Monday, November 30, 2015

Who Lived Here? The Blumers of Michigan Street

In 1924, a young couple, Frank C. and Bernice Duval Blumer, received the keys to their newly-built home at 5120 East Michigan Street. A street car passed near their residence daily so it would have been an easy commute for Mr. Blumer to his downtown job at the L.E. Morrison & Company. Mr. Blumer had been with the company for years and was a buyer of leather products as the company was known for its quality luggage and bags. Local newspapers also reported that he was a good bowler and frequently scored well in local leagues. Mrs. Blumer stayed home and raised their son, William, who was twelve when they moved into Irvington.

In 1926, the thirty-six-year-old salesman sat down for a portrait and submitted it to a book called Fellow Citizens of Indianapolis. Life was going well for the Blumers. For reasons unknown, but at the height of the Great Depression, the Blumers moved away from their home in 1931 and rented various apartments in the area for the remainder of their lives.  The L.E. Morrison Company survived the Great Depression, but it did take a hit. Perhaps the Blumers felt it was in their best financial interests to leave their home. The McCann family moved into the American Four Square in 1932.



5120 East Michigan Street in 2015

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 (http://hornerhouseindy.blogspot.com/), 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 often...one 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 Ancestry.com.  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:  http://peace.maripo.com/

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 williamfranklingulde@gmail.com

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A New Fire Station--1958

For fifty five years, Irvington firemen operated out of Station Number 25 located at 5432 East Washington Street. The building had been designed for a time when horses pulled the fire wagons and not for motorized firetrucks. In need of a modern facility, the city sold the station to East Side Chevrolet located next door and built a modern structure at 17 South Sheridan Avenue. The dealership quickly tore down the historic chalet because they needed space for their booming auto sales. By November 7, 1958, Irvington firemen took up residence in their new structure. The second fire station has actually served the community longer than the first as it has been in operation for fifty seven years.

Members of Fire Station #25 gathered for one of the last photos taken at 5432 East Washington Street c1958. Note that Vogel's Furniture, an Irvington institution, used to operate in the former Odd Fellows Building next door. Both structures in this photo have been razed. (Photo: Indianapolis Public Library System Digital Photo Collection)

The Indianapolis Times published this photo of fireman Bob McDonnell on moving day in 1958 as the Irvington Fire Station relocated from 5432 East Washington Street to 17 South Sheridan Avenue. Mr. McDonnell worked for the Indianapolis City Fire Department for several decades. (Photo: Terry Wilgus)

Dignitaries gathered for a dedication ceremony in November of 1958 at the site of the new Irvington Fire Station at 17 South Sheridan Avenue. In the distance, you can see the large homes on East Washington Street. (Photo: Indianapolis Public Library, Digital Photo Collection)

The second fire station to serve Irvington has now been in operation longer than the first. It is located at 17 South Sheridan Avenue. (Photo; Bill Gulde, 2015)  

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Irvington Fire House--Station #25

One of the chief reasons for Irvington's annexation to the city of Indianapolis in 1902 was to obtain police and fire protection. Two disastrous school fires and numerous house blazes demonstrated to many folks in the community that Irvington needed city services. In 1903, the community hired architect John Stem to design a beautiful fire station to fit into the "classic" suburb. Mr. Stem was likely recommended by Hilton U. Brown, the publisher of the Indianapolis News, as the architect had designed Brown's large stone mansion at the southwest corner of East Washington Street and Emerson Avenue. (demolished) Stem's design was unlike any other fire station in the city. By 1903, the National Road or East Washington Street had emerged as the main commercial corridor for Irvington so the town planners placed the fire station at 5432 East Washington Street.

The Irvington Fire Station c1905 at 5432 East Washington Street
Stem opted for a European-styled structure with the first floor exterior sheathed in stone and the upper gables clad with wood shake. Since the first fire engines were powered by horses, the station had a stall on the first floor and a hayloft on the second floor. In the early years of the station, firemen, worked 24-hour shifts for six days of the week on a rotating basis and slept on the second floor. They were allowed to eat meals at home, but most dined at the station. Later, their schedules were modified to a more reasonable time frame.

If neighbors needed to report a fire, then they could run to a nearby fire alarm box scattered throughout the neighborhood. In 1910, there were fire alarm boxes located at several intersections including: Downey and Julian; University and Ohmer; 200 block of South Audubon Road; Beechwood and Burgess; Layman and Lowell; Washington and Ritter; Washington and Arlington; and Washington and Bosart. Many residents already had a telephone by 1910 so they merely had to pick up the receiver and call the station.

On February 8, 1929, Fire Station #25 obtained its first motorized vehicles. The horses, who had been lovingly tended to, were sent away to a nearby farm. The station hosted a Dalmatian and "Spot" became a beloved animal in the neighborhood.

