Sunday, September 30, 2012

An Emerson Heights Duplex in the Mid-20th Century

Emerson Heights sits just west of Irvington.  Founded in the early twentieth century, the community is filled with Arts and Crafts era homes.  Known originally as a streetcar suburb, the area is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  Developers built several large and small duplexes throughout the neighborhood including this American Four Square double at 605-07 North Bancroft Avenue.

Numerous families have called this place home since the 1910s.  Throughout the mid-twentieth century, the 607 side of the double was occupied by the Johnson family.  Raymond Johnson worked at Allison's Motors while Mrs. Eleanor Johnson was busy with their children.

In the top photo, the Johnsons gathered for a photograph in the backyard of their home in 1953.  You can also see the rear of the bungalow at 611 N. Bancroft.  The Peacher family lived there in 1953.  In the second photo, the Johnsons posed on the front porch of their home in 1967.  Amazingly, the urn still sits on the same pedestal forty five years later in 2012.

The Johnson Family at 607 N. Bancroft in 1953.

Eleanor and Raymond Johnson in 1967.   (607 N. Bancroft Ave.)

605-07 N. Bancroft on September 30, 2012.

The historic images are courtesy of the descendants of the Johnson Family.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

East Side State Bank--Then and Now

In the summer of 1913, Dr. Beecher Terrell and realtor George Russell stood outside the future East Side State Bank.   Behind them as they chatted, a young man peered into the unfinished building.  The venture represented another milestone for Irvingtonians who longed for a bank close to home.  Newly delivered radiators rested against an outbuilding ready for installment.  Off in the distance, Mrs. Jenkins (36 South Ritter Avenue) waited patiently for her laundry to dry.  Her beautiful home would be an easy walk to the new bank.  Mr. Russell (60 North Ritter), who was also the Postmaster for the neighborhood, was one of the most popular people in the area while Dr. Terrell was one of the most respected.  Dreamers stood along that sidewalk on that sunny day in 1913 and watched as a pile of bricks turned into reality.

Dr. Beecher Terrell and George Russell outside of the future East Side Bank at 5501 East Washington Street in 1913.

An ad promoting the East Side State Bank in 1917.

5501 East Washington Street in 2012 is now the home to Jack and Jill's Antiques.  
The historic image is courtesy of Karen Bastian Clark.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reinhardt Home: Scene of a Crime--1913

Most historians who write of historic Irvington generally speak of the serene calmness and of the lack of crime in the area.  While that image is largely true, there have been several infamous moments in Irvington's history including a few murders and some physical attacks.  In the spring of 1913, the neighborhood was gripped with fear because of a burglar who kept targeting the area.

German immigrants Johann and Agatha Reinhardt were the first victims of an infamous barefoot bandit. Late into the evening and early morning hours of May 17, 1913, a burglar entered or tried to break into several Irvington homes.  He first targeted the Reinhardts at 6123 East Washington Street.  He had no trouble getting in as many Irvingtonians frequently left their doors and windows unlocked in those days.  While the couple slept, the burglar moved about the lower level.  He might have actually entered a bedchamber as he grabbed Mrs. Reinhardt's purse and a pair of Mr. Reinhardt's trousers.  The thief fled into an alley behind the house and rifled through the handbag and pants.  He only made out with $1.75 so he moved on to Mrs. F. A. Newby's home at 5639 Greenfield Avenue where he landed $5.50.  Next he removed a screen at the home of Mrs. R.P. Thatcher at 258 South Arlington, but she heard him and came to the window.  He ducked and managed to elude her view.  Boldly, the burglar then tried to get into 5929 Dewey Avenue, but for some reason stopped and fled.  His barefoot tracks were seen in the flower garden around the the home of W. I. Jones at 5915 Dewey, but he did not enter that house.

The bandit's boldest move came when he crept into the Burke home at 5905 Dewey Avenue.  He grabbed a Bible and propped open the bedroom door of Miss Opal Burke.  She awoke and saw the figure of a large man standing at the foot of her bed.  Her loud shrieks forced the intruder to flee from the home.  By that point, several people had called the police, but the bold burglar did not stop.  He then entered the home of Raymond Jones at 303 South Webster.  Mr. Jones awoke and grabbed his shotgun.  He fired seven rounds into the dark and the barefoot bandit fled into the night.  Mr. Jones followed him into the night air and fired more shots, but the thief managed to get away.  One can only imagine the talk the next day in the barbershops and drugstores around town.

