W.T. Ray

WT Ray appeared in the Indianapolis Recorder in January, 1944.

WT Ray appeared in the Indianapolis Recorder in January, 1944 after marrying Alice Brokenburr.

by Lynette Taylor

Many of Indianapolis’ African-American suburbs were created or managed by African-American realty professional W.T. Ray.  Born in New Haven, Connecticut, William Theodore Ray (1916-2010) made many stops on his path that prepared him for his storied career. A significant factor in Ray’s success was education. Following graduation from public schools in Caldwell, New Jersey, Ray studied business administration at Western Reserve University and Oberlin College. It was at Oberlin that Ray met his future wife, Alice Olga Brokenburr, daughter of Madame C.J. Walker attorney and Indiana’s first African-American State Senator Robert Lee Brokenburr, in 1936. From there, Ray attended Cleveland College part-time from 1938–1939.

Ray’s career as a young business professional was cut short when he entered the army in 1941. While in the military, Ray attended the Officers Candidate School at Edgewood Arsenal, then the Chemical Warfare School in 1942. Later that year, Ray was stationed in Tucson, Arizona at Ft. Huadhuca as the instructor in the general staff of the Chemical Warfare section while taking a staff officers’ course in order to get promoted to Major in the U. S. Chemical Warfare Service. Before being shipped out, Alice and her father traveled to Arizona where the couple was married. During World War II, Ray served in the Northern Solomons, New Guinea, Mortal, and the Philippines, after which he was honorably discharged in 1945 and awarded a bronze medal and three campaign stars.

Ray's realty firm ran this ad in the Recorder in March, 1959 encouraging African Americans to become home owners

Ray’s realty firm ran this ad in the Recorder in March, 1959 encouraging African Americans to become home owners

Upon returning to the States, Ray settled in Indianapolis, Indiana, Alice’s hometown, where they remained the rest of their lives. Soon after arriving, Ray again returned to school, attending Indiana University–Indianapolis from 1946 to 1947 to earn a degree in real estate. In the realty professional’s role, Ray had a front row seat to the suburbanization of Indianapolis’ African American residents through his real estate business. W.T. Ray Realty Company opened in early 1946 at 510 North West Street and operated for 35 years. In fact, he sold suburbanization: as the sales agent for Augusta Way, a 45-acre suburban addition west of Grandview Drive between 62nd and 64th Streets, Ray unveiled the neighborhood builder’s new 1,400 square feet, $17,800 floorplan actually called the “Suburban” in 1956. In 1959, as Ray’s business grew, W.T. Ray Realty opened new offices on the ground floor of the Walker Building. The agency’s former office now became the headquarters for a group Ray has begun to be involved with, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Continue reading

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Class and Color at Municipal Gardens

Johanneson Cannon II

In 1916 the first Indianapolis Canoe Club structure on Lafayette Road burnt where Municipal Gardens sits today.

In 1916 the first Indianapolis Canoe Club structure on Lafayette Road burnt where Municipal Gardens sits today.

The Indianapolis park now known as Municipal Gardens has hosted several buildings at the site along Lafayette Road.  The site was first home to the Indianapolis Canoe Club, an exclusive boating club.  Club lore was that the idea for a White River riverfront club was hatched by a circle of veterans while serving in Puerto Rico with the 27th Battery of the Indiana Volunteer Army, which was in the Spanish-American War in 1898.  The club originally was located near Riverside Park, where the club opened in September, 1900.  During the winter of 1912-1913 the club built a new building on  Lafayette Road, with Indianapolis Speedway developer Carl Fisher providing land and some financial support for a new facility that opened in May 1913.  Membership flagged by 1916, when the club launched a membership drive and changed its name to the Indianapolis Athletic and Canoe Club in April, 1916.  In December, 1926, though, a fire burnt the clubhouse to the ground. Continue reading

Selling the Suburbs: Marketing Suburban Indianapolis with Sid Woods

Tarena Lofton

Woods hosted a concert at the Walker Casino in December, 1961 not long after arriving in Indianapolis.

