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.
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Dec. 7 - encore show

Old Northside neighborhood in Indy history

Thanks to spacious Italianate and Queen Anne-style houses built in the late 1800s, the Old Northside in Indianapolis became the city's posh neighborhood through the World War I era.

By the 1970s, when urban pioneers Paul Smith, Rick Patton and their wives moved into two of the historic homes, the neighborhood had become, as Rick diplomatically puts it, "blighted." Paul says his house even was occupied by a drug dealer.

During the 30 years since then, many of the grand homes have been restored to their former glory in the neighborhood, which has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and now is known as the Old Northside Historic District.

Join us for an encore broadcast of a show about the colorful heritage of the neighborhood that's roughly bounded by East 11th, Pennsylvania, East 16th and Carrollton streets. Paul Smith and Rick Patton are Nelson's guests on the show, which originally was broadcast on Jan. 7, 2012.

Indy’s downtown Old Northside neighborhood is pictured in the early 1900s. The house at 1508 Broadway was home to the family of Albert Metzger, pictured here in front of their first car, a 1907 Premier, which was manufactured in Indianapolis. Photo courtesy Rick Patton.During the decades that the Old Northside struggled, many of the once-fashionable homes (Rick estimates more than 100) were demolished. Others, including his, were converted into apartments.

By the way, Rick's home was built in 1876 by the son-in-law of civic leader Ovid Butler, a founder of the university that now bears his name. In fact, the Old Northside was the initial site of Butler University, then known as North Western Christian University.

(Fun fact: College Avenue derives its name because that street led to the university, which moved to Irvington during the 1870s. Butler moved, yet again, to its current location in the 1920s.)

Paul Smith, whose house was built in 1892, is a past president of the Old Northside Neighborhood Association and a past board member of Indiana Landmarks, the statewide historic preservation organization. (In 2011, Landmarks itself became an Old Northside "resident" by moving its headquarters into the former Central Avenue University Methodist Church, later known as the Old Centrum.)

Construction of I-65 occurs just south of the Morris-Butler House at 1204 N. Park Ave., circa 1970. Photo courtesy Heritage Photo & Research Services.Preservation advocates from across the country - including architects, civic leaders, attorneys, historians and federal officials - toured the Old Northside during last month's conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Most of the Old Northside's historic homes were built between the 1870s and the early 1900s. Before the Civil War, property in what became the Old Northside was regarded as too far away from the bustling Mile Square to be developed for homes.

That changed with the coming of horse-drawn trolleys and the extension of city streets. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, influential residents included Benjamin Harrison (his Italianate home, now known as the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, is at 12th and Delaware streets); the Ayres and Wasson families of department store fame (their historic mansions were demolished), novelist Meredith Nicholson, author of the bestselling romance thriller House of 1,000 Candles, and Thomas Taggart, the former mayor who bought the French Lick Springs Hotel.

This house at 1500 N. Delaware Street in what is now called the Old Northside neighborhood of Indianapolis is shown circa 1905. It once was home to author Meredith Nicholson, and now it is home to Indiana Humanities. LC Detroit Pub. Co., courtesy Heritage Photo & Research Services.The Old Northside also includes the restored Morris-Butler House, which was built in 1865 and is owned now by Indiana Landmarks. And it includes a Romanesque Revival house built in the 1890s at 1410 N. Delaware owned by the Propylaeum Historic Foundation.

Why were so many homes demolished in the Old Northside? Many, including the mansions of the Ayres and Wasson families, came down during the 1960s and early '70s with the construction of I-65, which cuts through the neighborhood. Other homes were demolished as part of "urban renewal."

Along with spectacular renovations of many historic homes in recent years, new-home construction has occurred, particularly on the east edge of the neighborhood near College Avenue.

As Old Northside residents for more than 30 years - Paul and Rick arrived with their wives shortly after graduating from college - our guests have insights about the changes they have seen in the neighborhood. Paul is real estate manager for the city of Indianapolis; Rick is an executive for a textbook publisher.

As Rick notes with pride, the Old Northside today resembles the neighborhood depicted in historic photographs much more than the "blighted" residential area he encountered as a newlywed.

