Thursday, May 31, 2012

Potential Sale on the Horizon for Troubled Historic Structure

Tharp Investments has asked for another continuance from the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission.   The company originally asked for permission to demolish the former Irvington Post Office and Hook's Drug Store (5502 East Washington St.), but the firm has delayed that request.  The IHPC is reporting that the corporation is still in negotiations to sell the building and has asked for a continuance until July.  If the deal falls through, they may still ask the agency for permission to demolish the historic structure; however, there appears to be a credible offer on the table.   More details will be posted as they become available.  The potential sale of this structure is welcome news for this forlorn-looking, but important corner of Irvington.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Parsonage

5309 Julian Avenue began life as a private residence in the late 1910s.  From 1950 to 1973, it served as the home for ministers and their families for the Downey Avenue Christian Church.  This large American Four Square has many nice features including beautiful Arts and Crafts era stained-glass windows on either side of the fireplace.  The home looks much the same today although it has since been sheathed in white aluminum siding.  This photo was likely taken around 1950.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Mother's Worry--Sons in War

Thermina "Marie" and Charles Vollrath (218 South Audubon Road) sent five sons into World War II.  In this photo, the proud mother poses with her son Hansen Vollrath on February 3, 1942.  Her anxiety and worry over her sons' fates likely contributed to heart problems that ultimately took her life shortly after the war ended.  All of her sons made it home from the fronts and went on to prosperous careers.  This weekend we honor all of those who have served our country.  This historic image is courtesy of Dr. Victor Vollrath.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Eastgate Shopping Mall--c. 1959

Eastgate Shopping Mall opened along Shadeland Avenue between East Washington Street and Tenth Street in 1957.  This early photograph of the mall shows the Wasson's Department Store branch.  The main store was located in downtown Indianapolis.  Wasson's catered to a middle class crowd and operated in the mall for many years.  This building has hosted other commercial interests as well including the Burlington Coat factory in the 1990s.  Harold Crook, an amateur photographer who dwelled at 63 North Irwin Avenue, photographed the new store shortly after it opened.  Eastgate spelled doom for many Irvington merchants as eastside residents flocked to the new site instead of patronizing the neighborhood stores.  Some Irvington businesses abandoned the East Washington Street commercial corridor and moved into Eastgate.

This historic image is courtesy of Don and Lisa Flick.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Irvington School of Music

 On any given day in Irvington in the early twentieth century, music could be heard emanating from various homes.  Piano and vocal teachers abounded on several streets and on warmer days, their students' lessons drifted out of the houses under the canopy of trees and along the brick streets.

On November 6, 1918, Adelaide Conte opened the Irvington School of Music at 269 South Audubon Road.  Miss Conte first came to the US as a young girl from Italy and then went back to study voice at the Conservatory of Venice.  Her new school offered all kinds of instruction in voice, piano, organ, violin, and other instruments in the parlors of the rented home.  She lived upstairs and leased out rooms to music students including Loa Delameter.  As an accomplished operatic singer, she directed the voice students, most of whom attended Butler University or nearby high schools.  Percival Owen headed up the piano department while Florence Cardiff assisted with the choral groups. Jesse Christian Brown, who lived a few houses away at 251 South Audubon taught the beginner's French classes in the house.  Mme. Cousin, a "well known teacher of French" instructed the advanced French students.

Classes were held on Wednesday and Friday evenings in the house for the advanced students.  Beginners and young children attended classes on Saturday.  Genevieve Schmutte was one of many young teachers who conducted classes for the primary students.  Talented students who could not afford to pay Miss Conte's rates could apply for a scholarship.  Students had to audition for that reward.  Miss Conte offered her courses at 269 South Audubon from 1918 till 1921.  She eventually moved her school to another house along East Washington Street.  One can only imagine the beautiful arias and less than perfect instrumental sounds coming out of these two homes.  To see a photo of her other school, click on the Conte link below.

