Sunday, March 30, 2014

Michigan Streetcar Line--c1915

Three separate streetcar lines came into Irvington.  The oldest line, a former mule-powered transport, followed the Brookville Road. The most widely-used line traversed East Washington Street from downtown to Sheridan Avenue.  It also followed down part of South Audubon Road to a small commercial section of the neighborhood.  The last streetcar line to be built in the neighborhood was the East Michigan Street line which terminated at Emerson Avenue.  This line connected downtown and several other east side neighborhoods including Tuxedo Park and Emerson Heights and was completed in 1911.  In this photo, Indianapolis Traction Company employees--one of whom was a man named Zero Horner--stood at the intersection of North Emerson Avenue and East Michigan Street c1915.  The commercial structure behind the car used to stand on the northeast corner of that intersection.

 Streetcar at North Emerson and East Michigan Street c1915
This image is courtesy of the Horner family via  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Drive into the Country--1945

As more people purchased automobiles in the 1920s and 1930s, they enjoyed venturing out into the countryside and into nearby villages.  A popular route for Irvingtonians was to head down the Brookville Road.  They could motor to New Palestine, Morristown, and down to Rushville, or if they were really up for an adventure then they could follow the federal highway all the way to Brookville and then to Cincinnati.  Not far from Irvington, the Malon family owned land at the intersection of the Brookville Road and Bade Road. Across the highway from the Malon home, Selma Malon Nau and her husband Will Nau operated a gas station.  In 1945, a member of the Malon-Nau family stood at the  petrol station and snapped an image of the home place. It appeared to be a rainy day.

Remnants of the gas station remained well into the 1980s, however, there is no evidence of it today as the highway has been widened.  The Malon-Nau home still stands although it too has been altered.   Nearby development south of Brookville Road has encroached upon the farmstead, but the area around the dwelling still retains the bucolic setting that mid-century Irvingtonians would have recognized.

Malon-Nau Home at 10236 Brookville Road in 1945

10236 Brookville Road in 2014
The historic image is courtesy of the Malon-Nau family via 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lost Irvington--6049 East Washington Street

Many homes along East Washington Street have been razed over the years for commercial development. This lovely early twentieth-century home at 6049 East Washington Street met its fate in the mid-twentieth century and has been gone from Irvington for decades.  In 1909, attorney Levi P. Harlan and wife Lillian and son Loran moved into the home.  By the 1920s, the Wright family dwelled here.  Bert Wright was a laborer while his wife Anna stayed home and took care of the house.  Her father, Charles Edwards, a veteran of the Civil War, moved into the large dwelling in the late 1920s and remained until his death.  In this photo, taken in 1925, Mr. Edwards sits peacefully in the side yard playing with the family dog. The yard is lush--a far cry from the commercial site it would become.  In 2014, the lot now hosts a liquor store.  You can see the area today by clicking on the address below.

Charles Edwards in the side yard at 6049 East Washington Street in 1925. He moved in and stayed with his daughter and son-in-law for the remainder of his life.  

Anna Edwards Wright dwelled at 6049 East Washington Street with her husband Bert.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Pope Family of South Audubon Road

Harry J. and Flora Pope moved into their dream home at 377 South Audubon Road in 1908.  They would not be the first family to setup housekeeping in this large dwelling, but they would certainly be one of the longest as they remained until the late 1940s.  Mr. Pope worked his way up in the U.S. Post Office eventually moving into a management position.   Flora Knarzer Pope was actually Harry's second wife as his first wife, Effie Keeter, passed away in 1907.  Mrs. Pope stayed home and raised the couple's two daughters, Mary and Alberta.  In 1938, Mary married D. J. Hampton Smith.  The couple eventually built a small brick cottage at 381 South Audubon in 1946 next to the Pope family home.  Sadly, Mr. Pope passed away just as his daughter and son-in-law were completing the new house.  Eventually, the Popes moved away from South Audubon Road.

Today, the large home at 377 South Audubon Road is undergoing restoration.  The little house next door is barely visible in 2014 as it is now surrounded by giant spruce trees.

