Monday, December 31, 2018

In the Shade of the Kile Oak

In the Shade of the Kile Oak

By RoseAnn O'Connor Linder

Editor's Note: I am particularly indebted to RoseAnn O'Connor Linder for her stories and photos about life along Beechwood Avenue. She has captured a snapshot in time. Neighbors along this street will be very interested to read about the folks who used to reside here. 

The O'Connors moved into 5956 Beechwood Avenue in 1946. In 1950, they posed on their front porch to mark the first communion for RoseAnn O'Connor. Pictured: (top) John and Della Wheat O'Connor; (bottom) RoseAnn and Jeanne O'Connor (photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)

My name is RoseAnn O'Connor Linder and I was asked to write about growing up in Irvington in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. I was born on July 27, 1944, to John and Della Wheat O'Connor. I first went home to live at 2143 North Alabama Street with my sister Jeanne, who was four years older, and several of my aunts and uncles. 

In the spring of 1946, my parents bought a small white frame house at 5956 Beechwood Avenue across from Miss Mae Kile and her now famous oak tree. Miss Kile was an "elderly" lady by then in her 70s, the same age I am now. She was living in the house her father had built at 5939 Beechwood Avenue. Her home had no electricity, indoor plumbing, central heating, or a telephone. Her outhouse was a frequent target for teenaged boys around Halloween. She cooked with a wood or coal stove. It seemed her yard held every species of tree native to Indiana. Elementary children in the third grade at School #85 toured her yard every year to collect leaves for a school project. At the time of her death, there were only great nieces and nephews living in California. The family held an auction and my mother purchased what is known as a Martha Washington Sewing Cabinet, which I still have. The house was eventually torn down and now her property is a pocket park.

The Kile Home as it appeared in the early 1970s (photo courtesy of Chuck McCleery)
Mae Kile was not the only "eccentric" elderly lady living in the neighborhood. Miss Lucille Morehouse lived next door at 5958 Beechwood Avenue. She wrote for the Indianapolis Star. She kept a copy of every newspaper in which her column appeared--not just the column, but the entire newspaper!

On the west side of us, lived the Justice family at 5952 Beechwood Avenue. Earl and Betty Justice had two boys, Mike and Johnny. Our two houses had been built at the same time by the same builder so we shared a cinder driveway. I still have a few specks on my left knee from a nasty fall on that driveway. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, an older couple with no children, lived at 5948 Beechwood Avenue. Ruby Gray lived at 5940 Beechwood Avenue and the Ruedlingers, who had several children our age, resided at 5936 Beechwood Avenue. Across the street, the Wolven family lived at 5959 Beechwood Avenue. They had a daughter named Rosalie, who was the same age as my sister Jeanne. The older Wolven boys helped their father with his hauling business. Their grandmother lived in a little house behind the main house. Directly across from us at 5949 Beechwood was Beatrice Wilson and two other maiden ladies, all retired school teachers. This large two-story house had columns and was surrounded by a picket fence. When the last of those ladies died, the Boerger family bought it. They had two children our ages named Jeff and Joanie.

John, Della, and RoseAnn O'Connor posed after a snowstorm in 1957. Behind them, you can see the bungalows at 5952 and 5948 Beechwood Avenue. (photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)

Beatrice Wilson and retired school teachers lived in this large house at 5949 Beechwood Avenue in the 1940s. Later the Boergers and McCleerys resided here. In the winter of 1957, a member of the McCleery family snapped this beautiful photograph. (photo courtesy of Chuck McCleery)  

RoseAnn and Jeanne O'Connor posed after a winter storm in front of their childhood home at 5956 Beechwood Avenue in 1957 (Photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)

Jerrilyn Sherrard and RoseAnn O'Connor posed in the backyard of the Sherrard home at 388 South Arlington Avenue. The backyards of the two girls abutted so it was easy to gather to play. The photo was likely snapped in either 1950 or 1951. (Photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)

