Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Who Lived Here? The Williams Family of Irvington Terrace

Arthur L. and Margaret E. Williams moved into their brand new home at 6014 Lowell Avenue in 1916. It must have been an exciting time for the couple as birth records reveal that the family welcomed their first child, Robert, in May of that year. The modest home sits on a small lot in the Irvington Terrace section of the neighborhood just east of Arlington Avenue and north of Washington Street. Mr. Williams worked at a variety of jobs while living at the house. He managed a hardware store and later sold farm implements for International Harvester. The couple welcomed two more children, Joan and Patricia, while dwelling at this residence. In 1926, Mr. Williams was 38 years old when he sat for this portrait for a promotional book titled Fellow Citizens of Indianapolis. At the time, he was President of the Advance Transfer & Warehouse Company in the Wholesale District just south of downtown Indianapolis. Little is known of Mrs. Williams at this time, but the family moved to Pittsboro, Indiana in 1938 so that Mr. Williams could sell farm implements there. Both Mr. and Mrs. Williams were buried in Washington Park Cemetery in eastern Marion County. Mr. Williams died in 1959 while Mrs. Williams lived until 1985.

6014 Lowell Avenue in 2016: The 1930 Federal Census reveals that the home was worth $6,000 in that year.
Information on the Williams family can be found in the obituary of Arthur L. Williams (Indianapolis Star, August 26, 1959) and in the usual places like census records, city directories, and even on the website "Find a Grave." 

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Kingsbury Family Arrived Early to Irvington

James Goodwin Kingsbury (1831-1913) was a successful editor for both the Indiana Farmer and the Indianapolis Journal. Mr. Kingsbury spent his childhood and early career in western Indiana. He married Mary Layman and had three children with her. Sadly, she died at the age of 33 in 1870.  A daughter, Fannie, died in 1866.  With his two sons, James L. and Edward, he relocated to Marion County to start a new life. He eventually remarried and moved into two homes in Irvington with the first at 352 North Ritter Avenue and then to 71 North Ritter Avenue. He was likely enthused about living in the community as he was an ardent Prohibitionist and Irvington was a dry village.  Many of his children, step children, and grandchildren continued to dwell in the area and became quite prominent. One grandson, Dr. John Kaylor Kingsbury, was a physician who had an office at East Washington Street and Ritter Avenue. Dr. Kingsbury became important in history as he was the physician to attend to the dying Madge Oberholtzer. Miss Oberholtzer had been brutally raped and assaulted by the D.C. Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana.

The elder Kingsbury, James Goodwin Kingsbury, lived to be 83 years old and with his fourth wife at his side, he died in his Ritter Avenue home in 1913.

James Goodwin Kingsbury was photographed by A.F. Wise in Crawfordsville, Indiana in 1857. 

James Goodwin Kingsbury wrote and edited the Indiana Farmer for decades. He was still working for the paper when he died in 1913. Family members assumed control of the publication upon his passing. 

Mary Layman married James G. Kingsbury. She died at age 33 in 1870 in Putnamville Indiana.  

Fannie and James Layman Kingsbury were the children of James G. and Mary L. Kingsbury. They posed for this photograph around 1863. Note how James was dressed as a little girl and he still had his curls. Dressing young boys in this manner was common in the nineteenth century. A.F. Wise of Crawfordsville, Indiana photographed the children.

Fannie Kingsbury was the daughter of James G. and Mary L. Kingsbury. She posed for photographer, A.N. Pierce of Lafayette, Indiana, most likely in 1862. Tragically, she died in 1866.  

James L. and Fannie Kingsbury c1865

James Layman Kingsbury was the son of James G. and Mary L. Kingsbury. His biological mother died when he was ten years old in 1870 so his step mother, Mary Taylor Kingsbury, raised him into adulthood. In this photograph taken around 1870, James posed for the photographer G. W. Apple of Indianapolis.  

James Layman Kingsbury c1874

In 1880, first cousins, Robert Layman Dorsey (left) and James Layman Kingsbury posed for this photograph by Frank M. Lacey

James Goodwin Kingsbury c1900

"A good likeness" is what James Goodwin Kingsbury wrote on the back of this novelty photograph in 1906. Mr. Kingsbury resided at 71 North Ritter Avenue at that point in his life.