The Pope Family c1935:  Harry J, Flora, Mary and Alberta (in front) next to the family home at 377 South Audubon Road

D..J. Hampton Smith and Mary J. Pope in 1938 next to 377 South Audubon Road

377 South Audubon in 2014

The Smith Cottage (1946) at 381 South Audubon Road.
The historic images are courtesy of the descendants of the Pope Family via  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Butler University Band c1922

Can your hear the band practicing for the big game?  If you lived near the Butler University campus in the 1920s, there is a good chance that you might be listening to a rousing piece performed by these guys.  They are dressed for warm weather so they were likely getting ready to play around kickoff time.  It is very apparent that newer facilities for this group might have been in order based on the condition of the structure around them. W. Frank Jones, a local photographer snapped this image c1922.

Butler University pep band c1922

Sunday, March 16, 2014

School #57--1922

Several proud eighth graders gathered in the spring of 1922 for this photo.  The pupils are all wearing their coats and the boys in the front row are sitting on folded chairs so they won't get dirty. Each graduate has a ribbon pinned to their coat.  Teachers clumped at the edge of the rows.  Some are smiling and some look stern.  I wonder about the lives of so many of these children.  What became of them?  It is likely that every person in this photo is no longer with us. How can this be as the children look so vibrant?  One African-American girl stands in the top row.  What became of her?  Did the other students treat her with respect?  We know of only one name in the photo and that is of Robert Orbison, who dwelled at 51 North Irvington Avenue. If you recognize any of the students or teachers in this photo, then drop me a note at

Eighth Grade Graduation Photo at School IPS #57 in 1922
This historic image is courtesy of Carol Orbison.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Orbisons of 51 North Irvington Avenue

Charles J. and Ella Talkenberg Orbison moved into 51 North Irvington Avenue in 1907. The couple had previously dwelled at 40 North Ritter Avenue before moving into the spacious American Four Square. Mr. Orbison, an attorney, later became a judge and was appointed to enforce the federal government's ban on alcohol.  In 1920, local newspapers hailed him as the bootlegger's worst enemy. Mrs. Orbison helped to raise the couple's two sons and was very involved at the Irvington Presbyterian Church and in the Eastern Star. Their sons, Telford and Robert, spent their formative years in the house and attended nearby School #57 before moving on to Shortridge High School and Arsenal Technical High School.  Both sons graduated from Butler University and would follow in their father's footsteps and pursue law as a career.

Sadness washed over the house in 1926 as Mrs. Orbison fell victim to breast cancer. With her sons and husband at her side, she passed away in the house at the age of 53. Mr. Orbison remained in the home until he moved to California in the late 1920s.  Telford Orbison and his wife Dorothy dwelled at 51 North Irvington Avenue by 1930.  This rising star in the Republican Party was appointed as a district attorney for the United States government.  He was also an avid golfer and helped to save the Pleasant Run Golf Course from a proposed boulevard extension in 1935. ("Irvington Golfers Storm Park Board Meeting," Indianapolis News, November 21, 1935)  The 1930 Federal Census reveals that 51 North Irvington Avenue was valued at $9000.   Robert made the decision to join his father in California, but just as he was ready to depart he learned that his Dad had suddenly passed away.  The young attorney and his wife, Beatrice, decided to return to Indianapolis, although not to Irvington.  Telford and his wife eventually moved to New Albany, Indiana in 1937 ending the Orbison's thirty-year tenure in the home.

51 North Irvington Avenue after a snowstorm c1912

Orbison Family:  Telford, Ella, and Robert Orbison in 1913.  Note Mrs. Orbison's beautiful dress. If only we could see it in color!  

Judge Charles J. Orbison c1910

Charles Orbison in 1926

Devilish grin: Robert Orbison posed the backyard of 51 North Irvington Avenue in 1911.  You can see the rear of homes located along Whittier Place.  

Serious and studious:  Telford Orbison posed for this photo c1912

Later years:  Ella Orbison posed for this photo sometime before her untimely death in 1926

Robert Orbison served the country in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  
51 North Irvington Avenue on March 10, 2014

The historic images, stories, and newspaper clippings are courtesy of Carol Orbison.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Stroll Down East Washington Street in 1910

Please dress accordingly.  Men, you are to wear a jacket and tie.  Ladies, please put on your long dress and your finest hat as we are going to take a walk along East Washington Street and I don't want any of you scandalizing our community.  Formality is the rule of the day.  I will be giving you a tour so please try to keep up.  There will be time for shopping later.

