Saturday, May 29, 2021

Old School Building Restored to Former Glory

“It’s like day and night,” construction manager Bill Rasner said while surveying renovations at Old Shelby High apartments earlier this year. 

The project, an initiative of complex owner Purple Vetch Properties, LLC, was the first significant infrastructure upgrade since at least the early 1990s, when the building transitioned into residential use following service as the community junior high school and, before that, Shelbyville High School.

Over those past three decades, the property exchanged hands several times - one of Rasner’s companies owned it at one point - until Purple Vetch, a Northern California real estate developer, picked up the complex in 2012. Company president Mitch Genser’s original intention was to renovate the deteriorating building with the help of low-income housing and historic tax credits within two or three years.

“But securing such funding took many rounds of initially unsuccessful applications to the state agency overseeing this process, and years marched on,” Genser said.

Two years ago, the long-awaited financing came through. Sterling Bank, based in Missouri, provided the much-needed short-term construction loan to make the project a reality. A tax credit investor from Boston, The Cherrytree Group, through their P & R Fund, purchased the tax credits and now sits in partnership with Purple Vetch Properties, LLC. And the state of Indiana, through their IHCDA Development Fund, rounded out financing with a multi-year low-interest loan to enable the restoration project to go forward. Old Shelby High Apartments, LLC has recently secured approval from Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust out of Iowa for permanent financing that, sometime this summer, will replace the construction loan and provide stable financing for Old Shelby High for the next few decades.

The present-day Old Shelby High Apartments comprises two of the three structures that make up the complex of historically significant buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Indiana State Historic Preservation Office. These include the original Shelbyville High School building, built in 1911, which faces Second Street; the Junior High School building, built in 1917, which faces Tompkins Street; and the gymnasium, built in 1922, located on Fourth and Meridian streets and houses the City of Shelbyville Parks and Recreation offices. That court, Paul Cross Gymnasium, was the home floor for Shelbyville’s 1947 boys state basketball championship team.

The recent renovations to the old classrooms restored much of the buildings’ former glory.

“Not only are the windows and doors breathtakingly similar in appearance to what was installed back in 1911, when this glorious building was first built, but the building envelope is now so much more secure, which makes for a much better, more comfortable, and energy-efficient experience for the residents at Old Shelby High,” Genser said.

The new off-white monumental windows with muntins (grids) were specifically designed to simulate the original. Exterior doors, masonry and limestone received similar attention. New gutters and downspouts were added, with the original copper downspouts preserved when possible.

The school-days feel still exists inside, too, thanks to the enormous hallways, original wrought iron stairwells, a large basketball mural - painted by then-student Rachael Passwater (Ackley) - and other jewels found during renovations. A wall painting discovered in an old art classroom was preserved. Natural light was restored to the hallways by removing bricks that had blocked-in deteriorating windows decades ago. Energy-efficient LED bulbs replaced the not-original fluorescent bulbs throughout the structure.

BELOW: A wall painting discovered in an old art classroom was preserved and incorporated into a unit.

The property now includes 25 one-bedroom, 22 two-bedroom and two three-bedroom units, with significant floor plan varieties available given its previous incarnation as school classrooms, a library and offices. Five units are two-story townhouses, while a handful of others wind down the front of the building. Most units boast 15-foot ceilings. 

Three-fourths of the 49 units at Old Shelby High were fully renovated, with new paint and flooring or restoration of the original wood, and upgraded kitchens and bathrooms. All units received high-efficiency condensing boilers, hydronic air handlers and air conditioning condensing units to replace the old hot water heaters, air handlers and condensers.

Behind the scenes, fire security equipment and an extensive CCTV security camera system were added. Genser said the parking lot would be fully resurfaced and regraded down the road.

“It is a different world now at Old Shelby High,” Genser said. “Property Management is now handled by the reputable firm of Moynahan Williams, Inc. (MWI) out of Indianapolis, a company with lots of experience managing low-income housing properties. The company, and their employees who work on site at Old Shelby High, continue to bring a huge commitment to the success of this apartment complex, which is evidenced by simply walking around the inside or outside of the building, and the increased respect the residents now bring to Old Shelby High. From what I can see, it sure looks like Old Shelby High is positioned now to have a few more decades under its belt as a unique place for residents of Shelbyville of modest means to call home while the building gloriously harkens back to another era.”

A “few more decades” is an underestimate to Rasner. “Now it’s good for another hundred years,” he said.

Grand Ol’ Picnic

The Shelby County Republican Club hosted its annual picnic - this year themed “Return to Normal” - Thursday at Blue River Memorial Park. Although it’s an off-election year, Chairman Rob Nolley has been working on fielding candidates for next year’s county primary races. “I have that pretty well completed at this point,” Nolley said. “We have some new folks because some people are either term-limited or they’re just retiring. You’ll see some new faces.” The local party is also planning this year’s Lincoln Day Dinner, which will likely occur in early July. “I hope it's a big turnout for us because, having a dead year, it's hurt our finances. We’ve been able to make it through because we’ve got a strong support system, but it would be nice to get flushed with some cash to focus on the coming elections,” Nolley said.


