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.


  1. My childhood home, I knew it well. I lived there from 1957 to 1969. My mother Donna Folden Garland Cary passed a year ago.
    Joe Cary

  2. My Mother Donna Cary worked for Indiana Bell Telephone, I don't think my aunt Judy Garland French ever did.

  3. Thanks, Joe!! I would love to chat with you either via e-mail or by phone. My e-mail is My phone number is 317-504-3920. Thanks for your comments!