Present Dental School Building
Erected as Johnston Home in 1876
BY AGNES M'CULLOCH HANNA.
Outlot 4 lies north of North street
between Pennsylvania and Delaware
streets. In 1827 Benjamin I. Blythe,
agent of state for the sale of lands,
sold this tract to John M. Frazee.
Frazee died and this and other
lands went to Moses Frazee Sr. and
Moses Frazee Jr.; from them Phoebe
Frazee inherited an interest in this
property. She married George Adam-
son, who platted part of this outlot.
In 1862 two brothers named Johnston
bought Lots 7 and 8 in Adamson's
subdivision of Outlot 4 of the city of
Indianapolis at the southeast corner
of Walnut and Pennsylvania streets.
Samuel A. and William J. Johnston
were two of the ten children of
Samuel Johnston, who came to
Indianapolis from Johnson county in
1836. Samuel A. was born in 1835,
near Franklin; William J. was born
in 1837 on the family farm, which
included much of the land now
belonging to Garfield park. Abraham
Hoefgen owned part of that tract
and another of the Johnston sons
married a Miss Hoefgen. Samuel and
William were interested in a hardware
business in our young city,
worKing for the Munson firm and
later buying from Munson the business,
which had reached into Missouri
and farther west.
Death Last Year.
In the year 1865 Samuel A. married
Estella Pullis, of St. Louis. She
died within the last year, having out
lived her husband and their two
sons. William L. and Dr. samuel A.
Johnston. Mrs. Pullis, Mrs. Johnston's
mother, lived with them in this
large house, and in that which they
built later farther north on Pennsyl-
William J. married Mary Cummins,
the daughter of a minister of La
Porte, Ind. In 1876 their business
having prospered greatly, the
brothers built this large four-story
double house on the two lots jointly
owned on the corner of Walnut and
This house had several unusual
features. It was built in a very
ornate style of architecture, the so-
called "Georgian." The reveals of the
windows and doors show overelab-
oration, with diamond-shaped insets
ornamented with dogs' or wolves'
heads. The corners of the house were
decorated with panels and there were
other too decorative features. A long
flight of steps went to the front
doors, which were placed close together,
and the high basement was
a new feature for our town.
Elevators were installed, from the
basement to the fourth floor,
probably the first in any private house in
HOME OF THE DENTAL SCHOOL OF INDIANA UNIVERSITY,
BUILT IN 1876 BY SAMUEL A. AND WILLIAM J. JOHNSTON FOB
the city. There were connecting
doors on two or more floors, so that
residents of each house might go
easily to the other home giving proof
of the harmonious family life. It is
said that on one occasion, Mrs. Pullis
fell down the elevator shaft, but was
not badly hurt.
Marriage of Interest.
In 1876, in the autumn, a marriage
of real interest to old Indianapolis
took place in this house.
Francis Holliday, son of the Rev.
William A. Holliday and brother of
John H. Holliday of the Indianapolis News,
married Miss Carrie Cummins,
Mrs. William Johnston's sister.
Older Indianapolis residents remember
the Holliday family with
The William Johnstons had one
child, a son Fred, who is married to
a lady with a foreign title they live
part of the year in London and in
Switzerland, and part of the time on
her estates near Doorn, Holland.
Fred Johnston wrote to his cousin,
Miss Isabelle Johnston of this city,
that his chief remembrance of the
house was the long flight of steps
and a broken arm which he received
from a fall down their length.
Russell and Wynant Johnston are the
sons of Samuel A. Johnston's son
William; Henry Adams and Dorothy
Johnston are children of his son, Dr.
Samuel A. Johnston.
In 1879 the Johnston brothers sold
their house and land. After some
other transfers it became the property
of John W. Clark, who leased it
to the Dental Realty Company which
holds a ninety-nine-year lease.
Girls School Site.
Shortly after the year 1882 this
building became the residence for the
Girls' Classical school of this city.
Theodore Lovett Sewell had opened
a classical school for boys in 1876,
and in 1882 this school for girls, to
afford "preparation for colleges that
admit women . . . and higher
courses for the benefit of girls
unable to take a college course." Mr.
Sewell was the pricipal of both
schools, and his wife, May Wright
(Thompson) Sewell, was a member
of the teaching staff, and the prime
mover for such an institution for
The first school building was that
built for Saint Anne's school at St.
Joseph and Pennsylvania streets. As
the school prospered and more room
was required, with a home-place for
the principals and the boarders, this
large house was leased and for more
than twenty years was known as the
"classical residence." The school-
house was built north of St. Clair
street, the building now known as
the chapter house for the Caroline
Scott Harrison chapter of the D.
In the residence at 343 (old number)
were accommodations for twenty-eight
girls, a matron and governess
and the staff. Girls from twenty-one
states and territories were
among the pupils. Mrs. Sewell's
connection with the school lasted
twenty-five years, up to 1907. Our
state library has in its files several
scrap books with programs and
newspaper clippings which give some
idea of the activities of the school.
Mrs. Sewell Widely Interested.
Mrs. Sewell, as May Wright, went
to Franklin to teach in the high
school, where Edwin Thompson was
the principal. They were married
and came to this city about 1877 to
teach in the Indianapolis high
school. Mr. Thompson was a well
educated, refined man who died after
two years here, and his widow in
1880 married Theodore L. Sewell, a
graduate of Harvard university who,
with W. F. Abbott, was the head of
the boys' classical school.
At one time Mrs. Sewell said:
"My country is the world; my
countrymen are all mankind."
It may be said with truth that one
of Mrs. Sewell's chief contributions
to her students and to this community
was her interest in the world
beyond the boundaries of Indiana
and the United States. She brought
here to speak before her students
and such of the interested public as
could be included, men and women
of educational and cultural eminence.
Among them were Charles W. Eliot
of Harvard; David Starr Jordan,
whose daughter was a member of
the school family: Edward E. Hale,
Dr. Fusell of Hampton institute,,
William Green Moulton, Frances E.
Willard,Susan B. Anthony and Clara
Barton. There were also men and
women from such foreign cities as
Athens, London and Paris, from Naples
and Rome, Moscow and Friedland.
They gave letcuers and informal talks
on general and special
topics and showed the pupils the
relations between themselves and the
world around them. Mrs. Sewell
helped her students to lose a provincial
attitude toward life and to accept
a world consciousness. She was
an educator, a suffragist and equal
rights proponent; the warm protagonist
of the Negro race, an organizer
of several local clubs and the
Propylaeum and Art Association.
Scene of Service.
Mrs. Sewell was bora in Milwau-
kee, Wis., in 1844, and died here in
1920. She went abroad several times
and represented our local government
at certain world congresses.
She was a member of the Henry
Ford peace party, as she believed in
the possibility of a world-wide peace,
built on international understanding.
There are local memorials to her
and groups of women who still hold
her name in high honor.
The school closed its doors years
ago, but hundreds of women who are
homemakers and educators are grateful
to her for the excellent education
received here. Many colleges
accepted certificates from the classical
school, and some of her
graduates went to Bryn Mawr and Rad-
The residence, with its many large
rooms, was used as a private dental
school for many years, and within
the last three years was bought as
the dental college of Indiana
university. Hundreds of young men
have been trained there and the public
has access to the clinic. A history
of Indianapolis could be written
from the names of such men as Dr.
John N. Hurty and many other medical
men who have served youth
there by training them in high ethical
and professional standards.
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