Sunday, December 28, 2014

Neighbor to Neighbor Holiday Greetings--1915

William E. M. and Pearl Hackleman first moved into their beautiful home at 5438 Lowell Avenue in 1908.  Mr. Hackleman had earned his fortune by writing Christian hymns.  Two doors down at 5452 Lowell Avenue lived a good friend, the Reverend Ennis Barney and his wife, Effie.  Mr. Hackleman and Mr. Barney were of like minds on many issues especially Prohibition.  The Reverend Barney was Superintendent of the Indianapolis Anti-Saloon League.  Mr. Hackleman sat on the board of the same organization.  Both men could breath easily in Irvington in 1915 because the town fathers had decreed in 1870 that Irvington would be a "dry" community.  (a covenant until 2000!)   The two men fought heavily for a constitutional ban on alcohol in the United States and eventually won.  It is likely that many of their Irvington neighbors agreed with their stance although these men likely noted that the parishioners of the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church allowed alcohol at their festivals!

On December 23, 1915, William Edward Michael Hackleman pulled up a chair somewhere in his beautiful home and sat down to write his friends and associates holiday notes.  One of those recipients was his neighbor, the Reverend Ennis M. Barney.  He could have dropped the card off at his house but that would have not been considered proper in 1915. At some point, a member of the Barney family would have stopped by the Irvington Post Office (5501 East Washington Street) to pick up the mail and  among their other holiday cards they would have found this nice note from Mr. Hackleman.  To learn more about the biography William E. M. Hackleman, click on the link below.

William E. M. Hackleman and his wife and family dwelled at 5438 Lowell Avenue in 1915.  This is the house as it appeared in a Butler University yearbook in 1924

Prohibitionist, Christian Hymn composer, and pillar in Irvington, William E. M. Hackleman died in a car crash in 1927.

The recipient of the card, the Reverend Ennis Barney and his family dwelled at 5452 Lowell Avenue.  Mr. Barney was Superintendent of the Indianapolis Saloon League

The historic Christmas card is courtesy of Susan Gulde.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

North Irvington Garden District Roared With the 1920s

By the time this aerial photographer flew over northern Irvington in 1925, the neighborhood was already 55 years old. Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States and Butler University still operated in western Irvington.  The community was no longer a remote suburb.  The city of Indianapolis boomed throughout the early twentieth century and eventually caught up to the formerly independent town.  Street car lines traversed the formerly quiet enclave and nearly every lot in the original development had been built upon. However, north of Pleasant Run Parkway, speculators saw gold.  Vast open meadow and farmland still awaited and the need for land was great.

After World War I ended, developers began to clear and improve land east of Ritter Avenue, west of Arlington Avenue, south of Tenth Street, and north of Pleasant Run Parkway.  They put in the first streets by extending Campbell, Bolton, Graham, Audubon, and others.  They discarded the curvy streets popularized in the late nineteenth century in the southern part of the neighborhood for more conventional avenues on a grid.  They built modern houses complete with electricity, updated plumbing, and detached garages. Tudor and Dutch-Revival dwellings were the rage in the United States in the 1920s although many still preferred bungalows and American Four Square homes. Stucco became a popular building material.

Aerial photography became popular in the 1920s just as drone photography has become the rage in the 2010s. Three views of this large photograph reveals the first homes to be built in the North Irvington Garden District. You will be able to get your bearings once you understand that the large avenue cutting through the middle of the photograph is Pleasant Run Parkway. It dead ended into Arlington Avenue. (and still does) You will notice that the Pleasant Run Golf Course was not quite finished yet.  In the upper left corner of the photograph, you can see the Anderson Cemetery along East 10th Street.  Note that Warren Park had not been developed yet!  The streets visible in this part of the photograph include Arlington Avenue (note no houses--just small trees), Campbell Avenue, Bolton Avenue, and Graham Avenue.  The developer had extended both Campbell and Bolton up to East 10th Street, but only a small part of St. Clair Street had been completed.  On the far right of the photo, you can see the older and more established part of the neighborhood.  You will get a better view of that section in the other two views of this photograph.

North Irvington Garden District of Irvington in 1925
The other two views of the same photograph show a more western and southern view of the area.  The large manses are located along the 400 block of North Audubon Road and in the 5700 block of East Michigan Street.  You will note that there was a bridge over Pleasant Run at Bolton Avenue. You will also note that there were no houses yet on the north side of Michigan Street from Bolton to Arlington Avenue.  You will see far more trees in the more established part of the neighborhood, but today the Garden District lives up to its lush name.

