Mooresville Public Library

Mooresville Public Library
MPL Courtyard

Sunday, March 20, 2016

In the Painter's Shoes (Paul Hadley Paintings), Part Three

Since Paul Hadley did not drive motor vehicles, he often roamed Mooresville and the surrounding countryside on foot in search of landscapes to paint. Consequently, many of his best subjects were drawn within the vicinity of the three Mooresville homes in which he lived for much of his life.

Warren Z. Ayers house (built in 1890)
35 East South Street, Mooresville, Indiana
Residence of Paul Hadley (until 1950)
(2009 photo)
(Click images to enlarge)

Paul Hadley's mother, Ella Hadley, bought the Ayres house in 1907, with title passing to Paul in 1930.  This was where Paul lived when he designed the Indiana State Flag in 1916. Paul used a second floor bedroom as his painting studio, which had both north and south windows. Paul and his brother Evan lived there until 1950, when he sold the property to Mr. and Mrs. Horace Adams.

The Ayers house was not the first Mooresville home for Paul Hadley's family, however.  The first was on West South Street.

Paul Hadley designed this house at the west end
of South Street in Mooresville for his parents
(constructed in 1902-1903)

On October 14, 1902, Dr. Evan and Ella Hadley, Paul's parents, purchased land at the west end of South Street from Robert and Livisa Scott.  Paul designed the house constructed there for his parents.  His father died in 1903.  On March 9, 1907, the property was sold to Theodore and Margaret Romine, whose daughter, Becky Hardin, was Paul Hadley's biographer, as well as the Morgan County Historian for many years.

Paul Hadley, who was architecturally, as well as artistically, educated, apparently was not a huge fan of his house design:

  • "Paul Hadley designed his first home in Mooresville which was owned by his parents. He once said he wasn't proud of the house and didn't think it is attractive.  Single dormer windows, a central hall, and full length west porch with white columns may have been inspired by a variety of [architecture types], and could be called a Victorian eclectic design.  Four outside doors, one on each side [of] the house, provided easy exit to a lawn planted with peonies, oriental poppies, iris, and flowering shrubs. [. . .] About 1926 the house was moved north to 320 Lockerbie Street, and the west side was turned east to face the street. The large white columns were replaced with ornamental iron." [Hardin, Becky (1976). The Indiana State Flag, Its Designer (Biography of Paul Hadley with Anthology of his Paintings), p. 7. Mooresville, Indiana : B. Hardin.]
The last house in Mooresville in which Paul Hadley resided was located at 23 East Washington Street, where he and brother Evan lived until 1956.  It was close to the Indianapolis-Vincennes bus line, which Paul rode regularly.

Paul Hadley's last Mooresville home
23 East Washington Street
(1950-1956)

Each of these houses was proximately located to many interesting places that Paul Hadley would immortalize on canvas.  In our last installment, we visited the site of Margaret Colee's home, where Paul painted a watercolor of her pump house. This was roughly ten blocks from his house at 35 East South Street.  About two blocks due south of Colee's residence was another of Hadley's watercolor subjects, the Matthew Comer house, which once stood near the corner of South Madison and East South Streets, across from Old Town Park.  As was typical of Hadley watercolors, there is a delicate simplicity in the portrayal, making an everyday scene vibrant and beautiful.


Tree in Front of Matthew Comer House
by Paul Hadley

Matthew Comer, who owned a saw and planing mill and lumber yard on East High Street, moved to Mooresville with his family in 1865 following his Civil War service.  In 1871 he constructed his home at 218 East South Street (near the corner with Madison Street).  The structure stood for 125 years until it was demolished in 1996.

Matthew Comer house (built 1871)
218 East South Street (along Madison Street)
(Note front porch, which was added sometime after
Paul Hadley painted his watercolor)

Notes on back of undated photo of Matthew Comer house
indicating some of the subsequent ownership

218 East South Street (at Madison Street) as it appeared in 2009

There was some controversy concerning the razing of the Matthew Comer house in 1996, as noted in the local newspaper.

"Comer Home Fate Looks Bleak,"
Mooresville-Decatur Times, October 30, 1996, p. 14B.

Matthew Comer (and subsequently his son, Stewart Comer) operated the saw mill and lumber company for decades by the railroad tracks crossing East High Street at South Madison Street.  The business was diagonal to Margaret Colee's property, which was another of Paul Hadley's painting subjects.  Comer & Scearce later became Haltom-Scearce Lumber Company, which was sold in 1950 and became Newcomer Lumber & Supply Company.

Corner of East High & South Madison Streets
Mooresville, Indiana


Next time, we'll consider the location of another Paul Hadley watercolor on loan to (and on display at) the library.

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