Listen to Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM. The Saturday show airs again at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. You also can listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast.
Also, you can join us in the West Reading Room of the Central Library on Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. to listen to and discuss the live show. Prizes are available for those who know the answer to the History Mystery.
Dec. 19 show - Fletcher Place neighborhood history
Among the earliest movers and shakers in Indianapolis history, probably no name looms larger than Calvin Fletcher. An entrepreneur, lawyer and banker who kept extensive, detailed diaries, Fletcher also owned a sprawling farm south of the Mile Square. In the 1850s, the Fletcher farm was divided into lots, and the Fletcher Place neighborhood eventually began to blossom. Today it’s in the midst of a revival, along with nearby Fountain Square to the south, making Fletcher Place ideal as the next focus of our rotating series exploring Indy neighborhoods.
Nelson will be joined in studio by Jeff Miller and Mary Jo Showley, both of whom are longtime residents of the historic Southeastside neighborhood. Jeff, the president of the Fletcher Place Neighborhood Association, renovated an Italianate home built in 1874 that, he says, had been dubbed “one of the three ugly stepsisters” because of its once-dilapidated condition. It’s now home sweet home for Jeff, his wife and their 3-year-old son. Mary Jo, a Realtor, arts patron and former choral conductor at the long-closed Harry Wood High School, once taught students who lived in Fletcher Place and Fountain Square. There’s much turf to cover with them, including everything from economic development initiatives to a proposed “bark park.”
Fletcher Place generally is defined as east of East Street, west of I-65/I-70, south of Lord Street and north of I-70. Jeff likes to tout part of the neighborhood group’s mission statement that calls for “preservation, revitalization, and the promotion of the neighborhood as a walkable community ... with the goal of creating a total urban community while maintaining a respect for the past.”
Some fun facts:
- Almost from the beginning, Fletcher Place has been a neighborhood of mixed ethnicities and socioeconomics. In the late 1850s, German and Irish immigrants began to settle there. Spacious houses were built on Fletcher Avenue, while smaller cottages for workers and craftsmen were constructed elsewhere in the neighborhood. In the late 1800s, families of Italian, Jewish and Central European immigrants settled in Fletcher Place. In the 1900s, residents came from Appalachian regions of this country.
- A deeply religious man, Calvin Fletcher (1798-1866) donated money for the building of nearly all of the early churches in Indianapolis. By the 1860s, he was one of the largest landowners in Marion County.
- The neighborhood now is home to many residents active in citywide civic affairs, such as Mary Jo and Jeff. She is past president of the Contemporary Art Society at the IMA. He is former board member of Southeast Neighborhood Development (SEND).
- Some of the Fletcher Place homes were designed in the 19th century by noted architect Francis Costigan, who also designed several of the historic homes in Madison, Ind. Architectural styles in Fletcher Place range from Italianate and Federal to Gothic Revival and Queen Anne.
History Mystery question
Our Hoosier History Trivia Mystery is a carry-over from last week because there wasn’t a correct answer.
Question: During the Victorian era in Indianapolis, the oldest restaurant in the city (that’s still operating today) opened. Name the restaurant. Note that this is a sit-down restaurant, not an establishment that’s primarily a tavern. Hint: The answer is not St. Elmo’s, which was an incorrect guess from a listener last week. St. Elmo’s opened in 1902, six years after the city’s oldest continuously operating restaurant began serving patrons.
The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and the prize for the correct answer is a pair of tickets to the Indiana State Museum, courtesy of the ICVA.
We'll have a special surprise Roadtrip with Chris Gahl of the ICVA. But don't forget, right now we are in the midst of Indy's 12 Free Days of Indy Christmas. In fact, on Saturday, Dec. 19, Conner Prairie is free all day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so it's a great time to take all the kids to meet a Victorian-era Santa Claus, tour Gingerbread Village and visit Prairietown, where residents are busy preparing for the holidays!
Your friends in Hoosierdom,
Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Armstrong Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, tech and web director
Garry Chilluffo, online editor
Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support:
Antique Helper, Skip Sauvain of Sycamore Group Realtors, Lucas Oil and Story Inn.
Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia Inc., Indiana Humanities Council, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Drew Pastorek, and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through sponsorships and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn more.
Dec. 26 - Winter survival skills of pioneers and Native Americans
Snowstorms, ice, sleet, howling winds and long, dark nights. With all of that, winter in Indiana can be a major challenge in the 21st century. Ever wonder how the early Hoosier pioneers and Native Americans made it through?
During one of our most popular shows from this past year, Nelson’s studio guest, Jim Willaert of Conner Prairie, tackled a blizzard of questions about how folks survived harsh winters in the Indiana wilderness of the 1820s and '30s. This “encore” broadcast originally aired last January, so there won’t be an opportunity for call-in questions or comments. But Jim, whose various responsibilities at Conner Prairie have included serving as the experience manager of the Lenape Village and Conner Homestead, proved to be a font of info.
Where and how did white settlers and Native Americans store their food during the long winter? Without access to fresh fruit, why didn’t everyone here in the 1830s get scurvy? What about drinking water? And was it ever truly comfortable in the lean-tos and wooden cabins of the pioneers or the Native Americans’ wigwams? Those are just a sampling of the questions that Jim tackled.
He even shared some advantages that the cold months brought to the pioneers and Native Americans here. FYI: The predominant Native American tribe in Central Indiana during the 1820s and '30s was the Delaware, also called the Lenape. Jim explains how they “did winter” long before furnaces, snow plows, plumbing and refrigerators.
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