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.

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