Woods hosted a concert at the Walker Casino in December, 1961 not long after arriving in Indianapolis.

Having the ability to relate to people will open many doors in life, and Sid Woods possessed such qualities and used them to help sell some of Indianapolis’ earliest African-American suburbs. Living in an era of American history where opportunity was limited to those of color, Sid Woods managed to become a prominent figure in the African-American community.

In June, 1963 Woods appeared in an ad for Grandview Estates showing the progress of sales in the northwestern Indianapolis suburb.

In June, 1963 Woods appeared in an ad for Grandview Estates showing the progress of sales in the northwestern Indianapolis suburb.

Woods joined the African-American radio station WGEE in June, 1961. Prior to his move to the Indianapolis station Woods had 11 years of background in the radio industry. He started off working as a disc jockey in Norfolk, Virginia for three years. After Virginia he moved to Tennessee to work as a disc jockey at the leading African American radio station in the state. Prior to moving to Indianapolis, Woods had already made a name for himself; he was known as “The Gospel King of Tennessee” during his time in Tennessee. Continue reading

Juan Solomon Park

by Kathryn Lyons

Solomon Park 2Heading north on Grandview Drive from Fox Hill Drive you may notice a seemingly small, but busy park directly to the east. Juan Solomon Park is actually quite large, featuring 41 beautiful green acres. The park is equipped with several different amenities that invite neighborhood residents and other Indianapolis families to join in on the fun. These amenities include walking trails, a playground, tennis courts, a soccer field, a community room, and a picnic shelter. With all that the park has to offer, it is not surprising to see how popular it is for many citizens in the Indianapolis area.

In 1956 the fiture location of Juan Solomon Park was undeveloped forest and a small farm field. On the opposite side of Grandview Drive the first homes for Augusta Way were being built alongside the earliest homes in the immediate neighborhood.

In 1956 the future location of Juan Solomon Park was undeveloped forest and a small farm field. On the opposite side of Grandview Drive the first homes for Augusta Way were being built alongside the earliest homes in the immediate neighborhood.

The parkland was obtained in 1971, and in 1975 it was dedicated and named after Juan C. Solomon, an Indianapolis community leader who lived in the Grandview neighborhood with his wife Eloise at 6405 Grandview Drive.  Juan Solomon was born in Macon, Georgia in 1908.  His father Zollicoffer Cicero Solomon was a preacher (probably in the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church) and his mother Exa Walker was a lifelong teacher.  Exa Walker taught at Beda Etta College in Macon in the 1920s and 1930, where her son Juan graduated in 1926.  Beda Etta was opened by Minnie Lee Smith in 1921 to address the complete absence of African-American high schools in Macon.  After World War II, Exa and her husband taught at the Memorial Trade School, a segregated trade school training African-American veterans, and Exa taught for several years at the Georgia Academy for the Blind, where she was teaching at her death in 1953. Continue reading

Douglass Park History

by Kyle Huskins

In July, 1926 the Indianapolis Recorder complained that they could only reserve space or visit the city's "Jim Crow" park, Douglass Park. This would remain true into the 1960's.

In July, 1926 the Indianapolis Recorder complained that they could only reserve space or visit the city’s “Jim Crow” park, Douglass Park. This would remain true into the 1960’s.

Douglass Park is one of the most historic parks in Indianapolis. It is named after the African-American intellectual Frederick Douglass, who played a pivotal role in the abolitionist movement and is one of the most recognizable African-American scholars of his time. The name of the park honors his memory and there is a mural of him on the wall of the Family Center. Douglass Park is located on the east side of Indianapolis. The address is 1611 East 25th Street in the midst of the Martindale-Brightwood community. Now the park is easily accessible from the Monon Trail and features a playground, tennis courts, picnic facilities, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, football fields and a paved fitness trail. During the summer months the pool opens and many eastsiders enjoy the pool facilities. Douglass Park also has a family center that provides surrounding youth with after-school programs and events for the community. The history of the prestigious park is a topic that has not gotten a lot of scholarly attention. Learning about the history of the park will enhance the level of prominence that this park has secured and acknowledge its service to the African-American community.

