Friday, December 14, 2007

What isn't any longer



Perhaps it's because of spending my formative years in a house in which well over five people likely died over the past 140 years. Perhaps it's because of growing up on some strange cusp--oldest of the new generation and seen in some ways as the youngest of the older generation; living in a way that was well-removed from the current scene, brought up with the value that looking backward is as valuable (if not more valuable) than looking forward--but I've been fascinated with things that were once but aren't any longer. I'd mentioned a project involving a current city that, in the era I'm writing in, no longer exists. I've found some interesting things, including my old apartment building, seen here in 1929, three years after its construction, back when Meridian south of 38th street was an avenue of luxury homes. The Admiral was quite an address then--a two-story lobby with hand-painted wallpaper intended to make it seem that one had entered a lush forest (which I had a chance to see when the owners updated), a brass elevator with self-closing scissor-grate gate, and parquet oak floors in every apartment. The suites still have separate entrances intended for servants. My old apartment is visible to the immediate right of the main entrance; the hindmost apartment on the second floor. At the time this photo was taken, it was occupied by a Mr. Whipple, who happened to be a big exec with what ended up as Delco, the big car-parts conglomerate. Why he had this apartment rented (for well over a decade--I've checked the city directories of the time) when he had a rather comfortable house (and a wife, etc.) is anyone's guess. I'm sure it was all aboveboard...
I've found other interesting things too--including the little known fact that Broad Ripple park had, for quite some time, the world's largest swimming pool. The amusement park there attracted people from all around this part of the country. Combined with the also-defunct Riverside Amusement park, Indianapolis had two of the premier amusement parks in the region.
There's also the sad fact that much of the decline of downtown had to do with racism. Once black people were allowed to rent rooms at the various addresses in the formerly-fashionable near-northside, all the rich white folks fled northward. To an extent, this momentum continues, with the richest of the Indianapolis area residing now in Carmel, Geist, and Fishers. The wholesale "slum eradication" movements occurred as early as the late '40s, culminating with the radical demolition of most of downtown's landmark buildings between 1970-1974. 1976 brought the Interstate system and the leveling of thousands of properties for the overpass. Before the Crash in 1929, Indianapolis rivaled Detroit for Auto factories and--before Prohibition--rivaled Milwaukee for breweries. I've lucked out so far and found photos of addresses that lost out to the highway. There may be a book in this after all...

1 comment:

brizbrizuri said...

Sounds like Mao exported the Cultural Revolution when they sent Nixon back.