Thursday, November 26, 2015

Five Years--A Milestone

In late November of 2010, I made the decision to create something I had always dreamed about finding on the internet...a caché of historic photos about the Irvington neighborhood in Indianapolis. For years I had trolled the web searching in vain for photos from this site and that site. No such URL existed nor would there be one until I began Vintage Irvington. Quite frankly, I was not sure if I would be able to last more than a few months, but thanks to the efforts of many current and former residents, the blog is as strong as ever. This entry marks my 653rd post for the site. In the five years that I have been writing Vintage Irvington, there have been 156,555 hits mostly from the United States but many folks stopped by from places like Russia, Latvia, Turkey, Bahrain, and dozens of other nations. Are there former Irvingtonians living in those places?  Thanks to all of you who have contributed over the years. I am very grateful and appreciative.

Highlights from the past year....

Friends Lend Me a Hand

Many of the photos that appear on this site came from friends who have connections to Irvington. Amanda Browning, who writes the Horner House Blog (, has been copiously researching the families who dwelled in her Second Empire style home on South Emerson Avenue. She has been very generous in sharing her images and stories including her notes on the Terrill family who dwelled in several locales throughout the neighborhood. Her haunting images of the "Castle" house at 5631 University Avenue answered many questions about what this house looked like before the Craftsman-era porch was added in the 1910s.

Terrill family home at 5631 University Avenue in 1913 (Photo courtesy of Amanda Browning)
Local historian, Larry Muncie, has been a contributor to this site from the beginning. I have frequently called upon his knowledge and expertise. He grew up in the neighborhood along Beechwood Avenue and has been researching the community for many years. His photo of the Kingsbury home on Layman Avenue now belongs to the Irvington Historical Society. He generously shared it with me last winter.

The Kingsbury Home at 348 North Layman Avenue in 1906 (Photo courtesy of the Larry Muncie Collection at the Irvington Historical Society)
Leslie Wilson and I have worked together for years at North Central High School. She is a cheerful person who cares deeply about young people. I was thrilled to learn that her Mother lived for a brief time in Irvington and that she was married in the Irvington Methodist Church. Leslie generously shared many photos from that period of her Mom's life.

Merry Jo and Walter Carey on their wedding day at the Irvington Methodist Church on May 16, 1948. (Photo courtesy of Leslie Wilson)
My neighbor, Janet Wilzbacher, led me to the Glore family of Beechwood Avenue.  Janet lives in the former Glore family bungalow and still keeps in touch with the former residents. She led me to Kathryn Glore Wright, who shared stories and images of their tenure along that street.

James and Marjorie Glore moved in 5702 Beechwood Avenue in 1939 and the house remained with the Glores until 1986. (Photo courtesy of Kathryn Glore Wright)
Chance Encounters Yield Results

A lost dog led me to George William Long, IV.  During a late evening walk, a man on a bike stopped me to ask if I had seen his dog.  "Sorry," I reported, "but I have not." I walked on along Oak Avenue and sure enough I spotted his wayward pooch. "You are coming with me," I announced as I hauled the dog back to his worried owner.  Soon, I learned that Mr. Long's grandparents had dwelled on South Audubon Road and that he had a photo of them hanging in his house. He generously loaned me the image and I posted it that night.

Barbara and George Long posed with their son, George,Jr., in front of their home at 346 South Audubon Road on May 30, 1948.  (Photo courtesy of George William Long, IV)
Perhaps the most unusual encounter occurred last winter at the end of a day filled with adventure. My neighbor and friend, Bill Jensen, noticed that a snapping turtle was trapped in between two logs in Pleasant Run. He asked me if I would be brave enough to help him free the turtle, but he also warned me of the perils that faced us. They are called "snapping" turtles for a reason. After we successfully liberated the poor tired creature, we encountered Norman Warrenburg, who was having a smoke break along the stream. His wife was patiently waiting for him in the car. My neighbor struck up a conversation with him and quickly surmised that he was talking to a lifelong Irvington resident. I didn't know it then, but I was about to obtain the most popular photo in the blog's five-year history. Mr. Warrenburg noted that his brother had a large 1920s-era aerial photograph of the North Irvington Garden District. The photo was so large that I had to scan it into several sections. I then posted it with some local house histories and then something happened that doesn't very of my posts went viral. As of this writing, the photo has received over 1100 hits. Turtles and dogs came to my aid this year.