Reinhardt Home Then and Now

The Reinhardt Home used to be at 6123 East Washington St. This photo was likely taken around 1910.

The Reinhardt Home was moved in 1929 to 22 South Sheridan Avenue. This is the home as it appears in 2012.  

German immigrants, Johann and Agatha Reinhardt, moved into their modest Victorian home at 6123 East Washington Street (then 5989) in the late nineteenth century.  Mr. Reinhardt, who called himself John G. Reinhardt in the city directories, was a blacksmith and later machinist.  The Reinhardts would continue to dwell in this home well into the 1920s.  In 1929, a developer bought the house and moved the structure just one square south at 22 South Sheridan Avenue.  This was done to prepare room for a commercial strip that still exists in 2012.  The Reinhardts merely moved with the house and adopted the new address.

Source:  "Barefoot Thief Tries Irvington," Indianapolis Star, May 18, 1913, 22.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Koss Home Then and Now

Louis and Emma Koss moved into their brand new Tudor-Revival home at 5395 Pleasant Run Parkway South Drive in 1930.  Mr. Koss had done well in life as the treasurer of the Capital Machine Company.  This beautifully sited brick house across from Pleasant Run Stream also had (and still has) beautiful gardens.  At some point, the family constructed an addition to the north side of the home.  The historic photograph, taken by Bass Photo (c. 1935), reveals that the charming character of the dwelling remains intact in 2012.

Koss Family Home (c.1935) at 5395 Pleasant Run Parkway S. Dr.

The Koss Home at twilight on September 17, 2012

Beautiful windows still adorn the home.

   This beautiful section of Irvington is one of my favorite places to take a walk.  It is easy to see why the Koss family dwelled here for many years.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

South Catherwood Avenue

The Avant, Leak, and Higgenbotham families lived along South Catherwood and Sheridan Avenues for years.  In this undated mid-twentieth century photo, Toy Avant stands on his front porch at 132 South Catherwood Avenue.  This modest home still stands today and is one block north of the Pennsy Trail (former Pennsylvania Rail Line).  The Higgenbothams and Leaks were members of the the First Baptist Church (231 Good Avenue) for many decades.

The photo is courtesy of the Krys Wagner family tree from

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rare Opportunity--Historic Ellenberger Home on Tour!

The Benton House Tour of Homes will feature several wonderful historic dwellings on Sunday, September 16, 2012.  (tickets may be purchased at the Benton House Museum at 312 Downey Ave) The Ellenberger Home will be among the many you can tour.  This is a rare opportunity to visit one of the most important landmarks on the east side of Indianapolis.  This lovely nineteenth-century Italianate farmhouse located on East 10th Street was dramatically changed in the late 1910s; however, the house is extraordinarily significant and tied to the story of Irvington.

The farm predates the founding of the neighborhood in 1870 as the Ellenbergers were responsible for selling vast tracks for development including what would later become Ellenberger Park.  The family was well-known on the eastside for years as there were several Ellenberger descendants.

An Irvington treasure--The Ellenberger Home

The Ellenberger clan gathered in 1914 for a reunion and this photo.

John or Johann Ellenberger in 1919

Do not pass up this opportunity to see a part of Irvington's history!  The tour begins at noon.

Image of First Baptist Church--c. 1938

This modest stuccoed church has been along Good Avenue since 1910.  Begun in 1887, congregants for the First Baptist Church used to meet in a small structure on the north side of University Avenue east of the Irving Circle Park.  They moved to their current structure in 1910 although the building as has been altered over the years.

Irvington's African-American population dwelled throughout the neighborhood.  Many members of the church lived away from the community and drove in for services.  In this historic image, taken around 1938, church members gathered for a photo.  The young women and ladies are all wearing dresses while the men are in ties.  I am sorry to report that I don't know many of the names in the photo, but this wonderful image is courtesy of the Krys Wagner Family Tree page from  Gertrude Higgenbotham, who dwelled at 136 South Sheridan Avenue, joined the church in 1935 and is in this photo.  Her mother joined in 1921.  The Reverend R.H. Noel served as the minister.