"Trouble Looking for a Place to Happen:" The Beechwood crew gathered on the steps of the O'Connor home at 5956 Beechwood Avenue in 1947. Pictured--Top: Mike Justice, Jeanne O'Connor; Middle: Judy Orr, Bea Ruedlinger, Rose Mary Zimmerman; Bottom Row: RoseAnn O'Connor, Leonard Ruedlinger, and Joanne Zimmerman. The Zimmerman children lived on Rawles Avenue behind the Kile home. (Photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)
My father, John O'Connor, was an accountant for the Potter Material Services from 1951 to 1959. He left to become the chief deputy for David Finney in the Marion County Assessor's Office from 1959 through 1963. He was active with the Democratic Party as a precinct committeeman. I remember going door to door with him to register new voters.  He later worked as an auditor for the Indianapolis Housing Authority until the time of his death on January 29, 1967, at the age of 52. My mother, Della Wheat O'Connor, was housewife. She was a fantastic cook, an amazing seamstress, and she served as a Brownie and Girl Scout leader for both Jeanne and I. 

We did most of our grocery shopping at the Regal Store on South Audubon Road. The Omar man delivered bread and other baked goods to our home while a milkman from Polk's delivered dairy products. I still have the tall green iced tea glasses that the cottage cheese came in. Across the street at Miss Kile's house, the iceman delivered large chunks of ice for her icebox in a horse-drawn wagon with leather curtains and later in a motorized pick-up truck. In those days, the iceman would give the children chips of ice. We used to wait for him just as we did the ice cream man.

We did not have a car for much my pre-high school childhood so we walked or rode the bus. We ran the wheels off of our red wagon as we used it so often. One year, the Boy Scouts sold Christmas trees at School #85 just north of us, so we brought the tree home in the wagon. Downtown Irvington was thriving during my childhood. We had a bank, two drugstores, two hardware stores, a movie theater, an appliance store, Chailles Shoe Store, a bookstore where I bought my Nancy Drew books, and a bridal shop where I later paid $50 for my wedding dress. 

Jeanne and I both attended Our Lady Lourdes and Scecina High School. I remember when they tore down the old grade school in the spring of 1958 and replaced it with a modern building. I graduated from high school in 1962.

In the summer of 1957, several friends gathered on the front lawn of the O'Connor home at 5956 Beechwood Avenue. Pictured: (Top) Carol Biemer; (Middle) Carolyn Koesters, Barb Strange, Kathy McCoy; (Front) Jeanne O'Connor (Photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)

Members of the KEZ club from Scecina High School gathered in Jeanne O'Conner's living room at Christmas time in 1956. RoseAnn Linder reports that the lamp on the table near the window was a wedding gift for her parents. Mrs. Linder still possesses that lamp. Pictured: (back) Carol Biemer, Jeanne O'Connor; (middle) Carolyn Koesters, Sussanne Dufour, Janice Meyer; (front) Barb Strange (Photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)

Tragedy struck our family on October 21, 1957. Jeanne had gone to work at Woolworth's Store in the new Eastgate Mall. We had a car by that time and Daddy usually picked her up after work, but this was a Monday so he was at the Knights of Columbus meeting. On these occasions, Mom and I would walk up Arlington Avenue to meet her at Washington Street as she got off the bus. We met up and as we were nearing our home, a drunk driver on Arlington Avenue lost control of his car, jumped the curb, and struck us. Jeanne was dead at the scene. I was unconscious and Mom nearly out of her mind. It was two days after Jeanne's 17th birthday. She was a senior at Scecina High School and would have graduated in 1958. I was 13 at the time. 

During my junior year in high school, Mom announced that she was pregnant. My little sister, Cathy, was born on January 18, 1961. What a delight she has been in my life. She lived a very different childhood from mine. Most of the old neighbors had been replaced except for Miss Kile, who had become more reclusive. When Cathy was six, Daddy died. Mom did a fantastic job of raising her. Mom sold our house in the mid-1980s and died on November 13, 2001.  

