Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Photo Along Oak Avenue--1947

Siblings Jane and Chuck Vogt were dressed in their Sunday finest when the top photo was snapped on Easter Sunday, 1947.  The Vogts dwelled at 5733 Oak Avenue.  Behind the well-dressed children, you can see the house across the street at 5728 Oak Avenue. You can also see the towering oak which still shades the street in 2013.  In the middle photo, likely taken in the same year, the entire Vogt family posed for a photograph. Charles Vogt worked for Allison's Motors and later for Monarch Buick.  Betty Vogt worked at Wolman's Drugs on the northwest corner of East Washington Street and Ritter Avenue.  The third historic photo shows Jane and Chuck Vogt on a warmer day most likely in 1947.  Mr. Vogt reports that the car behind the kids belonged to his Grandfather and when the elderly man passed away, sixteen-year-old Chuck paid his Grandmother $75 for the car.  He then proceeded to paint the car red with a paintbrush!  Stay tuned as we have more historic images from the Vogt Family Collection.

Easter Photo:  Jane and Chuck Vogt posed for a photo in 1947.  They were standing in their front yard at 5733 Oak Avenue.  Behind them, you can see a towering oak tree and 5728 Oak Avenue.  

Vogt Family photo 1947:  Betty and Charles and their two children, Chuck and Jane, stood in their front yard at 5733 Oak Avenue for this photo.  

New Bike! Chuck Vogt posed with his sister Jane after receiving a new bike in 1947.  The kids are standing in the front yard of 5733 Oak Avenue.  Behind them, you can see a house across the street at 5728 Oak Avenue.  

5728 Oak Avenue in 2013:  Much has changed since 1947 as the porch has been enclosed, historic windows removed, and the clapboard siding is now covered in vinyl.  

The Vogt Family home at 5733 Oak Avenue in 2013.  

The contemporary photos show 5728 Oak Avenue, (visible in the historic photos) and the Vogt home at 5733 Oak Avenue on March 30, 2013.  (historic images will be posted soon)   These images are courtesy of Chuck and Joyce Vogt.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Traffic Patrol Boys at School #77--1942

Arlington Avenue could be a dangerous street even in 1942 so that is why School #77 commissioned patrol boys.  They helped to assist children across the street at major intersections near the school.  This former traffic patrol boy from Rushville, Indiana took his post very seriously as I worked the intersection of East 7th and Willow Street near my school in the late 1970s.  Patrol boys had to be in good standing with the school and deemed responsible by the administration before taking their posts.  In this photo, from Joyce Mitzner Smith via Ann Stewart, several patrol boys posed for a school photo in 1942.  Thankfully, we know the names of every child in this picture.  It is hard to believe that most of them are nearly 80 or older now.

Top Row:  Charles Lohman, John Farson, George Fisher, Dan Meininger, Carl Geider, Philip Smith

Bottom Row:  Bill Cowell, Paul Coutz, Jimmie McFerran, Charles Patterson

Ann Stewart remembers several of the boys in the photos.  She sadly pointed out that Philip Smith had the unfortunate diagnosis of polio while attending the school.

A special thanks to Joyce Mitzner Smith and Ann Stewart for this image and the names of the students.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ellenberger Home Then and Now

The Ellenberger family first moved into Warren Township in the 1850s.  By the end of the Civil War, they had made enough money from farming to build a grand Italianate home along East 10th Street.  Their investment proved to be a wise one as the land was fertile for agriculture and later for profit as the demand for housing increased with the expansion of nearby Irvington.  Although they grew crops, the Ellenbergers made much of their income from hogs.  In the early days, the family had to drive the hogs to Cincinnati down the Brookville Road by foot.  Mr. and Mrs. Ellenberger lived out the remainder of their lives in the home.