The Park opened in 1921, and after a 1941 expansion it today spans 43 acres. Much of the park’s heritage is linked to the city’s racial and discriminatory history. When Douglass Park was opened it was designated solely for African Americans, and African Americans were not allowed to attend other parks. In July, 1926 the Indianapolis Recorder reported that its representatives tried to obtain a permit to have a picnic at Brookside Park, but after being questioned excessively by the clerk they were denied times to hold the picnic. The paper’s representatives had attended prior events at Brookside Park and found their experience very enjoyable. After asking questions that the clerk could not answer, the clerk ushered them to the Superintendent of Parks’ office. Superintendent R. Walter Jarvis informed them that Douglass Park was the “Jim Crow Park” and he steadily insisted that Douglass Park was a nice area for its “colored citizens” (he had made the same argument in print in The Playground in 1923). The representatives from the Recorder did not obtain a permit for a picnic and were told by the superintendent that African Americans should go to Douglass Park to limit animosity. Continue reading

Race and the Color Line at the Douglass Park Pool

by Jared Meunier

Visit Indy recently proposed to build beaches along the White River, an idea taken from the Parisian river Seine. The White River has been used in the past for recreational swimming. However, since the White River contains so much e. coli bacteria (often 100 more times than is safe for swimming), this would clearly be a cause of concern for most citizens looking for safe and clean places to swim such as public pools.

A 1937 aerial view of Douglass Park includes the swimming pool (left center, above the two baseball diamonds) as well as the segregated golf links.

A 1937 aerial view of Douglass Park includes the swimming pool (left center, above the two baseball diamonds) as well as the segregated golf links.

For much of the 20th century Indianapolis’ only public African-American swimming pool was Douglass Park. Built in 1921, Douglass Park was a center for many of the state’s segregated swim meets and swimming carnivals. The Douglass Park “swimming carnivals” (apparently first held in 1931) had various swimming and poolside social activities at events that were held during the middle of August. In 1938, for instance, events like diving and freestyle and backstroke swim races would draw a great crowd of people. The Indianapolis Recorder reported that the 1931 swimming carnival was highlighted by two “greasy watermelon contests” that ended the carnival’s main events (carnivals featuring pie-eating, sack races, and greased watermelon contests continued at local pools until at least the late 1970s).

Perhaps Douglass Park's first Swimming Carnival was in August, 1931.

Perhaps Douglass Park’s first Swimming Carnival was in August, 1931.

In 1937 Douglass Park Pool’s lifeguard Otis Watts became the first of the park’s lifeguards to receive the most outstanding lifeguard award in the city of Indianapolis. The lifeguarding selection was from over 50 lifeguards throughout the entire city and the Recorder perceived it as quite an honor. The hope from this award was for the city to patronize the Douglass Park Pool. However, in 1964 the Recorder called the Douglass Park Pool a “community eyesore,” providing graphic images of the deterioration of the pool’s showers and toilets and demanding it be renovated. Three years later the Douglass Park Pool was renovated and was said to be “one of the city’s finest.” Continue reading

Homes Before Highways Commission

by Andy Townsend

Urban renewal in Indianapolis had been ongoing for decades when, in 1966, a Congressman from Indiana submitted legislation before the U.S. Congress intended to provide relief for those displaced by the construction of the interstate system.  The bill not only called for a fair price for their property, but compensation that would allow them to relocate into a situation similar to what they were forced to abandon in the name of “progress.”  Andrew Jacobs Jr. entitled his bill “Homes Before Highways.”  Jacobs was a rising star in the U.S. Congress and a strong Civil Rights advocate.  The bill he championed was intended to alleviate some of the hardships faced by those obliged to relocate due to urban development projects such as the construction of the interstate highway system and the expansion of IUPUI.  Among other things it “would prohibit the acquisition of land or construction of public works until adequate and comparable replacement homes and churches are available to the displaced.” The city largely chose minority neighborhoods to develop because they were the most “blighted” and their property the cheapest to acquire.  However, decades of segregation restricted where the “displaced” could relocate.