5420 to 5502 East Washington Street c1910

Our tour begins in front of the Irvington Post Office at 5502 East Washington Street.  You will note that it is a very fine modern building. More letters come in and out of this building than just about any other in the city. Many of those notes are from college students likely asking for more money from their families. George Russell (60 North Ritter Avenue) is our postal clerk.  He is a man who wears many hats.  Men, if you are looking to buy real estate in our fair community then dash upstairs and have a visit with Mr. Russell.  Ladies, you will note that Mr. Russell also sells school supplies.  Some people say that Mr. Russell is the unofficial mayor of our fair suburb.  If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to contact him.

Irvington Post Office at 5502 East Washington Street c1910

We shall now cross Ritter Avenue and head west.  You will note that the streetcar tracks are in the middle of Washington Street and are relatively new.  Many in our community work in downtown Indianapolis so it is quite easy to get from Irvington to near Monument Circle in short order.  We have recently bricked most of the streets in the neighborhood. Don't these paths look lovely?  May I remind the men in our tour that you are to walk closest to the street as we do not want any of our lovely women to get splashed from a puddle by those blasted new automobiles.  They are loud and annoying, but what can you do?  Everyone in the neighborhood seems to want one.  I prefer my horse and buggy. Onward, please.

Weesner Drug Store at 5464 East Washington Street c1910

Our next stop is Weesner Drug Store at 5464 East Washington Street.  Gentleman, feel free to bring  your wives here for a soda.  Theodore Weesner (4850 Julian Avenue) is the proprietor of this popular establishment.  You may know that Butler College is located near here and the students love to stop for an ice cream sundae.  I don't approve of the young women who come in here without a chaperone.  I have complained to Mr. Weesner and he is sympathetic, but he is also a businessman. Upstairs you will find various offices for local physicians and dentists if you need one.  Dr. Gilbert Layman (351 North Ritter Avenue) is here if any of you need a tooth pulled.  Please pass under the awning and note that Benjamin F. Staley (5441 Julian Avenue) operates a jewelry store. Next door, is my favorite spot along our fair street!  Can you smell that wonderful aroma? Charles W. Stevens operates a bakery here.

There is no time to lag.  Let's gather under this tree.  Next to me is one of the most important buildings in Irvington as it is our Independent Order of Odd Fellow's Lodge Hall at 5454 East Washington Street.  Many of us utilize the second floor for important meetings.  Our residents have strong opinions on most subjects so our gatherings can shall we say...animated?  On the first floor, Theodore Portteus (306 North Irvington Avenue) sells dry goods.  If Mr. Portteus doesn't have what you need then no one in Irvington does either.  He has the most complete inventory in eastern Marion County.  Next door, Elmer E. Allen (19 South Butler Avenue) runs the neighborhood hardware store.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall at 5454 East Washington Street c1910
Let us continue walking west.  Please note that I will not be stopping because our time is short so I will mention some of the important highlights in this block. Ernest Bloemker's grocery is located here at 5446 East Washington.  Mr. Bloemker and his clerk, Gaeo Stevens will deliver to your home. Ah yes, and here is Mr. Christian Cook.  He is a our local tailor.  Gentlemen, I can personally vouch for our barber Orville Heady (251 South Ritter Avenue) as I have been very pleased with his shaves.  I like to stop by and chat with other like-minded people to catch up on the latest news.  It was in the barber shop where I learned that the city of Indianapolis wants to put in a boulevard along Pleasant Run stream.  I am very much opposed to to that idea.  Continuing by these smaller storefronts, you will note the hostler, Lawrence W. Sorrell.  I have personally utilized Mr. Sorrell's services and he has taken very good care of my horses.  I worry that he will be out of job soon if everyone buys one of these auto-contraptions.  Speaking of horses, next door George W. Burks (5524 East Michigan Street) runs the Irvington Transfer Company.  What does he transfer you ask?  Sadly, he works with local mortuaries to take our deceased loved ones to Crown Hill, Anderson, and other nearby cemeteries. He charges a very reasonable fee.

5524--5546 East Washington Street c1910

I know I am rushing you, but I couldn't wait to show you our beautiful wood-shaked and gabled fire station at 5432 East Washington Street.  Isn't it lovely?  You see, in Irvington, aesthetics do matter.  We hired architect John Stem to design it.  It was completed in 1903 and we have needed the services of these brave men because we have had a few bad fires recently.  We lost the school twice and some of our lovely homes.  We have several fire signal stations located throughout the neighborhood although we do ask you to talk to your children about the seriousness of false alarms.  The company recently put in a telephone so if you see a fire you can actually phone the station instead of looking for a fire box!  I don't personally have a telephone, but my neighbor does so I will run over to his house if I smell smoke.

