Monday, May 25, 2015

A Grand Home Along East Washington Street

Some of the most fashionable homes in Irvington sat along Washington Street. The founders of the community never envisioned that great avenue as a commercial corridor. In fact, they put in a small downtown in the 200 block of South Audubon Road. (then called Central Avenue) Over the decades, various entrepreneurs realized that opening businesses along the National Road might yield profitable results so they began buying up the grand old houses and tearing them down.  In 1927,  a local businessman, Robert E. Stevenson, sold his home and large lot at 5698 East Washington for a future Tudor-Revival commercial strip.

Built c1905, the giant home at 5698 East Washington Street had a wrap-around and curved brick porch and an uncovered balcony above.  Smaller balconies jutted out along the side and from the third story.  The Goodwin family is the earliest known family to dwell in the home and they might have built it.  Clarence Goodwin was Vice President of the Indiana Veneer and Lumber Company. He later moved his family to Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 1910.  Other families lived in the house until 1918, when Robert and Mary Stevenson purchased it.  They would remain in the dwelling for the next nine years.

The home was a way for Robert Stevenson to show the world that he had arrived. In the age of "Gatsby" and the Roaring 20s, Mr. Stevenson chased the almighty dollar.  He was always looking for the next big deal. He kept his pretty and younger wife in fur coats and at this time in his life drove fine cars. While the family seemed to enjoy living the American dream, not all was at it seemed with the Stevenson finances. The couple became the guardian of their nephew, Edward Lollis, in 1915. Young Edward noticed that the family would have good times followed by lean times and he vowed later as an adult to avoid such financial volatility.

Sensing yet again another economic opportunity, Mr. Stevenson sold the Washington Street property to developers in 1927.  Little did he know what ominous financial developments awaited Americans. Thousands of people like Robert Stevenson would lose vast sums of money after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.  The Great Depression humbled many people looking for the next big deal.  The days of fur coats and fancy cars were over for many people.

The Stevensons rented a few homes and then purchased another house at 56 South Irvington Avenue in 1932. They tried to continue to live in the same manner as they had at their grand home along East Washington Street, but the money did not come as easily.

Next post:  Life Along Irvington Avenue in the 1930s

Robert and Mary Stevenson and their ward, Edward Lollis, dwelled at 5698 East Washington Street from 1918 to 1927. The home would be torn down in 1927 and replaced with a Tudor-Revival commercial strip.  

Arthur, Robert, and Frank Stevenson stood behind their mother, Kate Stevenson in the front yard at 5698 East Washington Street c1918.  

Edward Lollis was a member of Boy Scout Troop #3. They met in the Irvington Presbyterian Church. It is possible that young Edward was not in a scout uniform, but rather in a uniform of a youth group that drilled during World War One. Edward spent a summer in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Fortunately the war ended before he became of age to serve. In this photo, he stood in front of 5698 East Washington Street in full salute c1918.  

Effie Lenore Johnson Stevenson, wife to Frank Stevenson, stood with her child in front of Robert and Mary Stevenson's home at 5698 East Washington Street c1918.  Note that the flag hanging nearby had only 48 stars on it.

An unidentified man stood in front of 5698 East Washington Street c1918.  You can see the address above his head.  

The large home at 5698 East Washington Street used to sit on the northwest corner of Washington Street and Audubon Road. It was torn down in 1927 to make way for a commercial enterprise.  The Tudor-Revival structure that replaced the home still stands in 2015 and is frequented by thousands each year who flock here for delicious food, unique gifts, and stylish clothing.  

The stories and photos for this post are courtesy of Ted Lollis.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Stevenson Home Along Audubon Road

Robert and Mary Stevenson moved into 275 South Audubon Road in 1915.  They rented the home from John R. Gray, a developer who built several houses on the site of the former Irvington schools. Mrs. Stevenson was proud of her new home and its decor and she documented a few of the lovely rooms with her "Brownie" camera. Interior photos from her home on Audubon Road captured the fact that she kept up with the times by furnishing the Stevenson house with  lovely Arts and Crafts-era furniture.  On warmer days and if the windows were open, local residents might have heard the sounds of burgeoning pianists who received lessons from Mary Stevenson. She taught piano to local Irvingtonians for many years.  Her beautiful piano, seen in the photo below, remained in the family until the 1960s.  Other shots from her albums show that she enjoyed visiting with her new neighbors. In one photo, she sat upon the stone stoop at 269 South Audubon Road c1916.  She also documented a new resident in the Stevenson home, Edward Lollis, the orphaned nephew of Mr. Stevenson.  The young man can be seen dressed as Charlie Chaplin, the most celebrated film star of the 1910s. The family would not remain on Audubon Road for long, however, as they soon would be moving into one of the grandest homes along East Washington Street.

Stay tuned for more posts on the Stevenson family. The historic images are courtesy of Ted Lollis.

Mrs. Stevenson played this beautiful grand piano in her home at 275 South Audubon Road in 1915

The Stevensons furnished their home at 275 South Audubon Road  in 1915 with the latest Arts and Crafts era furniture.