James Goodwin Kingsbury c1902

One of the last photographs of James Goodwin Kingsbury occurred on May 3, 1909 when he sat for this photograph. Note the swastika symbol below his image before it became synonymous with evil.  
The historic images and newspapers clippings are courtesy of Kelly Wheat, a Kingsbury descendant.  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Seven Years and Still Counting

What is it about this special neighborhood that has kept me writing about it for seven years? It hasn't always been easy. There have been droughts when the historic photos were hard to find and there have been feasts when I could have posted everyday if I could have found the time. There have been moments when I thought about stopping. Does anyone really read this blog? And just when I start to doubt myself, I receive a note from one of you or in a few cases a trunk full of historic photos.

I live in this beautiful place called Irvington. Nearly every evening, I walk the winding streets under the tall maples and catalpas planted fifty to one hundred years ago. I never tire of imagining who might have lived in these dwellings. Each residence, no matter the size, has at least one to one thousand stories. I  have told a few of those tales. What awaits me in the coming year? I wish to particularly thank the following people for their contributions this past year. They include: Ted Lollis, Judy Niedenthal, Janet Chapman, Dick Palmer, Nancy Ostrander, Carol Yeager, Emily Jarzen, and Deedee Davis. This blog could not have been possible without you.

So, let's see where the next chapters take us. I look forward to more walks especially those that transport us back in time. Thank you, Irvington!

The dining room of Walter and Mary Fee Palmer at 333 North Audubon Road in 1943 (Photo courtesy of Janet Chapman) 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Life Along Dewey Avenue

The Schweiters family dwelled in the bungalow at 6076 Dewey Avenue for decades. They raised their two daughters, Barbara and Dorothy, in the dwelling and the family watched as the city line near their home moved to the east as a result of the Marbar development. Photographs from the Deedee Davis collection reveal snapshots of life along the quiet street in the early 1940s.

Dorothy Schweiters looked on as her daughters, Barbara and Dorothy, posed along their front walk at 6076 Dewey Avenue in 1943.

Little Barbara Schweiters posed for this snapshot near an unidentified neighbor sometime during the winter of 1940. Behind the young girl, you can see the houses on the north side of Dewey Avenue looking towards Arlington Avenue. The Ricketts, Brennen, Spitzer, and Ashcroft families might have been home when this photo was taken of their front yards and porches. 

Little Barbara Schweiters of 6076 Dewey Avenue ran towards the photographer on a winter's day in 1940. Behind her, you can see the city line of Indianapolis and the open farmland beyond Sheridan Avenue. The Turk, Maloy, Harrison, and McVey families dwelled along the north side of Dewey Avenue and might have noticed the photography session. 

Irene Spitzer (6064 Dewey Avenue), Mary Jo Harding, Barbara Schweiters, and Dorothy Schweiters gathered for this photograph on September 19, 1944, in front of the Schweiters family home at 6076 Dewey Avenue.

Hugh Maloy--on the top step (6104 Dewey Avenue), Ann Shumaker, Dorothy Schweiters, and Barbara Schweiters gathered at 6076 Dewey Avenue in the winter of 1945.  

Barbara Schweiters stood in front of the family home at 6076 Dewey Avenue on February 7, 1943.

The Schweiters family home c1950 on a lovely summer's day....

The historic photographs and stories are courtesy of Deedee Davis. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Playhouse and Fun Times Along Dewey Avenue

Frank Roehm, a local general contractor, was the grandfather to Barbara and Dorothy Schweiters of 6076 Dewey Avenue. In 1944, he built a beautiful playhouse for his beloved granddaughters complete with a high-pitched gabled roof, a chimney, and shutters for the windows. The small structure resembled something out of a fairy tale. The girls could invite their friends over for any number of fun scenarios. Mr Roehm custom-built a table and two benches for the interior and a picnic table for the backyard. Inside their small cottage, the girls could sit on the window box or open it and take out a toy! Dorothy's good friend Irene Spitzer, who lived nearby at 6064 Dewey Avenue, also had a playhouse although it had been previously used as a chicken coup. The girls would travel from one small "dwelling" to another.  Amazingly, Mr. Roehm's whimsy still stands on the property 72 years after he first built it.

Dorothy and Barbara Schweiters swing next to their playhouse in the summer of 1945

Dorothy Schweiters stood next to her sister, Barbara, who was dressed up for her first day of school in 1945. Behind the girls, you can see the playhouse built for them by their grandfather, Frank Roehm.  

