Friday, September 27, 2013

The House at the End of the Block

This modest two-story carpenter-built home has stood at 5959 Beechwood Avenue since the early twentieth century.  Eugene and Winefred Huber dwelled in the home in 1910. Mr. Huber, age 35, was an upholsterer.  Mrs. Huber stayed at home with the couple's two daughters, Ruth, 11, and Ester, 8.  By the mid-twentieth century when this photo was snapped, the Wolven family dwelled in the house.  Everett A. Wolven arose very early each morning and drove his truck to the city market where he purchased produce that he would then sell to small grocers throughout eastern Indiana.  It was a family business and they parked the trucks in the driveway of the home.  One very particular neighbor along the street filed a complaint with the city about the trucks as she thought it was unsightly for these vehicles to be visible from Beechwood Avenue.  In the end, the Wolvens were allowed to park their trucks in the driveway.  Nina Gertrude Pope Wolven helped with the business as well as running the household.  The Wolven family dwelled in the home for decades.  Sadly, Mr. Wolven passed away in 1969 at the age of 57.  Mrs. Wolven outlived him by twenty-four years.

The subject of this photo, taken in 1957, was not of the very visible Wolven house, but rather of the McCleery family, who dwelled at 5949 Beechwood Avenue.  The Wolvens would have no problem recognizing their home today as it looks very similar as it did in this snapshot.  This historic image is courtesy of Chuck McCleery.

The McCleery family in the backyard of 5949 Beechwood Avenue in 1957.  Beyond the children you can see 5959 Beechwood Avenue, the home of the Wolven family.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Layman Avenue Home Then and Now

This intriguing home located at 72 North Layman Avenue has graced the bricked street since the early 1900s.  The architectural style of the house is an interesting blend of Queen Anne and Arts and Crafts.  The Johnson family were some of the first people to call the dwelling "home."  Miss Hildreth Davis, a local wedding and party planner, lived in this house for many years in the 1960s and 1970s.  The historic image, taken c1973, shows the front porch of the home along with Miss Davis's beloved dogs.  A beautiful snow has fallen and in the distance you can see the rear of the double at 51-53 North Ritter Avenue.  A contemporary photo, taken by local artist Grace Kite, shows the home in 2013.

72 North Layman Avenue c1973

72 North Layman Avenue in 2013

The historic image is courtesy of members of the Davis Family via

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Keep Mum!" Birthday Party Invitations in the early 1940s

Ann Hart, like many Irvington girls, received invitations to birthday parties.   How many of us have kept up with these childhood friends?  How many of us have lost touch?  Stored in scrapbooks for over 70 years, these three invitations were issued to several girls throughout the neighborhood in 1941-43.  The lucky recipient, Ann Hart, dwelled at 5930 East Washington Street and attended elementary school at IPS #77.

On November 5, 1941, several Irvington girls gathered at the home of Joyce Mitzner at 5864 East Lowell Avenue.  It was a cool day and a Wednesday so the girls gathered after school.  None of them had any idea that their lives were about to change in just a little over a month with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Joyce and Ann have remained friends over the years and without fail Ann still sends a birthday card to her dear friend on November 5.  Below you can see the original invitation and what the home looks like in 2013.  A stone facade was added much later so the bungalow was likely originally clad in wood siding in 1941.

In either 1942 or 1943, Ann received an invitation from Mrs. Seabert for a surprise birthday party honoring her daughter Jane.  The kids had to phone Mrs. Seabert to let her know that they were coming.  As part of the covert operation, the children were to meet at the home of Mrs. Panczner, who dwelled in a double at 105 North Pasadena Avenue. It was a summer day so the party was likely held outdoors.  Below you can see the invitation and Mrs. Seabert's lovely handwriting.  You can also see a photo of 105-107 Pasadena Avenue in 2013.

