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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Street Life: Lombard Avenue Pt. 2

Buy lots in Bellemeade. It’s a pleasure to show them. 

That was the message of Evansville veterinarian turned real estate developer John R. Mitchell as he marketed the street that now is Lombard Avenue in the years approaching 1920. For the next 40 years, Mitchell’s subdivision slowly grew; progress was impeded by war and the Depression.

He named his subdivision Bellemeade — beautiful meadow — and promoted the convenience of the nearby Bell Street street car extension, which terminated at the State Hospital, as well as the large size of the building lots. Lots on the east side of the street were 50 feet across and 395 feet deep.

The best-known house on Lombard, 600, gets its acclaim from the famous oilman who lived there, Ray Ryan, allegedly murdered by the mob in October 1977. After working out at the 21st Century Healthclub on Bellemeade Avenue, Ryan was killed when his Lincoln Mark V blew up when he started the ignition. The home, as it appeared when the Ryans purchased it in 1946, is pictured in the 2012 book, “Mob Murder of America’s Greatest Gambler,” by Herb Marynell and Steve Bagby.

The French provincial home was built in 1938 for E. F. Schnacke who was the president of the North Star Furniture Co. It has been expanded through the years but retains the original character.

Next door, 654 Lombard is a busy home. Known as The May Home, it was gifted to University of Evansville in 1980 by real estate developer Guthrie May, who lived in the house for more than 30 years. The home was built in 1940 for Robert Gray. Today it is the official residence of the University of Evansville president, and is often the site of university functions, including the freshman class ice cream social held each August.

(My next blog post will continue to focus on homes on the east side of Lombard Avenue to Washington Avenue.)

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