  • There is no city trash collection on Monday, May 31, due to the Memorial Day holiday. Monday’s trash route will be collected Tuesday, and Monday’s recycling will be delayed until next week. No other route will be affected next week other than Monday’s.

  • As of yesterday, the state reported 4,982 positive coronavirus cases in Shelby County, an increase of 0 from the previous day, out of 19,900 tests, an increase of 15 from the day before. The number of deaths for Shelby County remained the same, at 96. The State lists 17,658 fully vaccinated people for Shelby County as of yesterday.

  • CORRECTION: An article yesterday about Mitchell Quilleon Brown (aka “Kid Quill”) incorrectly identified the name of his father, which is Doug Brown. We’ll use this opportunity to again plug that Shelbyville’s own Kid Quill is performing at this summer’s Lollapalooza.

  • HOOSIER NEWS: Indiana’s unemployment rate is 3.9 percent for April, remaining unchanged from the month before. Areas like Elkhart – where the RV industry is undergoing a major boom in production – have local unemployment rates even lower than the state. But other areas like Kokomo, Gary and Michigan City remain several percentage points higher. Shelby County’s rate, 3.6%, for April 2021 is lower than the state average but third-highest among the nine central Indiana counties. Marion County has a 5.3% rate and Madison County reported 4.9%. Boone County is at 2.5%, is the lowest in the region, with Hamilton County at 2.6%.

  • NATIONAL NEWS: In 2016, according to federal disclosures Amazon did not have a single executive who was Black, Native American, or multiracial, and employed only one Hispanic or Latino executive. By 2017, they employed 22 Black executives, 51 Hispanic and Latino executives and 22 multiracial executives. Their secret? They actually just made an additional 1,662 people “executives,” changing the definition of the term in their reporting to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to expand the 105 U.S. senior executive leadership roles to a class of 1,767 upper management figures. After 2017, Amazon stopped releasing its EEOC reporting. (The Seattle Times)

    “This Week in Shelby County" works by George L. Stubbs Sr. are owned by the Shelby County Historical Society (Grover Center) and used with permission.


    News around Shelbyville and the surrounding area as reported on or about this date in history. Selections are curated from the Shelby County Public Library Genealogy Department.

    20 YEARS AGO: 2001
    Purdue University assistant men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Marin and Joe McConnell, the voice of Purdue football, attended the Shelby County Purdue Alumni Association’s banquet at the National Guard Armory, which recognized new students and scholarship winners from Shelby County to Purdue. SHS graduate Luke Simons would be the new Purdue Pete mascot.

    30 YEARS AGO: 1991
    Major Hospital started laparoscopic gall bladder surgery, a state-of-the-art procedure that significantly shortened recovery time. Dr. Eliseo Banguis taught the hospital staff the method by operating on pigs at what he called “a secret pig lab.” “It’s hard to get pigs in the surgery room,” Banguis joked in a Shelbyville News interview.

    The city plan commission approved a second section of about 13 acres to be added to The Overlook addition. Lot prices ranged from $25,000 to $34,500.

    40 YEARS AGO: 1981
    The Second Baptist Church building on West Hendricks Street was razed following an arson incident in July 1980. (The perpetrator, who had also set a small fire at First Baptist and robbed several businesses, was given 10 years in jail. The accused had denied knowledge of the church fires, telling investigators he was at home in his downtown area apartment and knew nothing about the fires until the fire alarms rang. However, since the churches were virtually across the street from the fire station, the sirens and alarms were not used by firemen, Shelbyville News’ Jim McKinney reported.) The cornerstone on the building had been laid in 1866, but it took nine years to fully complete construction. The cornerstone had been opened when demolition work began, and a small metal box containing at least two documents was found. However, the documents had not been sealed well and could not be identified. Marian McFadden’s “Biography of a Town: Shelbyville, Indiana” notes several Black churches were established during the late 1860s and early ‘70s, but most met in rented halls. Second Baptist was built with members contributing hand-formed bricks.

    50 YEARS AGO: 1971
    Shelbyville High School captured its first baseball sectional in the four-year history of the IHSAA tourney behind strong pitching by Mike Underwood and Bruce Rogers and a clutch single by Rick Joseph. Curt Johnson came up with a timely single while Larry Browning also had hits. Robin Gahimer and Greg Martin also had key plays.

    60 YEARS AGO: 1961
    The Shelby County Red Cross moved from the courthouse to the Boys Club, 710 S. Miller St. The Red Cross had previously been located in City Hall.

    A Sullivan, Ind. man admitted to burglarizing Catholic church, including the St. Joseph’s Church parish here, to finance a tavern he had purchased.

    “Mr. Texas” - Redd Harper, of the film “Oil Town, U.S.A.” - appeared at Shelbyville Baptist Temple on West State Road 44 to speak and sing. His vocal selections included “If Man Should Reach the Moon".”

    70 YEARS AGO: 1951
    Local Yellow Cab taxi drivers offered free transportation to enlistees during “Join the Army Week” to get them to the recruiting station at the National Guard Armory on E. Washington St.

