Listen to Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM. You also can listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast or you can join our listening group at Bookmama's in Irvington to listen to, and discuss, the Saturday show. We invite you to visit our website!
Aug. 21 show
Meridian Park neighborhood history
Colorful history, welcoming porches, towering trees and a diverse assortment of homeowners are distinctive aspects of the next neighborhood to be featured in our rotating series. Many of the homes in the historic Meridian Park neighborhood on the near-Northside of Indianapolis were built between 1905 and 1930. They range from Arts and Crafts bungalows to spacious Dutch Colonial Revival, Tudor and Italian Villa homes. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Meridian Park has been in the spotlight this summer, which has included a popular home and garden tour.
For Meridian Park's turn on Hoosier History Live!, Nelson will be joined in studio by longtime residents of the scenic neighborhood, which is tucked away east of Meridian Street and north of 30th Street.
His guests from Meridian Park, which has been revitalized during the last 30 years, will include Ben Solomon, who lives in an antique-filled Colonial Revival home built in 1916. Ben, who is the co-owner of Solomon/Jones Antiques and Interiors, has filled his historic house with furnishings purchased from the estates of prominent Indianapolis families. Nelson also will be joined by photographer Lamar Richcreek, a faculty member at the Herron School of Art and Design who has lived in Meridian Park for decades with his wife, Jean.
According to a recent article in Urban Times, in the 1870s the site of the future neighborhood "was not just farmland - it was a frontier." The houses built in the early 1900s became the then-suburban homes of bankers, architects, artists and business leaders.
In addition to Arts and Crafts bungalows, several homes in Meridian Park were built in the Prairie and American Four Square styles, although the architecture is extremely diverse. Several Meridian Park homes also have quaint gardens. In addition, the neighborhood includes Washington Court, which is considered one of the city's first residential, pedestrian courtyards.
As affluent residents moved farther north during the mid-1900s, though, many homes were converted into businesses or deteriorated. A spacious home built in 1919 for a prominent Indianapolis businessman - and restored in recent years by its current owners, City County Councilor Jackie Nytes and her husband Michael O'Brien - eventually became a kindergarten, then served as the offices of a design firm. Nelson plans to ask his guests, Ben and Lamar, to share details about their homes' histories.
Some fun facts:
- According to a recent feature story in The Indianapolis Star, Ben has filled his home with furnishings from the estates of the William H. Block family, former Gov. Paul McNutt, and the Holliday family. Ben's home has a veranda that overlooks his English country garden.
- For some of the restorations, homes in Meridian Park had to be gutted down to their studs.
- The neighborhood's residences include Tuckaway, the historic bungalow owned in the early 1900s by a well-known palmist and her husband, a fashion designer. Tuckaway was visited by famous Americans, including Walt Disney, Eleanor Roosevelt, George Gershwin and Carole Lombard. (Tuckway was the subject earlier this year of one of our History Mystery questions.)
History Mystery question
Historic neighborhoods south of Meridian Park include Herron-Morton Place. In the late 19th century, Herron-Morton Place flourished as a residential neighborhood thanks to the construction of Queen Anne-style houses and other homes, many of which have been restored in recent years.
It's well-known that before the area became residential, it served as the site of Camp Morton, a Civil War site for the induction of Union Army soldiers. During the war, much of Camp Morton became a prisoner-of-war camp for captured Confederate soldiers. But before the Civil War, this part of Indianapolis - near Alabama, Delaware and 20th streets - had a very different use. It was the peacetime site of an Indiana event that continues to this day, albeit at a different location.
Question: What was on the site of today's Herron-Morton neighborhood immediately before the Civil War?
The call-in number for the correct answer is (317) 788-3314, and the prize is a pair of tickets to Conner Prairie, plus a gift certificate for Wheel Fun Rentals along the Central Canal in downtown Indianapolis, all courtesy of the ICVA.
Military Park is the oldest park in Indianapolis and covers 14 acres. The park hosted Indianapolis' first celebrated Independence Day on July 4, 1822. The first Indiana State Fair was held at the park in October 1852.
Our Roadtripper, Chris Gahl of the ICVA, suggests that we head to the 15th Rib America Festival on Labor Day Weekend - Friday, Sept. 3 through Monday, Sept. 6. Ten of the top rib restaurants will compete for the title of best, including teams from Texas, Tennessee and Georgia.
Admission is free before 5 p.m. on Friday and before 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Music, ribs, outside, Labor Day weekend - all a perfect combination!
Your team on the Hoosier History Live! e-project,
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
Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support:
Barrington Jewels, Storrow Kinsella Associates, Henry's Coffee Bistro on East, The Fadely Trust, Indiana Historical Society, Lucas Oil and Story Inn.
Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities Council, 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.
Aug. 28 show
Fairmount town history
You may know that movie icon James Dean grew up on a farm near the Grant County town of Fairmount, Ind. But were you aware the creator of one of the most widely syndicated comic strips in the world also grew up on a Fairmount farm? It was the boyhood home of Jim Davis, creator of Garfield, the cantankerous cat.
To explore the heritage of a town with several distinctions, Nelson will be joined in studio by Fairmount resident Cathy Duling Shouse, the author of a new visual history book about her hometown, Fairmount, the latest in Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series.
Initially part of Miami Indian territory, Fairmount was settled early on by Quakers. (Fun fact: The mascot of old Fairmount High School, where James Dean was a standout basketball player, was "the Quakers".)
In 1887, as Cathy puts it in her book, "this small, primarily agricultural area participated in one of the most dramatic eras in state history: the natural gas boom." Indeed, a natural gas well discovered near Fairmount that year was so massive it was named "Jumbo," after the famous circus elephant. Thanks to the bountiful gas reserves, entrepreneurs flocked to the Fairmount area and built spacious Victorian-era houses, many of which still stand.
"The wells produced so much natural gas that it was thought the supply never would run dry," Cathy notes.
Her book, which she put together with the Fairmount Historical Museum, features dozens of rare vintage photos, including a picture taken in 1904 of the construction of the Winslow family farmhouse, where James Dean was raised by his aunt and uncle in the 1930s and '40s.
Other notables with Fairmount roots include Olive Rush, a renowned artist who even had one of her works displayed in the White House.
Our focus on the town will come just before the James Dean Festival, which draws thousands to the community, with the arrival of vintage autos and pilgrimages to the grave site of the actor (1931-1955) every September.
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