The contemporary image shows the structure at 231 Good Avenue on a quiet Saturday morning in the waning days of the summer of 2012.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Image of Chaille's Shoes--1962

Howard T. Chaille ran a shoe store at 5622 East Washington Street for decades.  His son-in-law, Robert Phelps, Sr., continued to run the business well into the 1980s.  The Chailles dwelled at 832 North Campbell Avenue while the Phelps lived at 5317 Lowell Avenue.

In these historic photos, provided by Robert Phelps, Jr, the grandson to Howard T. Chaille, you can see the shop in the early 1960s.  Robert Phelps, Sr. proudly stands in front of the building.  I especially enjoy the ad in the window.  In the second photo, taken in 1956, Howard T. Chaille poses for a photo about seven years before his death.   I have also included a lovely photo of Eva Mae Phelps, the wife of Robert Phelps, Sr and daughter of Howard T. Chaille.  She was a teacher for many years.

Robert Phelps, Sr. in front of Chaille's Shoes (5622 East Washington Street) c. 1962

Howard T. Chaille of 832 N. Campbell Avenue c. 1956

Eva Mae Chaille Phelps, c. 1962
A special thank you to Mr. Robert Phelps, Jr. for the photos and the information...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

From the Yard of School #77--1943

Mrs. Edith Green Forrest was a popular teacher and principal at School #77, a primary school located in the 400 block of North Arlington Avenue.  In this somewhat blurry photo, taken in the spring of 1943, Mrs. Forrest (on the right) poses next to an identified student teacher.  With so many young families in the neighborhood, the need for more primary classrooms was great.  In 1932, the Indianapolis Public Schools began to utilize former World War I surplus buildings as temporary classrooms.  Ann Stewart, a former pupil, recalls that the school was more like a Montessori School with science classes held outdoors (sometimes in Pleasant Run Creek) and the planting of community gardens. The school district would not actually build a proper structure until 1952.

Edith Green Forrest (right) stands next to a student teacher on the grounds of School #77 in 1943.

406-08 North Arlington in 2012

School #77 (1952) is now home to a charter school in 2012.  

One of the more surprising facts for me with regards to this photo, is the brick double behind the ladies. I would not have pegged that structure as over seventy years old.  If you look closely, you will note that only the 408 side of the double was present in 1943. The historic photo is courtesy of Ann Stewart.  Are there more images of School #77 out there?  Drop me an e-mail at

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Buddenbaums of Irvington

Louis Buddenbaum (1868-1931) ran a lumber company and became an active Mason with the Scottish Rite Cathedral near downtown Indianapolis.  At age 38, he married 18-year old Helen Cross (1888-1970).  Buddenbaum's new father-in-law was Charles Cross, a prominent realtor and developer of numerous Irvington homes.  It is possible that the two men had been in business together long before their families united.  The couple first dwelled at 307 South Audubon Road and then moved to 18 South Irvington Avenue.  In 1910, the couple went on an extensive vacation to Mexico.  Mrs. Buddenbaum remained very close to her parents who dwelled at 322 Downey Avenue.  She was an active club woman.  She also helped to raise her nephews, the Townsend brothers.

Louis and Helen Cross Buddenbaum pose with their nephew Louis Townsend around 1920.  The three Townsend brothers (Charles, Donald, and Louis) would later live  with the Buddenbaums before starting their own families.  

The Buddenbaums first dwelled at 307 South Audubon and later at 18 South Irvington Avenue.  