    Claudia Creed, daughter of Martha Creed, was recognized as the Shelby County Girl Scout Cookie Queen before an audience at the Ritz Theater. Mrs. Leo Hendricks was the cookie sale chairman. Creed sold 141 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies; runner-up Marilyn Ray was named Cookie Princess for selling 128 boxes. Scout Secretary Phyllis Ann Fager ran the program. First Aid Badges were given to Mary Ash, Doris Bennett, Joan Fields, Janet Briley, Annette Dellekamp, Nadine Dellekamp, Barbara Ellis, Mary Goodwin, Sharon Hotopp, Jannis McKinney, Linda Pruitt, Nancy Stine, Amelia Stuart, Joan Tennell, Judith Tovey and Jane Anne Van Way. Troop leaders were Linda Weicks, Marilyn Cooper, Janet Miller and Cordelia Shaw.

    80 YEARS AGO: 1941
    Sears-Roebuck announced plans to open a store to replace the S.B. Morris Firm, which was going out of business after 66 years.

    A Shelbyville Republican photo showed children in the 6A graduating class sprinting out of Charles Major elementary on the last day of school, rushing past the “Bears of Blue River” statue at the front of the building.

    90 YEARS AGO: 1931
    Members of the Shelbyville American Legion Band played at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500. Rollyn Barnes, business manager for the band, chartered a rail car for transportation.

    100 YEARS AGO: 1921
    Morris Sleeth received a telegram stating that the bodies of Paul Cross, George Gaines and Ernest Fisher, Shelbyville boys who had lost their lives while serving with the army in France during the war, were expected to arrive soon on the Pennsylvania rail line. The bodies had been shipped from New York. Funeral arrangements were underway. Forest Hill Cemetery Association board members said they would waive the regulations prohibiting Sunday funerals for the ceremonies. Rev. and Mrs. S.J. Cross, formerly of Shelbyville, were en route to meet the train; locals Mrs. Jessie Gaines, of S. West St. and Ernest Fisher, of E. Jackson St., also confirmed plans to be there. Plans were made for all businesses to close during the funeral. Cross and Gaines had been high school classmates and close friends. Both were members of the Battery E. 150th Field Artillery. Cross was killed when a gun he was firing exploded. Gaines was reported to have died in a hospital at Toul, France after an illness of typhoid fever. Fisher died of pneumonia.

    Editor’s note: The Grover Center posted more information and pictures related to this event yesterday.)


    • Jail Book-ins: Lonnie B. Butrum, 50, identify deception, false informing, obstruction, possession of marijuana, DWS, parole hold, hold Hendricks County; Dana M. Davenport, 31, failure to appear; Jon T. Fox, 56, HTV, probation hold; Jason H. Givens, 40, failure to appear; Rhonda L. Metcalf, 44, false informing, obstruction, assisting a criminal; Brian D. Oyler, 37, domestic battery, DWS; Christopher M. Pierson, 47, probation violation; James C. Wickham, 38, possession of meth; Larry W. Stone, 37, auto theft; Cody D. Aulby, 30, battery (2 counts); Kyle J. Stevenson, 34, public intoxication


    Wendell G. Richards, 80, formerly of Shelbyville, passed away Friday, May 28, 2021 at St. Vincent Hospital. Born in Needmore Indiana (Brown County) he was the son of James Irving Richards and Doris (Miller) Richards.  He married Patricia (Pike) Richards on June 16, 1972  and she preceded him on September 25, 2008. Survivors include significant other Ruth Geise of Rushville; five children, Kathy Richards of Appalachiola, Florida, William Richards (significant other Kerry Thomas) of Plant City Florida, Sherrie Williams (husband Dan) of Tarpon Springs, Florida, Wendell Gene Richards Jr. (wife Hyun) of West Lafayette, Darin Richards (wife Deborah) of Shelbyville; three brothers, John Richards of Bargersville, Lawrence "Pudgie" Richards (wife Rita) of Indianapolis, Denny Richards (wife Lois) of Indianapolis; a sister, Wanda Bryan, of Martinsville; 14 grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, his spouse, son Timothy Richards, stepdaughter Sheila Tungate, two brothers, Wayne and Dale Richards, and a sister Elma Perry.

    Mr. Richards had lived in the Shelby County area for most of his lifetime, and graduated from Moral Township High School. He was a custom applicator for Farm Bureau Co-Op, retiring after 25 years of service. He was a member of Arlington Christian Church, a former member of the Waldron Volunteer Fire Dept., a former member of the Masonic Lodge, and a member of the Shelby County Western Riders Club. Wendell enjoyed hunting and fishing, traveling, riding his horses, playing basketball in younger years, and was an avid Indianapolis Colts fan. He loved any outdoor activity, and the time he spent with his family and grandchildren.

    Funeral services will be 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 2, 2021 at Glenn E. George & Son Funeral Home, 437 Amos Road, with Minister Gary Holt officiating. Burial will be in Lewis Creek Baptist Cemetery.  Friends may call from 4 p.m. until the time of the service, on Wednesday evening. Memorial contributions can be made to Arlington Christian Church, or the American Heart Association, in care of the funeral home. Online condolences may be shared at