Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Missing Tooth--A House Reemerges From the Grave 36 Years Later

Sometimes when you are a historian, you get sent into directions you never imagined.  For instance, when local Irvington resident, Kent Hankins, presented me with today's historic image, I had to do a double take.  With only one recognizable structure, I had to figure out where this photo was taken.  The photographer intended to take a picture of the procession of children.  In the background, there was clearly a church, but the house looked unfamiliar.

It didn't take long to figure out that the religious institution in the photo was the former St. Matthews Episcopal Church at 23 South Ritter Avenue.  That structure has hosted several denominations over the years including the Seventh Day Adventists and Baptists.  So, what of the house next door?  It is clearly gone today.  Who lived there?  I wanted to know more.

It turns out that the small bungalow at 21 South Ritter Avenue was likely built in 1927 by Harry L. and Grace L. Moore.  The couple would be the only family to ever live in the house and they dwelled in it for decades.  Mr. Moore worked in a variety of jobs.  He was a salesman and insurance agent.  He was probably most known for his appliance shop that he operated at 5420 East Washington Street called Moore's Modern Appliances.  An ad proclaimed that the shop sold everything from juvenile furniture to household "electrical" appliances.  Mrs. Moore continued to live in the house after her husband died.  Eventually, the Seventh Day Adventist Church purchased the property and leveled the house in 1976.  Today, the Moore's family site is a parking lot.

The Mobley family purchased this radio from Moore's Modern Appliance Store at 5420 East Washington Street (photo courtesy of Robert Mobley) 

Moore's Modern Appliance Store operated at 5420 East Washington Street. The Moore family dwelled at 21 South Ritter Avenue.  (photo courtesy of Robert Mobley)

The second mystery surrounding this photo still remains.  First, I am unclear on the date.  It looks to be sometime in the mid-1950s.  I know that the young people are on the grounds of School 57 on the southwest corner of East Washington Street and South Ritter Avenue.  It is obviously a warm day.  Perhaps the graduates of School 57 can help me out with this part of the photo. What are the young people doing?  Is this a practice? A ceremony?  A celebration?  Inquiring minds would like to know more!  Send me an e-mail at if you have any ideas.

The historic image is courtesy of Kent Hankins and likely came from the Phelps family, who dwelled at 5317 Lowell Avenue for years.  The contemporary image reveals that the church remains, although now sheathed in vinyl siding instead of stucco.

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