Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Story of a Brick Bungalow

Irvington resident, Paula Schmidt has done it again.  With her second post for Vintage Irvington, Ms. Schmidt explores the history of her own home at 50 South Butler Avenue. She also offers tips for how to research the story of your own home.  Thank you, Paula Schmidt for this wonderful post and the illustrative photos.  

The Story of an Brick Bungalow
By Paula Schmidt 

Old houses show traces of the people who built them and of those who called them home.    

In 1917, Mr. William Schnorr moved from Detroit and lived with his family in a house at 5818 Oak Avenue, awaiting the completion of a new house at 50 South Butler Avenue.  This new home, based on a notice in the May 25, 1920 issue of the Indianapolis Commercial, cost $7,000.  Mr. Schnorr built a sturdy brick Prairie-style bungalow with a two-car brick garage. Based on the description in Paul Diebold's book, Greater Irvington, it was possibly customized from a Sear's style called the Avalon. It also resembles the Plaza, a model found in the Aladdin catalog.  

Mr. Schnorr was a specialty glass manufacturer who moved his business, the Detroit Medical Glass Works, to Indianapolis at the invitation of Mr. Eli Lilly. His business was described in an article in a July 1925 publication by the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. (see link below)

In 1925, Mr. William Schnorr's two young sons, Ray and William Jr. posed in their dress suits in front of the house with their backs toward Washington Street.  The Schnorr family moved to West Hampton Drive (northwest Indianapolis) the next year.

Ray and William Schnorr standing in front of 50 South Butler Avenue in 1925.

Standing in front of 50 South Butler Avenue in 2013 (looking north)

The house and Irvington remained fond memories for Ray.  In 2005, a gentleman knocked at our door and said that his father "had grown up in this house.  Would we mind if they looked around?"  Wow…it was Ray Schnorr and his son, Ray Jr. I am so glad that I was home, because I was able to invite them in and the house was as he remembered.  One surprising bit of history was that Mr. Schnorr recalled a fire in the dining room (above the coal furnace) and a hole in the floor.  Therefore, the family has no pictures of their time in this house. The photo of the two little boys is the only one they could find.

The Schnorr Home at 50 South Butler Avenue in 2012

The Plaza from the Aladdin Catalogue in 1916.  

Raymond Schnorr visits his childhood home at 50 South Butler Avenue in 2005.  

Based on research done by the Irvington Historical Society, there was a procession of residents between 1927 and 1968, approximately 18 different families, either as renters or failed purchasers.  In 1968, the John Flanagan family purchased the home and resided here until selling to Steven and Paula Schmidt in 1982. The Schmidts found traces left by all those other families both inside and outside the house. In the yard, there were marbles--lots of marbles, modern toy soldiers, a length of gold chain, and medicine bottles as well as Butler University bricks and paving bricks from the street.  Inside the rafters of the basement was hidden a Greek icon of St. Jerome.  The overall look of the house has been unchanged since 1920, however, the double doors from the living room were replaced with a single door to create a third bedroom.  The top panel of the bathroom door may have been frosted glass and replaced with wood and a closet has been enlarged. And of course the damage from the fire was repaired! At one time the casement windows at the south entrance were replaced with double hung (the casement style has since been restored) and the center pillar was removed in the garage. 

Found Artifact:  Icon of St. Jerome discovered in the rafters of 50 South Butler Avenue

Beautiful flower gardens of 50 South Butler in 2012.  

If you are interested in the history of your home, you would be amazed at what you can find. I used the online resources from the Indianapolis Public Library (city directories and Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce materials), on-line newspapers, and resources from the Irvington Historical Society and the Indiana State Library.


  1. Paula this is fantastic! I love your house, and the history of it. I was out in my yard last year when the son of the original owners stopped by my house - 88 years old and it was oddly pleasing that the house looked like he remembered as a child. You and Steve have given new life to your house as well as re-created the past so if the people who built it walked down the street they would know immediately it is their home! And it's not the only house you've done this for. Indy owes you a debt of gratitude for keeping its history.

  2. Nikie, if you live in Irvington then I would love to speak to you. It sounds like you have a wonderful home! Contact me at