Irvington Fire Station at 5432 East Washington Street c1910

Our final stop today is front of the Masonic Hall.  Gentlemen, I can tell you that the Masons are the most popular fraternal organization in our community.  We are growing by the month and may need a new building soon.  You can probably tell I am a proud Mason. Ladies, we do have a dinner every year on George Washington's birthday.  We will be sure to invite you along with your husbands that evening.  We perform skits, roast various prominent members of the community, and dine on delicious food.  You won't want to miss it.  Of course, you must understand that only Protestants are Masons. The Pope seems to have some issue with our organization.  While we are here, you can see that on the first floor of this wonderful building, you can stop by and order your meat from Joseph Karns (5432 Julian Avenue).  He obtains his pork and beef from reputable farmers here in Warren Township.

Masonic Building in Irvington at 5420 East Washington Street c1910

I would love to take you beyond Whittier Place, but I have many important engagements. I hope you have enjoyed your stroll down part of our business corridor.  You will find more commercial enterprises west and east of here.  We also have a small business district along South Audubon Road.  I would like to remind you that if you choose Irvington as your home, please know that garishness is not welcome here.  This is a quiet place where one has time to read and write letters, visit with neighbors on their verandas, and take walks under our canopied boulevards.  Spirits are also forbidden.  Thank you so much for your interest in our community.    

The historic postcard is courtesy of Carol Orbison.  Sadly, every structure pictured in this post has been demolished.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Snapshot of Life in Irvington in the 1940s

Editor's Note:  Richard Gaskill spent most of his formative years in Irvington. His family moved out of the neighborhood in 1947 and he has never been back.  Now in his 80s, Mr. Gaskill can still vividly recall his time here. He wrote that he remembers every inch of ground and he jokingly penned that he became quite acquainted with Principal Lloyd Blue at School #85. He would love to hear from any of his former classmates so drop me a note at and I will put you in touch.  

At the Edge of Irvington
By Richard C. Gaskill

The Gaskill family were the first to dwell at 35 North Elizabeth Street.  They lived here from 1941 to 1947.
When my parents and I moved into 35 North Elizabeth Street in 1941, I was seven years old, and we had lived at two other addresses in Irvington. First we lived at 5608 E. Michigan Street (1939-40) and after that, we moved into apartment six in the Audubon Court (1941). My parents were the first owners of the house on North Elizabeth Street, and we lived there until my dad changed jobs, and we left Indiana for Pennsylvania in 1947 when I was thirteen.

When we lived on North Elizabeth Street, there was nothing but fields, farm, and woods to the north and to the east. Edmondson Avenue was a dirt road, and I never even knew that it had a name.  At the north end of Elizabeth, there was a little creek, where we kids would turn over rocks, and catch crawdads. The fields and woods were well explored, and endless hours were spent roaming around the area away from the houses. The space between North Elizabeth and Edmondson Avenue was just an overgrown area where they piled the brush from clearing the lots to build the houses.

I would walk along the little creek to my friends' houses over on East Saint Joseph Street and vicinity. This was quite an adventure for a little kid, because the weeds and grasses grew up taller than we were, so we felt like explorers when we did that. We also rode our bicycles.

During my time at Audubon Court, all of the kids would play on what we called the "big lawn" around the Layman Mansion located just south of the apartments (demolished). The most exciting thing we did was to explore the utility tunnel which ran north under the eastern building of the Audubon Court. It was too scary to do more than a couple of times, though. Our mothers freaked out when we told them what we did, and instructed us not to go there anymore.

The Gaskill Family lived at #6 at the Audubon Court (5703 East Washington Street) in 1941. Now in his 80s,  Richard Gaskill noted that he and his friends used to play under the giant horse chestnut trees on the grounds of the Layman Mansion just to the south of Audubon Court. 
I remember less about East Michigan Street, except that I did manage to fall off the porch railing, one day when I evidently leaned too far back while sitting on it. I got a big surprise, and a quick trip to the ground, flat on my back between the shrubbery and the foundation of the porch.

