Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hearing Set for Developer Who Demolished Part of Historic Commercial Building

A row of brick Tudor-Revival storefronts have been partially destroyed by a developer who wants to put in a gas station and convenience store on the northwest corner of East 10th Street and Emerson Avenue.  Without proper permits, the owner of the property, Balwinder Singh, hired a contractor to knock down the building which has stood on the site since 1927.  Quick thinking neighbors called the city and received a stop work order, but the damage has clearly been done as most of the building has been removed.  Mr. Singh's plan will come before the Marion County Zoning Board of Appeals on December 9 at 1:00PM in the City County Building.  He will join a long list of previous developers who have knocked down part of Irvington's heritage.

The structure, which faced both 10th Street and Emerson Avenue housed a variety of local establishments throughout the years.  When the site first opened in 1927, Edward Orn operated a drug store at 5070 East 10th Street while J.R. Harrison ran a meat market at 1006 North Emerson Avenue.  Next door Mary Hitchcock managed a small bakery at 1008 and Ora Devore cut hair at 1010.  Lawrence Gloe dry-cleaned clothes at 1012 North Emerson Avenue.  By the 1990s, the building developed a negative reputation among the neighbors because of a strip club located inside 5068 East 10th Street.

With a little imagination, it is not hard to have envisioned what this corner could have looked like before the wreckers showed up.  Nearby, a Renaissance is taking place along the East Washington Street corridor.  The blond brick building with the beautiful green slate roof tiles could have been an ideal site for more amazing development.  Mr. Singh could have also looked at two other corners of this intersection and noticed that previous gas stations had been located on the northeast and southwest corners, but were closed by the 1990s.

Neighbors who have concerns about the gas station proposal should attend the meeting on December 9  or write to the Marion County Board of Zoning Appeals.

Closed Door:  1927 Commercial Building at 10th and Emerson has been partially destroyed

 Ghost of Tudor-Revival elements in the gables 

Beautiful green slate tiles untouched since 1927 fall near the sidewalk

Vacant Shell:  Most of the building at 5070 East 10th Street has been destroyed.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Living in a Dream Home--1913

George and Mary Terrill along with their three daughters, Mabel, Faye, and Norma moved into 5631 University Avenue in 1912.  The Terrills likely heard that Henry Earl, the owner of the home, was ill and on the way to Michigan to spend the last years of his life with his family.  As the Earl family began to get the house and property ready for auction they rented it to the Terrills for one year.  George Terrill, who ran his own securities and insurance company was just starting to see his business thrive.  Since the Terrills dwelled at 302 South Audubon Road in 1911, they would have noticed all of the activity going on at the Earl property located across the street from the Irving Circle Park.  For one year, the Terrills dwelled in the now iconic Irvington home and took these photos in winter of 1913. The Polk's Indianapolis City Directory reveals that one daughter, Faye, a talented musician, taught piano in the house.

In the summer of 1913, the beautiful home went on the auction block.  Lew Shank, a local resident and auctioneer, described the property in the Indianapolis Star as:

     The opportunity of a lifetime to buy one of the best located and most beautiful homes in Irvington on June 19, 1913 at 3 PM...No. 5631 University Avenue, the residence of Dr. Earl, who is going to move to Michigan. This is a ten room brick house, cut stone foundation, attic, basement, city water, gas electric lights, slate roof, with bath and furnace in first class condition.  This lot faces on three streets, Audubon Road, University Avenue, and Burgess Avenue--about two thirds of an acre, large trees, also cherry, apple, and peach trees.  

It is unknown if the Terrills attempted to buy the house, but if they did then they lost out to Wallace and Ellie Payne, who moved into 5631 University Avenue in 1913.  The Payne family added a covered porch, something that had not existed on the house until then. The Terrills moved out and purchased 315 South Audubon Road and remained there until finally buying their dream home in 1920 at 410 South Emerson Avenue, a large brick Second Empire style house.

Provenance of the photos:  Amanda Browning, the author of the Horner House blog, traveled to North Carolina to meet Gail Anderson, a descendant of the Terrills.  Amanda's mission was to find photos of her own house at 410 South Emerson Avenue (Horner House).  In the process of discovering incredible photos of her property, Amanda noticed images of 5631 University Avenue in the scrapbooks.  More from this collection will appear on the Horner House blog in the coming months so stay tuned as Amanda reveals more incredible images.  (  

5631 University after freezing rain and snow storm on January 4, 1913; Note that the Craftsman-era front porch had not yet been placed on the house!

