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.  

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