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Graham Avenue in the 1920s

The first folks who moved along the 700 block of Graham Avenue must have felt like they moved into the country. Farm land still existed all around them as developers took advantage of the "roaring" economy to build homes in the area. Sometime in 1923 or 1924, Walter Jenney stood atop a hill on his property at 5702 Pleasant Run Parkway and took a photograph facing eastward. Not one home had yet been built in the 700 block of North Audubon Road. Four houses can been seen on Graham Avenue and one on Pleasant Run Parkway. At the far left in the photo, you can see the rear stuccoed bungalow at 750 North Audubon Road. Across the the street, you can see the lovely residence at 747 North Audubon Road. In the middle of the photo, you can see the front of 731 North Audubon Road and the rear of 734 North Audubon Road. At the far right, the rear of 5744 East Pleasant Run Parkway is visible. By the end of the decade, the entire area would be developed with only a few lots open for later construction. Some of the earliest families to dwell along Graham Avenue in the 1920s included the Wrights, Steinbuchs, the Flowers, and the Carsons. To see aerial photos of this part of the neighborhood click on the "aerial" tab below.

Few houses had yet been built in the 700 block of North Graham Avenue in 1923 or 1924 when this photo was snapped by Walter Jenney. In  the photo, you can see 750.747, 734, and 731 North Graham Avenue as well as the rear of 5744 East Pleasant Run Parkway. Audubon Road was a mere path behind the fence line in the middle of the photo and near a clump of trees.  (Photo courtesy of Ann Schmidt Brown)

750 North Graham Avenue in 2018: You can see the rear of this home in the historic photograph.

747 North Graham Avenue (photo taken in 2014)

734 North Graham Avenue: You can see the rear of this home in the historic photograph. (Image taken in 2014)

731 North Graham Avenue (Image taken in 2014)

5744 East Pleasant Run Parkway (Image taken in 2014)
Editor's Note: Narrowing down a date for the historic photo has been tricky. Since none of the houses along Audubon would be constructed until 1925, Mr. Jenney likely took the photo either in 1923 or 1924. The city directories offer some confusing options as some of the addresses do not match. Clearly more research will be needed to be more precise. I am particularly indebted to Todd Cloud, Ann Schmidt Brown, and Chris and Felicia Sears.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Jenneys Built a Dream Home On a Bluff Above Pleasant Run Stream--1922

Walter and Alice Jenney purchased several lots from developer Arthur V. Brown near what would become Pleasant Run Parkway in 1911. They paid Mr. Brown the sizable sum of $6000 for the land. At the time, the Jenneys lived at 350 North Whittier Place with a view of Ellenberger Woods. Their new plot of land was north of the Pleasant Run Stream and east of Ritter Avenue. George Kessler, the noted landscape architect, designed the new boulevard that was soon to be expanded from Ritter Avenue to Arlington Avenue. Arthur V. Brown had already donated about six acres along both sides of the stream for a public green space.

Mr. Jenney held many jobs over the years as he was a salesman and an entrepreneur. His family moved to Irvington when he was young and he made headlines in 1895 when he and another Irvington child found some of the charred remains of Howard Pitezel, a victim of the serial killer H.H. Holmes. As a young man, he worked for his uncle Charles E. Jenney, who owned the Jenney Electric Company. Walter Jenney later struck out on his own as an advertising agent for the New York Store and for the Indianapolis Star  and News. After buying land from Mr. Brown in the Ellenberger Park Addition, Mr. Jenney opened a nursery where he sold peonies, lilacs, roses, and other beautiful specimens. The Irvington North Garden Historic District received its National Register name because of Mr. Jenney's beautiful nursery located near St. Clair Street and Lesley Avenue.

The land that the Jenney's purchased contained an older farmhouse, some outbuildings, and a windmill. Little is known about the original farmers who used to live in the house, but the historic residence still stands at 5665 East St. Clair Street. Mr. Jenney operated his nursery out of the house. Alice Jenney was involved in various Irvington clubs and taught Sunday School at the Irvington Methodist for 50 years. Amazingly, she would live to be 101 years old. She outlived her husband by 33 years. Her brother, Arthur J. Randall, and sister-in-law, Anna Hayes Randall, purchased land and built a home at 5660 East St. Clair Street. The siblings lived across the street from each other for decades.

