Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on WICR 88.7 FM.

And always online at hoosierhistorylive.org!

You can listen to Hoosier History Live! live on the air each Saturday, or listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast on any computer with speakers, anywhere, or on a smartphone. We invite you to visit our website!


April 16 show

Library history in Indy


The cornerstone for Indianapolis’ Central Library is laid in 1915.Chapter One was rather meager. It began in 1873 in a wing of a former private residence that also housed the public high school (a forerunner of Shortridge High School) in Indianapolis. By the late 1890s, though, several branches had opened of what today is the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library.


For many years, the most popular branch in the system was the Haughville Branch, which served a large immigrant population that settled around the nearby Kingan & Company pork processing plant. Central Library, which opened in 1917, was designed by French architect Paul Phillipe Cret, who, according to folklore, even touched up his sketches in the foxholes of World War I while fighting on behalf of his homeland.


To explore these and other intriguing details about library history in the Hoosier capital, Nelson will be joined in studio by S.L. (Skip) Berry, the author of Stacks: A History of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, and Christopher Marshall, the team leader of the Nina Mason Pulliam Indianapolis-Special Indianapolis-Special Collections Room at Central Library.


A construction photograph from 1916 shows Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. “Even the masons are wearing white shirts and ties with their aprons,” notes Stacks author S.L. Berry. Image from the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library archives.Funded by private donations from the IMCPL Foundation, Stacks describes the ever-evolving relationship between the library system and the community for nearly 140 years. According to Skip, the former visual arts writer for The Indianapolis Star (and a Hoosier History Live! guest two years ago in connection with his pop history of the Indianapolis Museum of Art), the first director of the library was hired, fired, re-hired and then re-fired. The saga extended from the 1870s through 1892. His difficulties apparently involved an inability to compromise with the local school board, which then oversaw the library system.


Some fun facts:

  • The dedication of Central Library was Oct. 7, 1917, the birthday of James Whitcomb Riley. The famous poet had died the previous year. Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair, sits on land donated by Riley.
  • Paul Cret, the French architect who designed Central Library, wasn't present for the construction or opening of Central Library because of his World War I service in the French army. During the war - while "blue penciling" his designs in the trenches - he also served as an interpreter for Gen. John Pershing, who headed the U.S. forces in Europe.
  • Book cover of Stacks: A History of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, by S.L. Berry.Cret returned from World War I to enjoy a distinguished career. He designed the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. Today, the original portion of Central Library is known as the "Cret Building" as a tribute to the architect. Built of Indiana limestone, the Cret Building was designed in Greek Doric style.
  • The Nora Branch sits on land at 86th Street and Guilford Avenue donated in the 1960s by the late Harrison Eiteljorg and his wife. Eiteljorg, of course, is primarily remembered for creating the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.
  • In addition to library history written by Skip, Stacks includes contributions from local architectural historian Mary Ellen Gadski. Stacks is available for purchase from the IMCPL Foundation; call (317) 275-4700.


Roadtrip: Indiana Landmarks' Wondrous Opening Weekend


Logo for Indiana Landmarks Wondrous Opening Weekend.Chris Gahl of the ICVA will suggest that we take the Roadtrip to the much-awaited Wondrous Opening Weekend of the restored former Central Avenue Methodist Church at 12th Street and Central Avenue in downtown Indianapolis, which can be seen on the north side of I-70 in downtown Indianapolis. All of the excitement takes place this weekend, April 16 and 17, to celebrate the opening of the new Indiana Landmarks headquarters.


Exterior view of the new Indiana Landmarks Center, located at Central Avenue and 12th Street in downtown Indianapolis.The gala celebration on April 16, which includes a John Mellencamp performance, has been sold out, but there is a free Open House for all on Sunday, April 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. that includes music, family activities and free admission to the Morris-Butler House next door. Then there's a Classical Bash on Sunday evening for $75 per person with Grammy Award-winning singer Sylvia McNair, followed by a "Taste of Indiana Landmarks Center." Ticket  information is available.


History Mystery question


Spades Park Library opened in 1912 on the near-Eastside of Indianapolis. It's known as a "Carnegie Library" because the Spades Park branch, along with many counterparts across the country, was constructed with a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. Spades Park Branch library is on the eastside of Indianapolis.In addition to Spades Park, one other branch library in the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library system is a historic Carnegie Library."


Question: Name the branch library.


To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not call until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air. Please do not call if you have won a prize from any WICR show during the last two months. The prize is two "Original" hamburgers at Johnny Rockets in Circle Centre mall in downtown Indianapolis, and two tickets to Morty's Comedy Joint on the northeastside of Indianapolis, all courtesy of the ICVA.


