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Jan. 7 show
Old Northside neighborhood history in Indy
Thanks to spacious Italianate and Queen Anne-style houses, many built in the late 1800s, the Old Northside in Indianapolis became the city's posh neighborhood through the World War I era.
By the 1970s, when urban pioneers Paul Smith, Rick Patton and their wives moved into two of the historic homes, the neighborhood had become, as Rick puts it, "blighted." Paul says his house was even occupied by a drug dealer.
During the 30 years since then, many of the grand homes have been restored to their former glory in the neighborhood, which has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now known as the Old Northside Historic District. Paul and Rick will join Nelson in studio to explore the colorful heritage of the neighborhood that's roughly bounded by East 11th, Pennsylvania, East 16th and Carrollton streets.
During the decades that the Old Northside struggled, many of the once-fashionable homes (Rick estimates more than 100) were demolished. Others, including his, were converted to apartments.
By the way, Rick's home was built in 1876 by the son-in-law of civic leader Ovid Butler, a founder of the university that now bears his name. In fact, the Old Northside was the initial site of Butler University, then known as North Western Christian University.
(Fun fact: College Avenue derives its name because the street led to the university, which moved to Irvington during the 1870s. Butler moved yet again, to its current location, in the 1920s.)
Paul Smith, whose house was built in 1882, is a past president of the Old Northside Neighborhood Association and a past board member of Indiana Landmarks, the historic preservation organization that last April became an Old Northside "resident" by moving into the former Central Avenue United Methodist Church, later known as the Old Centrum.
Most of the Old Northside's historic homes were built between the 1870s and the early 1900s. Before the Civil War, property in what became the Old Northside was regarded as too far away from the bustling Mile Square to be developed for homes.
That changed with the coming of horse-drawn trolleys and the extension of city streets. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, influential Old Northside residents included Benjamin Harrison (his Italianate home, now known as the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, is at 12th and Delaware streets); the Ayres and Wasson families of department store fame (their historic mansions were demolished); novelist Meredith Nicholson, author of the bestselling romance thriller House of 1,000 Candles, and Thomas Taggart, the former mayor who bought the French Lick Springs Hotel.
The Old Northside also includes the restored Morris-Butler House, the Victorian-era house museum owned by Indiana Landmarks. And it includes a Romanesque Revival house built in the 1890s at 1410 N. Delaware that, since the 1920s, has been housed the Propylaeum Club.
Why were so many homes demolished in the Old Northside? Many, including the mansions of the Ayres and Wasson families, came down during the 1960s with the construction of I-65, which cuts through the neighborhood. Other homes were demolished as part of "urban renewal."
Along with the spectacular renovations of many historic houses in recent years, new-home construction has occurred, particularly on the east edge of the neighborhood near College Avenue.
As Old Northside residents for more than 30 years - Paul and Rick arrived with their wives shortly after graduating from college - our guests will share insights about the changes they have seen in their neighborhood. Paul is real estate manager for the city of Indianapolis; Rick is an executive for a textbook publisher.
As Rick notes with pride, the Old Northside today resembles the neighborhood depicted in historic photographs much more than the "blighted" residential area he encountered as a newlywed.
Central Avenue United Methodist Church was built in the early 1890s at 12th Street and Central Avenue in the Old Northside neighborhood. Last year, the Romanesque Revival building became the new headquarters of Indiana Landmarks after a spectacular renovation. A congregation had not been worshipping in the building in recent years.
Through the early 1950s, though, Central Avenue United Methodist was attended by many top civic leaders and was extremely influential in city life. The church is credited with helping start Methodist Hospital and Wheeler Rescue Mission.
During the 1930s and '40s, Central Avenue was attended by a young boy who would grow up to be one of the best-known politicians in the state. He is still serving in public office.
Question: Who is he?
To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show. Please do not call if you have won a prize from any WICR show during the last two months. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not call until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air.
The prize is an overnight stay at the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis (just don't try to book your complimentary room during the Super Bowl!) as well as a pair of tickets to the Eiteljorg Museum, courtesy of the ICVA.