Northern Irvington in 1925

Northern Irvington in 1925
So, who were these "pioneers" who moved into the North Irvington Garden District?  Most of them were young and rising in their careers.  As the economy boomed, so did the fortunes of younger Americans.  You could also now buy so many things on credit including stocks! (Cue the ominous music!) Some of these Irvingtonians had actually....divorced!  Many of them spent the rest of their lives in these homes while others, for many reasons, stayed only a few years.  Undoubtedly, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression ended the dreams of many.  However, others continued to build throughout the worst economic downturn in American history. Let's take a tour of the homes featured in the above photo.

Campbell Avenue--North Irvington Garden District in 1925
Harry and Ruth Wofle dwelled in this lovely Tudor-Revival home at 726 North Campbell Avenue with their son Harry.  Mr. Wolfe was a sales manager for a bed spring manufacturing company.  

Delbert and Helen Giffin, both in their thirties, lived in 733 North Campbell Avenue with their daughter Betty. They later moved to Kenmore Road.  Mr. Giffin served as a personnel director for the P.R. Mallory Company.

Leroy and Florence Langdon, both in their twenties, resided at 739 North Campbell Avenue in 1925.  Mr. Langdon ran a hardware store and a drug store located in the 3800 block of East Washington Street.  He was also a pharmacist.

This small bungalow at 762 North Campbell has been altered and enlarged over the years.  A young couple, Frank and Eleanor Benson dwelled here in 1925, but they were gone by 1926.  Mr. Benson was a sales manager for the Long-Bell Lumber Company.  

Bolton Avenue--North Irvington Garden District in 1925

Room to play:  Kenneth and Francis Badger were the first to dwell along Bolton Avenue in the Garden District. They lived in this stuccoed bungalow at 729 North Bolton with their two daughters, Barbara and Judith. The girls had plenty of open space to use as a playground in 1925.
Graham Avenue--North Irvington Garden District in 1925

Halford and Edna Howland dwelled in this stuccoed bungalow at 719 North Graham Avenue in 1925. They actually built the house in 1919 making it one of the oldest homes in the district.  In 1930, their home was valued at $8,500.  

Charles O Fouts, a salesman, lived in this Dutch Colonial Revival at 723 North Graham Avenue in 1925.  More research is needed on this family.
Stephen and Audrey Steinbuch, a young couple, resided in this house at 731 North Graham Avenue in 1925. They had four children.  Mr. Steinbuch earned a comfortable living as a draftsman.  

Charles and Hazel Flowers, both in their forties, lived in this stuccoed beauty at 734 North Graham Avenue. The couple had four children. Mr. Flowers sold life insurance.  

Harvey and Lena Carson, both quite young, dwelled in this Craftsman stunner at 747 North Graham Avenue.  The couple had two small children and Mr. Carson's mother, Bertha Carson, also resided in the house.  

The Long family resided at 757 North Graham Avenue in 1925.  They were gone by 1926.  More research is needed on this family.  
Pleasant Run Parkway--North Irvington Garden District in 1925

Jesse and Elizabeth Pritchett dwelled in this beautiful stuccoed home at 5744 Pleasant Run Parkway (formerly numbered at 5720) in 1925.  The Pritchetts had one son, Jesse, Jr.  Mr. Pritchett worked as a manager for the I.J. Cooper Company, but eventually the family moved away to another neighborhood to open a bowling alley.  

Shock!  Most locals would have dated this house at 5774 Pleasant Run Parkway (formerly numbered 5764) from the 1950s, but believe it or not, you can see it in the aerial photograph from 1925. This stunningly modern home for the time also has a complicated history that will eventually need to be sorted out. Paul and Ethel Klieber built the home. Mr. Klieber ran the Klieber-Dawson Machine Company at 1620 East New York Street. The Kliebers divorced in the 1920s and he remarried. Mrs. Klieber continued to dwell in the house, but she listed herself as a widow in the 1930 Census despite the fact that Mr. Klieber was very much alive. If only those walls could speak!  

Throughout the late 1920s, dreamers built dozens of other beautiful homes throughout the North Irvington Garden District.  The area would be fully developed within twenty years. Today the sycamores and maples planted by those early folks tower over the neighborhood.  Google satellite imagery reveals that it actually looks more like a forest today than it did in 1925 when the area was wide open and ready for development.

The historic image is courtesy of the Warrenburg family.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Plane Crashed Into Irvington Home in the Summer of 1953!

