Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays noon to 1 p.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

Saturdays, noon to 1 p.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
Or listen live from anywhere at hoosierhistorylive.org!

May 3 show

Why do buildings look that way?

A detail from the Circle Tower Building on Indy’s Monument Circle features Egyptian-themed imagery. Photo by William Selm.With an architectural historian as our guest, Hoosier History Live! will dissect the designs of several of the best-known buildings, monuments and plazas across the state.

Fasten your seat belts for an architectural exploration that will range from the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis - as well as other buildings on or near Monument Circle - to St. Benedict Catholic Church in Terre Haute and the historic Knightstown Academy in Henry County.

Indianapolis-based architectural historian William Selm will join Nelson in studio to share insights about the design of those landmarks, as well as others, including the Indiana World War Memorial and its plaza in Indy, plus Circle Centre Mall, which opened in 1995 in downtown Indy and incorporated the facades of several historic structures in its exterior. The Knightstown Academy shows the Second Empire style. The globe and telescope topping the academy's towers are said to have been school founder John Irwin Morris's idea, to convey the majesty and importance of education. The building is in Knightstown, Ind. Photo by Mark Sean Orr for Indiana Landmarks.("Façade-ectomy" is the quirky term that some preservationists have used to describe the move of facades of historic storefronts and other buildings to the exterior of the modern mall.)

As part of exploring the design of landmark buildings, which will include the City Market, Columbia Club and Union Station in Indy, we also will look at architectural symbols such as the use of shields in the designs.

Shields frequently were used by the prominent Indianapolis-based architectural firm of Vonnegut & Bohn, which was co-founded in the late 1880s by Bernard Vonnegut (1855-1908), the grandfather of internationally known novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Among Bernard Vonnegut's enduring creations is the majestic Athenaeum, which opened as a German cultural center in 1894 in downtown Indy.

Our guest William Selm, a fifth-generation German-American, will share insights about the design of the Athenaeum, which was built in the Renaissance Revival style and initially was called Das Deutsch Haus. (Its name was changed during the World War I era because of anti-German sentiments.) In the early 1990s, William Selm was a key figure in the crusade to save the Athenaeum, which by then had declined dramatically.

William SelmA native of Batesville, William is an instructor at IUPUI and former historian for the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. For the historic district surrounding Monument Circle, he prepared the nomination that resulted in its listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Knightstown Academy also is listed on the national register.

Built as an educational facility by Quakers in the 1870s and designed in the Second Empire style, the distinctive-looking academy has twin towers. It became a public high school in Knightstown, serving in that capacity for several generations.

During the 1920s, an attached gymnasium was built at the Knightstown Academy. Remodeled by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, the gym eventually staked its own claim on Hoosier history. It served as the home basketball court for fictional Hickory High School in the classic movie Hoosiers (1986). Now known as the "Hoosier Gym," it is the setting for weddings and an array of civic events.

Our architectural journey also will include a look at two Catholic churches with ties to the deep German heritage in Indiana.

In Terre Haute, near the end of the Civil War, German immigrants established a parish and built a church. It was replaced by the current St. Benedict Catholic Church in the 1890s.

War Memorial Plaza looking south from Indianapolis Public Library, 1935. Image courtesy Indiana Historical Society, Bass Photo Collection.In Indianapolis, German-speaking residents founded St. Mary Catholic Church near the Lockerbie neighborhood. William Selm will share insights about the architecture of St. Mary's, which today is attended by an array of downtown residents and an ever-growing number of Hispanic families.

Also in the Hoosier capital, construction of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument began in the 1880s after a crusade by Col. Eli Lilly, Gen. Lew Wallace (the author of Ben Hur) and other prominent residents who wanted to honor Hoosiers lost in the Civil War. (Since then, the monument has been regarded by many as honoring Hoosiers lost in all wars.)

A German architect, Bruno Schmitz (1858-1916), won an international competition to design the monument, which was completed in 1901 and dedicated in 1902. Built of Indiana limestone, it has become the eternal symbol of the Hoosier capital. The basement of the monument houses the Col. Eli Lilly Civil War Museum.

Roadtrip: Lyles Station Historic School and Museum

The restored Lyles Consolidated School, just west of Princeton, Ind., is open for visitors.Guest Roadtripper Kisha Tandy of the Indiana State Museum suggests a Roadtrip to Lyles Station in southwestern Indiana, which is one of the few remaining African American settlements in Indiana. The settlement was founded by free African American Joshua Lyles in 1849, and it once had nearly 800 residents.

The community's schoolhouse was also the target of a major restoration and renovation effort around the turn of the 21st century and currently serves as a museum to the history of the community.

Alonzo Fields, the first African-American chief butler of the White House, serving for 21 years under Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower, was also from Lyles Station and the subject of the play Looking Over the President's Shoulder by Indiana Repertory Theatre's playwright in residence, James Still.

History Mystery

The Vincennes Pageant was held in 1916 at this “mystery” historic brick home in Vincennes, Ind. The pageant celebrated Indiana’s centennial. Image courtesy in.gov.

According to many historians, the first house made of brick in what became the state of Indiana was built in the frontier town of Vincennes. Constructed in 1803 and '04, the Federal-style home was the residence of an early Indiana leader who became nationally famous.

In Vincennes, the state's oldest city, he modeled his brick home after the plantation in Virginia where he had grown up. He gave his Indiana home a distinctive name; among its outstanding features is a free-standing stairway.