Aerial Shot of the Irvington Garden District--1925 (Photo courtesy of the Warrenburg Family)

The Mother Lode of Photos

Often times, I have made connections through  Last winter I managed to contact a person on that site and she led me to Steve Koepper, who grew up in a modest bungalow on East Tenth Street. I didn't know it then, but I was about to obtain an incredible collection of mid-twentieth century photographs documenting the lives of an Irvington family. Norman and Lora Koepper raised their three children at 5263 East Tenth Street. Mrs. Koepper, the family documentarian, took hundreds of photographs and kept records of every household expense. Steve Koepper and his sister Susan Koepper Foster loaned me photograph after wonderful photograph. Birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, and magical snowfalls all appeared on Vintage Irvington. I especially loved this collection because it captured the everyday lives of a family.

Norman and Lora Koepper posed for this photograph in the living room of their home at 5263 East Tenth Street in 1954. Also pictured in this photo included Steve (seated), Sue, and Paul Koepper (Photo courtesy of Steve Koepper)

The Koepper family on Easter Day in 1956 in the backyard of their home at 5263 East Tenth Street. (left to right) Steve, Sue, Norman, Lora, and Paul.  (Photo courtesy of Steve Koepper)
In the spring, I managed to make a connection with Steve Lawton, who briefly dwelled in Irvington as a toddler. Although his family did not reside in their Julian Avenue home for long, he generously loaned me photos from his youth. The Lawtons resided at 5915 Julian Avenue from 1939 to 1945. I had no way of knowing it then, but I was soon to meet a childhood neighbor of Steve's and that encounter would lead me to the largest collection of photos I had ever come across.

Bill Lawton, the brother to Steve Lawton, and Ted Lollis played in the sandbox in the backyard of the Lawton home at 5915 Julian Avenue in 1940. Little Ted lived next door at 5919 Julian. (Photo courtesy of Steve Lawton) 

Ted Lollis grew up in various houses along Julian Avenue. When I first contacted him, he indicated that most of his scrapbooks were put away in a shed on his property. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would most likely not get access to those images as Mr. Lollis lived in Tennessee.  Then, out of the blue, I received an exciting e-mail. Mr. Lollis and his wife would be passing through Indiana to attend a conference on peace in the beautiful village of New Harmony.  He agreed to drive to Irvington for the day! The couple are much involved in the peace movement and Mr. Lollis has spent much of his life documenting peace monuments around the world. His website on the topic is the only known such repository on the internet.  He brought several packed and I do mean packed scrapbooks filled with historic images of Irvington and of his family's cottage in Michigan. We spent several hours combing through those scrapbooks. His father had been raised by a wealthy uncle and a dutiful aunt, whose time in Irvington dates to the early twentieth century. The scrapbooks contained dozens of images of families and homes along South Audubon Road, East Washington Street, Julian Avenue, and Johnson Avenue. In two of the images, I had even spotted my own home. After we examined the scrapbooks, we meandered along the streets and quiet alleys of the neighborhood. We managed to gain access into one of the family homes. Although he had not lived in the neighborhood in decades, Mr. Lollis had not forgotten anything. We even found a secret opening at the rear of a yard in one of his childhood homes along Julian Avenue. Mr. Lollis generously gave me access to any image I wanted for the site and I spent most of last summer blogging about his various family lines. Both he and Steve Lawton have lived remarkable lives since leaving the neighborhood. To visit Mr. Lollis's peace site click on this link:

The Stevenson family home at 5698 East Washington Street has been gone since 1928. Robert and Mary Stevenson enjoyed living in fine homes and owning fancy cars. They raised Edward Lollis, the orphaned nephew of Mr. Stevenson, in several Irvington homes. This photo was taken in 1913. (Photo courtesy of Ted Lollis) 

Edward and Georgia May Lollis moved into 5919 Julian Avenue in 1937. Shortly after settling in, Mrs. Lollis walked through each room and snapped photos like this one of the living room. (Photo courtesy of Ted Lollis)

Mary Stevenson, the aunt to Edward Lollis, likely took this photograph of the first Irvington Presbyterian Church at 55 Johnson Avenue around 1917. (Photo courtesy of Ted Lollis)

Mary Stevenson took this wonderful photograph of her grand nephew, Ted Lollis, in 1946 on her stoop at 112 Johnson Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Ted Lollis)