Alice Randall Jenney stood on the site of her future home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway (later 5701 E. St. Clair Street) in 1912. The couple would not start construction of their new residence until 1922.  (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

Walter and Alice Jenney purchased land from a developer named Arthur V. Brown in 1911. They bought the farmhouse and and the adjacent bluff for a future home. Pleasant Run Parkway had not yet been constructed when this photo was snapped in 1911. (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown) 

Walter Jenney snapped this beautiful photo in 1912 on the site of his future home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway. (Photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

The North Irvington Garden Historic District used to be a farm. In 1911, Walter Jenney snapped this image eastward from his property at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway. The future 700 blocks of Audubon Road, Graham, Bolton, Campbell, and Arlington Avenues had yet to be developed. (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

Alice Randall Jenney stood in the nursery and near the site of her future home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway. Her husband, Walter Jenney, had opened the business in the farmhouse (not visible) at 5665 East St. Clair Street. His peonies won many prizes. Mr. Jenney, the photographer, faced eastward for this photograph. Note the windmill and the water tower. The photo was likely taken in 1914. (photo courtesy of Chris and Felicia Sears and Ann Schmidt Brown)

In this undated photograph, you can see that Pleasant Run Parkway is under construction. (c1912) The house that is visible in the image is the farmhouse that still stands at 5665 East St. Clair Street. (photo courtesy of Chris and Felicia Sears and Ann Schmidt Brown)

The old farmhouse at 5665 East St. Clair Street in 2018.

Walter Jenney operated a nursery out of the farmhouse at 5665 East St. Clair Street (Indianapolis Star, October 1, 1920)

It took some time, but eventually the Jenneys began construction of their dream home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway (also known as 5700) in the summer of 1922. They chose to site the home on a bluff facing southward towards Irvington. Mr. Jenney designed the home while O. E. Pike served as the general contractor. An Indianapolis Star article profiled the new home on November 12, 1922. To get to the property, one entered from Pleasant Run Parkway, crossed over a stone bridge, and then up a steep and winding drive. Once at the top of the hill, a lovely "colonial" stuccoed home awaited visitors. Mr. Jenney designed a long living room across the entire front of the home complete with a mahogany fireplace and beautiful oak floors. Mr. Pike installed an heirloom buffet into the dining room. The Jenneys could sit in a beautiful side porch and gaze across the tree tops that grew along the stream below. The stunning location must have been a beautiful place to live in all seasons. For many years, the old windmill still stood near the dining room window.

Numerous other families have called this beautiful place "home." Their stories should be told as well. I am particularly grateful to Ann Schmidt Brown, whose family lived here for much of the mid and late twentieth century. Todd Cloud and Chris and Felicia Sears have also been instrumental in providing information for this post. I wish to thank them all. At some point, Mr. Jenney gave a scrapbook full of photos to the Schmidt family. I was able to publish these photos due to the generosity of the Schmidts. More photos will be forthcoming so stay tuned!

Walter Jenney originally designed his future home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway with a veranda around the house. He later modified his design. In this photo, he superimposed his original vision on a photograph in 1922. (image courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

Alice Randall Jenney sat on the front porch of her new home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway (later 5701 East St. Clair Street) in 1922. (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

Walter Jenney snapped this photograph in 1922 as he faced westward. (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown) 

Mr. Jenney's peonies bloomed in the spring of 1923. Behind the garden, you can see the Jenney home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway. (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

The Jenney home and property at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway shortly after it was built in the winter of 1922 (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

5701 East St. Clair Street (formerly 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway) in 2018

Indianapolis Star, September 14, 1944, 5

Editor's note: During the Schmidt-era of the home, the city changed the address of the house from 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway to 5701 East St. Clair Street.