Winter Beauty:  5631 University Avenue in January of 1913.  Photo taken by a member of the Terrill family who dwelled in the "Castle House" for just one year.  Note that 262 South Audubon Road has not been yet been constructed.  

Close up of 5631 University Avenue in the winter of 1913

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Four Years!

     Four years ago this month, I started down an unknown path.  Could I create a blog that concentrated on collecting historic photos of the Irvington neighborhood in Indianapolis?  Would people visit the site?  Would the site become self-sustaining?  In other words, if I built it...would you come?  Needless to say, Vintage Irvington has exceeded my expectations.  I have been fortunate in that several people have been very generous with their family collections. Some of have sought me out from all corners of the country. It turns out that this neighborhood has been very special in the lives of so many people.

Contributors From the Last Year

     In the winter of 2013, I met Leland Dickerson, a World War II veteran, whose brother was tragically killed towards the end of the war.  He generously loaned me dozens of shots of the neighborhood dating back to the 1930s.  Barbara Sanders had deep roots in the area on both sides of her family.  Thanks to her generosity I was able to post shots of the former White Farm at East 10th and Shadeland Avenue as well as of nearby areas on East New York Street and North Butler Avenue.  Suzette Hagan's family photos of 5621 Beechwood Avenue depicted fascinating glimpses into the lives of 1950s-era Irvingtonians.  I also received wonderful photos and stories from Bill Ferling, Paula Schmidt, David Bailey, Richard C. Gaskill, Carol Oribison, D.J. Smith, Brad Amiano, Terry Wilgus, the Stroude Family, Brian Callahan, and Larry Muncie.  This blog would not be possible without the kindness of these current or former Irvington residents.  Do you have a scrapbook filled with Irvington photos?  I would love to speak to you!  You can reach me at

     By the way, in the four years that Vintage Irvington has been in operation, the site has received 115, 367 hits.  While most of the readers hail from the United States, Vintage Irvington has received hundreds and in some cases thousands of hits from Russia, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Ukraine, Turkey, Latvia, and Poland. Curiosity seekers from dozens of other nations have also landed upon the blog.

Highlights From the Past Year

     I have always had a soft spot for photos that show men and women returning from World War II.  In this image, snapped in February of 1943, Harry Perkins, Leland Dickerson, and Curly Morris posed along the 5800 block of Lowell Avenue.  They look joyful as snow melted about them on the warm winter day.  (Photo courtesy of Leland Dickerson) 

     Bill Ferling was kind enough to lend me photos from the collection of the Irvington Presbyterian Church.  This beautiful image shows the stunning structure on an early spring day in 1953. Note the historic double still standing just east of the church where the parking lot sits today.

     David Bailey grew up along South Emerson Avenue near the former Butler University.  Mr. Bailey, an avid reader and history lover, contributed many stunning photos to this blog including this image of Butler students on "clean up" day in 1917.  

     Carol Orbison's family grew up in Irvington.  She generously loaned me photos from her father and grandfather's photo collection.  This image depicts the Orbison family home at 51 North Irvington Avenue in 1912.  

    Paula Schmidt has graciously not only donated images, but she has also been a guest writer several times on this blog.  One of her stories this year was of the Thormeyer family at 93 South Butler Avenue. Paula traveled to Austin, Indiana to learn more about these interesting people and came back with some wonderful stories and images.  In this photo taken c1935, the Thormeyer women stand near the family home on Butler Avenue.

     Barbara Azbell Sanders has deep roots in Irvington.  Her mother's people owned a farm just east of the neighborhood at 10th and Shadeland Avenue.  There is not a shred of a farm at that intersection today, so I am particularly grateful to Mrs. Sanders for being so generous with her collection.  In this photo, snapped in 1937, members of the White family gathered for a reunion at their farmhouse. (now demolished)

     Mrs. Sanders also contributed several other photos that showed life in other parts of the neighborhood.  I particularly loved this photo of Vivian and Barbara Azbell in their riding attire. Behind them, you can see 4910, 4914, and 4918-20 East New York Street in 1938.  