The Gaskill family briefly dwelled at 5608 East Michigan Street from 1939 to 1941.  
I attended kindergarten at 9 N. Arlington Ave., where it appears that there is now a carpet store. My elementary schools were #57, #77, and #85, and one semester at Howe High. The original #77 was, of course still in existence, and in use then. I'm not sure how I got to #57, but for #77, I rode my bicycle during the end of my "tenure" there, and walked to #85, or rode my bike.

The streetcar only ran east as far as Sheridan Ave, so when I went to high school, I rode the streetcar (or the "trackless trolley") when the weather was nasty, or my bike if it was pleasant. Howe High School was very nice then, and the high school I attended in Lansdale, Pennsylvania was a real shock to a kid from Irvington. Fortunately, I only had to go there for a semester, while waiting for the closing on a property my folks bought in Bucks County.

I have never been back to Indiana, and I have no idea what ever happened to any of my friends, with the exception of Phil Padgett (see "Tragedy at the Tracks -- 1950," April 30, 2013 post) If there is anyone who was in either the Class of 1947 at IPS #85, or the Howe High School Class of 1951, please get my email address from Bill, and drop me a note. Those of us who are still here are 80 years old now, and I would like to hear from other childhood friends.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Campus Clean Up Day at Butler--1917

Dozens of students and some faculty members gathered after the snow had melted to clean up Butler University's Irvington campus in 1917.  Most of the young people were clad in what we would deem formal attire.  They picked up trash, sawed tree limbs, and moved soil.  These rare photographs show the campus, and in a few of the images you can see some of the homes along South Emerson Avenue.  A large beech tree had fallen and served as the perfect place to perch for a photo.  All of the images came from the collection of David Bailey, who has been generous with his scrapbooks and memories. Mr. Bailey grew up along South Emerson and is passionate about history.  Be sure to examine the details in each photo.

Spring Clean-Up Day on Butler University's campus in 1917

Moving soil and leaves on Butler University's campus in 1917

Gathering for spring clean-up on Butler University's campus in 1917

Friends gather on spring clean-up day in 1917 on Butler's campus

Time to clean up the campus at Butler University in 1917

Break time at Butler University's campus in 1917

Helping the ladies at Butler University's campus in 1917.  Note the homes along South Emerson behind the co-eds.  

Perched upon a fallen tree at Butler University's campus in 1917

Prepared to dig at Butler University's campus in 1917

Climbing a fallen tree at Butler University's campus in 1917.  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Audubon Court--c1954

The Audubon Court (5703 East Washington Street) opened as the first apartment building in Irvington in 1914. The elegant rentals offered two and three bedroom apartments to families and retirees.  Camillus "Butch" and Edna Rohyan moved into Audubon Court sometime in the early 1940s.  They had previously lived in Fort Wayne and at 123 South Butler Avenue where they rented a home to raise their six children.  With all of the children out of the house, the couple moved into "Number 8" at Audubon Court.  Mr. Rohyan, a former athlete and professional football player, worked for years as an engineer foreman for the Pennsylvania Railroad.  Both his father and brothers worked for the rail company as well.  In his younger years, he played football with the Knute Rockne.  Mr. Rohyan died suddenly in 1952 at the age of 62.  His widow continued to dwell at the Audubon Court for many more years.  Her children and grandchildren frequently visited her and documented their time with these wonderful photographs taken around 1954.  In the top photo, Mrs Rohyan stood in the courtyard with her daughters, Phyllis and Jeanne. Note the tiled shingles still present on the roof of the building.  In the second photo, the family gathered on the south side of the west structure.  Pictured were Edna, Jeanne, and Mary Rohyans, along with Irene Gordon, and Phyllis Rohyans.  A new puppy also posed for the photographer!  Contemporary views show "Number 8" along with the courtyard on a snowy day on March 2, 2014.  The final contemporary shot was taken in the middle of a snowstorm, but provides a view of where the women stood c1954.  The historic images and stories are courtesy of the descendants of the Rohyan family via

Phyllis, Edna, and Jeanne Rohyans in the courtyard of Audubon Court (5703 East Washington Street) c1954

Camillus "Butch" and Edna Rohyan c1950

Rohyan Women:  Edna, Jeanne, Irene, Mary, and Phyllis along the south side of the west building of the Audubon Court (5703 East Washington Street)  c1954

"Number 8" of Audubon Court (5703 East Washington Street) on March 2, 2014

Courtyard of Audubon Court on March 2, 2014

South side of west building of Audubon Court on March 2, 2014