Barbara Schweiters stood in front of the playhouse in September of 1945. The Schweiters dwelled at 6076 Dewey Avenue.

Neighborhood girls gathered in the sandbox in front of the Schweiters family playhouse in the backyard of 6076 Dewey Avenue in 1945. Pictured:  (left to right) Irene Spitzer, Lynda Ashcroft, Dorothy Schweiters, Mary Jo Harding, Barbara Schweiters

Laura, Leslie, and Debbie Davis, the great granddaughters of Frank Roehm, gathered in the playhouse in the backyard of the Schweiters home at 6076 Dewey Avenue in 1970. 
The historic images and stories are courtesy of Deedee Davis. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Schweiters Move to Dewey Avenue

Norbert and Dorothy Schweiters did something unusual in the middle of the Great Depression. They bought a house in Irvington. It probably helped that they both had good jobs and a double income. Mr. Schweiters met his bride at the Kiefer-Stewart Company, a wholesale drug business, where they were both employed. He worked in the tobacco division and supplied drug stores and hotel lobbies with tobacco products. Some of his clients even included the resort at French Lick, Indiana. Mrs. Schweiters worked as a stenographer and secretary for the company although she resigned once she began having children. In 1937, the couple took the big leap and purchased the modest two-bedroom bungalow at 6076 Dewey Avenue. Built in 1929, the Hannah, Williams, and Elliott families had already moved in and out of the dwelling by 1937. Longevity arrived to the house when the Schweiters set up housekeeping. For over fifty years, a member of their family dwelled in this Dewey Avenue abode. The couple raised their two daughters, Barbara and Dorothy, in the residence and everyday and into the night the family could hear the nearby passing trains behind their home along the Pennsylvania Rail Line.

6076 Dewey Avenue after a winter snowstorm in 1939. Norbert and Dorothy Schweiters had already lived here for two years when this photo was snapped. 

An apparent spring snowstorm struck the city of Indianapolis in April of 1940. Buds can be seen on some of the trees now laden with snow. The Schweiters family dwelled at 6076 Dewey Avenue at the time. 

The backyard of 6076 Dewey Avenue in January of 1939. Behind the home, you can see the roofline of the double at 145-47 South Catherwood Avenue. The home at the left of the photo remains a mystery at this time. 

The Schweiters of 6076 Dewey Avenue documented a January snowstorm in 1939. 

Norbert and Dorothy Schweiters proudly posed with their daughter Barbara on a bench in the backyard of their home at 6076 Dewey Avenue. Behind the family, you can see the home at 6072 Dewey Avenue. The Ricketts family dwelled there when this photo was snapped. 

Frank and Leota Roehm, the maternal grandparents of Barbara and Dorothy Schweiters posed with Barbara Schweiters in the backyard of 6076 Dewey Avenue. Mr. Roehm would later construct a playhouse for his granddaughters which still stands in the backyard in 2016. 

Dorothy and Barbara Schweiters paused for a photograph along the back sidewalk at 6076 Dewey Avenue in 1943. It was a warm summer day and the perfect opportunity to play with the family dog. 
The historic images are courtesy of Deedee Davis.  

Monday, October 17, 2016

Our Lady of Lourdes First Communion--1944

The young ladies gathered in front of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church on East Washington Street for their first communion in the spring of 1944. They all wore white dresses and veils. Somewhere in that line of girls stood Barbara Schweiters,  the daughter of Norbert and Dorothy Schweiters, of 6076 Dewey Avenue. Behind the girls, traffic was parked along East Washington Street and a bus had just passed along the intersection with North Hawthorne Lane. Across the street, you can see the sign for the Gulf Filling Station run by Don W. Miller at 5302 East Washington Street. (demolished) The most visible home in the photo was that of Joseph and Josephine Kernel, who dwelled at 5370 East Washington Street in 1944. Dr. Kernel was an optometrist as was one of his daughters. Next door at 5360 East Washington Street, you can see residence of Karl and Agness Kernel. Mr. Kernel was the brother to Joseph. Another brother, Paul, lived just around the corner at 5040 Pleasant Run Parkway North Drive. Beyond the Kernel homes, loomed the Butler apartment building at 5230 East Washington Street. Although it is hard to believe, all of those young girls in the photo would be in their eighties if they are still living in 2016. Sadly, the life of Barbara Schweiters was cut short as she passed away from the effects of polio in 1949.

