Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lost Irvington--The Kile Home

Most Irvingtonians of the early twenty-first century are familiar with the Kile Oak, a grand tree now protected along Beechwood Avenue.  For most of the twentieth century, a member of the Kile family literally dwelled under the giant spans of the majestic tree. Reverend Oliver and Sarah Kile moved into their new Irvington home at 5939 Beechwood Avenue in 1901 along with their eight children.  Historian Paul Diebold notes in his book, Greater Irvington, that the family relocated to the community from Ohio for better educational opportunities for their large family.  Reverend Kile died in 1924 and his funeral was held under the tree.  Many of his Civil War veteran friends attended the memorial service.

Mae Kile, a daughter to the elder Kiles, continued to dwell in the home until the 1970s. Miss Kile was fiercely protective of the ancient tree. She allowed school children from IPS #85 to walk onto her property with their teachers and collect acorns and leaves. Larry Muncie, a nearby neighbor remembered that they then walked back to the school and wrote poems and stories about the tree.  While Miss Kile allowed supervised visits of the property, children who wandered unaccompanied onto the property faced her wrath and threats of phone calls to the police.

Chuck McCleery, the next door neighbor to Miss Kile, recalled that she seldom allowed people into the home and that the tree had actually begun to grow into the house.  She was warned to cut back the branches but she refused.  Instead, she had a handyman place rubber tires under the branches so that they would not do further damage into her already compromised roof.

Still living on her own in her early 90s, the home and the property became too much for Miss Kile to manage. With her place falling into ruin and her health beginning to fail, she moved to California to stay with relatives.  Larry Muncie reports that even while she was in California, she called long distance to her former neighbors along Beechwood Avenue to check on the tree.  She had tried unsuccessfully to get the city to buy the lot and turn the area into a park.  Upon her death, Irvington Landmarks and the Irvington Historical Society purchased the land with a grant to save the tree for as long as it remains on this planet.  Miss Kile's Victorian home was demolished in the 1970s and today wildflowers and native plants grow on the site of the Kile home.

In these historic images, provided by Chuck McCleery, you can see the Kile home shortly before its demolition in the early1970s. Once a beautiful home, now a sad wreck, the structure still had many of its Queen Anne elements including the wrap-around porch.  In the next photo, likely taken in 1967, the Kile home appears behind the construction of a small ranch home at 5945 Beechwood Avenue.  In the third photo, likely taken in 1977, the lot has been cleared and the Oak towers above the newer brick home.  The final photo shows the site of the Kile home in 2013.

The Kile home at 5939 Beechwood Avenue c1973. Shadows of the giant oak formed patterns on the lawn.

The Kile home at 5939 Beechwood Avenue looms above the newly built-McCleery home at 5945 Beechwood. You can also see the Kile Oak in this photo taken c1967.

The Kile Oak, a Burr Oak, c.1977

Wild flowers grow on the site of the former Kile Home in 2013.
Thanks to both Chuck McCleery and Larry Muncie for their contributions to this post.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Any Monday--An Irvington Tradition

Local historian, Larry Muncie, who also happens to be a bit of an artist, sent in this beautiful photograph of his mother, Margaret Muncie.  He titled the photo, "Any Monday" as many Irvington moms spent that day as "wash" day.  In this photo, Mrs. Muncie hangs clothes to dry in the backyard of the family bungalow at 5831 Beechwood Avenue. (c1955)  It looks like it might have been a spring day as well.  How many other Irvington mothers were doing the same thing on this gorgeous day?

Margaret Muncie hangs clothes to dry in the backyard of her home at 5831 Beechwood Avenue . (c1955)

This historic image is courtesy of Larry Muncie.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

1940s-Era Photos of Julian Home Emerge

One of the most important landmarks still standing in Irvington is that of the George Washington Julian Home at 115 South Audubon Road.  This graceful Italianate dwelling has been a part of the community since 1873.  Mr. Julian moved to Irvington along with his brother and built one of the earliest homes in the community.  The former Congressman, a Radical Republican, dwelled the remainder of his life in the villa.  His daughter Grace Julian Clarke and her husband Charles, continued to live on in the place until her death in the 1930s.  After her passing, the home served in a variety of capacities including as private residence, a boarding house for railroad workers, and as a nursing home.  By the mid-1980s the vacant home had become an eyesore to some.  A few in the community even wanted the structure demolished.  Thankfully, Indiana Landmarks purchased the building, placed the home on the National Register of Historic Places, and put protective covenants on the exterior of the house.  They also sold it to a family who have not only been restoring it, but they also care deeply about the history of the property.