On September 16, 1943, Ann and several other girls gathered at the home of Alice Hunt at 737 North Bolton Avenue.  Mr. Hunt ran a nearby bowling alley.  The children met after school and enjoyed the last days of a beautiful summer.  You may see this invitation and a contemporary image of the home below.

The cards and information are courtesy of Ann Hart Stewart.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Robertson Home Through the Years

The Reverend David A. and Orintha Robertson moved into their beautiful new American Four Square home at 65 North Ritter Avenue with two of their sons in 1905.  It is very possible that the elderly couple were actually moving in with their very successful sons, Dr. J. Frank Robertson, a local physician and Lou A Robertson, an attorney.  The Reverend Robertson and his wife hailed from southern Indiana.  In fact, his father, Acquilla Robertson was the first white child to ever be baptized in the state of Indiana.  The Robertsons moved from one Indiana town to another since the minister frequently pastored at Methodist churches.  For the last twenty-one years of their lives, the family dwelled in Indianapolis and in Irvington for part of those years.  Two other sons, Edward and Charles found success as a minister and as a businessman in other cities.

Reverend Robertson passed away in the lovely home in 1912.  Orintha Robertson died in 1919.  Dr. J. Frank Robertson continued to dwell in the home until the 1920s.  He does not appear to have ever married.  Dr. Robertson, a graduate of Moore's Hill College in southern Indiana, remained an active alumn and he helped to raise funds to keep the financially-strapped institution open. (It eventually closed.) During World War One, Dr. Robertson served at Camp Greenleaf in Georgia where he attended to the soldiers going or coming home from the war.  He was honorably discharged in 1919 and returned to Irvington to serve as a family doctor for hundreds of local residents.

Lou A.  Robertson married a local Irvington woman named Josephine Mary Doelker on October 11, 1911.  He was 36 and she was 21.  They moved into a charming home at 321 North Ritter Avenue before finally moving into 65 North Ritter Avenue in the 1920s.  Mr. Robertson's name frequented the local newspapers as he helped to settle divorces, draw up wills, and settle lawsuits.  In one headline-grabbing case, Mr. Robertson represented the family of David M. Lee, who was run over and killed by a taxi at Union and McCarty Streets in 1918.  The Lees received $5,300 as settlement thanks to Mr. Robertson's hard work.  Mrs. Robertson stayed at home and helped to raise their three sons, David, Philip, and Frank.  She also served as a volunteer for the Campfire Girls at the Irvington Methodist Church.

For the next several decades, the Robertsons dwelled in the stone Craftsman home.  The family literally witnessed the building of Irvington all around them.  They moved into the home while Ritter was a dirt street.  By the end of their tenure in the house, the avenue had been widened and lengthened and had become a busy thoroughfare. In 2013, the lovely home underwent an extensive renovation.

In the following historic images courtesy of both the Larry Muncie Collection of the Irvington Historical Society and Catherine Phillips Kippert, you can see the home shortly after its construction in 1906 and throughout the mid-twentieth century.  I have also included a photo of the dwelling taken in the summer of 2013.

The Robertson Home (65 North Ritter Avenue) can be seen on the right c1907

The Robertson Home (65 North Ritter Avenue) c 1945.  The leaning tree in the backyard still lives in 2013.

The Robertson Home (65 North Ritter Avenue) c1978

The Robertson Home (65 North Ritter Avenue) on September 14, 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Vintage Irvington Now Part of "Field Trip" App

Exciting news here in historic Irvington as Vintage Irvington has now gone "live" on the Google app known as Field Trip.  Folks who download this app can use it all over the country and perhaps the world.  As people are traveling through Indianapolis or Irvington, Vintage Irvington will pop up on their screen if they have downloaded the app.  Obviously, each city and region have different blogs or websites posted.  Here are a couple screen shots from the app!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Lost Irvington--287 South Downey Avenue

