely place so that the next generation can enjoy it. This era of neighbors shall be given credit in the future for not only saving the historic fabric of the community, but restoring it as well.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lost Irvington--5500 East Washington Street

While most of Irvington's residential area remains intact, the commercial artery has suffered severe losses over the years. Both the 5400 and 5500 blocks have been the most devastated. Much of the destruction of the 5500 block has occurred in the last ten years by Tharp Investments. In this newspaper photo, taken in 1950, you can see the liveliness and density of the block. All of the buildings visible in this photo are now GONE! All of the demolition took place before Irvington was a preservation district. Since gaining protected status, Tharp has attempted to demolish more of the neighborhood, but has been stopped. On May 2, 2012, (5:30--City County Building) the firm will once again try to remove another piece of Irvington's heritage at 5502 East Washington Street. The last remaining historic structure on the north side of the 5500 block of East Washington Street could face the wrecking ball if the corporation gets its wish. This photo is an illustration as to why Irvingtonians must PROTECT what we have left. Perhaps one day, the rest of Washington Street will get to experience the glorious renaissance taking place in the 5600 block.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Taking a Walk--1937

Newly-married Evelyn Schneider Ferling paused in front of the newly-built Fourth Church of Christ Science at 5201 Pleasant Run Parkway South Drive in 1937 for this photo. Mrs. Ferling, who grew up at 327 Poplar Road in the Pleasanton section of Irvington, married Tom Ferling of Bosart Avenue. They first lived in the Mary Elizabeth Apartments along East Washington Street.

Irvington Christian Scientists purchased lots for a church in 1924, but did not construct a building on the site until 1936. Notice that in this photo, taken shortly after the completion of the structure, that there are no tall sycamores shading the lovely corner. Mrs. Ferling was not a member of the church, but the combination of the bench, the new building, and her fashionable coat made it a perfect place for a photograph. This wonderful image is courtesy of her son, Bill Ferling.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lost Irvington--The Neighborhood Grocery

Prior to the 1950s, most Irvington residents obtained their grocery products from small neighborhood stores within walking distance of their homes. Larger grocery chains like Standard Grocery put many of the smaller shops out of business by the mid-twenieth century although a few remained longer.

In this wonderful photo, neighborhood girlfriends gather along Beechwood Avenue for a photo in 1953. Behind the kids, you can see the former Wuest Grocery Store at 5902 Beechwood Avenue. William J. Wuest, the child of German immigrants, and his wife Anna opened the business in the new building in 1920. The family lived next door at 385 Good Avenue.

By the 1950s, the structure was used as a beauty shop and as an apartment. Sadly, by 2010, it sat derelict and vacant. On the night of April 20, 2010, a teenaged arsonist entered the building and destroyed the historic structure.

Pictured in the top photo taken in 1953 are: Linda Bevis, Debbie St. John, Claudia St. John, Donna Bevis, and Jean Ferling. This image is courtesy of Bill Ferling.

The bottom photo, taken in April of 2010, by a WISHTV reporter, shows the structure on fire and before it was demolished.

More research is needed on this grocery and on others that served residents along East Washington Street, Audubon Road, Arlington Avenue, and Dewey Avenue.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Residents Hurt: Historic Apartment Heavily Damaged

Residents of the La Mae Apartment Building at 5143 East Washington Street struggled to get out the structure alive today after a fire started around 12:24PM. Local media outlets are reporting that all ten units are damaged and that the building is a total toss. Several were seriously hurt and one man had to resort to jumping out of a second story window. Police and fire investigators are still on the scene as I type this post. (5:15PM--3/2/2012)

The La Mae was constructed during the late 1920s during the apartment building boom along East Washington Street. The very first apartment units to be constructed in Irvington were the Audubon Court Apartments on the southeast corner of East Washington Street and Audubon Road in 1914.

The contemporary photos were taken after the fire on March 2, 2012.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hearing Postponed Until May 2, 2012

Tharp Investments has asked for a continuance on a request to demolish 5502 East Washington Street. The firm seeks to remove the former Irvington Post Office and Hook's Drug Store so that they can obtain seven additional parking spaces. The company will make their case in front of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission in the City County Building on May 2, 2012, at 5:30 PM. Mark your calendars!! More details will be posted as they become available.