Woman finds missing piece of Indianapolis history


Cat Andersen/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A trip home for the holidays may turn into a treasure hunt for Hoosiers. An Indianapolis woman found a missing piece of city history in a most unlikely place.

"I just kind of glanced down like this and it was kind of like, What is that? Why does that look familiar?" said Nora Hovee, auction hobbyist.

What Nora Hovee caught out of the corner of her eye and paid $35 for at Christy's Auction House could be the missing link to Indianapolis' early history.

It's a printing plate that curators believe was used to print textbooks issued around 1900.

"This particular plate is interesting because it's an Indiana history scene," said Todd Stockwell, Indiana State Museum.

The image is an artists' rendition of what Washington Street looked like in 1825.

"It was basically just rough hewn log cabins and pioneer buildings and rutted roads which would've been very familiar," said Stockwell.

Few Hoosier pioneers stopped to document what was happening around them and capture Indianapolis budding as a capital city. Cameras were not invented yet. They relied on artists to capture the images.

"Because there are so few images of early Indianapolis, this one kept coming up," said Hovee.

Another image depicts government surveyors on the east bank of the White River in 1820 laying out the site of Indianapolis.

The question is, where are the original paintings?

'We don't know when they were painted or who painted them or what happened to them," said Stockwell.

Researchers believe the last time the paintings were seen was inside Shortridge High School about a hundred years ago.

"Starting with the mayor's office on down, nobody knows where they are so someone's got a treasure somewhere," said Hovee.

Appraisers say depending on when they were actually painted and who the artist is, they could be worth anywhere from ten cents to $10 million.

If anyone finds these paintings or has seen these paintings anywhere, at any time, you're asked to contact the Indiana State Museum or the Indiana Historical Society.