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
Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, grant consultants
Joan Hostetler, photo historian
Dana Waddell, volunteer-at-large


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Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support: Indiana Historical Society | Lucas Oil | Re/Max Metro | 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.

Year-end note

Keeping Hoosier History Live! alive

Hoosier History Live! welcomes new or renewal contributors Peter Gross, Dana Waddell and Clay Collins, Pat Garrett Rooney, Turner Woodard, Danny and Sofia Lopez, Theresa and Dave Berghoff, Margaret Drew, Joe Vuskovich, and Gary BraVard in memory of Sunny Brewer.

We are not staff members of any organization; rather, we are a small independent production group trying to keep Hoosier History Live! on the air, on the web, and in your in-box. Your donation goes primarily to support those individuals working so hard on the project, as well as to help defray the costs of maintaining our website, our email marketing software and our audio editing costs.

vintage microphone with On the Air lettering.It's easy to donate. Just go to our website and click the yellow "Donate" button. Simply put, if you like us, please support us!

We also try to maintain some of those old-fashioned journalism principles about trying to keep editorial content separate from financial contributions. We are fortunate to have skilled professional journalists working on the project.

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.

Hoosier History Live! also wishes to salute UIndy student Derrick Lowhorn for his editing work on our encore shows and on our podcasts.

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.

By the way, it's easy to form your own listening group; all you need is a relatively quiet room with comfortable chairs and either a radio or an online listening device to pick up the show from the live Web stream on Saturdays. We do have listeners all over the country.

A weekly listening group is an easy way to get "regulars" into your organization or place of business, and it is a relatively low-cost programming idea.

Dec. 14 show

Indiana during the Ice Age, when mastodons roamed

We will delve into the deepest era of Hoosier history - and the coldest.

To explore the Ice Age, including the landscape of - as well as plant and animal life (including mastodons) once found in - the part of Earth that eventually became Indiana, Nelson will be joined in studio by two experts from the Indiana State Museum.

His guests will be Ron Richards, senior research curator of paleobiology, and Ron's colleague Damon Lowe, chief curator of science and technology. They have been the key figures in putting together the blockbuster exhibit Ice Age Giants: The Mystery of Mammoths and Mastodons that opened in November at the State Museum.

A mastodon skeleton, known as “Fred,” greets visitors at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis. Fred once weighed about 3 tons and stood 9 feet tall. Bone analysis through radiocarbon dating shows he is more than 13,000 years old. Image courtesy Indiana State Museum.According to Ron, mastodon bones have been discovered in most of Indiana's 92 counties.

The exhibit features actual skeletons, skulls and casts of Ice Age animals as well as fossils. The Indiana State Museum contends its collection of Ice Age bones is the largest in the Midwest. Some of the bones belonged to a mastodon that was discovered on a farm near Fort Wayne and has been named "Fred."

According to our experts, a frigid climate more than 80,000 years ago forced an expansion of the Arctic ice sheets. The largest sheet covered much of North America, including the future state of Indiana.

As described by the State Museum, mastodons like Fred were "shorter, stockier cousins" of mammoths, which also roamed prehistoric Indiana about 13,000 years ago. Mammoths were not as plentiful here as mastodons, though.

"Like modern elephants, mastodons could live 60 years or more, but few made it to retirement (age)," according to an article in Indianapolis Monthly magazine's November issue.

In conjunction with the Ice Age Giants exhibit at the State Museum, the nearby IMAX Theater is showing a movie, Titans of the Ice Age, that depicts the era in 3D. It's an age described as inhabited by "saber-toothed cats, giant sloths, dire wolves and woolly mammoths."

A skeleton of a dire wolf, a type of wolf that co-existed with mammoths and mastodons in Indiana, is displayed at the State Museum.

The museum has been involved in what's known as "bone recovery" of prehistoric remains since the late 1970s. The first major excavation site was near Bass Lake in Starke County.

Since then, significant excavations have occurred near Hebron in northwest Indiana and near the city of Plymouth. Mastodon bones also have been found in a bed of the White River in southern Indiana.

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