Thursday, November 28, 2013

These Scouts Were Prepared!

Eight scouts from Mr. Smith's Sunday School class at the Irvington Presbyterian Church went on an adventure sometime in the summer of 1910.  The young men ranged in age from 10 to 12 and dwelled in southern Irvington.  In the top row, starting at the left, John Wamsley (5718 Oak Avenue) stared pensively at the photographer.  He was one of the few boys not holding a prop.  Next to him, Walter McCoy proudly held a baseball for a future game.  In the middle, a formidable Albert Stone (5927 Rawles Avenue) grasped a gun for the hunt. Next to him, Harold Wilson (5907 Rawles Avenue) displayed an unidentifiable object, and at the end of the row sat Raymond Woods. (308 South Audubon Road) In the front row, Bud Bunnell (5919 Rawles Avenue) practiced tying knots for all to see.  Smiling Walter Porter (342 South Arlington Avenue) was ready for a game of football, while Clyde McVey (211 Good Avenue) showed off the troop knife.

It is unclear as to where the boys gathered on that lovely day.  Behind them, you can see a small cottage and a swing dangles from a high branch.  Over one hundred years ago, a group of Irvington kids sat under a tall tree...

This image is courtesy of Bill Ferling and the Irvington Presbyterian Church.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Time for a Cup of Coffee and a Piece of Pie

When the Thomas Restaurant chain opened at 5530 East Washington Street, local residents had the opportunity to feast on some classic mid-century diner-fare.  In this postcard image, c1940, you can see that the structure had features of the Art Deco style, an era not often seen in the neighborhood.  Paul Diebold in Greater Irvington (1997) pointed out that the front of the building was clad in pigmented glass.  Note the neon signs--another novelty for the Irvington commercial strip at the time.  The chain had three other restaurants in Indianapolis at 32 East Georgia Street, 318 North Meridian Street, and 6245 North College Avenue.  A local landlord in need of a parking lot flattened the streamlined building in the 1990s for a nearby blood plasma center.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Three Years and Still Going Strong

It has been three years since I first set up this little blog.  I started this site in November of 2010 because I could find nothing like it on the internet.  If you build it they will come. Yes!  My hope, with the conception of this page, was that you would reach out and assist Irvington document its rich and interesting heritage along with me, and you have!  I now have friends from all over the nation who have found this site and have generously opened their scrapbooks for the world to see.  In the three years of operation, Vintage Irvington has been viewed over 75,000 times from places as far away as Russia, Latvia, Brazil, Germany, and as close as Julian, Lowell, and Beechwood Avenues.  I am so thankful for the many contributors to the blog this past year including Larry Muncie, Chuck McCleery, Ann Hart Stewart, Bill Ferling, David Bailey, Paula Schmidt, Cate Surratt Delaney, the Custer Family, Chuck and Joyce Vogt, Bob Alloway, Sue Poulos, Don Rouse, Carol Kappel, Laura Hildreth, Lydia Talbot, Jim Brandenburg, Catherine Phillips Kippert, and any others I may have inadvertently left out.  THANK YOU!!  To celebrate three years online, I have chosen a few popular photos from this past year.  I look forward to hearing from more people and let's keep these historic photographs and stories coming!  Drop me a line at

In January, local history sleuth, Paula Schmidt, wrote of the little cottage at 5246 Julian Avenue. In this photo, Helen Tanselle posed with her daughter, Nancy c1948.

Former Irvington resident, David Bailey contributed so many wonderful photographs to this blog. In this photo, his grandfather Charles Sammis, a mailman, posed with "Babe" in front of 256 South Emerson c1915. 

Sue Amick Poulos submitted this sweet photo in March. Ward Poulos looking quite dashing, stopped by 315 North Kitley Avenue to pick up Sue Amick as his date to the Howe High School Prom in 1965.

Larry Muncie has been documenting Irvington's history for many years. I am proud to say that he has been an invaluable partner in my quest for historical accuracy. He has contributed numerous photos and stories for this blog. I am happy to report that he has also been very generous with his own personal collection including this jewel of the Polk's Milk Truck taken in front of his childhood home at 5831 Beechwood Avenue in 1948.

Local Irvingtonian, Don Rouse, has donated many photos for this blog including this image of his mother, Christine Bruckman (far left) with her Missions Building colleagues on a bridge in Ellenberger Park in 1943.

This wonderful aerial photo of southern Irvington documented the neighborhood as it looked in the winter of 1923.