The brick house has been restored and is toured by hundreds of visitors annually.

Question: What is the name of the brick house in Vincennes - and who was its famous owner? Both answers must be supplied to win the prize.

The call-in number is (317) 788-3314. Please do not call into the show until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air, and please do not try to win the prize if you have won any other prize on WICR during the last two months.

The prize is a gift certificate to Arni's Restaurant, courtesy of Visit Indy, and four passes to the Indiana Experience, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer

Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant

Joan Hostetler, Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, Dana Waddell, advisors


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Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support: Indiana Historical Society | Indiana Landmarks | Lucas Oil | Story Inn | The Fountain Square Theatre Building

Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Twitter logo for Hoosier History Live.Acknowledgments to Monomedia, Visit Indy, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Heritage Photo & Research Services, Derrick Lowhorn and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorships and individual contributions. We do not receive any government funding. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially. Also, see our Twitter feed and our Facebook page for regular updates.

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Thanks to contributors and underwriters

Hoosier History Live welcomes new or renewal contributors Sue and Craig Thomson, Teresa Baer, Jane Hodge, Paul and Billie Fouts, Steve Barnett, Joe Young, Howard Creveling, Eunice Trotter, Dana Waddell and Clay Collins, Lorraine and Richard Vavul, Linda Gugin of Evansville, Marion Wolen, Jim and Marjorie Kienle, Tom Castaldi, Stacia Gorge, David Willkie, Kevin Murray, Jeff Swiatek, Dixie Richardson, Sharon Butsch Freeland and several anonymous contributors.

vintage microphone with on the air sign.We are put together by a small independent production group. Your contribution goes primarily to support those individuals who are working so hard on the project, as well as to help defray the costs of maintaining the website, email marketing software and audio editing costs.

It takes only seconds to help us out. Just go to our website and click the yellow "Donate" button. Or, if you prefer the paper method, you may make out a check to "Hoosier History Live" and mail it to Hoosier History Live, P.O. Box 44393, Indianapolis, IN 46244-0393. We will list you on our website, unless you wish to remain anonymous.

You also may memorialize a loved one if you wish; just make a note with either your online contribution or on your paper check.

For questions about becoming an underwriting sponsor (the underwriter level includes logos on our website and newsletter and spoken credits in the live show), contact our producer, Molly Head, at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org, or (317) 927-9101.

Also, the Irvington Library Listening Group continues to meet on a regular basis from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturdays to listen to and discuss the live show. If you think you would enjoy listening with fellow history lovers, just stop by the library at 5626 E. Washington St. in Indianapolis and ask for the listening group.

May 10 show

Offbeat landmarks across Indiana

"I like weird stuff," says Evan Finch of Indianapolis. "I like history. And I like to drive around. On some weekends, I get to combine all three by driving around, finding unusual things and learning their histories."

Backroads explorer Evan Finch poses in front of the Colossal Mushroom at Krider World’s Fair Garden in Middlebury, Ind. Photo courtesy So Evan, an advertising copywriter who describes himself as a "dilettante" historic preservationist, has visited and will share insights about such offbeat or funky Hoosier landmarks as the Big Peach near the Knox County town of Bruceville and the Colossal Mushroom near Middlebury in Elkhart County. Evan describes the former as "a gigantic, eye-luring, concrete-and-chicken-wire" peach built in the 1950s to attract attention to a farm stand.

Also on the menu for our show: An exploration of the Giant Egg near Mentone, a town in far-northern Indiana that promotes itself as the "egg basket" of the Midwest. According to Evan, the town built a 10-foot-tall, 3,000-pound egg in 1946 to advertise its annual egg festival.

With Evan, a copywriter for Young & Laramore, we won't limit ourselves to food-shaped landmarks. He will share insights about the sculpture of a giant serpent created by a stone cutter who lived on a farm near Needmore. The cutter, August Mack, was a German immigrant whose dream about a snake inspired him to create the mechanical serpent, which, as Evan puts it, "could move, hiss, rattle and open its mouth."

Johnny Appleseed’s grave is in Johnny Appleseed Park in Fort Wayne, Ind.Promoted on a billboard, the giant snake became a roadside attraction during the 1930s and '40s, with its creator charging a modest admission to see it. Alas, the serpent landmark - unlike most of the others we will explore - apparently no longer exists. Evan will explain why during the show.

Other landmarks Evan will discuss include:

  • The gravesite of Johnny Appleseed (real name: John Chapman) in Fort Wayne. Chapman (1774-1845) was the focus of a Hoosier History Live! show in November 2009 that featured an expert guest: Indianapolis-based playwright Hank Fincken, who portrays the Hoosier folk hero and other historic figures at events across the country.
  • A statue of Joe Palooka (a once-popular comic strip character) that also was the brainstorm of southern Indiana stonecutters. Created by two of them and dedicated in Bedford in 1948, the Palooka statue has been moved several times but has stood in the town of Oolitic for more than 30 years. Noting that the statue is 10 feet tall, Evan observes: "He's a big Palooka."
  • And the largest preserved steer in the world. Known as "Old Ben," the steer has been displayed in Kokomo for decades. His weight upon his death was estimated at more than 4,500 pounds.

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Hoosier History Live!
P.O. Box 44393
Indianapolis, IN 46244
(317) 927-9101