An early institution in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood, well before the Butler or the Tarkington was in the neighborhood, was the Mutual Service Association. The association was publicly launched in Indianapolis in October 1904 (some sources indicate it was initially organized in 1903) and was designed to support women working in low salaried jobs in the downtown area, providing them networking and social opportunities. The organization maintained an employment bureau and generally “looked after the personnel welfare of those connected with the organization,” according to the 1904 Handbook of Indianapolis.
In November of 1904 the association announced that it was purchasing land northwest of the village of Mapleton (centered around 38th Street and Illinois), and south of Fairview Park, the future site of Butler University. The land, purchased for $4,500, was to be used as a camp for the association’s members. It was located along 42nd Street at the present site of the Unitarian Universalist Church in between Clarendon Road and Sunset Avenue with 43rd Street as the northern boundary. The camp was comprised of just over four acres of wooded land, reportedly covered with a growth of young maple trees. The map below shows the site of the camp, with 43rd Street then labeled as 44th. Clarendon Road has not yet been extended between 42nd and 43rd Streets.
The camp was intended to provide young, employed women a “taste of country air” during the summer months without the need for a vacation, or the “inconvenience and expense of seeking suburban homes.” Initially a large two-story house was constructed to host camp attendees. The home, named ‘Maple Lodge’ opened in 1906, and featured 14 bedrooms, a large dining room, kitchen, and 12-foot-wide continuous porch running on three sides of the building.
For times when the number of attendees exceeded the available space, a campground like atmosphere was established with tents erected for additional members who wished to stay at the camp. Several small 'cabins' were also constructed to accommodate camp attendees. The image below, from a scrapbook of the Mutual Service Association at the Indiana Historical Society, shows attendees at the camp lounging outside the lodge on lawn furniture and hammocks. Some of the small cabins can be seen in the background. This image was from around 1907.
The Mutual Service Association’s members (membership was at 800 in 1907) were able to escape the urban environment of downtown and experience the fresh air of the country during a time when fresh air camps were becoming popular. As noted in a brochure from the association, its founders wanted to "provide a summer home for their less fortunate fellow workers unable to enjoy a needed summer vacation away from the city.: The camp hosted festivals and fundraisers, and annual events including music and artistic performances. Outdoor suffrage meetings were also common events at the property. The Fairview Park streetcar line ran past the camp, giving visitors to the park a good view of the Association’s property on 42nd Street, and providing transportation when the property hosted events. Gardens on the property provided produce for the lodge during the summer months. All-in-all, a very enticing getaway. The images below are of Ida Cullum (left) and Alice Griffith (right), two librarians at the Indianapolis Library, who are shown with their tents at the camp in 1911.
Things were not all idyllic at the Maple Lodge. In 1923 the Association’s camp was the scene of a shooting death and ensuing investigation and controversy when 16-year-old Russell Beyle was shot and killed by Indianapolis police on the camp’s grounds. Beyle was a high school student at Technical High School and lived with his family at 4330 Boulevard Place, just a few blocks east of the camp. On the night of February 8, 1923, Grace Wright, the superintendent of the association, contacted police with a report of a prowler seen at one of the windows of the main lodge at the 42nd Street property around 10 pm at night. Two police officers arrived on scene and found Beyle looking into one of the windows on the westside of the house. From their accounts, they identified themselves as police and told him not to run. Beyle began to run, and the patrolman fired shots into the air and called for him to stop. Beyle apparently hid behind a tree, but then the situation became confusing.
The patrolmen claimed Beyle began to run again at which time they both fired. They also claimed that when he hid behind the tree, they saw him raise his hand like he had a revolver. It was unclear how the patrolmen saw the teen raise his hand, when he was behind a tree, at night on a dark February night, in a wooded property. However, the second volley of shots were aimed at Beyle and resulted in one striking him, with an exit wound near his heart. No firearm was found on Beyle, and he was brought inside the lodge until an ambulance arrived. He was taken to the city hospital for treatment, but he died the next day, Friday February 9. Beyle’s parents told police that their son was hard of hearing, which they thought contributed to his not clearly hearing the statements from the patrolmen.
An investigation was conducted by the coroner, who interviewed several people, including neighbors near the Association’s camp, Beyle’s friends, and the three women who had been present at the lodge. Rose Mumford, who lived nearby at 4232 Sunset, reported that young men from the neighborhood were known to frequently peek through the windows of the home. The Indianapolis Star reported that witnesses had also indicated that the women staying at the home were in the habit of not lowering the shades while undressing, although the newspaper did not identify the witnesses or clarify how they were aware of the non-lowered shade detail. The Indianapolis Times had no issue with identification and reported that H.W. DeHaven, 4233 Sunset Avenue reported this fact. DeHaven also told the newspaper that he commented to one of the patrolmen about what a shame it was that a boy who “looks to have some good in him” was shot. The police officer responded that “We can’t be running out here every hour to chase people from these windows. We were sent out here to get him, and by God we did.”
Beyle’s killing was submitted to a grand jury for potential charges, but no further mention of the case was found. Additionally, personnel records for the two officers, William Albers and Homer Dailey, and later newspaper reports, indicate they continued to be employed with the police department after the incident. The incident, and another recent shooting of a bootlegger, led the chief of police to caution about the use of firearms: “I want it emphasized that in neither of the two recent shootings am I holding the officers totally responsible, but I think it is well that the men be given a greater understanding of the value of human life, so that when an emergency arises they will be more careful in the use of their revolvers.”
Not long after the Beyle shooting, but unrelated to that event, the Mutual Service Association began to run into financial trouble. Several pleas were made to the community and fundraising efforts were launched. Part of the problem was the expense of operating the camp, which was only becoming more expensive as Indianapolis expanded outward. Once located in the country, where, as described by the Indianapolis News in 1925, “[n]ot a sound came to mar the stillness of the evening air,” except the occasional music coming from a band concert at Fairview Park, the area was beginning to be built up in the 1920’s. The improved roadways, new sewers, and installation of gas lines had increased the tax burden on the Maple Lodge property. Also, in 1925 the northern edge of the property, fronting 43rd street, was platted into seven residential lots called the "Maple Grove Addition," presumably for sale to the general public.
While continuing to operate the camp, the association tried to appeal for larger membership, but this effort appears to have failed: in 1926, the property was sold to the Orchard School, a private school based at 5050 North Meridian. The old Maple Lodge was used by the Orchard School but later demolished and new structures built on the site. The seven platted lots were never sold and continued to be part of the Orchard School. The Association purchased a large home at 1912 Alabama Street, near downtown and continued its operations. The Alabama Street home no longer stands, and the lot is now occupied by a private swimming pool for an adjoining property.
Indianapolis News: November 4, 1904, July 21, 1906, February 10, 1923, February 21, 1925, March 6, 1926
Indianapolis Star: May 26, 1912, February 9, 16, 1923
Indianapolis Times: February 9, 10, 13, 14, 1923
Digital Indy, Indianapolis Police Archives
Mutual Service Association Archives, Indiana Historical Society
Image at top of blog posting from the Indiana Historical Society