Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Withners of Arlington Avenue

As war raged in Europe, carpenters built the lovely American Foursquare at 26 North Arlington Avenue in the summer of 1915.  The box-shaped home had become very popular for early-twentieth century Hoosiers. Part of the Arts and Crafts movement, the dwellings were generally painted in earthy colors. Carl and Martha Withner, the first owners of the residence, followed the fashion of the time by painting the lower story a different hue from the upper story.  The Withners along with their two sons, Carl and John, lived in the lovely house for decades.  

Carl and Martha married on December 2, 1915, and moved into their brand new home shortly after the wedding. Newspaper accounts indicate that Mr. Withner was a very talented man who arrived in Indianapolis from Danville, Illinois. He appears to have loved tinkering with motorcycles and other machinery.  A practical man, he sold three of his beloved motorcycles so that he could afford to buy his beautiful bride a wedding ring. His first job became his forever job as he worked with the C.P. Lesh Paper Company.  The management soon surmised that he was gifted at building machines so he was soon promoted to a superintendency position.  His obituary indicates that he worked for the company for 43 years and was still working for them when he suddenly died in 1956. Neighbors must have enjoyed his talents as he was also an avid gardener. His son Carl inherited that same love.

Mrs. Withner was also extremely talented and extraordinarily busy. As a soprano, she was in high  demand to sing solos for numerous women's clubs in the neighborhood. She also acted in plays with the Irvington Players and sang in the choir for the Irvington Methodist Church. When she was not singing and raising her two sons, she was member of several clubs.  On April 2, 1927, she hosted sixty members of the Irvington Fortnightly Club in her house. Where did they all sit? She filled her residence with spring flowers. A guest speaker lectured the women on the phases of Applied Psychology. Mrs. Withner provided the music from "Arabian Nights." She also found time to serve as a scout leader and she volunteered in the PTO at her children's schools.  

Both Withner sons grew up in the house and later matriculated to the University Illinois and Wabash College.  Carl Jr., earned a doctorate from Yale University in botany.  On October 6, 1940, the Withners celebrated their twentieth-fifth anniversary in the residence. They held an informal gathering and invited friends and neighbors over for snacks. The Withners moved away from their beloved Foursquare in the early 1950s for a one-story ranch home on Epler Avenue in southern Marion County.  Mr. Withner passed away first.  Mrs. Withner died in 1966 at the age of 72. Several other families have since moved in and out of the Withner home. It still retains many features that were present during the Withner era although vinyl siding and shutters have since been added.  

The Withner family dwelled at 26 North Arlington Avenue from 1915 until the early 1950s.  The photo is undated but judging from the size of the trees, likely dates to the 1920s. (Photo courtesy of the Withner family via

Carl Withner, an avid gardener, might have loved the spruce that now grows in the front yard at 26 North Arlington Avenue. (Photo taken on February 3, 2018)

Carl and Martha Withner proudly posed with their son, Carl Jr.  The occasion was an orchid show in New York City.  Carl Jr, earned his Ph. D. in Botany from Yale University and was an expert on orchids.  (Photo courtesy of the Withner family via 

Sources:  Carl Withner Obituary, Indianapolis News, April 11, 1956, 6; Martha Withner Obituary, Indianapolis Star, October 14, 1966, 18; Irvington Club News involving Mrs. Withner:  Indianapolis News, April 2, 1927, 4; Indianapolis Star, October 5, 1928, 21; Indianapolis News, May 16, 1933, 10;  Indianapolis News, February 3, 1938;