An Incredible Family

Over the years, I have spent many pleasant mornings dining in Dufour's Restaurant located 5648 East Washington Street. I had known that the Dufours were a large Catholic family and that they lived in Irvington. I had made overtures to meet some of the family, but I did not follow up. Then, on a spring afternoon I happened to walk by the establishment just as it was closing. Outside, Maria Dufour, the current chef and owner, was cleaning up. She offered to invite me to dessert with as many siblings as she could round up to talk about her family's story. We met several weeks later at the restaurant and gathered around the large table that used to sit in the family home at 53 North Audubon Road. The Dufour children spoke lovingly of their parents, Lawrence and Nell Dufour. Mr. Dufour earned a comfortable living selling supplies for industrial kitchens. He traveled around the state and the Midwest. Mrs. Dufour stayed at home and raised the couple's ten children! I met most of them on that beautiful spring day. They spoke of their mother's cooking, the laundry that never ended, playing outside and with whom. They remembered favorite neighbors and unusual features about their home on North Audubon Road. We laughed as they recalled pranks played upon one another and about Saturday nights where popcorn became a bedtime snack. One daughter, Sussanne, brought her mother's journals and allowed me access to these precious primary sources for the blog. Others brought photographs, including Lenore, the oldest sibling. It was a gift that I had the opportunity to meet Lenore as she passed away in September. I dedicate this entire blog post in her memory.

Lenore Dufour posed for this photograph at the Dufour family home at 53 North Audubon Road on Easter Day, 1961. This entire post is dedicated to her memory. (Photo courtesy of the Dufour Family) 

Putting Out Fires

Terry Wilgus, who lived for a part of her life along Lowell Avenue in the Irvington Terrace area loaned me several photos that belonged to her father, Robert McDonnell, an Irvington fireman. One of her photos was shocking and showed a small plane that had crashed into house at 354 North Bolton Avenue on June 20, 1953. She also gave me some incredible shots of the old fire station that used to sit at 5432 East Washington Street. There may be other photos from her collection so I always look forward to messages that I receive from her!

On June 23, 1953, a small plane crashed into 354 North Bolton Avenue. Fireman, Robert McDonnell can be seen on the roof trying to save the pilot and co-pilot. Amazingly, the pilots survived. (Photo courtesy of Terry Wilgus)

Two Interesting Ladies

Last winter I was invited to speak to a group of Howe High School graduates from the class of 1952. One of those attending was Diana Wilkens, who grew up in the area. Although it took us a few months, Diana eventually reached out to me and offered photos of her time spent on Linwood Avenue, Washington Street, and East Ninth Street. I found her story compelling as she left Irvington for New York City where she worked for an ad agency. During this tenure of her life, she met many important people in both the fashion and publishing world. Circumstances brought her back to Irvington and away from her exciting life in the Big Apple. She drove from Greenfield to Irvington to loan me her collection. I am so fortunate to run into kind people like Diana.

Diana Wilkens posed for this photo in 1954 at her family's home at 5120 East Washington Street. She would soon depart for New York City. (Photo courtesy of Diana Wilkens)

On the day that I met Nancy Ostrander, the United States and Cuba had just normalized relations. Why, you ask, would I mention this point on a blog post about Irvington? It turns out my timing could not have been more perfect. I met Nancy Ostrander on her front porch along with her favorite neighborhood cat. "See that," she pointed to a color photograph of an American soldier raising the Stars and Stripes in Havana, Cuba on the cover of USA Today, "behind the solider, you can see the apartment where I lived when I worked for the U.S. State Department before the arrival of Castro." I had heard from some of my neighbors that Ms. Ostrander was the "most accomplished" person living in the neighborhood and after meeting her, I can say without hesitation that they are correct. Nancy grew up along North Audubon Road and was raised with a cousin by her widowed mother. After graduating from Howe High School and Butler University, she left Indianapolis for Cuba to find work with the embassy. She worked her way through the State Department and eventually became the U.S. Ambassador to the South American nation of Suriname in 1978.  I met her on that front porch several times and we spoke little of her accomplishments and more about her life along Audubon Road.

Nancy Ostrander posed with her beloved "Koko" in front of her residence at 323 North Audubon Road in 1933. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Ostrander)

Yes, there will be a sixth year...

I have no idea how long I can continue to find incredible people like the folks mentioned above, but in the five years that I have been writing this blog there have been just as many each year. I am always on the hunt for more images of this very unique and interesting neighborhood. If you know of someone I should speak to, please drop me an e-mail at


  1. I so enjoy your work and not just because I live in one of the homes
    pictured here. It's a labor of Irvington love....thank you

  2. I love your blog! It is world-class and a true labor of love. Thank you for preserving the history and tales of Irvington. You are greatly appreciated, Bill!