Mr. Buddenbaum's lumber store remained profitable and the couple retired to an apartment in the luxurious Marrott Building on North Meridian Street near Fall Creek.  Mr. Buddenbaum's untimely death in 1931, left Mrs. Buddenbaum a widow for nearly forty years.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Lost Irvington--Cross Home

Charles and Laura Lott Cross moved to Irvington in 1891 and built this beautiful home on the southeast corner of East Washington Street and South Ritter Avenue.  Notice that the house sat on a large lot with a tall barn behind it.  Mr. Cross was into real estate and developed several streets and homes in Irvington.  He later sold this dwelling and moved the house so that it faced South Ritter Avenue.  The front of the lot was developed for commercial purposes including a corner building utilized as a bank (still standing in 2012).  This lovely home served as a fraternity for Butler University in the 1920s, but it was eventually torn down for parking.

Cross Family Home at 5507 East Washington St. before is was turned to face South Ritter Avenue.

In the 1920s the home faced South Ritter near Washington Street and was home to a Butler fraternity. It was eventually demolished. (Photo courtesy of Amy Friedly)

Mrs. Cross loved to write and she studied Shakespeare.  Sadly, several of the Cross children died young.  Two boys died of tuberculosis while one daughter died during the Great Flu Epidemic that swept the world in 1918 and 1919.  Another son, Harry, fought in World War One and took aerial photos from his plane.  He would survive the war and return to Indianapolis.

Laura Lott Cross was a writer and studied Shakespeare.  

Extended Cross family in 1917 at their Downey Avenue home:  Standing (left to right)--Harry Edgar Cross in his WWI uniform, Mary Wright Cross, Helen Cross Buddenbaum, Charles Mercer Cross; Seated: (left to right)  (possibly Mary Cross Wright's mother) Anna Lott (holding infant) Louis George Townsend, Jr. (infant), Laura Cross, and the Townsend brothers are on the ground--they would be raised by Mr. and Mrs. Cross after the death of their mother.

In the 1910s, Mr. Cross developed several homes along Ohmer Avenue.  He often had his son or other family members live in the houses while they were under construction to protect the expensive plumbing supplies inside from theft.  The Crosses eventually moved to 322 Downey Avenue.  (see Cross Family link)

These photographs and historical information are courtesy of Susan Morgan.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Cross Home--An Irvington Gem

Charles and Laura Lott Cross first moved to Irvington in 1891.  They built a large home on the southeast corner of East Washington Street and Ritter Avenue.  Mr. Cross was a prominent real estate speculator and may have built several homes in Irvington.  In 1913, he sold his home so that investors could build a bank on his lot.  (more on this story later)

The family moved to 322 Downey Avenue across the street from the Benton House in 1913.  The home had been standing since 1898 and sat in a beautiful part of Irvington.  The family spent the remainder of their years here.  Mrs. Cross died in 1928 while Mr. Cross passed away in 1932.  These historic images show the home between 1915 and 1918.  You will note that in the second photo, the family has hung a small banner in the window indicating that they had a son fighting in World War I.  You will see that the house appears to have been painted two different colors with the upper story slightly darker than the lower.  I especially love the photo of the couple sitting on their porch.

The Cross Family moved to 322 Downey Avenue in 1913.

Charles and Laura Lott Cross enjoy a moment on their front porch. The small WWI banner in the window was for their son, Harry Edgar Cross, who was away fighting the war.  

Charles and Laura Cross in their backyard around 1918.  

The contemporary image, shot on September 2, 2012, shows that the current owners have done a beautiful job of maintaining and preserving this special Irvington home.

Members of the Cross family would have no trouble recognizing their sturdy home in 2012 as it is beautifully maintained. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Graham-Stephenson Home Damaged by Fire

Smoke bellowed from the rafters above the porch of the Graham-Stephenson home on September 1, 2012.  Quick work by local firefighters helped to contain the blaze to the attic.  An unidentified person at the scene helping with cleanup, reported that "everything is under control."  Although the dwelling developed an infamous legacy in the 1920s, as the home of D.C. Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of Ku Klux Klan, it began life with the Graham family.  The Grahams were pillars in Irvington and very involved with local charities.  For a brief stint, the house served as home for a local Butler University sorority.

Update:  Local media outlets are reporting that the blaze started when the homeowner attempted to burn a nearby pine tree.  The fire then spread into the home.

Fire-damaged eaves at 5432 University Avenue

D.C. Stephenson Home in 1925

Kappa Kappa Gamma Home in 1920.  Stephenson would add the huge columns.