Eighteen-year-old visitor, Allen Fechtig, stepped outside of the Koten family home at 750 North Bolton Avenue on a warm summer day on June 20, 1953.  He looked up into the sky after hearing a loud noise and noticed that a small plane seemed to be flying just above the chimney tops in northern Irvington.  Other folks in the neighborhood began to peer out their windows and stepped onto their front porches.  The teen never took his eyes off the plane and what he saw next sent him into action.

Up in the sky, Charles and Robert Woods, both brothers, were in a state of panic.  Their small plane was not cooperating. Twenty-nine-year-old Charles Woods had only possessed the airplane, a Swift, for two weeks.  Both brothers loved auto racing and they decided to fly to Springfield, Illinois to see an event hosted by the American Automobile Association.  They also planned to visit family there.  Charles had only recently recovered from a fall from a job at Central State Hospital.  He was avid about flying despite the fact that he had lost an eye as a child from an infection.  His thirty-two-year-old brother, Robert, had vowed never to get on an airplane again as he had been shot down during World War II in Europe and had been taken as a prisoner of war.  He likely could not imagine his misfortune to be in yet another plane that appeared to be crashing.

On the ground, the young Allen Fechtig could tell that the plane was in trouble as it began to spin and then dive towards the neighborhood.  He began to run towards the airplane as it crashed into the roof of a house at 354 North Bolton Avenue. He wasted no time getting to the dwelling and would be the first person to arrive on the scene of the disaster.

Neighbors in the 300 block of North Bolton Avenue scrambled out of their houses and looked on in disbelief at the site of an airplane sticking straight out of the Rennard home. Charles and Martha Rennard had only owned the lovely two-story brick house at 354 North Bolton Avenue for one year.  Mr. Rennard had earned a comfortable living as the manager of the East Side Realty Company. The couple had four children.  Although some neighbors were horrified at the thought that the Rennards could have been in the house, most knew that the family had just left town to relax at Lake James in northern Indiana. The Rennards had no idea that their house was the scene of an intense drama that was now beginning to unfold.

While neighbors looked on in disbelief, Allen Fechtig somehow reached the attic of the house by scaling the walls of the two-story home where he found the Woods brothers entangled in a mess of metal from the plane and wooden rafters from the house.  The teen reached Charles Woods first who was alive although badly injured.  He then saw the former prisoner of war, Robert, who was also alive but trapped under a large joist.  Allen Fechtig worked desperately to try to free the brothers, but it was too much for one person. He comforted the men until help arrived.

Thankfully, someone along Bolton Avenue called the Irvington Fire Department.  Robert McDonnell along with firemen on duty that day, received the call and within minutes rushed to the scene.  Other firemen, police, and medical personnel arrived onto the chaotic street as news spread. Emergency officials struggled to make it down Bolton Avenue due to the number of bystanders who had shown up to see the plane sticking out of the house.  Only Allen Fechtig had made any attempt to help the brothers trapped inside the wreckage.

Firemen made it into the home and noticed that jet fuel was leaking out of the plane and into a child's bedroom on the second floor. They worried about fire.  For thirty minutes, they raced to get the Woods brothers free of the wreckage and treated them on the scene.  While the wings had been sheared off, the tip of the plane had gone through the attic floor and into a bathroom closet.  The heat inside the attic became too much for some of the rescue workers and one policeman, William Snedaker, had to be transported to the hospital due to heat exhaustion.  

Paramedics rushed the brothers to the hospital and saved their lives.  The Rennards returned from Lake James to find their home heavily damaged although reparable.  Life eventually returned to normal along the once quiet street and over the decades most had forgotten about the frightening moment.  No exterior evidence of a plane crash remains in 2014 as workers removed the wreckage and rebuilt the roof and attic at 354 North Bolton Avenue.

Emergency personnel work to save the life of Charles Woods upon the roof of 354 North Bolton Avenue. Irvington fireman, Robert McDonnell, can be seen giving medical aid.  (June 20, 1953)

Scene of chaos no longer:  354 North Bolton Avenue in 2014

Vintage Swift Airplane (courtesy of FitzVideo)  
The historic image is courtesy of Terry Wilgus, whose father Robert McDonnell can be seen on the roof in the photo.  Information for this story is courtesy of Steve Barnett, Larry Muncie, and Chris Capehart. For further information:

Carolyn Pickering, "Two Brothers in Crash on East Side," Indianapolis Star, June 21, 1953, 1.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Little Flower in the 1950s

The Little Flower neighborhood sits north and west of Irvington.  It has been a stable area since the first people started building small bungalows there in the 1910s.  Named after the Catholic Church along North Bosart Avenue, the community has been home to thousands of families over the years who started housekeeping in the modest dwellings.  Many of these families remained in the area for years and in some cases generations.