These two historic photographs, show the home on Easter Sunday in 1941.  In the top photo, William Maher Rubush posed on the sidewalk leading up to 116 South Audubon Road.  Behind him, looms the Julian Home at 115 South Audubon Road.  City directories reveal that a Grace Lancaster and her daughter and grandson lived in the former Julian home at that time.  Remarkably, the weeping mulberry behind Mr. Rubush still lives in 2013--72 years after this photo was taken!  In the second photo, Richard Rubush and another unidentified family member posed next to a stuffed Easter Bunny.  Once again, the Julian Home is visible behind the couple.

William Maher Rubush posed on Easter Sunday in 1941. Behind him, you can see the Julian Home at 115 South Audubon Road.

Members of the Rubush family posed on Easter Sunday in 1941.  The Julian Home at 115 South Audubon Road is behind the couple.  
These images are courtesy of the descendants of the Rubush Family via

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Life Inside a Beechwood Avenue Home

The McCleery family moved into 5949 Beechwood Avenue in 1957.  These three photos reveal much about their lives in the early years of living in the home.

In the top photo, Joyce McCleery holds hands with Joyce Reed.  The McCleerys and the Reeds had been friends for years.  Mrs. Reed worked for the family for a while and named her daughter after Joyce McCleery.  Behind the girls, sits a beautiful piano under the window and next to the front door.  The photo was likely taken in 1958.

In the second photo, Wilda Lee McCleery proudly displays her Howe High School spirit as she posed next to the fireplace (c1957).  A photo of a young Joyce McCleery hung above the mantel.  Notice the numerous books on the shelves!

In the third historic image, Lee McCleery the patriarch of the family, reads a book to his daughter on a winter's day in 1957.  

These historic images are courtesy of Chuck McCleery.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mid-Century Photos Show Beechwood Avenue Home

The early twentieth-century home at 5949 Beechwood Avenue has been occupied by many Irvington families over the decades.  One of the earliest families to dwell in the large two-story home was Elmer E. and Alice Holloway, who set up housekeeping here in 1907.  Mr. Holloway was a piano tuner by trade, but may have been connected with the Holloway family who developed land along Arlington, Beechwood, Webster, and Catherwood Avenues.  Lots sold in that area in 1910 were built in "Holloway's Addition."  Mrs. Holloway stayed home and raised their two children Edward and Dorothy.

Further research is needed on the Holloways and other families who set up housekeeping here.  By 1957, the McCleery family moved in and would remain for ten years before building a brick ranch home next door at 5945 Beechwood Avenue.  After living at 317 South Arlington Avenue since the 1940s,  Lee and Jane McCleery decided that it was time to move from that busy street.  Mr. McCleery worked for the International Harvester Corporation.  Many households along Beechwood hosted Harvester employees in the mid-twentieth century.

In the winter of 1957, someone from the McCleery family documented their property on Beechwood after a snowstorm.  These beautiful photos show the home on a large wooded lot.  Many of the trees still stand in 2013.  The third photo, reveals the home on a spring day c1960.  Mr. McCleery would later partition the lot so that he and his wife could live in a brand new one-story home next door.  The final photo shows the home in the summer of 2013.  

Beautiful snowfall:  5949 Beechwood Avenue in the winter of 1957

The McCleery home at 5949 Beechwood Avenue in 1957.  Beyond the home you can see a glimpse of the Kile home, which used to stand under the Kile Oak.

The McCleery home at 5949 c1960

5949 Beechwood Avenue in 2013
The historic images are courtesy of Chuck McCleery. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ready for a Ride? A Family With Cars!

Members of the McCleery family dwelled along South Arlington, Beechwood, and Downey Avenues. Like many of us, they documented each new or used car with a photograph. These wonderful images not only show beautiful automobiles, but also scenes along these three streets.  Here is just a small sampling of the McCleery family collection.