The large Victorian home at 287 South Downey Avenue (first home on the left) had sat along this meandering street since perhaps the late nineteenth century.  The 1900 Census noted that Omar and Mary Wilson dwelled there when the address used to be 355.  Mr. Wilson was a local teacher and would have likely known the very elderly Allen Benton, who dwelled across the street in what is today the Benton House Museum.  The Wilsons took in two "wards," Ralph (age 2) and Dorothy (age 1).  By 1909, Samuel and Minnie Hull moved in along with their teenaged daughter, Clara.  Mr. Hull operated a business along Bonna Avenue in between South Audubon Road and Ritter Avenue.  He sold coal, cement blocks, porch columns, gravel, and sand.  By the mid-1910s the home was once again back on the market.  For the next forty years, the dwelling would serve as a rental for the middle class.  J.W. Friday served as the agent for the home.  On July 5 and November 8, 1914, Mr. Friday placed ads in the Indianapolis Star announcing that the nine-room house could be let for the high price of $35 a month. (typical rents were around $15 a month) The large dwelling also came with an acre of ground.  By November 21, 1920, the rent had gone up to $50 a month.

By the mid-1950s, Murray and Ila Garland moved into the house.  They would be the last family to spend any time in the dwelling.  Mr. Garland's untimely death, likely placed a hardship upon his widow, but she continued to live on in the house working as a department manager and buyer for both Levi Strauss & Co. and the Wm. Block Co.  Her daughter, Judy Garland, served a phone operator.  By 1969, the Reverend Spencer and Margaret Austin purchased the house.  For reasons yet unknown, the Austins tore down the old place in 1969 and built a home in the style of a southern plantation.  The Reverend Austin did keep the oak posts from the interior staircase and fashioned them into suitcase holders. A very young nearby neighbor, Stephen Enz, recalled playing in the newly dug up foundation for the future home at 287 Downey Avenue.

The star of this photo was the 1964 GTO belonging to Doug McLean, who dwelled across the street in 1966 when the this shot was snapped by a young Chuck McCleery.  Behind the GTO, loomed the now-forgotten structure at 287 South Downey Avenue.  A current photo, shows the newer home on the site on September 5, 2013.

Cool car and forgotten home:  A GTO sits in the driveway of Doug McLean at 266 South Downey Avenue.  Across the street, you can see 287 South Downey Avenue in 1966.  (first house on left)

287, 303, and 317 South Downey in 1966

287 South Downey Avenue in 2013.  
The photo and stories for this post are courtesy of Chuck McCleery, Stephen Enz, and Jack Austin.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Home of Noted Art Critic--Lucille E. Morehouse

Read any art history books on local artists from the early to mid-twentieth century and you will read the name of Lucille E. Morehouse.  For several decades, beginning in the 1910s, Miss Morehouse wrote a weekly column on art for the Indianapolis Star.  She personally knew all of the greats including T.C. Steele, Marie Goth, Simon Baus, Clifton Wheeler, and many others.  Her name graces the bibliographies of dozens of books and journal articles about the Indiana artist movement, including the Irvington Group.  She lived in several homes around Irvington in the early 1900s before finally moving into her new bungalow at 5958 Beechwood Avenue around 1916.  Upon her death in the early 1960s, her home was filled with local art that she had personally collected.  The Cavanaughs, who next moved into house, reported that the dwelling was filled with items, but the art was gone by the time they set up housekeeping.  More scholarship is needed on this interesting Irvington woman.  Her columns have been absolutely critical for documenting important eras of Indiana's art history.

In this photo, taken in 1959, the subject is clearly the beautiful car in a driveway; however, across the street you can see the home of Miss Morehouse.  She would only live a few years after this photo was taken.  Today, the home looks very different as it has been wrapped in aluminum siding and the porch has been enclosed.

The Lucille E. Morehouse stands across the street and behind the car at 5958 Beechwood Avenue in 1959. You can also see the  side of 5959 Beechwood Avenue.

The Lucille E. Morehouse Home in 2013

  The historic image is courtesy of Chuck McCleery.