512 California St.
512 California Street was a residence north of Michigan Street, nestled between Blackford Street and N West Street, as it appears on the 1898 Sanborn map.
The Baughmans lived at 512 California Street for nearly 33 years, from 1915 to 1948. Charles Baughman and Rosa Bell Childs moved into the home shortly after they were married in 1914. The couple raised their daughter, Clara Louise Baughman, at 512 California Street.
The Baughmans were ingrained in the social scene of Indianapolis' segregated African American neighborhood of Ransom Place. The family's social activities were often written up in the local newspaper, the Indianapolis Recorder.
The son of Leonard and Amanda Baughman, Charles Baughman was born in Danville, Kentucky on September 26, 1864. He lived in Indianapolis from the age of 5 until his death on July 20, 1946.
Charles married Rosa Bell Childs in Washington D.C. in December, 1914. About a year later, the couple moved into what would become their permanent home at 512 California Street.
Charles was the first African American postal clerk in Indianapolis. He went on to serve as the Post Office Weighmaster for much of his life until his retirement in 1932.
Charles also worked with the Senate Avenue Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), a segregated YMCA that catered to the African American population of Indianapolis. His work helped to establish the YMCA as an important institution in the community.
Charles Baughman's obituary lists his involvements in other Indianapolis communities as well. He was a pioneer member of the Masonic Lodge and Mt. Olive Baptist Church. The African American Church was an important part of the comminity in Ransom Place until it moved further north after many of its members were displaced to other areas of the city.
Rosa Bell Childs
Rosa Bell Childs was born in Camden, Alabama in 1885. Her father was Dr. Creed Childs, a surgeon who would become a board member and defender of civil rights in Washington D.C.'s public schools. He later married Rosa's stepmother Henrietta Childs, who raised Rosa. The family lived in Washington D.C. for most of Rosa Bell's upbringing.
Rosa took after her father and became an educator in Washington D.C. schools. She taught for 12 years before marrying Charles Baughman and moving to Indianapolis in 1914. Rosa died on July 24, 1948 after battling a month-long illness.
While her daughter Clara was enrolled at Crispus Attucks High School, Rosa served as President of the Parent-Teacher Association. One of her goals was to tackle the issue of overcrowding at the school as a new law permitted more African American students to be bused to Crispus Attucks High.
Rosa Bell was also involved in the Phyllis Wheatley Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), an essential community space for African American women and children in the Ransom Place neighborhood. She served on several YWCA committees, including the Hospitality Committee and the Volunteer Leadership House.
Clara began attending Crispus Attucks High School in 1935 and graduated in January, 1939. Clara's description in the "Thumb Nail Sketches of January Seniors" section of the 1939 Crispus Attucks High School Yearbook was "charming is the word whenever her voice is heard." She was very active in her school's extracurriculars and an exceptional student. Clara performed in school plays, including "Call It a Day" and "Wings of the Morning." She received top grades and was a member of National Honor Society.
After graduating high school, Clara attended Butler University on a scholarship, where she was inducted as a member of the historically African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. Clara also attended Kentucky State College in Frankfort, Kentucky and completed graduate work in sociology at Indiana University and the University of Michigan.
Clara married Harvey C. Russell, Jr. sometime before 1944. She worked in government services in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shortly after their marriage.
Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Harvey C. Russell Jr. was the third African American man to attain the rank of a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. Later, Harvey was a sales manager for the Joe Louis Punch Company before working his way up the corporate ladder of PepsiCo, eventually becoming the first African American man to be Vice President of a major company.
512 California Today
The house at 512 California Street no longer exists today. According to the Indianapolis City Directory, this entire section of N California Street was leveled in 1978. The street would eventually become IUPUI's Gateway Parking Garage.
Written by Hannah Lundell
Edited by Hannah Ryker, March 13, 2020