The historic photo shows the Irvington School of Music in 1920.  The teachers are standing on the steps.  The first document is a recital program from 1921.  It is possible that the school had already moved by this time.  Genevieve Schmutte conducted the free concert at the Irvington Presbyterian Church.  Many of the names on the list are long time Irvington families.  The last document is a piece of stationary from when the school operated along South Audubon Road.  A contemporary photo, taken on May 20, 2012, shows that little has changed on the exterior since 1920.  The home was likely constructed in 1907 as a private residence.  The Spear family dwelled in the home shortly after it was built.

Teacher, Genevieve Schmutte stands second from the left in the top row.  

Provenance of the historic photo taken in 1920 and of the documents.  On April 28, 2012, I was doing yard work at my home at 269 South Audubon Road.  I had just finished mowing the backyard when I decided to go to the front and sweep the sidewalks.  I was not supposed to be home at that hour because I had the day off from the school where I teach.  It had been an unusually mild winter so we did not use any of our "snow" days so I began to tackle the high grass.  It had been a beautiful day which is why I was doing yard work.  Unbeknownst to me, Sandy Burton was on a personal odyssey.  Her grandmother, Genevieve Schmutte had died long before Sandy was born, but she was trying to find out more about her grandmother's life.  She had just cleaned out a family home that had fallen victim to vandalism and fire. As she was removing furniture, she found a box of photographs and personal documents that had belonged to her grandmother.  The box had been wet so she was not sure if there was anything worth saving.  Then, she found a photo of an unusual looking home and some recital information on a little known school in a place called "Irvington."  

She enlisted her husband and they drove down from Fishers, Indiana to explore Irvington.  In her hands, she held onto the photo of the home .  As they pulled in front of 269 South Audubon Road, I was walking with my broom in hand to finish my task.  She decided to roll down her car window.  "Excuse me, sir, I don't want to bother you, but do you live here?"  Now, you must understand that I run a blog dedicated to finding historic photos and stories of Irvington.  Despite my best efforts, historic photos of my own home had eluded me.  I immediately sensed that something wonderful was about to come my way.  "Why, yes I do.  Did you have a relative who lived in this house?"  She then got out of her vehicle and showed me the photo.  "I have been waiting for you," I replied.  We both became very excited for different reasons.  Needless to say, I gave her a complete tour of the home and she told me as much as she could about this special woman who left this planet too soon.  Sandy was also very generous with both the documents and the photo.  "I was not going to knock on your door," she told me "because I didn't want to disturb you."  I am so glad that I happened to be in the right place at the precise moment on that day.  I am very grateful to Sandy Burton for her generous spirit and gifts.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Irving Circle--1915

Irma Vollrath and a friend stopped briefly from playing to pose for this photo taken in the Irving Circle Park around 1915.  Behind the girls, you can see the following homes along South Audubon Road:  237-39, 245-47, 251, and in the distance the double that sits on the southeast corner of University and Audubon Road.

Dr. Walter Kelly built 237-39 in 1915.  His home is barely visible in the photo, but you can see the porch and dark stained cedar shingles.  Next to it, you can see the American Four Square double at 245-47 South Audubon Road.  The Kaylor family lived on one side and the Campbells on the other.  The beautiful Arts and Crafts era home at 251 housed the Betram Day family from 1908 till about 1915.  Demarchus Brown, the State Librarian, and his wife Jesse Christian Brown lived in the home from 1915 and into the 1920s.  Mr. Brown was the brother of Hilton U. Brown, while Mrs. Brown came from the Christian family, for whom Christian Park is named.  She became renown around the state for her travels.  Mrs. Brown loved to visit exotic locations and then come back and give a report of her findings to clubs and women's groups around the state.  When she died, small town newspapers across the state carried her obituary.

