Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Stone House on the Corner

One of the most intriguing and unusual homes in Irvington is located at 380 South Emerson Avenue. Likely built in 1907 for Elmer and Luella Gay, the house appears to face Brookville Road, but has an Emerson Avenue address. Mr. Gay worked for the New York Store and Pettis Dry Goods. He was also involved in Republican party politics.  Mrs. Gay was an active club woman and helped to raise their two daughters, Dorothy and Hazel. The 1910 Federal Census reveals that the Gays also had an African-American servant named Kate Tarant living with them along with Mrs. Gay's mother, Ada Smith.

Little is known about the construction of the residence nor why the Gays chose fieldstone, but they did hail from Maine so perhaps they had been inspired by a house in that state. More investigative work will be needed on this topic.

The "Society" sections of the Indianapolis News and Indianapolis Star reveal that many events and meetings took place in the dwelling. On November 9, 1909, Mrs. Gay hosted the Irvington Tuesday Club and gave a speech on "The Development of the English Novel."  Her daughter, Dorothy, a student at Butler University, hosted a dance at the house on Christmas night, 1913, for the Butler football team and the Pi Beta Phi Sorority. The Indianapolis Star carried a lengthy description of the event. Forty guests attended and found a house decorated for the gala. Mrs. Gay placed clusters of poinsettias and Christmas candles throughout the living room and dining room. Holly dangled from archways and windows.  A small Christmas tree on a large table served as the centerpiece in the dining room. The Gays recruited several adult family members to serve as chaperones.

Perhaps one of the loveliest events to take place in the home occurred on the evening of February 2, 1918, with the wedding of Dorothy Gay to Lt. Clifford R. Wright. Mr. Wright was about to be deployed to Europe during World War One. The Reverend M.L. Haines, a Presbyterian minister, conducted the service.  The couple stood under an archway draped with an American flag as they spoke their vows. A violinist played "The Broken Melody" by August Van Biene and "Ave Maria" by Franz Schubert.  Miss Ruby Winders sang "Out of the Mist," while Miss Vera Sweetman played the piano. Guests sat near the fireplace festooned with palms, ferns, and greenery. Pink and white roses donned nearby tables and window ledges. It must have been a beautiful night.

Mr. Gay had a strong interest in Republican-party politics. He served twice on the Indianapolis Board of Pubic Safety. In 1929, seventeen prominent businessmen in the city endorsed him as a mayoral candidate although he later removed his name in favor of another candidate. In 1930, he was appointed to run the Indiana Masonic Home in Franklin. He had been an active Mason his entire adult life so at the age of 65, he took over the responsibility of running the home. He was a widower at that point in his life as Mrs. Gay had passed away in 1926. His daughter Hazel and her husband Justus Paul took over the responsibility for running the property at 380 South Emerson Avenue. They remained until 1932.  Mr. Gay died in Methodist Hospital in 1954.

Elmer Gay's photo appeared in the Indianapolis Star on November 20, 1909, after he was appointed to the Indianapolis Board of Public Safety by Mayor Lew Shanks

Elmer Gay in 1930

Hazel Gay's wedding announcement appeared in the Indianapolis Star on August 5, 1917. Her sister, Dorothy, married six months later.  

380 South Emerson Avenue in 2018

Sources:  "E.F. Gay Seeks Office of Mayor," Indianapolis Star, September 25, 1929, 1; "E.F. Gay on Board of Public Safety," Indianapolis Star, November 15, 1922, 1; "Elmer F. Gay Withdraws," Indianapolis Star, October 5, 1929, 1; "Gay Named Superintendent of Indiana Masonic Home," Indianapolis Star, July 8, 1930, 1; Elmer Gay Obituary, Indianapolis Star, November 27, 1954, 16; "Society" (Butler Dance) Indianapolis Star, December 26, 1913, 7; "Becomes Officer's Bride," Indianapolis Star. February 3, 1918, 28.

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