Sources: About the house--"Stucco Attractive Finish for Homes," Indianapolis Star, November 12, 1922, 61; Obituary for Walter E. Jenney, Indianapolis Star, September 14, 1944, 5; Obituary for Alice Randall Jenney, Indianapolis News, February 5, 1977, 13; About Howard Pitezel--"This Reminds Me," Indianapolis Star, March 10, 1951, 31; Arthur Brown donation--"Gives City Six Acres," Indianapolis News, July 28, 1911, 16. Interview with Ann Schmidt Brown, December 2, 2018; Interview with Chris and Felicia Sears, December 8, 2018.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Randall Home in 1915 and in 2018

Arthur J. and Anna Hayes Randall moved into their beautiful new home at 5660 East St. Clair Street in 1915. They had purchased land in the summer of 1914 from Arthur V. Brown, a banker who owned many acres in the area. They paid Mr. Brown $3000 for lots 101, 107, and 110 at the northwest corner of Lesley Avenue and St. Clair Street. Mr. Randall was a successful printer. Mrs. Randall stayed home and raised the couple's three children, Ruth, Margaret, and Ralph. She was also very involved in the Expression Club, the Irvington Mothers' Study Club, and the Irvington Methodist Church. The historic photo was likely taken by her brother, Walter Jenney, who owned  land and a nursery across the street. He, too, bought plots from Arthur V. Brown and eventually built a bungalow across from his sister.

Walter Jenney sold peonies, lilacs, and other beautiful specimens from his land in the 5700 block of East St. Clair Street. He would later build a house on his property. In 1915, prior to any construction, he snapped this photograph of his brother and sister-in-law's home across the street. Arthur and Anna Randall had just moved into 5660 East St. Clair Street in 1915 when this image was taken. Note Mr. Jenney's beautiful peonies in the foreground. 

5660 East St. Clair Street in 2018

Arthur Randall, of 5660 East St. Clair Street was in the printing business for decades. This ad appeared in the Indianapolis Star on May 30, 1924. 

This photo was taken a few years before Arthur Randall's death in 1950. The family used the image for his obituary which appeared in the Indianapolis Star on November 5, 1950. 

On December 28, 1924, this photo of Arthur J. Randall appeared in the Indianapolis Star. The newspaper had published a story on his printing business. 

Anna Hayes Randall as she appeared in the Indianapolis Star on June 3, 1934: Mrs. Randall dwelled for many years with her husband and family at 5660 East St. Clair Street. 

The Randalls of 5660 East St. Clair Street had three children. In 1937, their daughter Margaret married E. Blair Harter. (Indianapolis Star, March 7, 1937)
The author wishes to thank Ann Schmidt Brown, Todd Cloud, Chris Sears and Felicia Sears for stories and information for this post. More information will be forthcoming about this area of Irvington.

Sources:  The Randall purchase of land--Indianapolis Star, July 21, 1914; Obituary of Arthur Randall, Indianapolis Star, September 5, 1950

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Layman Mansion Visible Behind Sweet Girls--1927

Another image of the Layman Mansion has surfaced from the photo collection of Nancy Ostrander. In 1927, Eva Ham and Nancy Ostrander posed for this photo just south of the Audubon Court Apartments. Behind the girls, you can see part of the north side of the Layman home at 29 South Audubon Road. The house was later bulldozed in the early 1950s to make way for the Saxony Apartments. The gorgeous home was actually built for Jacob Julian, a founder of Irvington in 1870. The Laymans moved into the residence in 1887 and still lived in the house when little Eva and Nancy sat for this picture. To learn more about the Layman or Ostrander families, click on the links below.

Eva Ham and Nancy Ostrander were cousins and grew up together in the same house at 323 North Audubon Road. In 1927, they sat for this photo near the Layman home at 29 South Audubon Road. The girls dwelled in the nearby Audubon Court Apartments before moving three blocks north. (Image courtesy of Nancy Ostrander)

The gorgeous home belonging the the Julian and Layman families was  likely designed by architect Isaac Taylor in 1870. Jacob Julian was a founder of Irvington.  The Layman family moved into the residence in 1887 and remained until the 1950s. (image courtesy of Isabelle Layman Troyer)