Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Who Lived Here? The Holmes Family of Ritter Avenue

Dr. Frank A. and Zedia Holmes purchased the seven-year-old Dutch Colonial Revival home at 25 North Ritter Avenue in 1917. World War One interrupted the couple's lives as Dr. Holmes became a captain in a dental brigade during that conflict. Mrs. Holmes remained along Ritter Avenue with their daughter Evalyn Virginia Holmes. After the war, Dr. Holmes returned to Irvington where he did not appear to practice dentistry but instead went into the insurance business and also became a U.S. marshal.  He did eventually open a family dentistry business. The couple attended the nearby Irvington Methodist Church and remained in the house until 1956.

In 1926, Dr. Holmes submitted this photograph for a publication titled Fellow Citizens of Indianapolis.  The book was filled with such men and some women who hoped that they might acquire clients or customers. At this juncture in his life, he worked for an insurance company although he later worked as a promoter for the Riverside Amusement Park on West 30th Street.

Toward the end of their lives, the couple moved into a larger and more modern home on the north side of Indianapolis. Dr. Holmes died in 1962 while Mrs. Holmes passed away in 1963.

25 North Ritter Avenue in 2016
Source:  "Dr. Holmes Dies; Retired Dentist," Indianapolis Star, February 4, 1962, 40.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Breaking History News--Moore's Hall Foundation Uncovered!

While digging a trench for redeveloping the northwest corner of South Audubon Road and Bonna Avenue, excavators have unearthed the former foundation and brick basement wall for Moore's Hall. Built in the 1890s, the three-story building housed a grocery store, a drug store, a fraternity chapter, the Knights of Pythias, a ballroom, and a few apartments.  Developed by Robert E. Moore, who dwelled next door at 116 South Audubon Road, the structure was torn down in 1937.

Moore's Hall at 130-32 South Audubon Road in 1898 (Courtesy of the Indiana Woman Supplement via the Irvington Historical Society) It was the tallest building in Irvington. 

The brick foundation to Moore's Hall under a parking lot in 2016

In 1972, the site was redeveloped into a laundromat and other shops. In 2016, the strip is being remodeled for a farm to table restaurant, a market, and a pub.  The house (116 South Audubon Road) in the photo belonged to Robert and Mary Moore. in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.   
City directories and an aerial photo revealed that Moore's Hall was gone by 1937. To see the aerial photo, click on the following link: 

Monday, June 13, 2016

East Washington Street Then and Now

Sometime in the spring of 1941, Barbara Jones who dwelled at 273 South Ritter Avenue, snapped this photo of her friends Louise and Carol.  We do not know their last names so if anyone recognizes these young ladies then drop me a note. Behind the girls, you can see the doubles at 5132-34 and 5136-38 East Washington Street.  Beyond the doubles, you can get a view of the Victoria Apartments located at 5124 East Washington Street. Little has changed with the two doubles seventy-five years after this photo was snapped. Louise and Carol would have no difficulty recognizing their former neighborhood.

Young ladies identified as "Louise" and "Carol" stand in the 5100 block of East Washington Street in 1941.  

The doubles at 5132-34 and 5136-38 East Washington Street in 2016  
The historic image is courtesy of the Jones Family collection.  

Monday, June 6, 2016

Lost Irvington: Downey Avenue Homes

Like many folks after a beautiful snowfall, Dick and Mildred Palmer grabbed their camera in the winter of 1947 to document the lovely moment. The couple resided in a small apartment at 55 South Downey Avenue along with their first child, Janet. Either Mr. or Mrs. Palmer snapped this photo most likely from a second story window. While they knew they were documenting a wintry scene, they had no idea at the time of course, that they were also capturing images of two Irvington homes that have been gone for many years.

The most visible home in the photo is that of 52  South Downey Avenue.  The unusual dwelling hosted some important Indianapolis residents over the years. City directories indicate that the home was built in 1901 for Amos and Mary Reynolds Butler and their five children. Mr. Butler was the Secretary to the Indiana Board of Charities. He was an avid birder and the local chapter of the Audubon Society would be named for him. He was also caught up, like many in his generation, in the eugenics movement. A trained scientist, Butler embraced the view at the time that some people were defective or "degenerate." His position with the Charity Board gave him great power. He believed that people labeled as "feebleminded" must not be allowed to marry or procreate.  Butler was a proponent of Indiana laws that called for the sterilization of women who might have mental illnesses, epilepsy, or mental deficiencies. Hundreds of Hoosier women in the twentieth century were forcibly sterilized. Butler played a strong role in that movement.  

As Mr. and Mrs. Butler began to age and their children started to move away, they started to lease part of their home. Throughout the 1920s, Merritt and Ann Harrison along with their daughter resided in part of the dwelling. Mr. Harrison was a skilled architect and actually designed the "new" Irvington Presbyterian Church in 1927 while living at 52 South Downey Avenue.  Others who dwelled in the home included the Linton, Parsons, and Blaase families. The house was torn down in 1958 to make room for a playground for the Our Lady of Lourdes School.  

The other home visible in the photo was of 28 South Downey Avenue. It was built in 1893 for David K. and Mary Carver. The couple moved to Irvington from Anderson. Mr. Carver, a veteran of the Civil War, had the distinction of being the first Republican ever elected in Madison County, Indiana. He served as sheriff in Anderson for a couple of terms. Mrs. Carver, while dwelling in Irvington, was an active club woman. Both spent the remainder of their lives in the home. They frequently leased rooms to various boarders. In the 1920s, the Marsh family resided in the home. Robert I. Marsh was an attorney for D. C. Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of Ku Klux Klan in Indiana. To learn more about his role in that episode of history, click on the Marsh family link below.  For most of its tenure, the large old home served as the convent for the Sisters of St. Francis, who taught at the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. The house was torn down in 2001 to make room for an addition to the Our Lady of Lourdes School. 

Today, on the former site of the Butler and Carver homes, children play kickball and attend classes at the nearby Catholic school. Most neighbors have forgotten the Butler home and soon the Carver residence/Convent shall also fade from memory. 

52 and 28 South Downey Avenue in 1947 (photo courtesy of Dick Palmer and Janet Chapman)

Amos Butler moved into 52 South Downey Avenue in 1901.(image courtesy of Butler family via

David Carver moved into 28 South Downey Avenue in 1893.  (image courtesy of Carver family via
To learn more about the role of Amos Butler in the eugenics movement read Robert Osgood's article in the Indiana Magazine of History titled, "The Menace of the Feebleminded: George Bliss, Amos Butler, and the Indiana Committee on Mental Defectives." (vol. 97, Issue 4, 253-77)  Information for the Carvers came from "David Carver Funeral to be at Home," Indianapolis News, May 20, 1915, 5; "Mrs. Mary Carver Dead," Indianapolis News, March 30, 1918, 13.  Dick Palmer and Janet Chapman provided the original historic photo for this story.