Roadtrip: City Gallery at Harrison Center for the Arts
Roadtripper Chris Gahl of the ICVA suggests we head to one of the newest urban gems in the Old Northside, the City Gallery at Harrison Center for the Arts at 1505 N. Delaware St., across the street from the Meredith Nicholson House. The City Gallery is described as an urban living center that uses arts and culture to promote and tell the story of Indy's urban neighborhoods.
The center is not-for-profit and offers information for people thinking about moving into an Indianapolis neighborhood, either by renting or buying. Its biggest partner is the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership.
The City Gallery opened in August of 2011 and is open for business Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on First Fridays until 9 p.m.
Stop in and check out how easy and affordable it can be to move into a fun and quirky neighborhood that perhaps you didn't even know about! The phone number is (317) 396-3886.
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
Joan Hostetler, photo historian
Dana Waddell, volunteer-at-large
Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support: Aesop's Tables, Fadely College Counseling, Indiana Historical Society, Lucas Oil and Story Inn.
Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Heritage Photo and Research Services, Derrick Lowhorn, Samantha Stratton 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.
Jan. 14 show
Indiana’s youngest mayor on Frankfort history
Before election day in November, Chris McBarnes made headlines across the state by campaigning for public office while attending classes at Butler University. Now, the 23-year-old rising star in the Republican Party has graduated from college, is the new mayor of his hometown and has the distinction of being the youngest mayor of an Indiana city.
So Chris will join Nelson in studio to share insights about the history of Frankfort, the city of 16,400 people in Clinton County. You may know Frankfort as the "Home of the Hot Dogs." (Frankfort High School's mascot is the hot dog, and the community hosts the Frankfort Hot Dog Festival every summer.)
There are other intriguing aspects of the town, though, including the award-winning Frankfort Community Public Library, which serves as a cultural center with art galleries.
In addition to sharing insights about the heritage of his hometown, which was founded in the 1830s, Chris will talk with Nelson about his personal journey and meteoric rise in politics.
According to a profile of Chris in The Lafayette Journal and Courier, he was diagnosed at age 14 with a rare immune system disorder. The illness resulted in more than 25 surgeries and frequent hospitalizations at the Indiana University Medical Center, but it is now under control.
His mayoral crusade involved a lot of shoe leather. Last May, after winning the Republican primary with 60 percent of the vote, Chris was quoted as estimating that he and a group of 25 volunteers knocked on the doors of 90 percent of Frankfort's homes.
He also vowed to end an "old-boys system" of governing the town and expressed hopes he can inspire more of the community's young people to return after college.
"I am proud to say I'm a hometown product," his campaign website proclaimed. "I am a Frankfort Hot Dog through and through."
Fun fact: Frankfort hosted the world premiere of the movie Blue Chips (1994), which starred Nick Nolte as a basketball coach with similarities to Bobby Knight. (Knight had a cameo role in the film. So did Larry Bird.) Several sequences in Blue Chips were shot at Frankfort High School's gym, which seats more than 6,000 spectators; Nelson was part of the media contingent that covered the movie's premiere in Frankfort.
Hoosier History Live! events
Mark your calendar for our soiree & more
Mark your calendar for the Hoosier History Live! 4th anniversary party on Thursday, Feb. 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Morris-Butler House. Again, courtesy of Indiana Landmarks.
The Irvington Library Hoosier History Live! Radio Club was featured on the front page of the features section in the Jan. 5 Indianapolis Star. The radio club meets weekly in the Story Theater of the Irvington Library, 5625 E. Washington St., from 11:15 a.m to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
And remember: You can "like" the Hoosier History Live! Facebook page and make comments about topics and shows, as well, on the page.
Nelson Price to speak on Vonnegut family history
Interested in hearing Nelson's dynamic presentation about the Kurt Vonnegut family in Indianapolis? Come to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, 340 N. Senate Ave., this Sunday, Jan. 8, at 2 p.m.
This event is free of charge, and there is no pre-registration.
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