Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Suburb Near a Suburb

As World War II wound down, speculators and developers began to prepare for the return of millions of veterans.  Where would they live?  Irvington began life as a planned suburb in 1870.  By 1945, the city had completely swallowed what was once a country setting. In the mid-1940s, farmers in Marion County began to sell off tracts of land for future suburban neighborhoods.  Beginning in 1943, the White family started to sell off acreage near East 11th Street and Shadeland Avenue and decided to build a new home at 1101 North Shadeland Avenue in 1943.  Within five years, dozens of other families, including some returning veterans, built their dream home in the area using the G.I. Bill passed by Congress in 1944.  The planned community along East 11th Street, Edgewood Drive, Elmhurst Drive, Shortridge Road, and East 13th Street featured single-storied homes with two to three bedrooms on large lots. Some of the houses provided attached garages, something not found in nearby Irvington. Americans flocked to theses new suburbs by the millions abandoning older neighborhoods in the cities.  Developers added thousands of homes in Warren Township throughout the 1950s and 1960s with most of the area developed by the 1970s.  The new community at East 11th Street and Shadeland Avenue featured no alleys nor sidewalks for the car remained king while the country built vast interstates and abandoned rail traffic.

Family photos of the White family, taken from 1943 through 1948, show the area around East 11th Street and Shadeland Avenue before the area was completely developed. You may see a photo of the White home in 2014 by clicking on the link below.

Pearl White posed with a dahlia by the family car and home at 1101 North Shadeland Avenue in 1944.

T. Newton White and Pearl White stand in front of the family home at 1101 North Shadeland Avenue in 1944.

Father's Day 1948: T. Newton White and Fred Azbell posed with Barbara Azbell and Fred Azbell, Jr. in the yard  of the White Family home at 1101 North Shadeland

Vast tracts of land remained undeveloped in 1943 when this photo was snapped of Barbara Azbell at 1101 North Shadeland Avenue. The electrical poles had just been placed along East 11th Street.  
The historic images are courtesy of Barbara Sanders.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Snapshot Reveals Historic Apartments

Mary Katherine and Floyd Mitman posed with their son Floyd, Jr. in the early 1920s next to their home. The Mitmans rented an apartment at 5113 East Burgess Avenue.  Built in 1918, the Craftsman American Four Square row houses were one of the earliest apartment complexes built in the Irvington area.  The Audubon Court at South Audubon Road and East Washington Street predated these units by four years.  The apartments nearest to Emerson Avenue were clad in stucco and wood siding while the other units had brick porches.  At least one set of the row houses has been renovated while the other three still await a renaissance.  Unsympathetic plastic doors have been recently placed in the apartments where the Mitmans used to dwell.

All dressed up:  Mary Katherine and Floyd Mitman posed with their son, Floyd, Jr. c1922 at 5113 East Burgess Avenue

The row houses containing 5113 East Burgess Avenue in 2014

Renovated Craftsman row houses in the 5100 block of Burgess Avenue in 2014
The historic snapshot is courtesy of the descendants of the Mitman family via  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Many Families Have Resided in Arlington Avenue Home

Dozens of Irvington families have dwelled in the American Four Square at 268 South Arlington Avenue since its construction in 1916.  Because it was a rental, families moved in and out of the dwelling.  The Dressendorfer family appeared to be the first to have lived in the house although they only stayed one year. The Barrs and Swifts briefly called the house “home ” as well.  In 1920, Orville and Estella Crawford rented the home. Mr. Crawford was a lumber salesman and had to provide for his growing family.  The Crawfords had four children including a set of twins.  Several other families moved into the house throughout the 1930s. In 1935, Rollie and Myrtle Corey rented the property for $30 a month.  They certainly needed the space because they had ten children! Mr. Corey worked as a milk inspector for the city of Indianapolis. Several of his adult children had jobs by 1940.  The Coreys lived in the house for ten years.  Stability finally arrived when the Jetts moved into the abode in the late 1940s. James H. Jett was a press operator. His wife stayed home and took care of the couple’s five children.  By the 1960s, Mr. Jett worked as a grinder for Chrysler.  The Jetts lived in the house for nearly thirty years.  Homer and Virginia Patterson purchased the place in the early 1970s and remained well into the 1980s.  Some alterations have occurred over the years including the removal of the front door opening and covering the clapboard siding with vinyl siding.  
Katherine, Mary, and Jeannette Corey posed on the family car behind their home at 268 South Arlington Avenue c1940

Rollie and Myrtle Corey had ten children and dwelled at 268 South Arlington Avenue in the 1930s and 40s.

268 South Arlington Avenue in 2014

The historic photos are courtesy of the Corey Family via  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Arlington Avenue Home c1942 and Today

In 1942, Jeannette Corey, who dwelled at 268 South Arlington Avenue posed next to the family car. The Coreys must have been well known in the neighborhood because Rollie and Myrtle Corey had ten children!  Behind young Jeannette, you can clearly see the two-story dwelling at 302 South Arlington Avenue.  Philip and Venetta Ochs dwelled there in 1942.  Mr. Ochs was a city fireman.  The home was built on speculation in 1924. The White family were the first to dwell in the modest house.  L.S. Ayres Department Store employed James C. White as a carpet layer.  A contemporary photo reveals that the home has only been slightly altered. You will notice the replacement of an upper window and the addition of a gabled roof upon the garage.  The balustrade railing upon the porch roof has been removed at some point in time as well; however, the home still retains the original 1920s-era clapboard siding and windows.

