Whispers of Yesteryear: 1304 N. Delaware St -- The Smith House.

  • June 01, 2022 11:01 AM
    Message # 12801399
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by: Murphy Hendy, ONS resident and Realtor

    The magic of the past sings poetically through the rooftops and tree canopies of downtown's Old Northside, painting the grounded historic streets with an ominous yet strangely familiar haunt from yesteryear. Let's travel back to a previous century while we recall the shockingly majestic stone and brick mega-home that once stood prominently at the NW corner of Delaware & 13th St like a masterfully decorated peacock on full display. 1304 N. Delaware St is the location for our visit today! We may be better-acquainted with this address as the current site of The Sherwood; a 9-story residential building that was erected in 1950-1951. Let's go nearly 143 years back, shall we? The earliest recorded account of the late home dates back to the Fall of 1880, where it was first recorded in the city's directory as 678 N. Delaware St; labeled a "new home" in the publication.

    The humble residence was initially resided-in by George W. Stout (a local wholesale grocer) and his family until it was sold just 2 years later to Dr. William P. Johnson, a Surgical Institute partner, who lived very nearby (across the street, to be exact) and was eager to pursue the lavish dwelling. Dr. Johnson would remain a proud owner and resident of the home until his death in 1889; at which point, his daughter, son-in-law, and other family members continued to live in the home until it sold in 1893 to Charles F. Smith (Founder & President of the Indiana Bicycle Company). Mr. Smith enjoyed making various structural improvements and upgrades to it over the next 2-3 years. An elaborate front porch extension would later grace the entire corner facade, while expanded detached stables were built at rear (equipped with an underground tunnel system connecting to the main house) and would come to include Mr. Smith's new custom bowling alley...in-case one should get the sudden urge to play a festive game on their way to the stables! Mr. Smith and his family would stay in the newly improved mansion for nearly 10 years before selling it in 1903 for $35,000; which included all the trimmings of a then-modern home. By this time, 1304 N. Delaware St was most recognized by its extensive rusticated stone arch & column ornamentation at the wrap-around porch, the sleek turret at the north corner of the 2nd level, the many handsome horizontal lintels articulating the vast number of soaring windows, and the complex roofline reaching to the sky. It's easy to see why the home was able to fetch a whopping $1,197,933 sale's price (adjusted for today's dollar) when it sold to Mr. John W. Schmidt in 1903. He and his family would remain there for 10 years (a decade seems to be the theme in occupancy here) where they would continue to improve and alter the property until Mr. Schmidt's death in 1914. It would be sold one more time a couple of years later to the Lynn B. Millikan family, very active in the world of buying, selling, and building of real estate. This marks the period in which the final fate of the home would start to materialize; as Lynn Millikan had intentions to use the home for funeral & mortuary equipment sales and display, but the surrounding neighbors were highly opposed to allowing the magnificent mansion to be used for commercial purposes - so it continued to be utilized in various residential ways over the coming years (a girls' dorm associated with the Athenaeum, a hosting site for special-interest clubs, and a series of multi-use rented spaces, to name a few). 

    Sadly, the home would meet its tragic end when it was slated to be completely destroyed, flattened, and removed to allow for the preparation of a new site at this same address: The Sherwood. In 1950, the large structure was nearing completion and by 1951, applications were being taken, inviting new residents in to this 109-unit, 1BD/Efficiency apartment complex (boasting $90.00/mo including utilities) w/ 'fancy penthouses' at top, according to a published article from June 1951.

    We may no longer be able to turn our heads up to the attractive roofline of the original home at 13th and Delaware while we relish in its architectural beauty and significance, but we can certainly imagine the sights and sounds of this busy location during the late 1800's/early 1900's when the pride-of-ownership(s) would take this historic beauty through various phases of renovations and improvements before it was erased from the collection of standing ONS homes for good. No longer here in physical form, 1304 N. Delaware St remains intricately woven into the fabric of the ONS's robust past...and will forever keep a ghostly presence on this busy urban corner. It's fun to imagine the old system of tunnels traversing the lot along 13th St. Maybe somewhere under the foundation for The Sherwood exists remnants of Mr. Smith's bowling alley boards...

    Last modified: June 01, 2022 11:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

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