Community activist Mozel Sanders proposed a "selective buying campaign" to repsond to highway displacement inequalities. He is shown here in an April 1967 picket of stores that did not hire African Americans, part of a long tradition of "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" campaigns.

Community activist Mozel Sanders proposed a “selective buying campaign” to repsond to highway displacement inequalities. He is shown here in an April 1967 picket of stores that did not hire African Americans, part of a long tradition of “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaigns.

Those supporting Jacob’s bill, including Marion County Democratic chairman James Beatty, Rev. Andrew Brown, and Rev. Mozel Sanders, established a community organization in its name.  Their goals are expressed in a 1966 article in the Indianapolis Recorder: “to protect the rights of elderly and undereducated Negroes who are, it has been charged, being exploited by shady real estate dealers and fly-by-night landlords and coerced by university and highway officials.”  Homes Before Highways was a grassroots movement whose members believed that marginalized people were paying a disproportionate share on behalf of the majority.

The Homes Before Highways Commission protested in several ways.  In 1966, for instance, the group’s resistance to an elevated highway wall was reflected in a “selective buying campaign” against downtown businesses that would continue until “the establishment in the downtown area recognizes that when they wall themselves in, they also wall their customers out.” The assertive style of the HBHC was somewhat uncommon for African Americans in Indianapolis, who generally believed they could better achieve their goals from working within the system (an argument outlined in Richard Pierce’s Polite Protest: The Political Economy of Race in Indianapolis, 1920-1970). Continue reading

Grandview Drive Residential Histories

An Augusta Way advertisement from 1956.

An Augusta Way advertisement from 1956.

Perhaps the best-known African-American suburbs in Indianapolis were centered along Grandview Drive in the city’s northwest side.  In 1946 Henry Greer (1894-1996) and wife Della Wilson Greer (1890-1979) moved into a newly built home at 6309 Grandview Drive, an area that was then mostly in the midst of farm fields and undeveloped property.  A few farmhouses were scattered throughout the area as well as a couple houses along Grandview Drive (for, instance, the home at 6404 Grandview Drive appeared on the 1937 aerial view of the neighborhood, and the stables at 1005 West 64th had been built).  The surrounding properties would eventually be the heart of a series of predominately African-American suburbs that went under a wide range of names, including Augusta Way, Grandview Estates, Grandview Terrace, Northshire Estates, and Greer-Dell Estate.  This page links to a PDF inventory of some of the earliest residents in the Grandview neighborhood as a preliminary step examining who built and settled these homes and how long households lived in the neighborhood (compare a similar inventory for the earliest residents of Flanner House Homes).

The Greers built their home on Grandview in 1946.  Henry Greer opened a liquor Store on North West Street in December, 1935, and his wife Della Wilson Greer was an art teacher at Crispus Attucks High School, where she taught for 20 years beginning in 1936.  Dr. Edward Paul Thomas (1920-2001) and Ruby Leah Thomas (1921-2006) became their neighbors around 1952, settling in the home immediately south of the Greers at 6235 Grandview Drive.  At around the same time the fields between Michigan Road and Coburn Avenue were densely built up with suburban homes, but to the east of Coburn the area remained open fields until about 1955. Those fields east of Coburn became the Augusta Way subdivision, which was among the city’s earliest African-American suburbs.  The homes west of Coburn Avenue remained nearly exclusively White through the 1950’s, but lots west of Coburn began to appear in the Indianapolis Recorder by 1960, which suggests the neighborhoods to the west of Augusta Way began to integrate in the 1960s.

