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Indianapolis Then and Now
Friday, September 24, 2010

By Robert Everitt

On Friday, September 24, members of The Society of Indiana Pioneers and their guests got a taste of “Indianapolis Then and Now.” Pilgrimage Chair and author Nelson Price got help from collaborators Joan Hostetler, photo historian, and Garry Chilluffo, architectural photographer, in bringing to life some historic Indianapolis sites that have retained their historic uses or have been adapted for new lives in the 21st century. Nelson, Joan, and Garry were involved in the publication of Indianapolis Then and Now, from which the sites of our 2010 Fall Pilgrimage were selected.

Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral, Indianapolis

The day began with visits to two of the city’s oldest houses of worship, Zion Evangelical United Church of Christ and Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral. Zion was formed in 1840 as “The German United Evangelical Protestant Lutheran and Reformed Church of Christ” and moved to its present location in downtown Indianapolis in 1913. Featuring magnificent stained glass and wood carvings by German artisans, the church pays homage to its founders by offering services in German periodically throughout the year. Next was a stop on Monument Circle to the city’s oldest religious structure. Christ Church was founded in 1837, and the current building was constructed in 1857; since 1954, it has been the cathedral for the Indianapolis Diocese of the Episcopal Church. It features two magnificent organs in its sanctuary and exquisite stained glass windows added in a 1900 renovation of the structure. The stop on Monument Circle also offered an opportunity for a brief visit to the Col. Eli Lilly Civil War Museum located at the base of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

The Soldiers & Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis
Pioneers entering the Eli Lilly Civil War Museum

In keeping with the “Then and Now” theme, an elegant lunch was provided at the Oceanaire Seafood Room, located in the space that once housed the Men’s Department of the flagship L. S. Ayres & Co. downtown store before its closing.

Stanley Evans standing next to the Stutz fire truck

In the early part of the 20th century, Indianapolis was a leader in automobile production, but with Henry Ford’s development of assembly line manufacturing and finally, with the economic crash of 1929, the demand for high-priced custom-built automobiles dried up. The famous Stutz automobile was manufactured in a facility just north of downtown which has been brought back to life by developer Turner Woodard as a facility for artist studios, showrooms, and other creative ventures. We visited three of the studios and toured the vast building.

Carolyn Rose and Katie McMillin sit outside one of the homes at Fort Benjamin Harrison

In 1906, construction began on Fort Benjamin Harrison in the far northeast corner of Marion County. It functioned as a military training facility for the Regular Army and the National Guard throughout World Wars I and II and until its closing in 1996. Since its closing, many buildings have been restored and rehabilitated for today’s use by new owners. Eighteen homes originally built for military officers and their families and located on the western and southern edges of the parade ground – around the Lawton Loop – were sold to private owners. The Pioneers were treated to a tour of one of the homes constructed in 1908, which contains more than 6,600 square feet of living space; the owner was gracious in describing the changes that were made to convert the spectacular residence to an up-to-date 21st-century home without destroying the oak woodworking and charm of the century-old building. In addition to the residences and some of the office buildings and barracks, a major portion of the original property has been transferred to the State of Indiana and operates as the Fort Harrison State Park.

While the sites visited were quite diverse, they all remained true to the theme of the day which was to get a taste of “Indianapolis Then and Now.”