They built this house, on what must have been Indianapolis’ far north side, in 1930. Peace in Europe was, fleetingly, twelve years old. Men who had clung to the trenches’ muddy, bloody edge were deciding whether to talk about that to their ten-year-old boys.
An economic shattering so profound that it can still be called the Great Depression was using up its second page on a nation’s hungry calendar. Improbably, the land just across 64th Street had been donated by John and Evaline Holliday fourteen years earlier to the State of Indiana on its one hundredth birthday. I reckon the proximity of Holliday Park contributes a third to the value of my home.
I’ve read that it was Jewish families, moderately prosperous, who pushed the city’s boundaries northward along the Monon Railway line. The abundance of Jewish houses of worship even today may bear this out.
I’ll never know who built this old house in 1930. Its run of medium-sized rooms, its strong beams, its cedar shake roof, its New England style, suggest an architect or home-builder unrestrained by convention yet not exactly adventurous. Its mature trees—chock full of birds who noisily voice their appreciation for shade and shelter—conjure up thoughts of tree-loving folk inured to the cheap thrill of expansive, grassy lawns.
The White River meanders its way through the neighborhood, drawing the line that marks the Holliday property to the south. A boy could walk out the front door of my home and have a line in the water in five minutes, a catfish on the end in ten.
This old house, like its neighbors to the east and west, owns only one claim to pretension. It sets upon the high ground, its property stunted in the back but descending with something approaching stateliness to the south.
Evergreens—old, gnarly pines and middle-aged, eclectically-arranged spruce, mark the western boundary. Red bud, magnolia, crab-apple, a venerable maple conspire to draw the northwest corner and the back row.
This old house’s three stories must have told the very story of prosperity in 1930. Was the basement finished or merely a convenient, cool storage against the heat and humidity of a Midwestern summer?
This old house is the junior entry in a neighborhood full of more ambitious building projects. Its 3200 feet, if they were an early entry in the sector’s plan, were soon eclipsed by buildings sporting four and five thousand.
Yet this old house made and makes no apology for its relatively diminutive footprint.
There is no hubris in this old house, but I reckon there’s some pride.
I sense it has not housed many residents who felt any need to apologize.
I mean to tell their story and the tale of the old house that welcomed them each Indiana evening.