Chuck McCleery is one of the most generous people I have met. He has not only contributed amazing photos and stories for this blog, but he has connected me with other former residents. In this photo, he stands with his two sisters, Wilda Lee and Joyce, in the alley behind their home at 317 South Arlington Avenue in 1955.  

This rare image of the Kile Home shortly before its demolition in the early 1970s captivated many readers who had never seen the house that used to sit under the Kile Oak tree on Beechwood Avenue.  This image came from the Chuck McCleery collection. 

In September, Vintage Irvington became part of the the new Field Trip App from Google.  Now, when people pass through Indianapolis, they can click on this app and visit historic sites in Irvington!  

I stumbled upon Jim Brandenburg on  He generously shared wonderful photos that belong to his mother, who grew up along Ridgeview Drive.  In this photo, nine-month old Glenna Leonard sits in her front yard at 339 North Ridgeview Drive in 1928.

I loved meeting Carol Kappel, who dwelled in the "Castle House" at 5631 University Avenue.  (1974--1991).  She is an amazing artist and she shared some wonderful photos of her time in the manse including this shot taken in the parlor of the nineteenth-century home in the summer of 1975.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Irvington Post Office Destroyed in Storm

For the past year, the Irvington community has been hard at work raising money to save the historic Irvington Post Office and Hook's Drug Store.  In October, they raised enough money to put on a new roof.  Straight line winds destroyed the structure today. No lives were lost and thankfully, no one was hurt, but there are heavy hearts in the neighborhood tonight.  A piece of Irvington's heritage has been lost....

Photo by Catherine Phillips Kippert on November 17, 2013

Thank you, Dr. Vollrath

I first met Dr. Victor Vollrath and Isabelle Burnside Vollrath in April of 2012.  I could not believe my good fortune.  Dr. Vollrath, born in 1916, had grown up in Irvington and at age 95 he could still recall many events from his youth.  Furthermore, he and his wife generously allowed me access to his childhood photo collection.  Most of the images appeared on this site in April and May of 2012.

Victor Vollrath grew up at 218 South Audubon Road in a lovely Dutch Colonial Revival home.  His father ran a nearby grocery store.  His stories of Irvington were filled with tales of dogs, ponies, baseball, and cycling.  He could still recall his neighbors and one of them, Dr. Walter Kelly, inspired him to become a physician.  One of the most powerful stories that he shared involved his own mother, Thermina "Marie" Vollrath.  All five Vollrath boys served in World War II.  Dr. Vollrath told me, that with tears streaming down her face, his mother walked down to the Irving Circle Park on a snowy day and snapped a photo of the park.  She then had five snapshots developed and sent to each Vollrath son so they could have an image of home while they were fighting on the front.

Dr. Victor Vollrath's mother would have been undoubtedly proud of her son had she lived to see him serve as a physician to thousands of Indianapolis residents over a fifty year time span. She sadly passed soon after his return from the war.  Today I honor his memory and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to meet a local Irvington boy, who made a difference on this planet.  I dedicate this post to the memory of Dr. Victor Vollrath (1916-2013).  You may see images from his youth by clicking on the Vollrath Family link below.

Victor Vollrath with his loyal dog, Fite, in 1927

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Preston's Supermarket c1958

The arrival of the supermarket in the mid-twentieth century changed the shopping habits of the American people.  Corner grocery stores that delivered continued, but they struggled and most were gone by the end of the century.  Several larger grocery stores opened in the greater Irvington area in the 1940s and 50s including this Preston's located on the northwest corner of East 16th Street and Emerson Avenue.

The intersection remains a busy one in 2013 and the structure still serves as a grocery, now called Safeway's.
Preston's Supermarket located at 5040 East 16th Street c1958

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Greatest Generation as Boy Scouts

In the summer of 1934, Boy Scouts from Troop #3 gathered in front of the Irvington Presbyterian Church for a photo.  The Great Depression had taken a toll on many families and Europe saw the first glimmers of Fascism.  It is likely that none of the folks in the photo had any idea that in just a few short years most of them would be of age to defend the United States in one of the biggest wars in history.  Nearly all of the kids in this photo would either volunteer or be sent off to battle.  Six members of Troop #3 would pay the ultimate sacrifice.