The earliest ad for Augusta Way appeared in December, 1955 from the Hughes Realty Company.

The earliest ad for Augusta Way appeared in December, 1955 from the Hughes Realty Company.

The earliest subdivision name in the neighborhood was Augusta Way, perhaps invoking the little town of Augusta that lay north along Michigan Road.  Augusta Way was first advertised in December, 1955 by Hughes Realty, who offered up 88 lots for the construction of ranch homes.  The developer of the subdivision, George W. Malter, named W.T. Ray as a sales agent in February 1956.  Ray almost instantly became the primary agent handling Augusta Way’s sales, offering up lots for $500 down.  A 1956 aerial photograph appears to reveal construction in only one lot in the subdivision, which became 1605 Kenruth Drive and was the home of W.T. Ray.  A block away and built at nearly the same time was Earl and Vanessie Seymour’s home at West 64th Street, which was advertised with a picture in November, 1957.

W.T. Ray had a profound influence on the African-American suburbs as one of Indianapolis’ most active real estate professionals, but he was also was among the most influential figures in Indianapolis’ postwar African-American housing and civil rights movement.  The Connecticut native spent much of his childhood in Caldwell, New Jersey, where his father William was the superintendent of an apartment house; the Rays were the sole African-American residents among 14 households including neighbors from Russia, Lithuania, Poland, and Germany.  Ray studied business administration at Oberlin College and then Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and he was working in retail sales when he enlisted in the Army in 1941.  Ray served in the South Pacific in World War II, where he was in the segregated 93rd Division’s Chemical Warfare unit.

In September 1942 Ray married Alice Brokenburr in Arizona, where Ray was stationed at Fort Huachuca as a Chemical Warfare instructor.  Alice was the daughter of lawyer Robert Lee Brokenburr, who represented Madam CJ Walker and became Indiana’s first African-American state Senator in 1940, serving four more terms before he retired in 1964.  Alice Brokenburr attended Alabama State Teacher’s College, where she trained as a music teacher, and taught at Florida A&M in the early 1940s.  Ray became a real estate agent upon his return to Indiana after the war.  In 1947 Ray became President of the Indianapolis NAACP chapter.  Ray would become the first licensed African-American realtor in Indianapolis, and he served as an Executive Assistant to Governor Otis Bowen between 1973 and 1981.

Augusta Way homes began to be settled in 1959, but by that time homes on 64th Street, Grandview, and Greer-Dell had been completed.  Henry Greer apparently divided acreage adjoining his home and created Greer-Dell Drive, which was advertised at least once as Greer-Dell Estates.  In 1956, three homes were being completed on the south side of Greer-Dell Drive and two on Wood Knoll Drive.  On West 64th Street, about 11 homes had been completed in 1956.  For instance, long-time Madam Walker company Secretary Violet Reynolds and her husband David appeared in the city directory in 1957 at 1559 West 64th Street.

Eventually as Augusta Way lots were purchased with homes still being built until about 1967, subdivisions were opened north along Grandview Drive and north of the newly constructed Grandview Elementary School.  Some lots were advertised in October, 1962 as Grandview Estates; additional lots were sold as Grandview Terrace in July, 1965; and others were sold as Northshire Estates in April, 1966.

Most city directory entries in these neighborhoods do not begin until 1957, though a few appeared earlier. This table (PDF) lists the earliest heads of households who appeared in the city directory for most of the streets in Augusta Way, including 64th Street, Kenruth Drive, 63rd Street, and Sanwela Drive as well as some portion of Grandview Drive; it also includes Greer-Dell Drive and 65th Street.  Many of the earliest city directory entries in Augusta Way date to 1959, but by then some residents may have been in their home a year or two and some households had already appeared in the directory.

 

 Original research in this post was conducted by Derek Blice (Kenruth Drive), Johanneson Cannon (Grandview Drive), Tarena Lofton (Greer-Dell Drive), Jared Meunier (65th Street), Kyle Huskins (Sanwela Drive), Andrew Townsend (63rd Street).

