Historical Flanner House ImageHistory

Flanner House of Indianapolis, Inc., a charitable organization under Sections 170(c) and 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, has a long and rich history. The organization had its beginning in 1898 when Frank Flanner, a local philanthropist and Caucasian mortician, donated two frame buildings on Rhode Island Street (later changed to Colton St.), which lay in the heart of Lockefield Gardens Housing Project, to the Charity Organization Society with instructions to create a "Negro" community service center. The new organization was christened Flanner Guild. The name was change to Flanner House in 1912. The Christian Women's Board of Missions purchased four buildings at the corner of West and St. Clair streets in 1918 and moved the organization from its original Rhode Island Street location. Flanner House was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1935. In 1944 a new building was dedicated for the agency at 16th an Missouri streets. This was the agency's home until 1975 when it moved to 2110 N. Illinois St. In the fall of 1979, the organization moved to its present home, the Cleo W. Blackburn Cultural and Educational Center at 2424 Northwestern Ave., now renamed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street.

History of Program Development 

Since its inception, Flanner House has demonstrated its commitment to the provision of human services by planning and implementing a variety of employment and training, social services, recreational and health programs. The agency's programs have always been aided by the cooperative efforts of individuals in the community. Programs included a recreation department with boys and girls clubs; vocational arts with classes in cooking, sewing and millinery; a music department with a full orchestra of 73 pieces, and a day-care nursery that charged 10 cents a day. 

Four buildings were purchased in 1918 at the corner of West and St. Clair streets, remodeled and equipped for use by Flanner House. Programs at that time consisted of a health clinic, which included a tuberculosis clinic, child care clinic, unmarried mothers home and Red Cross classes in first aid; a library; weekly Sunday school classes; and the Friendly Visitation Department, which offered lessons in "Teaching the Value of Money", "How to Get a Dollar's Worth," "Values of Health," "Sanitation," "Cleanliness" and "Wholesome Living." 

Until 1950 the agency conducted a full-time independent employment service. Though the service was geared primarily toward domestic positions, other jobs were obtained. From its humble beginnings as a service for mothers (many seeking day work) who left their children at the nursery, it grew at a tremendous rate. In 1950 when the employment service activities were transferred to the State Employment Agency, letters were sent to over 2,500 employers and 800 employees served by Flanner House. 

Flanner House training programs always emphasized self-help. The food program was one such project. The problem of how to get the most for the least expense was attacked with a four-pronged teaching drive consisting of the following: gardening, canning, cooking and nutrition. A participant in the program could avail himself/herself of a garden plot. A trained agriculturist assisted each person with the garden. He could then preserve his food at a self-help cannery, which was equipped with production machinery. To enhance culinary talents, he could take a cooking class that taught food preparation and serving. The final facet of the program instructed persons in proper balancing of diets and in sound menu preparation. Clothing construction was also taught. Sewing, millinery, weaving and needlework, carpentry and upholstering were also offered. 

The most revolutionary Flanner House program, which received national attention and acclaim, began in the early 1950s. It was dubbed the "Sweat Equity" Housing Program. More than 175 homes were built, which were valued in excess of $2 million. These single-family homes were built in an area immediately west and north of Crispus Attucks High School, by the prospective homeowners. The buyer earned his down payment by helping to build his own home. The program, open to male heads of families, required that a person's health permit him to work 20 hours a week on the project and that the participant have a cooperative spirit to aid others in building their homes. A minimum income of $3,500 and a good credit rating were needed to ensure that the participant qualified for a mortgage. 

Flanner Historical House

The Flanner House Child Development Center has been a very viable part of the service since the organization's beginning. At one time the center served more than 200 children. A senior citizens organization formed very early. Recreational programs for neighborhood youth were developed. Children growing up during he post-war years of the 1940s, 50s an 60s were offered craft classes, planned sports and after-school activities. The programs that had been offered as a vocation to their parents were being offered recreationally to them. 

To meet the health concerns of the community, the Herman G. Morgan Center was erected in 1945 as an adjunct to the Flanner House. Located adjacent to the Missouri Street building, the center offered a diverisifed health program for children and adults. It offered well-baby and prenatal clinic, dental care and X-rays for children, hearing tests and physicals. 

In 1908 Flanner Guild Rescue Home was established to care for unmarried mothers and their children; employment and education classes began. The organization at one time operated a Residential Youth Center at 3203 N. Pennsylvania St., for young men referred to the Home by the Juvenile Court and the Youth Service Bureau. In the late 1970s, Flanner House added to its array of programs a Multi-Service Center, which offered not only counseling and related services from Flanner House staff, but decentralized services were also offered by such agencies as Marion County Juvenile Court, Marion County Welfare Department (now renamed Division of Family and Children), food stamps and Aid to Families with Dependent Children Divisions, Family Service Association and the Human Rights Commission. 

Today the organization continues to respond to its purpose of promoting the spiritual, social, moral, cultural and physical welfare of individuals and families in Indianapolis, by providing a variety of counseling and information and referral services to all ages. Flanner House provides educational services for children ages 3 to 12, a social/recreational/education program for seniors, a youth social development program and a homemaker service program to individuals whose physical conditions prevent them from doing basic housekeeping chores in their homes. 

"Synopsis of Flanner House History" is the property of Flanner House. Reproduction without permission is prohibited.