There is no doubt that Wilda Lee McCleery, the oldest child of Lee and Jane McCleery, had exceptional taste.  This gorgeous 1958 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner must have turned a few heads when it was seen cruising through Irvington.  Notice the tailfins and the retractable roof.  In these two photos, the car is parked in front of or next to the McCleery family home at 5949 Beechwood Avenue. The picture was likely taken in 1959 or 1960.  

Shortly after trading in her Ford Fairlane, Wilda Lee McCleery opted for another convertible, a 1962 Chevrolet Nova.  She parked her car next to the family home at 5949 Beechwood Avenue around 1964.  

The McCleery family had just moved into 5949 Beechwood Avenue in 1957 when this photograph was snapped.  The car, a 1956 Oldsmobile, was comfortable and useful for hauling items. Across the street from the car, you can see the bungalows on the north side of the 5900 block of Beechwood Avenue.  The bungalow at the far left was owned by the Gray family.  Mrs. Gray had her stuccoed home painted pink.  She also drove a pink Cadillac.  

Chuck McCleery has owned many cars in his life.  He first restored a 1936 Roadster and has been restoring or driving classic cars ever since.  In 1966, he moved out of his house and rented from the McLean family at 266 South Downey Avenue.  In these photos, he documented his 1964 Pontiac Bonneville.   In the top photo, this boat of a car, was parked in the driveway of 266. You can also see a fantastic view of the neighboring home at 270 South Downey Avenue.   In the bottom photo, you can see his car back in the driveway at 266 South Downey Avenue.  He is facing south so you can see the gorgeous treelined street.  

In 1966, Chuck McCleery posed next to this 1957 Chevrolet in the driveway of 266 South Downey Avenue.   Across the street you can see some of the smaller mid-twentieth-century homes on the east side of the 200 bock of the street.  

Doug McLean, a friend of Chuck McCleery, (266 Downey Avenue) posed next to the same 1957 Chevrolet in 1966.  A clear view of the homes in the 200 block of South Downey Avenue can be seen behind Mr. McLean.  

These incredible images are courtesy of Chuck McCleery.  Some of the color photographs were restored by Larry Muncie.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Long Forgotten Home Reappears Along Arlington Avenue

When archaeologists uncovered Pompeii, I can only imagine the sheer joy that they must have felt with the unearthing of each new artifact.  That is exactly how I felt when I examined this fun photograph taken of Wilda Lee McCleery in 1953.  She posed on a tricycle and was about to perform a trick with some yarn.  Behind her, you could clearly see both 314 and 316 South Arlington Avenue.  The photo revealed what the front porches used to look like on both bungalows.  I studied these dwellings and kept on looking into the photograph towards IPS #85.  At that moment, it hit me.  There is a house!  Can you see it?  It is a two-story nineteenth-century Queen Anne formerly located at 342 South Arlington Avenue.  The footprint of the old home can be viewed on a map of Irvington in 1889.  It was torn down in the mid-twentieth century for an addition to the school.  Because I am not a long-time Irvingtonian, I had no idea it existed. I immediately wondered, who lived there?  Cursory research showed that Addison and Ella Porter set up housekeeping in the place as early as 1903.  They would raise four sons and one daughter there.  Mr. Porter worked as a pressman in a print shop as did his son, John. The 1910 Census revealed that another son, sixteen-year-old Cecil P., worked as a mill hand.  Over the years the house had multiple addresses including 478 and 380.  By the 1940s, the Hibner family lived at 342.  William Hibner worked as an elevator operator for an auto and tube factory.  His wife, Bertha, kept house, and their daughter, Ruth, was employed as a telephone operator.  The 1940 Census revealed the value of the property to be at $5,000, the highest of all of the residential properties along this part of the street.  Sadly, many homes in Irvington close to commercial areas, schools, churches, and lodges have been lost over the years to parking lots and additions.  Thankfully, Wilda Lee McCleery decided to get on this tricycle on a cool spring day in 1953 and ham it up for a photograph.  What other missing structures sit in dusty scrapbooks and shoeboxes?