One young man who paid with his life was that of John William McPheeters. Young John dwelled at 46 South Ritter Avenue.  He rose up through the scouts to the status of Eagle Scout.  The popular and very bright young man also served as a leader for Troop #3.  In the photo below, you may see Mr. McPheeters.  He is wearing a suit and tie and is standing in the fourth row from the bottom.  He is the second person from the left in the image.

Mr. McPheeters signed up to serve in the military long before the war broke out and he was actually called up in 1940.  He was trained in artillery and his superior officers recognized his talent eventually promoting him to the status of Lieutenant Colonel. During World War II, he was ordered to lead troops in the Italian Campaign.  Word began to spread of his bravery.  In one instance before the Anzio invasion, Mr. McPheeters hiked up a hill to scout for Germans.  He was unarmed and was surprised to encounter a German sniper.  With just a heavy boulder, he managed to scare away the gunman. Beloved my his troops, the young officer began to lead his soldiers into battle.  As Americans acquired more territory, Lt. Col. McPheeters and other officers gathered under a tree to examine maps on March 25, 1944.  Out of the blue a German shell struck the men as they plotted the future. Tragically, the Irvington Eagle Scout and beloved troop leader died instantly.  His brokenhearted squadron asked that his funeral be piped through a loud speaker so they could hear it as they fought on the front.  After the war, several from his division wrote glowingly of the popular colonel, including Major E. N. Harmon who told the world about John McPheeters in the Saturday Evening Post.  In 1945, the military dedicated a building on the grounds of Fort Knox, Kentucky as McPheeters Hall.

Nearly eighty years have passed since a group of Boy Scouts proudly stood on the steps of the Irvington Presbyterian Church.  On this week when we honor the veterans of this country, let us remember Troop #3 and the many other young men and women who have defended the United States.

The historic image and information came from Bill Ferling.  We only know of one other name in this photo and that is of Leland "Lee" Dickerson. He is the shorter kid in the middle of the front row and served in the navy during World War II.  His brother, Robert, died in the Battle of the Bulge.  If you recognize anyone else in this photo, then drop me a note at  For additional information on John W. McPheeters you may read the the following newspaper article:  Wayne Guthrie, "Ringside in Hoosierland," Indianapolis News, September 23, 1948, 12.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Photo of Cub Scouts Reveal Long Lost Arts and Crafts Double--c1935

Sometime in the mid-1930s, these enthusiastic members of the Cub Scout Pack #8 gathered in a lot east of the Irvington Presbyterian Church for this photo.  A baseball and bat have been dropped and one young man appears to be playing catch in the background.  Behind this hearty group, you can see a double that used to sit along Irving Court next to the church.  The Arts and Crafts duplex was part of a planned development north of Julian Avenue and west of Audubon Road.  The home had a limited life, however, because many congregants needed a place for their autos on Sunday mornings so the dwelling was eventually cleared for a parking lot.  If you recognize any of the children in this photo then drop me a note at so that we can document them.

Cub Scout Pack #8 just east of the Irvington Presbyterian Church on Irving Court near Julian Avenue. The home behind the scouts is no longer standing.  
This image is courtesy of Bill Ferling.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cornerstone Ceremony for Irvington Presbyterian Church--1908

The Irvington Presbyterian Church, although not the oldest congregation in the neighborhood, has been  in the community since the early twentieth century.  The organization began in 1906 and by the next year the founders hired Jonathan Day as the first minister.  Reverend Day's first task was to work with the board to raise the funds for a church structure.  Dr. Day had other issues to deal with that first year including the controversial notion of allowing members to play Sunday baseball.  He went against other nearby Protestants and thought it would be okay.

The Board of Trustees had already secured a large lot at the intersection of Johnson and Julian Avenue for the future church for $1600. Architect Bennajah Weesner donated his fees and designed a pleasant one-story brick structure with intersecting gables and a tower.  Eventually, the congregation would outgrow the small building and it was torn down in 1928 to make way for the current and grander edifice.

In the following two photos, both taken in the winter of 1908, you can see the cornerstone dedication for the first Irvington Presbyterian Church.  In the top photo, you can see the Reverend Jonathan Day at the far right.  Historical information for this post came from: Emily McAdams, Irvington Presbyterian Church 1906-1956, Indianapolis, 1956.  The historic photos are courtesy of Bill Ferling.

Reverend Jonathan Day (far right) speaks to new Irvington Presbyterian Congregation in 1908

Members of the Irvington Presbyterian Church gather in 1908 for the cornerstone ceremony for the new church (no longer standing) at the intersection of Johnson and Julian Avenues.