Day 2: September 21, 2012
Some Indy Auto Pioneers
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Back in the teens of the last century, three of the four founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway built neighboring mansions way out in the country on Cold Spring Road. All are now owned by Marion University. Riverdale, the home of James Allison is intact and largely original. We start our day with a tour of the Allison Mansion.

Before we enter, Dennis Horvath, who would be our guide for the weekend's bus tours, chats with Deb awrence, who would be taking us through the mansion. Electric light fixtures are often measured by wattage but this one is measured by weight. Custom made in Germany, it weighs in at one ton. Intricately hand carved wood features, like the balcony railings behind the chandelier and the lion heads in the dining room, are common. The carved wood wall at one end of the music room once covered the pipes of an organ which James Allison sometimes played. The room that everyone is looking at in the fifth picture was the aviary. Mrs Allison kept exotic birds in the marble room with the stained glass skylight. there is lots of marble throughout the house. In fact, most of the gas fired fireplaces are fronted with marble but the one in the library is done in Rookwood tile. Today the building houses the office of Marian's president and is used for banquets and other functions.

The first picture is of the exterior of the Allison mansion. Next is a bit what is left of the Fisher mansion. Most of it has been destroyed by fire and replaced with a brick structure. Third is the home of Frank Wheeler. It is now the admissions building but we could take a look inside.

We were now on our own until time to meet for the afternoon bus tour. That time, I was quite certain, was 1:45. At 1:00, as I sat quietly in my motel room, my cell phone rang. It was Dennis Horvath wondering if I was joining the tour. Sure, I told him, though it was nearly an hour in the future. Nope, it was now but they would gladly wait the few minutes it would take me to get there. I was so sure that the tour was scheduled for 1:45 that I felt like someone awakened from a dream and trying to figure out where, or in this case, when I was. I started mumbling about a time change which, even if it had been true, would have been in the other direction. Only after I was on the bus and checked my copy of the schedule did I become convinced that the tour really was scheduled for 12:45 and that I had it wrong -- very firmly wrong -- in my head. By then I had made another goof. I apologized to the entire bus when I boarded then took a seat accompanied by friendly comments and jokes. One was from LHA National Director Kay Shelton who laughed that I had kept her from being last. Then she asked, "Dennis, do you want an introduction?" Thinking that she was still talking to me and imagining that all the other passengers had become acquainted while waiting for me, I said "Sure. Who all is here?" Of course, Kay was actually asking guide Dennis Horvath if he wanted her to introduce him and she proceeded to do just that. Although I imagine many would have scooted away from me if they could have, everyone just ignored me as I struggled to get in synch with the world.

The bus headed off to Crownhill Cemetery where we drove by several graves of notable people and stopped at a few. The pictures are of James Allison's small marker, which Dennis had marked with a red flower, Frank Wheeler's rather plain stone, and Carl Fisher's crypt. I even have a "dark side of the moon" like picture of the rear of the crypt.

Crownhill contains a couple of large Civil War sections and one really caught our attention. Over the years, the stones had sunk and tilted to the point that few inscriptions were actually readable. The stones are being realigned and set on top of metal devices that will prevent them from either sinking or rising. A similar operation was performed about ten years ago on the stones in the foreground of the second picture.

Next was a visit to the former Stutz automobile factory. After the failure of the Stutz Motorcar Company of America in 1935, the building has led many lives including a forty year run in the hands of Eli Lilly and Company. In 1993 current owner Turner Woodward started its rebirth as the Stutz Business Center. The center has many tenants but some of the most interesting are the cars in Woodward's personal collection. There is, of course, a yellow Bearcat and there is a mockup of the Stutz Blackhawk in which Frank Lockhart died in his land speed record attempt. In between are pictures of a 1929 Auburn Boattail Speedster and a 1955 Jaguar XK 140. The Stutz name does not appear on the building but there are big Stutz 'S's all around the top edge.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must mention that Harry Stutz and I are from the same small Ohio town. Harry left Ansonia at a very early age. I stayed there through high school.

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