Jeannette Corey stood next to the family car c1942 at her home at 268 South Arlington Avenue. Behind her, you can see the north facade of 302 South Arlington Avenue.

302 South Arlington Avenue in 2014.  (Photo taken along Oak Avenue)
The historic photo is courtesy of the descendants of the Corey family via  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Exciting News--Vinyl Siding Removed From Lowell Avenue Home

The northeast corner of Lowell and Ritter Avenues will soon look dramatically different as workers are busy removing the vinyl siding from 5502 Lowell Avenue.  Each generation of homeowners in the US seem to think that they have the solution for a permanent siding that will last for decades. In the 1930s and 40s, some Irvingtonians sheathed their homes in Insulbrick (an imitation brick composed of tar) or asbestos tiles.  The next generation fell in love with aluminum siding.  By the 1980s, the vinyl siding phase swept the state of Indiana.  With dreams of never having to paint, well-meaning homeowners removed key architectural features along rooflines, at the corners, and around window and door openings.  They too thought that plastic siding would last forever; however, it does not.

One of the joys that I have noticed after having lived in this neighborhood for several years is that some folks are removing those unsympathetic materials and restoring the clapboard siding covered for decades.  It is a brave act as one never knows what is looming underneath.  In the case of 5502 Lowell Avenue, the siding appears to be in fine condition although some restoration will be required.  Kudos to these homeowners as they are role models for all of us.

The contemporary photos show the home in 2014 while the historic photo, taken c1938, shows the house behind the children.  The Lowish family moved into this dwelling in 1909.  Martin Lowish ran a coal company in Brazil, Indiana.  He and his wife Emma lived in the home well into the 1920s. They do not appear to have had children.  Perhaps the current residents will find the original paint chips on the siding dating to the Lowish era. Stay tuned as we focus on this wonderful restoration!

5502 Lowell Avenue in September of 2014

5502 Lowell Avenue in September of 2014

Behind the Danner Family, you can see 5502 Lowell Avenue and houses along North Ritter Avenue c1938
The historic photo is courtesy of the Danner family.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hawthorne Lane Home Then and Now

The tall American Four Square located at 85 North Hawthorne Lane has one of the most stable histories in all of Irvington as only two separate families have ever lived there. George and Jinnetha Pfeifer moved into their dream home in 1907. Mr. Pfeifer was a carpenter and the couple occasionally took in boarders to help make ends meet. Their two daughters, Mary and Lola, would remain in the house for the rest of their lives. Mary eventually married Charles Heathco, an inspector for Allison Transmission Company and they set up housekeeping here. Lola taught at the Indiana School for the Deaf and she too remained in the house for decades.  

The home has been beautifully preserved and restored.  If the Pfeifers were able to walk down their former street today they would have no trouble recognizing their beautiful home.  

The Pfeifer Home at 85 North Hawthorne Lane c1910 (It used to have the address of 81 North Hawthorne Lane.)

85 North Hawthorne Lane in 2014
The historic image is courtesy of the Stroude family.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Lowell Avenue Home 1953 and 2014

The large American Four Square at 6134 (formerly 6136) East Lowell Avenue has stood along this street since the early twentieth century.  The Heagy family were one of the first families to dwell in the home and they lived there until 1945.  As World War II was winding down, Lawrence G. Kilwitt, a pharmacist, and his wife Margaret purchased the home from the Heagy family.  The Kilwitts, who anticipated the future housing shortage for the city of Indianapolis, divided the house into two apartments.  The upstairs apartment became known as 6134 and the downstairs apartment became 6136.  The Kilwitts remained in the home until 1950.

George and Loretta McDonnell were the next family to move into the newly converted double. Mr. McDonnell had not been able to work for years because of an earlier bout with tuberculosis.  Mrs. McDonnell, a loyal Democrat, found work at city hall when that party was in power.  Because of the fickleness of politics, the McDonnells counted on a steady income from renting out the downstairs apartment.  The Quicks and Murphys were a few of the folks who leased the bottom abode.

In 1953, the elder McDonnells decided to vacate the upper apartment for a place with no stairs. Their oldest son, Robert, an Indianapolis city firefighter, moved into 6134 with his wife Mary Jane and their daughter, Terry.  While living in the home, the couple welcomed a second child, Tim.

A very young Terry McDonnell had fond memories of the house.  Because they had lived in such small places, she thought that the second story apartment seemed quite grand especially the finished attic where she could play with her friends.  She also loved sitting out on the screened-in front porch. Their backyard stretched all the way to Pleasant Run Parkway in those days.  A local peony farmer rented part of their backyard for his prized peony collection and he sold the fragrant flowers from a stand along Pleasant Run Parkway on Memorial Day weekend.  Local Irvingtonians purchased the flowers and decorated their family's tombstones in places like Memorial Park, Crown Hill, or even Anderson Cemetery.

The McDonnells remained in the double until 1956 before moving to Bancroft Avenue.  In the small historic photograph taken c1953, you can see what the house looked like in the mid-twentieth century.  A contemporary photograph shows the dwelling, now a single family home again, in 2014.

6134-36 East Lowell Avenue in 1953

6134 East Lowell Avenue in 2014
The historic photograph and information on the McDonnell family is courtesy of Terry Wilgus.