Life for the firefighters was fairly routine. Oral histories conducted by the Irvington branch of the Indianapolis Public Library and now found online revealed that fireman had tasks to do each day. Substitutes or the newer recruits were assigned the worst jobs like stoking the coal furnace in the winter or cleaning out the disgusting spittoons. On Mondays, the men stretched out the hoses to dry and clean them. On Tuesdays, the men conducted inspections of nearby schools and institutions. On Wednesdays, the station was cleaned and the floors scrubbed. On Thursdays and Fridays, they cleaned every inch of the firetrucks and did maintenance work. They had some free time where they could play cards, read, or listen to a ballgame on the radio. Each man was given a task for dinner and the subsequent clean up. They also had assigned beds and each man a monthly night watch.

The Irvington Fire Station (#25) c1929 at 5432 East Washington Street
Over the years, dozens of men served their time in the beautiful but aging chalet of a fire station. Bob McDonnell, a veteran of World War II and an employee for the city fire department since 1938, started working at #25 in the early 1950s. Mr. McDonnell reported that by the mid-twentieth century, the station was in such poor shape that the firemen did not jump into the trucks until they were out on the concrete pad because they worried about the sagging floors.


Bob McDonell worked for Station #25 for many years. In 1958, he helped in the from the old station at 5432 East Washington to the new site at 17 South Sheridan Avenue. 


In November of 1958, the city of Indianapolis vacated the unusual fire station for a modern structure located at 17 South Sheridan Avenue. Sadly, the community had no rules in place to protect such structures so it was torn down very quickly as a nearby car dealership needed space for a parking lot. One can only imagine the reuse of this building in 2015 as a restaurant, a coffee shop, a bookstore, or as a boutique.

To learn more about the station and to see additional photographs click on the link below. Much of the information for this post came from an oral history interview with Errol Evans and from Terry Wilgus, the daughter of Bob McDonnell. Ms. Wilgus also provided the wonderful images.

http://www.digitalindy.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ioh/id/1483/rec/28




Saturday, November 7, 2015

Who Lived Here? The Belzers of South Audubon Road

Nestled in a grove sits the charming Belzer home located at 320 South Audubon Road. Many of the tree specimens on the property were likely planted by Francis O. Belzer, an executive with the Boy Scouts organization. Mr. Belzer grew up in Lawrence Township and married Prunetta Hunter in 1892. The couple had one child, Katherine, in 1900. Mr. Belzer began his career in education as a principal in a four-room schoolhouse in Castleton in 1899. He then moved to Oaklandon and eventually down into the city of Indianapolis where he served as the principal of School #58 and others before teaching at Manual High School.  In 1904, the couple and their daughter moved into the beautiful Queen Anne home at 320 South Audubon Road. It would remain part of the Belzer family until 1980.

The Boy Scouts of America started in 1910 and in the next year Mr. Belzer started Troop Number Nine at the Irvington Methodist Church. In 1915, he took a leave of absence from the city schools to run the Boys Scouts in Marion County.  In that same year, tragedy struck the family with the death of Prunetta Belzer. Fifteen-year-old Katherine and her father had only each other now.  She would later graduate from Butler University and become a social worker. She never married and dwelled in the family home until her death in 1980.

Mr. Belzer became a beloved member of the community. Thousands of young boys joined the scouts during his tenure as their leader. He started the Cross Roads of America Band in 1917 and he shepherded the Scouts to focusing more on the outdoors and less on athletics. In 1933, he traveled with some local boys to the World Jamboree in Budapest, Hungary.  Towards the end of his life, the Boy Scouts honored him by naming a camp after him in Lawrence Township. Later, school officials would also name the Belzer Middle School for him.

Sometime in 1926, Mr. Belzer posed for this photo for a book titled, Fellow Citizens of Indianapolis. He was a well-known figure in the city and many local leaders counted him as one of their mentors.


320 South Audubon Road in 2015

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Candid Photo: Mrs. Lawton Walks Home-1940

Emma McCord Lawton dwelled at 5915 Julian Avenue from 1939 to 1945 along with her husband, Burrell, and her two sons, William and Stephen. She had formerly worked for the Gregory and Appel Insurance Company but resigned in 1937 to start a family and raise her two sons. Living next door, in the summer of 1940, was the Lollis family.  In August of that year, a member of the Lollis family--most likely Mrs. Lollis--snapped this photo of Mrs. Lawton walking back to her home.  Behind her, you can see the Lantz family residence located at 5914 Julian Avenue. The Lawtons moved to Colorado in 1945. To learn more about the Lawton or Lollis families click on the links below.

Emma McCord Lawton walked to her home at 5915 Julian Avenue in the summer of 1940.

The Lantz family dwelled across the street from the Lawtons at 5914 Julian Avenue in 1940.  (photo: November 1, 2015)
The historic image is courtesy of Ted Lollis.