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Hannah-Oehler-Elder House

3801 South Madison Street
Indianapolis, IN

Summary of History and Significance

Alexander M. Hannah was born in Wayne County in 1821.  Trained as a harnessmaker, he left his business in 1850 to seek his fortune in California.  Joining the Gold Rush, Hannah earned enough money to become part owner of a barley and vegetable ranch in California for five years.   After selling his interests, he moved to Indiana, settling in Indianapolis and working for the Indiana Central Railroad.  Hannah's father Samuel was president of the Railroad, and owned extensive property in Marion County.  Alexander Hannah acquired 240 acres south of Indianapolis and began construction of a brick home.  The Italianate design of the house with Greek Revival influences is attributed to Hannah; however, it seems likely that he was influenced by the many trade publications and architectural guides that were popular in the 1850's.  The sophistication of both design and construction, which uses dimension lumber to form trusses in the attic space, would suggest such an outside influence.

Hannah was known throughout his lifetime as a progressive farmer, and was said to be knowledgeable of the latest scientific techniques in agriculture.  He raised wheat, corn, oats, and hay, as well as livestock, including cattle, sheep, and hogs.  The Indianapolis-Southport Toll Road (the first toll road in Marion County) crossed Hannah's property; an early road from Indianapolis to Madison.  From 1860 to 1895, Hannah collected tolls from travelers along his section of gravel-surfaced road.

In 1872, Hannah married and constructed a service building southeast of the kitchen wing.  The new addition housed the smoke house, wash house, milk cooling room, and servant's quarters.  In his later years, Hannah was a member of the Indiana General Assembly and served at various times as postmaster, sheriff, and clerk of the circuit court.  The major east-west street south of his house bears the name "Hannah Avenue."  Because he married late in life, he had no heirs and his farm was subdivided and sold after his death in 1895.

In 1899, Roman Oehler purchased the house and 21 acres of surrounding property.  Oehler was a Civil War veteran and owned a prosperous jewelry business in Indianapolis.  During the Oehler occupancy, the porch on the front of the house was replaced with a wider one of concrete, and several outbuildings (which still stand) were constructed.  Oehler's daughter, Romena Oehler Elder, and her husband and family were the third owners of the house, occupying it until 1962.

The Hannah-Oehler-Elder house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

 

Hannah-Oehler-Elder House