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.  


  1. Loved your blog. And, in it you mentioned Theodore Portteus selling dry goods. Was the name of his store Irvington Dry Goods? And, do you have any images of the shop exterior or interior? I am a miniaturist and in the December Irvington Historical Society newsletter there was mention of the Irvington Dry Goods store in a Christmas remembered story and I thought the store would be great to recreate in miniature. If you can refer me to any other references I would appreciate that also.


  2. Hi, Marti. The only image of that I have of Theodore Portteus's dry goods store is on this postcard; however, you might contact Steve Barnett at the Irvington Historical Society. He might have a better image. I love your idea. You might consult with the city directories at the city library to see if there were other dry goods stores in the neighborhood. (3rd floor--downtown city library--microfilm) I will keep my eyes out for information as well.

  3. Thanks for doing this....neat tour, not unlike the selection of shops we have here now...and in many places on Washington even the streetcar rails are making another appearance!