Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Avriel Shull and I

Avriel Shull has turned into a cigarette-smoking, blue-talking, red-haired guardian angel for me. Ever since Indiana Landmarks Modern Committee hired me to write a National Register of Historic Places nomination for her Thornhurst Addition, it seems that Avriel (the one-named Cher of Indiana architecture) shows up everywhere I go.

As an example, my new beau's ex-mother-in-law was sitting shiva and when we visited to pay our respects, one of the other attendees was Howard Wolner, an Indianapolis architect who was working at the same time as Avriel in the 1950s and 1960s (Wolner is still active). I mentioned that I had been researching and writing about Avriel Shull and he had an Avriel story about building a house right next to one she was building and hearing the bluest language he'd ever heard on a construction site coming from her. I've heard that story from several others; that's classic Avriel.

Avriel has become the Kevin Bacon of Indianapolis for me. Everyone's connected to Avriel. Either they lived in one of her houses, their parent went to Herron Art School with her, they worked for her, or, as in the case of my new friend, Keith, traced her drawings as a high school student! Everyone seems to have known Avriel. Everyone but me, that is.

But I'm getting to know her and the more I research and write about her, the better I like getting to know her. The National Register nomination is at the National Park Service waiting on confirmation to become the first Mid-Century Modern historic district in Indiana. But I'm still learning about her, researching and writing about her. So if you have an Avriel story, please share it with me. Avriel died in 1976 but her spirit definitely lives on in the many, many Avriel buildings and even more Avriel stories.

That picture up there, that's the first home Avriel built in Thornhurst Addition. Cool, huh?


  1. She sounds like a truly remarkable person. It's great to see her legacy flourish. Thanks!

  2. I think her bigger-than-life character has helped to keep her buildings around and appreciated. Although I've found at least a couple of incidents where homes she built are now gone,hopefully some more consciousness raising will stop that.

  3. Oops. I mistyped above. I meant to say that Thornhurst is NOW listed on the National Register.

  4. I was at Thornhurst Subdivision today looking at Avriel Shull's homes. The homes are 50 years old and look better than ever. There are several subdivisions in the area that tried to replicate her design, some did well others not so nice. The carmel area is a very nice place to live