Flanner House Homes Residential Histories 

These men were placing siding on their Flanner House Homes, probably in the 1950s (image University Library).

These men were placing siding on their Flanner House Homes, probably in the 1950s (image University Library).

While most analysis of postwar suburbanization is directed toward the fringes of cities, some similar housing movements were being undertaken in urban spaces emptied by urban renewal.  Perhaps the most interesting of these in Indianapolis is Flanner House Homes, a “self-help” sweat equity project that built homes in the near Westside as well as the eastside adjoining Douglass Park.  This page links to a PDF inventory of some of the earliest residents in Flanner House Homes as a preliminary step examining who built and settled these homes and how long households lived in the neighborhood.

Flanner House was founded in 1898 as a “settlement house” agency to assist Black residents arriving in the earliest waves of the Great Migration.  In 1936 Cleo Blackburn was hired as the Flanner House director, which he would head until his retirement in 1975.  In 1946 Blackburn conducted a study of 454 households on the African-American near-Westside and concluded that the neighborhood was “one of the most unsightly, unsanitary, and deteriorated sectors in the entire city of Indianapolis.”  Blackburn advised that it “is urgently recommended, that the clearance, planning, and redevelopment of this area under the Redevelopment Act of 1945 affords the only hope of correcting the conditions existing in the area. … Immediate steps should be taken by the Indianapolis Redevelopment Commission to declare the area blighted and to acquire, clear, and redevelop it.”

A 1954 Indianapolis Redevelopment Commission map of urban renewal tracts in the near-Westside Project A.

A 1954 Indianapolis Redevelopment Commission map of urban renewal tracts in the near-Westside included Project A, which would include the space occupied by Flanner House Homes.

The Redevelopment Commission purchased a 178-acre tract north of Crispus Attucks High School in November 1946, referred to as Project A, and after displacing the residents (none of whom were guaranteed acceptance into Flanner House Homes) they turned it over to Blackburn and Flanner House.  Flanner House Homes built “sweat equity” housing in which male head of households constructed their homes and the homes of their neighbors (women could not participate in home construction). Construction began in 1950 by a series of men whose families had been exhaustively reviewed by Flanner House, leaving Flanner House solidly peopled by middle-class African Americans.

This table (PDF) lists the earliest heads of households who appeared in the city directory for Flanner House Homes on Lynn Drive and Fall Creek Parkway East, which sat on the northern and western edges of the Flanner House Homes community.  Homes on these streets did not appear in the city directory until 1957, but it it is possible that some of these homes were settled before then.  Each table in this report includes the addresses and names as they are provided in the city directories, so there may be some mis-spelled names or mis-numbered houses.

Original research in this post was conducted by Hadya Sow and Lynette Taylor.

Advertising Black Suburbanites

Julian and Thelma Roache appeared in this January, 1963 advertisement for the Caroline Avenue home where they would live for 40 years.

Julian and Thelma Roache appeared in this January, 1963 advertisement for the Caroline Avenue home where they would live for 40 years.

In January, 1963 Julian and Thelma Roache appeared in the pages of the Indianapolis Recorder celebrating their new home at 2701 Caroline Avenue.  The advertisement was one of a series featuring new suburbanites who had moved into one of Tobey Developers’ eastside communities, Douglas Park and Kingsly Terrace.  Among the Roaches’ neighbors appearing in the ads were Leroy and Winnie Herndon at 2609 Hillside Avenue and Roy and Mildred Gibson at 2908 Brouse Avenue (the Kingsly Terrace neighborhood).  It is the stories of these neighbors and their paths to Indianapolis’ suburbs that we hope to illuminate in the Spring 2016 semester in the African-American Suburbia project.

A Google streetview image of the Roaches' home on Caroline Avenue.

A Google streetview image of the Roaches’ home on Caroline Avenue.

