Calvin Fletcher brought the family name to Indiana in 1821. Calvin Fletcher brought the family name to Indiana in 1821. According to Kate Lenkowsky, author of The Herman Kahn Center of the Hudson Institute, a monograph published by the previous owners of Laurel Hall, Calvin was the only lawyer in Indianapolis and eventually rose to power as a state legislator. At the request of Governor Noah Noble, Mr. Fletcher established the first State Bank of Indiana, serving on its first board of directors along with several distinguished Hoosiers, as described in Donald Carmony's Indiana, 1816 to 1850: The Pioneer Era. According to Lenkowsky, Calvin Fletcher's brother, Stoughton A. Fletcher, would create S.A. Fletcher and Co., a "small private bank" in 1839.
The Family home showcased his personal taste for the extravagent.
This little bank would grow along with the city of Indianapolis. Stoughton A.'s son, Stoughton J. Fletcher, would take the reins in 1882 following his father's death and built "Fletcher's Bank" into a national bank in 1900. Unfortunately, as noted by Lenkowsky, Stoughton J.'s health failed, and he passed the bank to his son, Stoughton A. Fletcher. By 1920, the Fletcher American National Bank had gone through a merger and was the largest national bank in Indiana, which gave Fletcher the financial wherewithal to build Laurel Hall, named for his mother, in 1916 at the cost of $2,100,000. The mansion was built upon 1500 acres of farmland and woods.
Lenkowsky's research makes it clear that Fletcher's opulent family home showcased his personal taste for the extravagant. Undoubtedly it led to a great deal of gossip, some of it far-fetched. With his hobby of horse breeding (".a mating party was held on the lawn for Peter the Great [a famous trotting sire].") and reportedly using "a cement mixer to make martinis," Fletcher had a wide reputation beyond the banking world, which contrasted with the staid legacy of his father and grandfather.
The first tragedy to strike the Fletcher family was a result of World War I. The government needed turbine engines, to which Fletcher responded with his own assets. Lenkowsky notes that Fletcher expected to turn a profit from his consolidation of two companies to facilitate the expedient production of the engines, but the end of the war halted the need for his product. With his personal fortune in peril, Fletcher gave up his controlling interest in the Fletcher American National Bank in 1921.
Personal tragedy also struck the Fletchers that year. Stoughton's wife, May, had been afflicted with stomach problems and "nervous trouble." After a trip to New York brought no relief, she took her own life by ingesting Prussian Acid, a poison. Her mother, Mrs. Eva Henley, found her daughter's body and, in a fit of despair, drank the remaining acid and died minutes later. Stoughton was in Chicago on business, and immediately returned to Indianapolis. This tragedy was the banner headline of the Indianapolis News on March 23, 1921, a sad reminder of the enormous influence of the Fletchers on Indianapolis life.
By 1923, the Fletcher fortune had been decimated. Stoughton resigned as President of the Fletcher American National Bank and relinquished all ties to the bank. One year later, he declared bankruptcy, with assets of $481.39 to his name, while owing $1,763,602.54. The Fletcher American National Bank took ownership of Laurel Hall, selling it in 1925 to the Sisters of Providence, who opened Ladywood; a Catholic, all-girls boarding school.
Fate had not finished the tragic arc of this once-proud family. In 1941, Stoughton's son, Stoughton "Bruz" Fletcher, committed suicide in Hollywood. His obituary noted that he was a well-liked though mysterious man, a singer in a nightclub and author of two books, Beginning with Laughter and Only the Rich. The only other child of Stoughton A. Fletcher, Louisa, may have committed suicide as well, though sources are unclear on the exact cause of her death. The man who built and lost Laurel Hall along with a banking fortune, Stoughton A. Fletcher, died of natural causes in 1957.Contact us to hold your event in our historic home.