Your Hoosier History Live! team,


Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Chris Gahl, Roadtripper
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director


Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant

Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, grant consultants




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Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support: A Progressive Journey through Indiana History, Indiana Historical Society, Indiana Authors Award, Lucas Oil and Story Inn.


Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Chelsea Niccum and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorships, grants and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially.


We need your support

It's pledge drive time, but please read our fine print below!


With several public radio stations in pledge this week, we remind you that Hoosier History Live!  is independently produced and is responsible for its own fund raising.  Although we very much appreciate WICR and UIndy broadcasting our show, we are a separate organization and do not receive funding from them.


We thank Louellen Test Hesse, Patricia Rooney, Loretta and Reid Duffy, Jennifer Smith, Barb and Steve Tegarden, Theresa and David Berghoff, The Fadely Trust - a fund of the Indianapolis Foundation, Gretchen Wolfram, Richard Vonnegut, Don Gorney, Ellen Lee, Joe Young, Dana Waddell and Clay Collins, and several anonymous granting organizations and individuals who have made tax-deductible donations to support the program by following the instructions on "Support the show" on the Hoosier History Live! website. 


Hoosier History Live! three-year anniversary image."All of us who work on the show wear a lot of hats," says Molly Head, producer. "Much of our energy goes into putting out a good e-newsletter and a good show each week, and our fund-raising efforts could be stronger. We get very few inquiries about sponsorship and donations, even though the contact information is everywhere on our publications. Most of the sponsorship comes from our doing the asking, and many large organizations want a bigger 'media footprint' than our show currently offers.


"Meanwhile, we get many requests for full audio archiving of past shows on our website, but I'm loath to push our technical people to work even harder with minimal compensation. I know; our e-newsletter and website look very professional, but that's because Richard Sullivan of Monomedia puts them together.


"We are in the process of sending out several large grant applications to secure the financial future of Hoosier History Live!  We would like to have adequate funding in place be able to catalog and archive the past shows on our website, and also to be able to edit the past shows in a way that other radio stations can easily broadcast the shows. Of course, with us being us, we enjoy doing things well. Thus far we have not been able to secure the funding to accomplish this. If you are aware of an organization or individual who might be interested in helping us, contact Nelson Price or Molly Head, the project's principals.


"Of course, we continue to seek all donations and sponsorships; at this point, every little bit helps. We think we have an innovative and engaging approach to history not experienced elsewhere. We think the show has a special voice, and we would like to be able to continue that voice."


April 23 show

Kurt Vonnegut's childhood friend


Lifelong friends Kurt Vonnegut and Majie Failey are pictured at her home in Indianapolis. Image courtesy Jim Gould.They met as children and quickly became part of the same group of friends during the Great Depression in Indianapolis. Majie Failey and future literary sensation Kurt Vonnegut Jr. took dance lessons with their pals, spent summer weekend as teenagers at Lake Maxinkuckee and, while attending Shortridge High School, hung out at bygone haunts such as the North Pole drive-in and Eaton's Restaurant.


Majie and Vonnegut, a quipster (even then!) whose childhood nickname was "Kay," remained close friends until his death four years ago this month (April 2007) at age 84. Now Majie, who became society editor of the Indianapolis News in the late 1940s, has written We Never Danced Cheek to Cheek (Hawthorne Publishing), an anecdote-filled book about her famous chum. Book cover of "We Never Danced Cheek to Cheek" by Majie Alford Failey.Its title is derived from a note Vonnegut scribbled to her atop the sketch of one of his self-portraits, referring to the fact that, despite their friendship of nearly 75 years, the two never dated.


Majie - who eventually married Skip Failey, another Vonnegut crony - will join Nelson in studio to share insights about the acclaimed author of bestsellers such as Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) and Palm Sunday (1981). Majie writes that Vonnegut often told her he was "happier at Shortridge than anywhere else in his whole life."


During Vonnegut's return visits to his hometown, he invariably settled on the leather sofa on the sun porch of Majie's home as he revised the memorable speeches he would deliver to Hoosier audiences.


Vonnegut fans are invited to a reception and book signing with Majie from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on May 5 at the Athenaeum, the Indianapolis landmark designed in 1894 by his grandfather, distinguished architect Bernard Vonnegut. Her book is dedicated to yet another generation of Vonneguts: his son Mark and daughters Edie and Nanette, who also have been Majie's lifelong friends.


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