In the first three decades of the 20th century, most of Indianapolis’ African-American arrivals in the Great Migration came from Kentucky.  For instance, Julian Roache Jr.’s father Julian Sr. was born in Herndon, Kentucky in 1892, where he was a farmer.  Julian Jr.’s grandfather Mercer was born in Virginia in 1844 and almost certainly grew up a captive.  Mercer Roache moved his family to Kentucky immediately after the Civil War, where they lived into the 1920s.  Julian Roache Sr. and his wife Rosa came to Indianapolis around 1926, when Julian Jr. was born.

Julian’s wife Thelma had been born in Danville, Illinois in 1918, where her father Phenious Smith was a coal miner.  Phenious had married Almeter Render in Indianapolis in 1911, and the family apparently lived in Indianapolis as well as Illinois until the Depression.

This January, 1963 ad for Douglas Park Homes featured the nearby Douglass Park golf course.

This January, 1963 ad for Douglas Park Homes featured the nearby Douglass Park golf course.

Julian Roach Jr. married Thelma Smith Randle in January 1950.  Julian worked at the Kingan and Company meat-packing plant, the massive 1862-1966 plant that was purchased by the Hygrade Corporation in 1952.  In 1964 when Julian and Thelma first appeared living in Douglas Park at 2701 Caroline Avenue he was working as a beef boner at Hygrade.  In September, 1963 Julian’s eastside neighbors Roy and Mildred Gibson also appeared in a Tobey ad for their home at 2908 Brouse Avenue, and Roy likewise worked at Hygrade.

Julian subsequently worked as a butcher at Kroger’s grocery store for at least 30 years.  In 2001 he was still living at the Caroline Street home, two years after his wife Thelma had died.  A year later he had finally moved from his Caroline Street home to a near-Westside home owned by his sister-in-law, Thelma’s sister Maxine.  He had lived in the Caroline Street home for 40 years.

In September, 1963 Leroy and Winnie Herndon appeared in an ad celebrating their new home on Brouse Avenue.

In September, 1963 Leroy and Winnie Herndon appeared in an ad celebrating their new home on Brouse Avenue.

Leroy and Winnie Herndon appeared in a September, 1963 Tobey Developers’ ad for their home on Hillside Avenue.  Leroy was born in Rockfield, Kentucky in 1921, and like many African Americans he served in World War II.  Many of the Herndons’ neighbors secured Veteran’s loans, and many local African-American realtors advertised the availability of Veteran’s Administration loans (though it is not clear that Leroy and Winnie purchased their home with a VA loan).  Herndon had enlisted at Indianapolis’ Fort Benjamin Harrison in March, 1943, and he was employed as a general laborer at the Fort Harrison Finance Center from about 1955 until 1976.  The Herndons appeared as a retired couple living at 2609 Hillside Avenue in the 1990 city directory, and Leroy died in January, 1992.  When Winnie died two years later, she had lived there for 30 years, and their neighbor Mildred Gibson lived at her Brouse Avenue home until 1987.

This May 12, 1962 was the first Douglas Park Homes ad to appear in the Indianapolis Recorder.

This May 12, 1962 ad was the first Douglas Park Homes ad to appear in the Indianapolis Recorder.

These glimpses into a few of the first families moving into the eastside developments are of course simply impressionistic, and it is not clear how Tobey Developers chose these particular families to feature in its advertising campaign.  It is also quite possible that different patterns may emerge in northside communities.  Yet as an initial insight into the eastside communities, all of the couples who appeared in Tobey Developers’ ads were long-term residents of the newly constructed neighborhoods.  All of the couples were solidly working-class families, and most were the first generation in their family to grow up in Indiana.  While many of the families living along Grandview Drive and in Augusta Way on the northside were part of numerous social groups, the couples in the Tobey Developers’ ads were actually not especially prominent in the local social columns.  In Spring semester the students in the class should begin developing a much more systematic picture of these neighborhoods and residents.

A Google street view image of the 1962 Douglas Park Homes model home at 2855 Caroline Avenue today.