711 & 715 Dorman StreetIndianapolis, IN
Summary of History and Significance
The Ruskaup-Ratcliffe house and store are important historically and architecturally. The buildings are the major remaining structures of a once thriving nineteenth century working-class neighborhood.
Frederick Ruskaup bought the property in 1872. The area was an integrated area of Germans and Irish immigrants and southern blacks. Frederick Ruskaup (1844-1901) was born in Hilda, Hanover, Germany and emigrated to this country in 1869. In 1874 he married Maria Ludemann (1847-1925), who was also German-born. By 1875, Ruskaup had opened a grocery at 713 Dorman Street, and the family lived upstairs. In 1892, the Ruskaup family moved into the house at 711 Dorman Street. The house was designed by Bernard Vonnegut of the firm Vonnegut and Bohn, one of the leading architectural firms in the city. In 1902, after the death of his father, William Ruskaup opened a saloon in part of the grocery building. He continued to operate the saloon until 1916. The Ruskaup family lived there until it was sold to the Ratcliffe sisters in 1957.
The Ruskaup-Ratcliffe house is one of the few residences identified as a Vonnegut design (some of Vonnegut's designs include the Athenaeum, and the L.S. Ayres Building). The house has a Germanic character derived mostly from the unusual detailing. The varied window size and placement, stone detailing, and the corbie-step wall dormer contribute to the Germanic influence. The interior, which retains the original carved and turned woodwork, mantels, inlaid floors, and imported stained glass windows, also bears the stamp of Vonnegut's design. A cartouche/shield device was used on the stairway and on a door in the dining room; this was a favorite detail of Vonnegut and can be seen on the exterior of the Ayres building.
The Ruskaup-Ratcliffe house and store stand as important reminders of the mixed cultural heritage of Indianapolis. They are an important structural element in the neighborhood, and their unique architectural design contributes to the architectural heritage of the city. The Ruskaup-Ratliff house was included in the National Register of Historic Places' Cottage Home District in 1990.