(Dec. 5, 1854-Feb. 17, 1912). Frances William (Frank) Flanner was born in the Quaker village of Mount Pleasant, Jefferson County, Ohio. At the age of nine, he moved with his family to Indianapolis, where he attended the public elementary schools and Shortridge High School. He married Mary Ellen Hockett, and the couple had three daughters, one, Janet Tyler Flanner (Genet), became a famous foreign correspondent and essayist.

In 1881, Flanner engaged in the undertaking business, and in 1886-1887, he and Charles J. Buchanan established the firm of Flanner and Buchanan funeral directors. The original headquarters of the crematory and the business were located at 172 North Illinois, later moving to the 300 block of that street. Flanner and Buchanan established the first crematory in the state and one of the first in the U.S. in 1904. The firm also owned the first motorized ambulance in Indianapolis.

Flanner was active in the community. He was especially interested in the development of the public park system of Indianapolis and was actively identified with the Civic League, the Indianapolis Art School, the Taxpayers’ League, the May Music Festival Association, and the Commercial Club. Active in charitable enterprises, he advocated for the original law that created citizen Boards of Guardians for Indiana’s benevolent, charitable, and penal institutions. He was a member of the Charity Organization Society. Now known as Families First, it is Indiana’s oldest and largest social welfare organization.

In 1898, Flanner donated a small property along Indiana Avenue on the near westside of Indianapolis to create a community center for African Americans. The Charity Organization Society assumed responsibility and operated programs on the donated property. The center formed as Flanner Guild in 1903, and Flanner continued to donate property and funding for buildings.

Flanner’s health began to fail, and he and his family traveled to Germany in 1910 for him to recover. The following year, he returned to Indianapolis improved. But his health declined again, and in despair, he committed suicide by consuming poison. His business partner Paul Buchanan found him still alive in the chapel at the mortuary but was unable to save him. After Flanner’s death in 1912, the Christian Women’s Board of Missions took on the management of the Flanner Guild and renamed it flanner house in his honor.

Flanner House still operates on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, and Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers continues to operate as a family business.

Revised February 2021

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