Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dutch Colonial Home Revival!!

One of the most exciting moments for a preservationist and historian living in this great neighborhood we call Irvington, is to see a wreck of a home undergoing a sensitive and beautiful restoration.  Watching this dwelling come back to life, I began to wonder...who first lived here? The 1910 Federal Census revealed that John Gysie, a retired shoe merchant from southern Indiana, along with his wife Mary, and his eighty-nine-year-old mother moved into the new house in 1910.  (It used to have the address of 5607 Burgess Avenue)  Many other families called the cottage home over the decades but recently the home fell into disrepair, caught fire, and was damaged by a nearby house explosion in 2004.  Previous owners had also covered up much of the charm of the structure with cheap vinyl siding.  The forlorn abode at the southeast corner of Burgess Avenue and Ritter Avenue seemed to be in a downward spiral.

Then, Brad Amiano, who runs his own landscape company, and DJ Smith, a music instructor, arrived in Irvington and saw tremendous potential in the troubled property.  The results have been staggering.  Neighbors gasped in sympathy as the siding came off and the problems emerged; however, Brad and DJ soldiered on, restoring the wood siding the the wood shake.  They also had to put on a new roof and they even restored the proper porch columns.  While the renovation is still ongoing, the couple have also turned their attention inward as the home contains a beautiful staircase, hardwood floors, built-in benches, and a stained-glass piano window.  The blase´ and uninteresting can come back to life when preservation-minded people with vision like Brad Amiano and DJ Smith invest in a neighborhood. They are role models for all of us.  

373 Burgess Avenue undergoing renovation in 2014 (Photo courtesy of DJ Smith and Brad Amiano)

Problems emerged with the removal of the vinyl siding at 373 Burgess Avenue, but the homeowners were not daunted by the discovery.  (Photo courtesy of DJ Smith and Brad Amiano)

The "after" shot of 373 Burgess Avenue taken in the spring of 2014.  Most of the exterior work is nearly complete. 

Stained Glass Piano Window at 373 Burgess Avenue (Photo courtesy of DJ Smith and Brad Amiano)

Stunning staircase at 373 Burgess Avenue after refinishing (Photo courtesy of Brad Amiano and DJ Smith)

A welcoming porch once again at 373 Burgess Avenue.  Note the original front door.  
Renovation photos and stories are courtesy of Brad Amiano and DJ Smith.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Stunning Historic Photos of Irvington Presbyterian Church--c1955

In the mid-twentieth century, photographer Reuben L. Brullow, photographed the interior of the Irvington Presbyterian Church for the sixtieth anniversary celebration.  Founded in 1906, Presbyterians built two separate structures along Johnson Avenue.  The second and more grand edifice arrived in 1928.  These shots, taken less than thirty years after the construction, provide a stunning view of the interior of one of the most important architectural sites in the neighborhood.  Architect Merritt Harrison designed an ornate structure that could have easily graced any city center in Europe.  Note the stunning wooden beams, the gorgeous windows, and beautiful lighting. Mr. Brullow was clearly an artist as well as these photos are still stunning nearly sixty years later.

Interior of the Irvington Presbyterian Church c1955

Interior of the Irvington Presbyterian Church c1955
The historic images are courtesy of Bill Ferling and Irvington Presbyterian Church.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Meteorologist Moves into Neighborhood--1914

John Howard Armington, a forty-two-year-old assistant meteorologist in Chicago, received the position of chief meteorologist for the state of Indiana on July 15, 1914.  He would spend the the next several decades warning local Hoosiers of droughts and storms.  The Armington family moved to Indianapolis shortly after his appointment and settled at 336 Burgess Avenue in Irvington. (then called 5607 Burgess Avenue) His wife Kathryn (Kate to friends and family) stayed at home and raised the couple's two children, John and Mary.  The family would dwell at two other Irvington locations in their lifetime including a house at 26 Johnson Avenue and one at 99 North Arlington Avenue.  The top three images show the family as they looked when they lived along Burgess Avenue. In the fourth photo, most likely taken shortly after their arrival in 1914, an unidentified man prepares to lead a small carriage pulled by two beautiful white horses.  Seated in the carriage is one of the Armington children and the family dog.

A contemporary photo snapped in April of 2014 shows the home today. The house was extensively altered in the 1990s with windows removed, vinyl siding added and the construction of a large front porch.

Meteorologist John Howard Armington moved from Chicago to Irvington in 1914.

Kathryn Armington raised the children and served in Irvington clubs 

Mary and John Armington grew up in Irvington

An unidentified man pulls a carriage with an Armington child (c1914) by the family home at 336 Burgess Avenue
The same view of 336 Burgess Avenue in 2014

The home at 336 Burgess Avenue was extensively altered in the 1990s with the removal of windows and the addition of a large porch.  
The historic images are courtesy of Raymond Bechtel.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Thormeyers of South Butler Avenue

Paula Schmidt, one of our local history detectives, began to wonder about the large Victorian home along South Butler Avenue.  Her pursuit led her to the descendants of the Thormeyer family, who built the beautiful home.  Besides uncovering the stories of the family who dwelled there for sixty-two years, she also found historic photographs and documents.  Below is the fruit of her wonderful research.