In this image, taken in the late nineteenth century, family members gathered for a photo on the east side of the farmhouse.  Thelma Murphy, the granddaughter of John Ellenberger, recorded the names of the people in the picture.  Her mother took the photo.  The people are labeled as:

1.  Alice and Columbus Barker
2.  Jack and Ellenberger
3.  John Ellenberger (in chair) and the Wagner Family
4.  Eva and Flora Ellenberger
5. Johan Ellenberger (in chair)
6.  Ellie (Deel) and Charles Shearer
7.  Morehouse Family and "Lizzie"

The extended members of the Ellenberger family gathered for a photo in the late nineteenth century at their farmhouse. (5602 East 10th Street)

The Ellenberger Home on March 25, 2013

By the 1910s, the Italianate style for homes was considered old-fashioned and passé. Descendants of the Ellenbergers must have noticed the interesting Arts and Crafts, Tudor Revival, and Mission Revival homes just to the south of the farm.  After World War One, the family completely remodeled and changed the home to be more contemporary. They removed windows and added some.  They eliminated the Italianate brackets along the roofline.  They removed doors and added others.  They tacked on an enclosed brick porch and a porte-cochère with a new side entrance.  They completely stuccoed the entire house so that any vestige of the farmhouse was gone.  For nearly one hundred years, most eastsiders have only known this version of the home and it has looked like this longer than the Italianate style.  The home still sits on a nice plot of land although developers eventually bought up all of the meadows nearby and built houses and at least one church on several acres near the dwelling.  So would a preservationist restore the home to the vintage 1860s-era or keep the 1910s style?  These are the kinds of questions that one debates in the preservation world.

The information and photo are courtesy of Thelma Murphy via Bob Alloway.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ellenberger Reunion 1914-- Repost With Names!

In 1914, the extended family of the Ellenbergers gathered for a reunion.  They sat for this formal portrait in front of the family farm house on East 10th Street.  (the home is still standing near the northeast corner of East 10th and Ritter Avemue)  The Ellenbergers owned acres of land and made money not only from their farm, but also by selling land for development for nearby Irvington.  The city of Indianapolis purchased nearly 31 acres of woods from the family for a future city park for $21,490 in 1910.

Four years later, the family gathered for this photo.  Thanks to one of our astute readers, we now have the names of several of the people in this photo.  I can only imagine how exciting it would be to stumble upon a photo of a long lost relative while doing genealogical research online!  In the 1970s and 1980s, the Irvington branch of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library conducted oral history interviews with long-time neighborhood residents.  One of those folks recorded was Thelma Murphy, who descended from the Ellenbergers.  She took the time to list the names of the people in this photo.  Thanks to Bob Alloway, I can now share these names with you.  Some of the people in this photo dwelled in the Irvington area.  I have included the addresses of those folks.

The Ellenberger clan gathered at 5602 East 10th Street for a family reunion in 1914.  See names below.

Front Row:
Lloyd White
Paul Gates
Rolland Dove
Jessie Brisentine

Second Row:

Annie White
Charles Shearer (farmer southside of East 10th Street, east of Emerson Avenue)
Mary Shearer (same as above)
John or Johann Ellenberger, the family patriarch
Eva Tingle
Jack Ellenberger
Ellen Ellenberger
Ellen Dove (219 South Butler Avenue)
Lee Dove (219 South Butler Avenue)

Third Row:

Stella Longest
Stella White Longest
Edith White
Goldie Shearer
Ethel Shearer
Jerry Tingle
Ruth Dove Stevenson

Fourth Row and Back Rows:

Annie Brisentine
John Brisentine
Flora Johnson
Doris Evoy
Goldie White Apple
Laura White
Bess Johnson
Addie Springer (southside of East 10th Street, just east of Arlington Avenue)
Bertha Wagner Irwin
Joseph Irwin
Bertha Brisentine
Cora Wagner Gates
Ed White
Flora Wagner Perkins
--- Ellenberger
Wife of Charles Ellenberger
Charles Ellenberger

   You may read the transcripts from these interviews or listen to the actual recordings by visiting the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library homepage.  Miss Murphy's interview is linked here courtesy of Bob Alloway.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Birthday Celebration--1943