Wilda Lee McCleery posed for this fun photograph in front of 314 and 316 South Arlington Avenue in 1953. Behind her you can see IPS #85 and 342 South Arlington Avenue.  (Click on the photo to make it larger)
  This historic image is courtesy of Chuck McCleery.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Scenes Along South Arlington in the 1940s and 1950s

These wonderful candid images reveal the front yards, tall trees, and tasteful homes that graced South Arlington Avenue in the mid-twentieth century.  Friends and McCleery family members served as the central focus of each image.  This stretch of Arlington remained a narrow two-way street at the time with a thick canopy of maple, oak, and ash above it.  Later generations widened the street and took some of the charm away from this typical Irvington avenue.

In the top photo, Wilda Lee and her brother Chuck McCleery of 317 South Arlington Avenue, posed for a photograph along South Arlington Avenue in 1949. It looks like it might have been the first day of school. The McCleery children had a short walk to IPS #85 as it was just across the street! Behind the kids, you can see an approaching car and an Edward Hopperish lone female character walking on the sidewalk.

These two photos taken in 1949 and 1957 show the same view.  In the top photo, Wilda Lee McCleery took her scooter out for a spin in 1949.  Behind her, you can see homes on the west side of South Arlington Avenue near the intersection with Oak Avenue.  Note the beautiful line of trees.  Joyce McCleery posed for her family eight years later in the same spot..  Behind the girls you can see 308, 268, 264, and beyond.

 Cute little Joyce McCleery posed next to the "for sale" sign in front of her home at 317 South Arlington Avenue in 1957.   Behind her and to the south, you can see 325 South Arlington Avenue and several other homes on both sides of the street.  Bruce Savage, a realtor who operated out of his office at 1005 North Arlington Avenue, eventually sold the home.  Note how much more yard these dwellings possessed before the city widened Arlington Avenue.  

 Family friend, Judy Hartley (345 South Arlington Avenue), holds Joyce McCleery (317 South Arlington Avenue) in 1955.  Behind the pair, are two small bungalows at 314 and 310 South Arlington Avenue.  

John Daniel Davis III, a friend to Wilda Lee McCleery, reads a comic book on the steps of 317 South Arlington Avenue in 1957.  You can also see 319 South Arlington Avenue.  

These interesting historic images are courtesy of Chuck McCleery.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Candid Photos Show Neighboring Houses

For those of you researching your own home, do not forget about the neighbors.  Your house will often turn up in the collections of the people who formerly dwelled next to your home.  The McCleery family dwelled at 317 South Arlington Avenue from 1944 to 1957. During their tenure, they took dozens of family photos outdoors.  The subject of the pictures are of the children and other family members, but behind them you can see images of 315 and 319 South Arlington Avenue.

In the mid-twentieth century, Harold and Audrey Skomp dwelled in the bungalow at 315 South Arlington.  Mr. Skomp worked for the International Harvester Corporation on Brookville Road while Mrs. Skomp worked at the Board of Missions at 222 Downey Avenue.  They raised two children in the home.  In the top photo, taken in 1950,  Wilda Lee McCleery posed in the front yard at 317 South Arlington Avenue with William Dummit, a family friend.  Behind the pair, you can see the Skomp home.  A contemporary image shows that same bungalow on a summer day in 2013.

Wilda Lee McCleery and William Dummit next to 315 South Arlington Avenue in 1950

315 South Arlington Avenue in 2013

The next two historic images show the rear of 319 South Arlington Avenue.  The Campbell family dwelled in that modest bungalow in the mid-twentieth century.  Chuck McCleery, who grew up next door, reports that every kid wanted to trick-or-treat at that house because Mr. Campbell gave out nickels instead of candy!  Mrs. Campbell was known for her beautiful flower garden. In the top photo, Lee and Jane McCleery posed with their daughter Joyce in 1955.  Behind the family, you can see the family swing set and a nice view of the Campbell dwelling.  In the second historic image, likely taken in 1955, Wilda Lee McCleery posed with a date next to Mrs. Campbell's flowers.  The Campbell home is clearly visible behind the attractive couple.

Jane, Joyce, and Lee McCleery posed in the backyard of 317 South Arlington Avenue.  319 South Arlington is also visible in this snapshot taken in 1955.

Wilda Lee McCleery and a date posed next to the Campbell home at 319 South Arlington Avenue c1955
These historic images are courtesy of Chuck McCleery.