A procession of young girls with their hands clasped prepared to enter Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church on East Washington Street in 1944.  

The historic image is courtesy of Deedee Davis. Information on the Kernel brothers came from the Polk's City Directory and census records. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

At the Edge of the City--1950

Residents in southeastern Irvington lived near farms and meadows in the 1940s. The Schweiters family, who dwelled at 6076 Dewey Avenue, could walk to the edge of their street and find themselves in the country. South Sheridan Avenue was merely a dirt path and was likely a farm lane. Sometime in the winter of 1950, Irene Spitzer and Dorothy Schweiters went for a walk on a cold and frosty day along what would become South Sheridan Avenue. Behind them you can see vast stretches of undeveloped land and a tree line near English Avenue.

Irene Spitzer (left) and Dorothy Schweiters along with Smokey the dog walked upon South Sheridan Avenue in the winter of 1950. Small brick houses occupy this site in 2016. 

Irene Spitzer (left), the daughter of Edmund and Freida Spitzer of 6064 Dewey Avenue, posed with Dorothy Schweiters, the daughter of Norbert and Dorothy Schweiters of 6076 Dewey Avenue, in the winter of 1950 along South Sheridan Avenue. Note that the "street" was merely a dirt path at that point in time. 

Dorothy Schweiters (left) and her friend Irene Spitzer posed in the fields near their homes on Dewey Avenue at the edge of the city line in 1950. The Marbar Development Corporation added 100 homes upon the site in 1951. Beyond the girls, you can see the farms that existed just east of Irvington. 

In the summer and fall of 1951, contractors for the Marbar Subdivision were busy constructing 100 brick homes on the empty land near the Schweiters. On December 2, 1951, the public was invited to tour two of the model homes at 6019 Ivanhoe Street and at 338 South Webster Avenue. The small dwellings were marketed towards veterans and cost $11,500. Veterans needed to put at least $1,000 towards a down payment, but they could also finance that money as well. Those who qualified paid $63.89 for their mortgage. Visitors to the model homes noted the hardwood floors, full basements, tiled bathrooms, storm doors and windows, automatic furnaces, and Youngstown metal kitchen cabinets. The Schweiters still living nearby would have watched as their rural playground vanished and traffic along their once quiet street increased dramatically as families moved into the modern residences. (Information for the Marbar Subdivision came from: Indianapolis Star, December 2, 1951, 36; Indianapolis Star,  January 20, 1952, 30)

6019 Ivanhoe Street served as the model home for the Marbar Subdivision on December 2, 1951.

Typical modest brick homes in the Marbar Subdivision along South Webster Avenue in 2016
The historic photograph and information on the Schweiters family is courtesy of Deedee Davis.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Pastoral Scene at the Edge of Irvington--1937

Norbert and Dorothy Schweiters moved into the bungalow at 6076 Dewey Avenue in 1937. Both of them worked for the Kiefer-Stewart Company at the time. The home would be an ideal setting to raise their two daughters, Barbara and Dorothy, as the property abutted undeveloped land and plenty of space for their kids to play. Most of the homes along the north side of Dewey Avenue bordered acreage along the Pennsylvania Rail Line.

In the historic photograph, taken in the summer of 1937, Mr. Schweiters posed in his backyard at 6076 Dewey Avenue. Behind him you can see a large barn (demolished) that was likely constructed by the Dietz family decades before. To the left of the barn, you can see the double at 145-147 South Catherwood Avenue. The Polks' City Directory from 1937 notes that James and Daisy Brown along with their three children, James, Jr., Alice, and Dorothy, dwelled in at least one side of that double. The Browns were part of a small black settlement north of the Pennsylvania Rail line, east of Arlington Avenue, and south of East Washington Street. Mr. Brown was listed as a laborer. In the photograph, you can see a newly-laid stone path towards a gate opening into the empty acreage behind the Schweiters home. More information on the Schweiters family and their neighborhood will be forthcoming.

J.W. "Norbert" Schweiters posed in his backyard at 6076 Dewey Avenue in the summer of 1937. Behind him you can see a long forgotten barn in the acreage along the Pennsylvania Rail Line. To the left of the barn you can see the small double at 145-147 South Catherwood Avenue.

