Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Forsythes Move to Beechwood Avenue

Editorial Note:  Much of the information for this post is courtesy of Suzette (Becker) Hagan, whose grandparents used to dwell at 5621 Beechwood Avenue. She began to wonder as to who else might have lived in the beautiful home. Her research led her to many newspaper clippings and even to the granddaughters of the Forsythe family. I am indebted to her for her kindness and generosity in sharing her copious notes and collections. I also wish to thank Nancy Allen and Charlotte Whitt, the granddaughters of William and Sarah Forsythe.  

William G. and Sarah E. Harris Forsythe moved into their stunning newly-built home at 5621 Beechwood Avenue in early September of 1911.  Designed with both Tudor and Arts and Crafts influences, the residence was the first to be erected between Audubon Road and Burgess Avenue. Although not confirmed, Charles Byfield was likely the architect of the house. He designed a similar residence in northern Indianapolis.

The large residence with its spacious rooms, hardwood floors, beamed ceilings, a gorgeous staircase, and a substantial fireplace, must have seemed like a dream to the Forsythes. Mr. Forsythe worked as a railway mail clerk and Mrs. Forsythe stayed at home to tend to the couple's three children, Helen, Marjorie, and William, Jr. Mr. Forsythe should not be confused with the artist William Forsyth, who lived at East Washington Street and Emerson Avenue.

To celebrate their fifteenth wedding anniversary in December of 1911, the Forsythes invited many friends over to play "500."  They had to set up ten tables for the event. The couple decorated the rooms with holly and trimmed the fireplace with branches of the Christmas Berry. They received several gifts that night, but one was very special. Howard Chandler Christy, a prominent artist and cousin to Mr. Forsythe, sent a beautiful piece of crystal. The artist would later go on to paint portraits of Presidents and other important world leaders.

The Forsythe children had a beautiful space in which to play as the house, during their tenure, sat on a large lot with no immediate neighbors. Across the street and to the west, they could see the older homes nearby along Burgess Avenue. Helen, the oldest child, graduated from Shortridge High School while living in the house. Her marriage to Clarence Volz on November 10, 1917, made the society pages of the local Indianapolis newspapers.

The wedding surely must have been one of the prettiest in the city. The couple decided that there could be no more of a finer location in which to be married than in the gorgeous Forsythe home. As the guests took their seats in the living room, Mrs. Marie Dawson Morrell played beautiful pieces on her violin while Mrs. Franc Willhite Webber strummed the harp. Mr. Forsythe walked his beautiful daughter to an altar near the fireplace. As it was in November, the family filled with the rooms "countless" chrysanthemums. In front of the fireplace, a florist placed tall ferns and pretty vines over lattice work. The future Mrs. Volz wore a beautiful white satin gown with a satin bodice and a long train draped from her shoulders. Her veil was arranged with pearls and she held a bouquet of lily of the valleys. The Reverend Lewis Brown of St. Paul's Episcopal Church administered the vows. After their wedding, the newlyweds honeymooned in Chicago. Their time together, however, would have to wait as World War One raged in Europe. Mr. Volz departed for France shortly after their lovely evening on Beechwood Avenue. Helen Volz lived with her parents in the Beechwood house until his return.

The Forsythes resided in the home for eight years before moving to a smaller place on Oak Avenue in 1919. The family continued to dwell in Irvington for many more decades. To see more historic photographs of this house click on the "Forsythe Family" link below.

5621 Beechwood Avenue on March 4, 2019 (photo by Bill Gulde)

The Forsythe family was the first to call 5621 Beechwood Avenue "home." They moved into the house in early September in 1911.  This photo was likely taken in 1912. (photo courtesy of Nancy Allen and Charlotte Whitt)

Sarah Harris Forsythe, the matriarch of the family, posed for this photo next to her home at 5621 Beechwood Avenue in 1915. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Allen and Charlotte Whitt)

William Grant Forsythe of Zanesville, Ohio posed for this photo on November 7, 1898. He later became a railway clerk and married Sarah Harris. The couple moved into 5621 Beechwood Avenue in 1911. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Allen and Charlotte Whitt) 

Sarah Harris Forsythe stood on her drive  at 5621 Beechwood Avenue likely in 1914. Behind her, you can see the tall Queen Ann styled home at 336 Burgess Avenue. (Image courtesy of Nancy Allen and Charlotte Whitt)

Sarah Harris Forsythe posed with her children, Helen, Bill, and Marjorie 1909. Two years later, they moved into 5621 Beechwood Avenue. (Image courtesy of Nancy Allen and Charlotte Whitt)

Marjorie and Bill Forsythe posed on the front porch stoop at 5621 Beechwood Avenue in 1913. (Image courtesy of Nancy Allen and Charlotte Whitt)

Marjorie and Bill Forsythe posed for this photo in 1913 perhaps on the Forsythe property at 5621 Beechwood Avenue. (Image courtesy of Nancy Allen and Charlotte Whitt)

5621 Beechwood Avenue on March 4, 2019 (photo by Bill Gulde)

Sources: Newspaper Clippings from the Suzette Hagan Collection; Wedding Anniversary-"Society," Indianapolis Star, December 27, 1911; Wedding--"Beautiful Wedding is Solemnized at Home in Irvington," Indianapolis Star, November 11, 1917. Interview with Nancy Allen and Charlotte Whitt, 2019 by Suzette Hagan.


  1. the becker family lived here during the 80's.

  2. A Becker family member still owns the house today and is restoring it! We have posted much about the Beckers on here so check out the "Forsythe" family link to see other posts about this property. Enjoy!