One of Irvington's lost intersections is that of East Washington Street and Arlington Avenue.  Local families built beautiful homes on each corner.  With the need for filling stations, developers eventually demolished or altered all four corners throughout the mid-twentieth century.  On the northwest corner of that now forlorn gathering of streets, sat two regal homes at 5930 and 5934 East Washington Street.  The Ruhsenberger family occupied 5930 and thankfully one of our faithful readers, Ann Hart Stewart, has sent us several images of what the area used to look like.  Today, we are transported to March of 1943, when three cousins gathered to celebrate the birthdays for the girls--Ann Hart and Mary Ellen Stokesbery.  A third cousin, Larry Dillard, joined the party.  All three children shared the Ruhsenbergers as their grandparents and young Larry and Ann actually dwelled at 5930.  Mary Ellen could easily walk from her home at 352 Burgess Avenue.  It must have been a cool day as the children were wearing coats and sweaters.  The home most visible in the photo is that of 5934 East Washington Street, which actually stood on the corner.  To see more images from this interesting Irvington family, click on the Ruhsenberger link below.  This historic image is courtesy of Ann Hart Stewart, who just celebrated a milestone birthday.  Happy birthday, Ann!

Cousins--Larry Dillard, Ann Hart, and Mary Ellen Stokesberry gather for a birthday party at 5930 East Washington Street (demolished) in March, 1943.  Behind them you can also see 5934 East Washington Street. (demolished)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Howe High School Prom--1965

How could you not love this photo?  Sue Amick and Ward Poulos prepare to depart for the Howe High School prom in the spring of 1965.   Pulling up in a Ford Thunderbird, the young Mr. Poulos certainly planned to impress his beautiful date.  As they sat in the driveway of the Amick home at 315 North Kitley Avenue, Mr. Bob Amick snapped this wonderful color photo.  The Amicks ran a well-known dry goods store on East New York Street.   This image is from the Amick Family Collection and is courtesy of Sue Poulos.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Johnson Villa--Lost Irvington

Many of the early homes in Irvington are no longer standing.  They stood close to commercial businesses, were cut into apartments, and in some cases cleared for parking lots. The Johnson Home, sadly, is one of those dwellings long gone from the Irvington landscape.   Sylvester and Rachel Johnson were two of the first residents of the neighborhood.  They left their comfortable life in Dublin in Wayne County, Indiana to be a part of an exciting new dream--a suburban neighborhood.  Mr. Johnson partnered with Jacob Julian (another Wayne County resident) to buy the Sandusky farm in Warren Township.  Both men had been to Glendale, a suburb of Cincinnati, and decided to model Irvington after that beautiful place with its meandering streets and tall homes.

Built in the Italianate style, Sylvester and Rachel saw their dream home at 62 South Audubon Road come to fruition by 1872.  Jacob Julian built a matching villa across the street. (also demolished...see link below)  The Johnsons, both in their late 40s, brought their four adult children, Francenia, Eudorus, Martha, and Oliver, along with them. Eudoris would later build the "Castle House" at 5631 University Avenue in 1876.

Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were strict prohibitionist and they advocated for Irvington to be an alcohol-free neighborhood.  No saloon or bar would be welcome in the new enclave.  The Johnsons were Quakers as were other early founders of the upper-middle class utopia.  Mr. Johnson was an active horticulturalist and he founded the Indiana Horticultural Society.  His expansive lawn was filled with beautiful trees and flower specimens.  He became a renown expert on grapes and grew 185 species on his property.  He even judged grapes at the Chicago and St. Louis World Fairs in 1893 and 1904.  Butler University students frequently walked by his property and noted that Mr. Johnson was nearly always outside working in his yard even as he neared 90 years of age.  Sadness struck the Johnsons over the years as two of their children died at a young age and Rachel Johnson died in 1899.  Two years later, Mr. Johnson married Eunice Brown Gilkey at the age of 79.  She was 63!