The land along the south side of the former Pennsylvania Rail Line east of Arlington Avenue remains largely undeveloped 2016.  

The historic image is courtesy of Deedee Davis. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Tribute to Thomas Richard Palmer 1921-2016

We have received word of the passing of Richard "Dick" Palmer. I never met Mr. Palmer, but I felt as if I knew him through the photographs and stories that he shared via his daughter Janet Chapman. Although his health was failing, he was still able to recall his life along North Audubon Road.  He spent his childhood and formative years in a charming stuccoed bungalow at 333 North Audubon Road. He was the only surviving child of Walter and Mary Fee Palmer.  Dick had many friends in the neighborhood and graduated from Arsenal Tech High School in 1939 and Miami University in Ohio in 1943. During World War II, he flew B-25 Mitchell aircraft and instructed others on how to fly the machine. He later married and started both a career and a family and only returned to Irvington to visit his parents. If we could travel back in time and walk along North Audubon Road in the late 1920s or early 1930s, we would likely see Dr. Walter Palmer coming home from his job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and we would likely see Mary Fee Palmer sitting on their long front porch watching their son play with his latest toy automobile or plane. Dick Palmer remained an enthusiast about autos and planes for the remainder of his life. Can you hear the laughter and shrieks from the other kids on the block? I can.

This post is dedicated to Thomas Richard Palmer. I am particularly grateful to Nancy Ostrander, who put me in touch with Janet Chapman. Mrs. Chapman scanned dozens of family photographs and interviewed her father so that I could publish his stories on this blog. To read more about the Palmers of Irvington click on the "Palmer" link below.

Mary Fee Palmer holds her son Dick in 1922 on the front porch of their brand new home at 333 North Audubon Road.

Dick Palmer graduated from Arsenal Technical High School in 1939 and Miami University in 1943.

Walter and Mary Fee Palmer raised their son Dick in this lovely home at 333 North Audubon Road. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Who Lived Here? The Whitney Family of Lowell Avenue

Karl G. and Ella "Gertrude" Potter Whitney moved into 5869 Lowell Avenue in 1920. They were not the first to dwell in the house as at least two other families predated them. Mr. Whitney was a business partner in the Irvington Hardware Store first located at 5505 East Washington Street and later at 5539 East Washington Street. The business was quite successful as the Indianapolis Star reported in 1925 that the partnership had assets of $20,000. In 1926, the forty-year-old businessman sat for a portrait for a book called Fellow Citizens of Indianapolis.  He and his partners eventually got out of the hardware business and by 1929 they sold life insurance. Mrs. Whitney stayed home and raised the couple's two children, Marian and Neil.  The couple continued to dwell in the house for the next thirty years. Their daughter, Marian and her husband John Church, resided in the abode well into the 1960s.

A member of the Whitney family dwelled at 5869 Lowell Avenue from 1920 until 1964.

In the late 1910s, Karl and Gertrude Whitney resided at 5866 Lowell Avenue. 

The Whitneys had been quite a fixture along Lowell Avenue as they first rented at 5866 Lowell Avenue in the late 1910s. Controversy enveloped the area in the spring of 1936 when a widow, Olive M. Ellis, petitioned the city of Indianapolis to remodel the small home at 60 North Campbell Avenue into a multi-unit apartment building. The Campbell Avenue home was just behind the Whitney property and the couple could not fathom the thought of so many people along the already crowded Campbell Avenue. In April of 1936, the Whitneys along with their neighbors, the Siegesmunds of 61 North Campbell Avenue; the Iversons of 44 North Campbell Avenue; the Johnsons of 5871 Lowell Avenue; the Schoens of 5901 Lowell Avenue, and the Jones family of 5865 Lowell Avenue filed a lawsuit with the Board of Zoning to stop Ms. Ellis from getting a variance. The neighbors' fears soon came to pass as Ms. Ellis did not follow through with her plan. She did not live in the neighborhood and later passed away in 1943. ( Indianapolis Star, January 28, 1936, 3; Indianapolis Star April 15, 1936, 24; Indianapolis Star, January 28, 1943, 3)

Scene of Controversy: In 1936, Olive Ellis sought to obtain a variance to expand the house at 60 North Campbell Avenue into a four-story apartment building. Neighbors fought her in court.