William Fortune was an integral part of the emergence of Indianapolis from a rural village in the 188os to first class city status in 1920. Philanthropic institutions like the war chest and Commercial Club (predescessor to the Chamber of Commerce) benefitted from his leadership; he founded and led the local chapter of Indiana Red Cross for a quarter of a century. He was an early leader in the railway industry, the highway construction industry and in telecommunications (he called The Indianapolis Star in the city’s first telephone call), and he was the first board member of the Eli Lilly Company not employed by the company or related to the family. He also loved the Traders Point area. The following account, from Charles Latham, Jr.’s 1994 biography of Mr. Fortune, reveals how Fortune came to live on Moore Road.
“By the 1930s people were beginning to move away from the “Old Northside” and Fortune joined the migration. His decision to leave his old neighborhood came about through the Bowman Elders. As Fortune’s daughter, Madeline Elder remembered it, “We’re going out to look at a house that maybe we can rent for the summer.’ And he said, ‘Oh, I want to go with you.’ . . .and he was so entranced with it that he could hardly wait until the next morning to see if he could buy it.” This was a white stucco house which had been built by the Edward McKees on Moore Road near Traders Point, on a bluff above Eagle Creek. There were trees, and nine acres of land, with a grass tennis court and a croquet ground.
At first the Traders Point house was a summer place for the Elder family. Partly for the benefit of the Elder children, and partly because their mother discovered that she liked farming, the place was soon brimming with chickens and quail and pigeons and turkeys and bees, and even a horse for Anne Elder. Fortune added a decorative touch to the collection by ordering a peacock. It was installed on the first-floor porch, and on its first night of occupancy it let forth a screech such as only peacocks can let forth. Young Bill Elder, sound asleep on the porch above, found himself being shaken by his mother, who thought he was having a nightmare: “You keep quiet! Don’t do that! Eventually there were a hundred and twenty peacocks, some white, in their own house, making a symphony that the neighbors found less than musical. Fortune liked the country house so well that he joined the Elder family there, winterized the house, and continually remodeled it. By now he was essentially retired, and had developed a liesurely routine of life. He had breakfast in bed, then was driven to his office, dropping off the Elder children at school on the way, and invariably nibbling at a bunch of Concord grapes to finish off his breakfast. He would have dinner with the family, and enjoyed discussing politics with Bowman Elder, who was becoming an important member of Paul McNutt’s state administration. This three generation household continued until 1936, when the Elders built a home of their own across the road.
Fortune died in 1942 and the funeral service was read at the house in Traders Point. Fortune is buried in a mausoleum which he had built for his family, near the summit of Crown Hill and the grave of his friend, James Whitcomb Riley. “