In the 1950s, the neighborhood was still filled with original families who had built small homes along streets like Wallace Avenue.  In 1927, Leo and Helen Erb's home at 1025 North Wallace Avenue was completed.  The couple raised their children in the house. Next door at 1027 dwelled Solomon Erb, the father of Leo and grandfather to several nearby kids.  The elder Mr. Erb passed away in 1944 so by by the early 1950s, Elmer and Gertrude Harmon owned the bungalow.  Norman and Lucy Wilson lived in 1101 North Wallace Avenue and had since its completion in 1928.  Mr. Wilson was an office manager for the Steckle Steam Specialties Company.  The Wilsons and Erbs would have known each other for nearly thirty years when these photos were snapped in early 1950s. People like the Erbs, Harmons, and Wilsons maintained their modest homes and kept up their small lots.  They planted trees and lovely flowers.  While many residents dashed to the suburbs, these families continued to dwell here well into the 1970s in some cases.

New generations are moving into the Little Flower neighborhood.  They seemed to have the same pride as the founders. They have a neighborhood association and residents still maintain their cottages and small lots.   Although many of the homes have been altered or enlarged over the years, the Erbs, Harmons, and Wilsons would have no trouble recognizing their stomping grounds in 2014.

Helen and Leo Erb standing in the backyard of 1025 North Wallace Avenue in 1952

Betty Jean, Kenneth, and little Ricky Erb in 1951 on the porch at 1025 North Wallace Avenue

Betty Jean, Kenneth, and little Randy Erb standing in front of 1025 North Wallace Avenue 1953.  Behind them, you can see 1027 and 1101 North Wallace Avenue.  Note that tulips are blooming in front of the spirea bushes.  

1025, 1027, and 1101 North Wallace Avenue in 2014

Erb home at 1025 North Wallace Avenue in 2014
The historic images are courtesy of Rick Erb via  

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Brand New Car Along Oak Avenue--1936

Frank and Helen Olson proudly stood next to their new 1936 Plymouth sedan parked in the driveway of their home at 5966 Oak Avenue.  Mr. Olson needed a car large enough to transport his golf clubs as he was avid about the sport.  The Olsons did not dwell in the American Four Square for long as they later built a home at 322 North Audubon Road in 1940.  You can read more about the Olsons by clicking on the link below.  A contemporary photo shows the home on a cold December morning in 2014.

Frank and Helen Olson in front of new Plymouth at 5966 Oak Avenue

5966 Oak Avenue in 2014

The historic image is courtesy of Richard Olson via  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Kingsbury Home on Layman Avenue

James L. Kingsbury and his wife Minnie likely moved into 348 North Layman Avenue in the late nineteenth century.  Mr. Kingsbury's father lived around the corner at 71 North Ritter Avenue.  The elder Kingsbury published a newspaper in Crawfordsville and eventually moved operations to Indianapolis in the 1870s.  Upon James G Kingsbury's passing in 1913, his son, James L. Kingsbury  took control of the Indiana Farmer.  James L. Kingsbury would later serve two terms in the Indiana House of Representatives as Irvington's legislator in the 1920s. A loyal Republican, James L. Kingsbury also served as the Warren Township Assessor in his elder years.

Minnie and James L. raised their two sons, John Kaylor and Layman Dwight Kingsbury, in the beautiful two-story Gothic Revival home in northern Irvington. The Kingsburys possessed a large tract of land and had lovely orchard. They remained in the home until their deaths in the 1940s and 1950s.  Their oldest son, John, became a physician and would make history as the doctor who took the death bed confession of Madge Oberholtzer, a woman who was brutally raped and attacked by the powerful Ku Klux Klan leader, D.C. Stephenson, in 1925.  Her words helped to bring down the KKK in Indiana and in America.

Kingsbury Family Portrait:  James L. Kingsbury can be seen standing next to a tree in the center of the photo. Standing in front of him, you can see John Kaylor Kingsbury. Nearby, stood Layman Dwight Kingsbury. Presumably Minnie Kingsbury is one of the ladies in the photo, but which one? The older lady standing at the far right might be Mrs. Kaylor, the mother of Minnie Kaylor Kingsbury.  (c1905)

Kingsbury home and orchard (c1900)
To see a contemporary photo of 348 North Layman Avenue, click on the link below. The historic images are courtesy of the Larry Muncie Collection Irvington Historical Society.