The historic image is courtesy of Dr. Victor Vollrath while the newer photo shows 245-47 and 251 South Audubon Road on May 18, 2012.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Audubon Road and Bonna Avenue--1917

This wonderful photo of baby, Victor Vollrath (218 South Audubon Road), was taken in 1917.  Notice that South Audubon used to be brick!  In the background, you can see the rear of two homes and a business in the 5700 block of Bonna Avenue.  This view is not possible today because homes were built in the field along South Audubon in the 1920s.  Bonna Avenue was named after Bona Thompson, the daughter of a prominent Irvington family.  She was a graduate of Butler and died while on a European tour with her family in 1899.  The Thompsons later donated the land and money for a library at Butler with her name on it.  Yes, the town elders misspelled her name for the street.  The depot for Irvington used to sit across from the structures in this photo.  All of these buildings are still standing in 2012 although in various states of repair.  I have included a frontal view of two of the Bonna Avenue structures in 2012.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cycling in Irvington--1920s

By the mid-1920s, all of the streets and most of the alleys in Irvington were bricked or paved.  Cycling had been a craze in the US since the late nineteenth century.  Cycling clubs sprang up around Indianapolis and in the neighborhood.  The Vollrath brothers of 218 South Audubon Road actually built a track on a long and vacant lot along Hibben Avenue for a race.  The Indianapolis Star covered the event and reported that Carl Vollrath to be not only the designer of the track, but also the winner of the competition.

In these historic photos, you can see a photo of Carl Vollrath and his friend Donald after winning the race in 1926.  Their trophies are proudly displayed in the next pictures.  In the last photo, a young Victor Vollrath rides his bike on a vacant lot south of his home at 218 South Audubon Road in 1927.  You can see some of the doubles in the 200 block across the street.  The historic images are courtesy of Dr. Victor Vollrath.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Irvington and the Moon

Last month, we told you the story of Pearl Wenrick, who sent a post card to a Mr. Hanson Whiteside.  She would have been 17 years old and living at 44 Whittier Place in 1913.  Local history sleuth, Lee Crislip wondered what became of Pearl?  Her detective work landed her on the phone with Dave Sellards, the son of Pearl Wenrick.  What Lee found next was....remarkable.

Mr. Sellards reports that his mother went to art school while living in Irvington and then eventually studied art at Columbia University.  Her first teaching position came at Missouri State Teachers College, where she taught fine arts.  Eventually she married and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan where she served as an art teacher in the local school district.

The Sellards settled down in an old brick house along the Huron River.  Pearl frequently did calligraphy for the Alumni Association for the University of Michigan.  Thousands of former professors and students have certificates with Pearl's beautiful script.

In July of 1971, Pearl received a call from the University of Michigan requesting her services.  It was an urgent project as time was of the essence.  All three of the astronauts about to travel to the moon were University of Michigan graduates so the institution wanted a certificate that the astronauts could take to the moon.  Pearl scrambled and in one day produced a beautiful document.  Apollo 15 blasted off from Earth on July 26, 1971, for the moon.  It was one of NASA's most successful missions and the astronauts left a few items on the moon including Pearl's gorgeous handwriting.

Years later, as an elderly woman, she gave an interview to an author working on a sesquicentennial history of Ann Arbor, Michigan and reported that she frequently looked up at the moon and wondered about her piece of art.

Many thanks to Lee Crislip and Dave Sellards for the historic photo and information for this story.  All of this research stemmed from a postcard written in 1913 from 44 Whittier Place.  We began to wonder about the author.  We had no idea that it would take us to the moon.  To see the postcard click on the Wenrick family link below.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fun in Ellenberger Park--1918

Two Vollrath children enjoy a day in Ellenberger Park sometime in 1918.  They seem to be enjoying the park benches and a watering jug on a warm day.  Victor Vollrath, who is now 95, reports that he used to swim in Pleasant Run stream before there was ever a city pool in the park.  Like children in 2012, sledding down the large hill in the park was also a popular activity in 1920!  The historic images are courtesy of Dr. Victor Vollrath.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mowing the Yard--1927

Victor and Marie Vollrath mow the front yard of their home at 218 South Audubon Road in 1927.  The Vollraths prided themselves on their beautiful yard.  They were also known for their gorgeous roses.  In this wonderful photo, you can see storefronts in the 200 block of South Audubon Road.  Upon Irvington's founding in 1870, this was to be the commercial area for the neighborhood because of its proximity to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad; however, by the 1910s Washington Street took over as the most important business avenue for Irvington.