 Edward Lollis dressed up as Charlie Chaplin in 1915 in front of his new home at 275 South Audubon Road. Behind him, you can see his bike resting against the front porch. 

Mary Pulver Stevenson visited with her neighbors at 269 South Audubon Road c1916. The Hogate family dwelled in the Arts and Crafts American Four Square home at the time.  Behind Mrs. Stevenson, you can also see the double at 261-63 South Audubon Road.  

275 South Audubon Road c1915

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Stevensons Move to Irvington--1915

Robert E. Stevenson and his wife Mary Pulver Stevenson moved to Irvington in 1915. They had eloped six years earlier to Benton Harbor, Michigan and married on October 9, 1909. Some might have wondered if Mr. Stevenson would ever marry as he was always searching and working on various business ideas or schemes, but at age 35 he decided to settle down with his twenty-six-year-old bride.  The couple first set up housekeeping in Muncie, Indiana but moved to 275 South Audubon Road in 1915. The Stevensons enjoyed living the good life.  They owned fancy cars and dwelled in nice houses in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in the city of Indianapolis.

Mr. Stevenson held a variety of jobs while living in Irvington although he was mainly self-employed. He was an attorney, an oil promoter, a car dealer, an inventor, and at one time President of the Eel River Power Company.  The Stevensons owned at least three houses in Irvington over the years and leased three others at various times.  Mrs. Stevenson did not work nor did she have much of an education, but her photo albums reveal that she enjoyed decorating her homes and visiting with her friends and family. She also played and taught the piano.

The couple had no children, but their world changed dramatically in 1915 when Mr. Stevenson's sister, Georgia Stevenson Lollis, died of tuberculosis in Austin, Texas. Mrs. Lollis and her husband William Montray Lollis had one son, Edward, who was ten years old.  Mr. Lollis suffered from mental illness and had already abandoned the family so young Edward was essentially an orphan. His father would later be committed to Central State Insane Asylum and he died there in 1923.  Young Edward came to live with his Uncle Robert and Aunt in Mary in 1915.  He would spend the rest of his childhood and most of his life in Irvington.

Stay tuned as more posts on this interesting family will be forthcoming.

Robert E. Stevenson c1915

Mary Pulver Stevenson documented the early years of the family with this camera.  This photo was likely taken of her c1915.

Edward Lollis, who came to live with his Uncle Robert and Aunt Mary Stevenson, rode his bike in front of his first Irvington home at 275 South Audubon Road c1916. You can also see 269 South Audubon Road.  

Robert and Mary Stevenson leased this beautiful home at 275 South Audubon Road from 1915 to 1917. They later purchased a larger home at 5698 East Washington Street. 
The stories and images for this post are courtesy of Ted Lollis.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Rare Photo of First Irvington Presbyterian Church c1917

Mary and Robert Stevenson moved into Irvington in 1915.  The couple had married in 1909 and first dwelled in Muncie before moving to 275 South Audubon Road.  Mrs. Stevenson, the photographer in the family, walked around her new neighborhood and snapped several shots.  A life-long Presbyterian, she meandered over to the intersection of Johnson and Julian Avenues and took a photo of the Irvington Presbyterian Church around 1917. Later in her life she would dwell across the street at 112 Johnson Avenue.

Designed by local architect, Bennajah Weesner ( 5728 Rawles Avenue) and constructed by Louis Richardson ( 5506 University Avenue), the Presbyterians dedicated the church on January 10, 1909. Jonathan C. Day served as the first minister.  The board of trustees struggled in the beginning to pay for the new church, but as the neighborhood grew, residents like the Stevensons were invited to join and "subscribe."  Emily McAdams in her book Irvington Presbyterian Church 1906-1956 noted that membership expanded from 376 congregants in 1919 to 687 by 1927.  The Presbyterians eventually demolished the older and smaller 1909 structure for a grander edifice in 1928.

Mrs. Stevenson's photo likely dates to around 1917 or 1918 as the apartments located on Johnson Avenue can be seen in the photo. They were constructed in 1916 with the first residents moving into the new structures in the following year.

The First Irvington Presbyterian Church located at the intersection of Johnson and Julian Avenues c1917
Source:  Emily McAdams, Irvington Presbyterian Church 1906-1956, (Indianapolis: 1956) The historic image is courtesy of Ted Lollis.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

East Side Treasure to be Destroyed

Giant Eagle, Inc. has won its fight to demolish the historic St. John's United Church of Christ in nearby Cumberland. German immigrants founded the church on the northeast corner of East Washington Street and German Church Road in 1855. The congregation built a lovely brick Tudor-Revival structure in 1914.  Giant Eagle plans to put in a strip mall and possibly a gas station. Cumberland officials have tried valiantly to save the structure, but the Metropolitan Development Commission voted 4-2 in favor of destruction.  The Indianapolis City Council must still approve the measure, but the future does not look hopeful.  The beautiful edifice, which has stood on the site for over one hundred years, will likely have to give way to concrete blocks and asphalt.

St. John's United Church of Christ in 2015