     Fred Azbell ran Azbell Distribution Company, a business that sold auto parts. In this photo, little Barbara Azbell sits atop one vehicle in the family fleet along the 1100 block of North Butler Avenue in 1943.  Her grandfather, Thomas White, briefly took over the family business while her father served in World War II. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Sanders)

     The Becker family dwelled in a stunning Arts and Crafts home at 5621 Beechwood Avenue.  On November 27, 1954, Julius and Gloria Pirtle Becker celebrated their wedding day in the Becker home.  Family members and friends from all over the Midwest traversed to Irvington to rejoice with the young couple despite the snowy conditions outside.  In this photo, members of the Pirtle and Becker family gathered for the wedding photographer.  (Photo courtesy of Suzette Hagan)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Graydon House 1909 and 2014

The Graydon sisters moved into their beautiful home at 303 South Downey Avenue in 1909.  All three sisters had devoted their lives to the field of education and none of them ever married.  Ellen Graydon served as an elementary teacher while her sister Jane managed schools as a principal.  Butler University employed Katherine Graydon as professor of literature.  She was beloved among her students as she held monthly teas at her home to discuss poetry, great literature, and issues of the day.  Their widowed mother, Mary, also dwelled in the large house designed by architect Herbert Foltz. The Graydons would have no trouble recognizing their beautiful stuccoed Arts and Crafts era home today as it looks much like it did in 1909.

The Graydon home at 303 South Downey Avenue in 1909

The Graydon home at 303 South Downey Avenue in 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Honoring an Irvington Family of Veterans

Countless Irvingtonians have served in the U.S. military over the years. Many fought and died for the country in several wars.  In the twentieth century, it was possible for three generations of family members to serve in three separate wars. Jesse Earl Dickerson, who later moved to Irvington with his wife Esther, assisted the army during World War I as a medic administering inoculations. His sons, Leland and Robert, both served their country during World War II.  Robert Dickerson, son of Leland and Anna Belle York Dickerson, had a tour of duty during the Vietnam War.

The Dickerson family, like so many others who have come to the aid of their country paid a heavy price. Robert Dickerson, the brother to Leland and son of Jesse and Esther Dickerson was killed near Aachen, Germany on January 15, 1944.  Brian Callahan, a nephew of Mr. Dickerson, reports that Robert had not been in the war for very long when he was shipped overseas to fight the Germans, who were "bulging" into Allied divisions. Many of these young draftees never had a chance as a high percentage of these troops died in the ferocity of the last gasp by the German forces along the front lines.  Mr. Callahan reports that many of these new recruits did not have the experience to fight in such a war nor were there any mentors who could teach them how to survive. 

Robert Dickerson's family received two purple hearts as he had been injured in a previous battle. Mr. Callahan reports that over the decades many members the Dickerson family have honored Robert's service by visiting his grave. Robert Dickerson never had the chance to marry nor have children of his own.  Today we thank the Dickersons and thousands of other Americans like them who have lent their fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters to the United States government in times of war, chaos, and terror.

To learn more about the Dickerson family, click on the link below. The historic photos and stories are courtesy of Brian Callahan.  

Esther Plank Dickerson, Jesse Earl Dickerson, Robert Dickerson
Leland and Robert Dickerson posed with their mother and other family members at 818 North Arlington Avenue c1943

Letters sent home to Esther Dickerson

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Brand New House in Emerson Heights--1911

Harold and Nell Scott moved into their dream home at 626 North DeQuincy Street in 1911.  The large American Four Square would also house their new baby, Martha Scott. Mr. Scott had done quite well and he soon worked his way up to becoming vice president of a local clothing company. Perhaps longing for an even more upscale address, the Scotts eventually built a beautiful home at 5435 Pleasant Run Parkway in 1923.  In this photo, taken shortly after the construction of the home in 1911, you can not only see the their beautiful dwelling, but also the lovely house next door at 630 North DeQuincy Street. In the distance, you can see a two-story home in the 600 block of North Wallace Avenue. To view a contemporary image these houses today, click on the link below.

Newly constructed in 1911:  626 North DeQuincy Street
The historic image is courtesy of Martha Scott Baum.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

South Ritter Porch 1937 and Now

Hess and Josephine Jones left their native Crawford County, Indiana for a better life in Indianapolis in the mid-1930s.  Mr. Jones found work as a brakeman for a nearby railroad and later told his granddaughter that it was "the best job ever."  He was likely grateful at having employment at the height of the Great Depression.  The Jones family moved into 273 South Ritter Avenue in 1937 and paid $20 a month in rent.  They definitely needed the space to house their five children--Barbara, Burrell, Robert, Betty, and Melanie.  They would continue to dwell in the house for decades and would become a fixture in southern Irvington.

In this wonderful photograph, taken in 1937, Barbara, Betty, and Burrell Jones sat on the front porch at 273 South Ritter Avenue.  Behind them, you can see Hess Jones standing in the doorway.  A shadow of the ornamental porch detail (now gone) can be seen along the exterior of the home.  Contemporary photographs show the home in 2014.

Barbara, Betty, and Burrell Jones on the front porch at 273 South Ritter  Avenue in 1937

Front porch of 273 South Ritter Avenue in 2014

273 South Ritter Avenue in 2014