The Thormeyers of South Butler Avenue
By Paula Schmidt

A lovely Queen Anne Victorian was built in 1891 on four adjacent lots along Lake Avenue, four houses south of Washington Street.   Today the address is 93 South Butler Avenue and because its appearance is almost original, one can imagine the owner, George Thormeyer, managing his business and political interests from his study, or his family resting after school or meeting with the Butler Alumni Literary Society on the deep front porch.

The Thormeyer family two years before they moved to Irvington in 1891: Front Row--George, Clara, Caroline Newhart Thormeyer; Back Row--Albert, Agnes, Phoebe, Bertha, Lydia Thormeyer.  The family dwelled in a large brick farmhouse along the Michigan Road near the Marion and Shelby County line before moving to 93 South Butler Avenue in Irvington in 1893.  

George Thormeyer c1900

This house has two separate chapters.  The first chapter is about George, a successful Acton farmer, who moved with his wife Caroline and their large family (Lydia, Bertha, Phoebe, Agnes, Albert, and Clara) to Irvington in 1891.  The second chapter focuses on two of his daughters, Bertha and Clara, who lived in the house until 1955.  Oddly enough, even his name has two stories!  One "e" or two, the papers, tombstones, obituaries, and even Butler College could not seem to decide.

George Thormeyer was an interesting man.   At age 18 he enlisted in the 22nd Regiment, Indiana Infantry Company G and served for three years in the Civil War.  He took part in some intense battles, was captured, wounded at least five times, and carried lead shot in his skull throughout his life.   He retained his medals and weapons which his family later donated to the Frazier Museum (http://www.fraziermuseum.org/exhibitions/upcoming-2/civil-war) in Louisville, Kentucky. Remaining connected to other veterans was so important to him that he remained active in the G.A.R and died while parading at the age of 73 at a Civil War reunion in Terre Haute (obit, Star, May 12, 1916,"Calls Recruits to G.A.R. Ranks.." page 4).

Why would a successful farmer move to a new city when he was almost 50?  Many reasons! Indianapolis in the 1890's  was booming…the Columbia Club had been formed, the cornerstone of Monument Circle had been laid, Butler College had added a new Science Building and Hilton U. Brown was building his estate in Irvington.  George had both business ambitions and political interests in Marion County. At least five of his six children attended Butler College.  Possibly most importantly, as his Great-grandson Albert Thormeyer said, "successful German farmers built houses in town". Even then, retirees need challenging projects!

Unidentified women--possibly Thormeyer daughters standing in the side yard of 93 South Butler Avenue c1935

Bertha Thormeyer (c1928) standing in the side yard of 93 South Butler Avenue

Butler University report card of Bertha Thormeyer in 1890

Mr. Thormeyer  did not retire to that front porch when he moved to Irvington.  He founded a lumber company in 1893, Thormeyer, Weise & Company, located at 1208 East Washington Street and purchased tracts of property for development. He invested in a commercial building at the northwest corner of Ritter and Washington St.  He owned the Thormeyer Livery Stables housed in the former streetcar mule barn on the southwest corner of Butler and Washington Street (which also served as the marshal's office and as a justice of the peace court). He was involved in local Republican politics and ran for offices including the Warren Township Advisory Board and for Irvington Town Marshal. He was a charter member of the Irvington Masonic Lodge #666.

Mr. Thormeyer served as a trustee of the Irvington Presbyterian Church and was instrumental in raising funds.  When the church failed to get a loan of $500 in 1909 from Indianapolis banks. George Thormeyer and three other trustees (Fred Ropkey, John Friday and James L. Kingsbury) "secured the loan from a roadhouse on the outskirts of Irvington.”  Reporting to the congregation one trustee said:" I fear some of the brethren are shocked to learn that the church would accept money from a dive.  Perhaps they think this the filthiest of filthy lucre, tarnished and black, but let me assure you, my dear brothers and sisters, that when we paid it back with interest, it was as white as the driven snow." I like to think that acquirer of "filthy lucre" was George Thormeyer.

93 South Butler Avenue in April of 2014

93 South Butler Avenue in April of 2014
Paula would like to acknowledge Albert Thormyer from Austin, Indiana for the stories and historic documents.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Life Cut Short

Frank Olson, an Indiana University Law School graduate married Helen McCarty in 1927. The couple immediately started a family and would eventually have two sons.  Mr. Olson loved to golf and could be seen at several nearby courses on the weekends.  Mrs. Olson volunteered at the Irvington Methodist Church and stayed home to raise the children. Mr. Olson worked for the Department of Public Service Company in the auditing division.  The family weathered the Great Depression and by 1939 they built a modest brick bungalow at 322 North Audubon Road.  They were just starting to realize their dreams when Mr. Olson died in 1940 at the age 38 from a short illness.  He had only lived in the house for a brief time.  Mrs. Olson and her two sons continued to dwell in the cottage.  Eventually, the boys grew up and moved out.  Mrs. Olson remained a widow for the remainder of her time in the home, which lasted until the 1970s.  The house is in mint shape in 2014 and looks much the same as did it after it was first built over seventy years ago.

Frank Olson (322 North Audubon Road) obituary photo in 1940

Time for Golf:  Frank Olson in 1940 in front of newly-built 322 North Audubon Road.

322 North Audubon Road in 2014.  
The historic photo and information are courtesy of the Olson family via Ancestry.com