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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Apartment building has fiery past

Friday, February 29, 2008

One of Greencastle's great old houses is Avon Apartments, located at 312 S. Bloomington St.

Originally a fraternity house, Lambda Chi Alpha bought the property in 1925. The old house there once was home to DePauw President Dr. Hillary Gobin, It was in such poor condition that Lambda Chi tore it down and built a new one on the site in 1928.

That same year, Herbert Hoover was elected President of the United States. Construction was almost complete when Hoover announced, "We in America are nearer the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of the world."

A year later, poverty caught up with America. The stock market crashed, but the new house did not. Through the Great Depression, World War II and the years that followed, it served its fraternity until the early morning of May 20, 1971, when a fire broke out.

"There was $300,000 in damage," said Mike Murphy, the current owner of the building. "The house was gutted, but they managed to save the fašade."

Homeless, Lambda Chi built a new house on South College Avenue. It eventually became College Street Hall.

Bob O'Hair of Greencastle bought the Bloomington Street ruins. When he rebuilt the place, he managed to preserve its stately appearance as he turned it into Avon Apartments.

The building had changed hands by the time local businessman Russ Murphy entered the picture. While he was chatting with the widow of Avon's owner, she said, "If it weren't for that apartment building, I'd be in Florida."

Russ and his brother Paul were partners in Greencastle's Pontiac-Olds dealership. They also owned Cole Apartments on Washington Street. The Avon Apartments sounded like a good investment, so they bought it in 1978 and made it part of the family business.

Another Murphy, Paul's son Mike, had left town after college for a career in the auto industry. Memories of Greencastle eventually brought him back in 1989 with his wife and three children.

"I arrived in town with all my worldly goods in two moving vans," Mike reminisced with a smile. "I had no job and no place to live. We stored all our stuff at Furniture Aware House, up on the third floor."

Looking back on the decision to come home, he has no regrets. Now a partner in Hays, Murphy and Sharp Insurance, "It's worked out very well for us," he said.

When the elder Murphy brothers retired, Russ moved to Greenwood, but he retained ownership of Avon Apartments. Cliff Torr managed the place for a while. Then Russ's nephew Mike volunteered to help out with the property. Units had to be shown and rented, repairs had to be done and Mike took care of that sort of thing.

"We have very good tenants," Murphy said. "They like the place and take care of it."

He never has to advertise when there is a vacancy.

"I just put a sign in the yard and in no time, I find a renter," he said.

According to Murphy, some tenants stay a long time.

"I think Bill Sweeney has been here since the beginning," he said.

When Russ decided it was time to sell the building, Mike offered to buy it, and the two men struck a deal. Avon Apartments has changed hands from one generation to the next, but it stayed in the same Greencastle family.

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Qui? Is that the same as CHI....Spell Check and Fact Check are great tools..

-- Posted by NeverChanges on Fri, Feb 29, 2008, at 6:38 AM

Isn't CHI a form of tea?

-- Posted by GRNT on Fri, Feb 29, 2008, at 1:32 PM

there is a tea thats called that but its spelled Chia. and its realy good with made with hot milk its creamy and almost taste like pumpkin pie :)

-- Posted by jeremyb2285 on Sat, Mar 1, 2008, at 5:56 AM

Lambda Chi Alpha International Fraternity is one of the largest men's general fraternities in North America.

-- Posted by cloverlady on Tue, Mar 4, 2008, at 7:12 AM

Chi is the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet.

-- Posted by cloverlady on Tue, Mar 4, 2008, at 7:14 AM

Chai is black tea that is brewed strong with a combination of spices and is diluted with milk and sugar. The spices usually consist of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper and ginger. Chai tea is traditionally consumed hot and sweet. The sweetness is needed to bring out the full flavors of the spices.

-- Posted by cloverlady on Tue, Mar 4, 2008, at 7:17 AM

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