In this historic photograph, likely taken around 1912, two children gather on a winter's day on the family estate.  One child is black and the other is white.  We do not know the names of the children.  Note the expansive lawn and the beautiful home.  The second image reveals the original plat of Irvington by Sylvester Johnson and Jacob Julian.  The Johnson home was located along Central (Audubon) and was situated on lot 52.  The Jacob Julian home was across the street on lot 39.  The George Washington Julian Home (still standing) can be seen on lots 60 and 61.

The historic image of the Johnson Home is courtesy of Larry Muncie.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Life for Historic Apartment Building

The historic Butler Apartments (also known as Butler Place) will be renovated by Reverie Estates.  The company has saved and restored several apartment buildings throughout the city of Indianapolis including three in Irvington.  This is exciting news for a corner that has seen better days in the neighborhood.

Located on the northeast corner of East Washington Street and Butler Avenue, the four story brick structure opened on October 4, 1927.  (5230 East Washington St.) With three wings, and forty-nine apartments, the site offered many amenities for the discreet 1920s-era renter.  Some of the features boasted in an Indianapolis Star promotional included the use of Staub Cinder Block to help deaden the sound in between each unit.  New residents walked upon cork tile floors both in their apartment and on the stair treads.  Each kitchen came equipped with built-in cabinets, a Chambers Fireless Gas Range (from Shelbyville, Indiana), and a Kelvinator for refrigeration.   Each unit came equipped with a Murphy "In a Door" bed from the Vonnegut Hardware Store.

The Butler Apartments (5230 East Washington Street) opened on October 4, 1927. Note the original mansard roofline.  

Mr. J. O. McFarland served as the interior designer and he selected wall paper from the Bethard Wall Paper Company at 415-419 Massachusetts Avenue, and he added window shades made of Brenlin cloth from the Montgomery Tent and Awning Company at 2404 East Washington Street.  All mailboxes, hardware, and Schlage Button Locks came from the Pierson-Lewis Hardware Store at 111 East Vermont Street.

Theodore B. Brydon, the builder and designer of the Butler Apartments, also built three other large buildings nearby called the Washington and Audubon, the Arlington, and the Gladstone.  Mr. Brydon used lumber from the Brannum-Keene Lumber Company at 3506 East Washington Street and faced the building with brick from the Irvington Coal and Lime Company at 5543 Bonna Avenue and the Hy-tex Brick Company at East 32nd Street.  The sheet metal contract for the roof was awarded to Elmer R. Mullin, an Irvington businessman who operated his company at 5517 Bonna Avenue.  (see link below) Another Irvington business, the Indianapolis Service Electric Company at 5519 East Washington Street, installed all of wiring and lighting.

The first residents certainly enjoyed the modern structure.  The only common area in which to gather was in the basement.  Mr. Brydon included a large social room, a billiard room, a card room, a children's play room, a laundry room, and many lockers in this part of the building.  The first to lease an apartment paid anywhere from $55 to $70 a month depending upon the size of the unit.  With their rent, the company covered all gas, water, electric, and janitorial fees.

Every apartment at the Butler housed a Chambers Stove like this one.  

Very modern:  Each apartment at the Butler contained a Kelvinator for refrigeration.  

Within two years of the construction of this large building, the neighborhood took an economic hit with the departure of Butler University and the onslaught of the Great Depression.  The management weathered those years and the site became an important place for returning veterans from World War II, who were desperate for housing.  By 2013, the apartment building had seen better days.  Thankfully, the building will be completely restored so stay tuned as another Phoenix rises in Irvington.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Historic Home Destroyed

A troubled property that had been vacant for a few months has burned and will likely be demolished.  The Arts and Crafts-era home stood on the northeast corner of East New York Street and DeQuincy Avenue. (c1908)  WRTV is reporting that firemen were injured trying to put out the flames which started twice within twelve hours.  More information will be posted as it becomes available.  