Behind Mrs. Vollrath and her son, you can barely see the Wallace Grocery in the left of the photo.  For a brief stint in the 1920s, there were three grocery stores in this block including the Charles Vollrath Grocery at 202; the  William Jones Grocery at 203; and the William Wallace Grocery at 212.  If you look closely behind Mrs. Vollrath, you can see the F. E. Lederhaus Barber Shop.  You will note the barber's pole by the front door.   Other businesses to operate in these nearby shops in the early 1920s included a drug store at 203 South Audubon, run by Gilmore Morgan (his family lived across the street at 214 South Audubon), and Keene's Radiator Shop (205 South Audubon).  Dr. Victor Vollrath, who is 95 as of this writing, remembers getting his first haircut at Lederhaus Barber Shop.  His mother kept his hair bobbed until he was five years old, but she finally relented to his request to have a proper haircut in 1921.

In the contemporary photos, taken in the spring of 2012, you can see the same view of Wallace Grocery at 212 South Audubon Road and of the shops across the street that housed the drug store and radiator shop.  The historic image is courtesy of Dr. Victor Vollrath.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Visiting Germans--1920s

The Vollrath family (218 South Audubon Road) frequently sponsored Germans who wanted to become American citizens.  They provided funds for their arrival to the US and hosted folks for a brief stint.  In these photos, several Germans pose along South Audubon Road.  They had just arrived in the US in the hopes of starting a new life here.  Although we do not know their names, these photos document their tenure in Irvington.

In the first two photos, two German women stand next to a car parked in the 200 block of South Audubon Road.  Across the street, you can see a row of doubles that were practically brand new when this photo was taken.  In the second photo, a German man enjoys a smoke in front of 237-39 South Audubon Road.  If you look closely, you can also see 245-47 South Audubon Road.  In the fourth photo, a German couple stand near 214 South Audubon Road.  The Morgan family dwelled there in the 1920s.  I have posted a 2012 photo of that home as well.  The historic images are courtesy of Dr. Victor Vollrath.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Fite" the Loyal Dog

He dwelled at 218 South Audubon Road throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s.  Fite, the beloved German Shepherd, belonged to the Vollrath family.  He was quite a fixture throughout the neighborhood as the Vollrath brothers trained him to help deliver newspapers.  He would carry the rolled up paper in his mouth and drop it on the front porches of homes throughout southern Irvington.  Mrs. Vollrath would have Fite guard the tent where the brothers would have sleepovers with their friends.  She never worried about them as long as he was nearby.  He was an extremely intelligent animal, although he was not perfect. He did not get along with the family pony and he occasionally terrorized a few of the neighbors.  Like many childhood pets, he is still fondly recalled decades later by members of the family who loved him.

In the top photo, Fite stands guard near the family tent in the backyard at 218 South Audubon Road.  In the second photo, he has jumped into the wheelbarrow and appears to be staring intently at someone or perhaps at Dandy, the Vollrath's pony.  In the third photo, a young Victor Vollrath plays with Fite in the sideyard in 1926.  These wonderful historic images are courtesy of Dr. Victor Vollrath.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Football Practice 1925

Victor and Richard Vollrath enjoy a game of football in the sidelot next to their home at 218 South Audubon Road in 1925.  The two houses behind them are 240 and 250 South Audubon Road. Off to the right of the boys, you can see the rear of two homes in the 5500 block of University Avenue.  This view is no longer possible as two small dwellings were constructed on the large lot in 1950.  This historic image is courtesy of Victor Vollrath.