Photos courtesy of and

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Shimer Brothers Reunited in 1914

The Shimer family predates Irvington.  Elias and Mahala Dunn Shimer purchased 240 acres of farmland along the Brookville Road in 1829.  They eventually built a beautiful Italianate dwelling near the intersection of South Audubon Road and Brookville Road. (destroyed for a factory)  Their youngest son, Corydon, inherited the land and he farmed there well into the twentieth century.

On September 5, 1914, four Shimer brothers gathered at the home of William Shimer, who lived near the  original family farm at 4905 Brookville Road.  The Indianapolis Star reported that it was the first time all of the brothers and their families had gathered in one place for sixty years.  They were quite elderly by this point as Caleb, who lived near Fortville, was 91; William, who hosted the event, was 88; Isaac, who traveled from Decatur, Illinois, was 85; and Corydon, who lived on the family farm was a "mere youth" at 76.

Caleb, William, Isaac, Corydon Shimer at Caleb's farm in the Fortville/Mohawk area in Hancock County, Indiana (c1914)

Corydon, Isaac, William, and Caleb Shimer visiting at Wm's home at 4905 Brookville Road. (c1914)

Elias Shimer, the family patriarch, purchased many acres of land along the Brookville Road south of present-day Irvington in the early nineteenth century.  

Mahala Dunn Shimer, wife of Elias, managed the family in the large brick Italianate home in the 5500 block of Brookville Road.  She lived to see the founding and subsequent construction of Irvington, north of her home.  

Two of our regular contributors at Vintage Irvington, David Bailey and Larry Muncie, are both related to this pioneering Warren Township family.  The historic photos of the brothers are courtesy of David Bailey, while the photos of the elder Shimers are courtesy of Mr. Geiser from

Other sources:  Indianapolis Star, September 6, 1914, 24; and January 4, 1915, 3.
Willa Mildred Sammis Bailey Smith, From Elias Shimer to Willa Sammis (Unpublished memoir of Ms. Smith), 1974

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Irvington Landmark: Hilton's Tree

He has been gone for 95 years, but the beautiful oak tree commemorating the life of Hilton U. Brown, Jr. towers above the intersection of East Washington Street and Emerson Avenue.  Young Hilton was the son of prominent newspaper publisher, Hilton U. Brown and Jennie Hannah Brown.  He grew up in the family mansion at the southwest corner of East Washington Street and Emerson Avenue.  A budding writer and poet, the young man attended Butler University where his father served on the Board of Trustees. When the United States entered World War One, Hilton served his country first in Mexico and then in France.  Tragically, on November 3, 1918, he was killed in the Argonne, the final battle of the Great War and just eight days before the Armistice.

Hilton U. Brown, Jr in 1917 during his junior year at Butler University

Butler students preparing for World War One in 1918

His devastated family and friends decided that a fitting memorial must be erected.  Hilton U. Brown, Sr.  first tried to raise money for a giant memorial to all World War One veterans in Ellenberger Park.  The two-story structure was to have an auditorium, gymnasium, and game rooms.  Due to the expense, the memorial was never built. Instead, the family donated a plot of land across the street from their home and planted an oak tree in memory of their "sweet son."  In his memoirs, Mr. Brown described young Hilton as a sunny person, who loved life.

A memorial never built in Ellenberger Park--1919

Towering oak tree commemorating the life of WWI veteran, Hilton U. Brown, Jr. in 2013

Brown's Corner Park is one of the smallest parks in Indianapolis.  It is located on the northwest corner of East Washington Street and North Emerson Avenue.  

Tablet and rock honoring Hilton U. Brown, Jr.  He was killed in the final battle of WWI.

Today, the tree and small area of green space are the only interesting features left from the days of the Brown family.  Their manse was destroyed in the mid-twentieth century for a gas station as were homes on three other corners rendering the intersection unsightly and rather ugly by 2013.  A rock and tablet with Hilton's verse is shaded by the towering oak planted by his grieving family all those many decades ago.