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Hoosier History Live

Mar 27, 2023

Ever since the 1820s, when David Buchanan arrived by covered wagon in the Indianapolis area and opened a tavern before becoming a farmer, the Flanner and Buchanan families have been intertwined with city history. Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers is a 142-year-old, family-owned business that began during an era when funerals and visitations typically were held in the parlors of private homes (hence, the derivation of the term funeral parlor). Before that, in the mid-1800s, undertakers often were carpenters.

As the funeral business evolved (Flanner and Buchanan opened the first crematorium in Indianapolis in 1904), so did the civic impact of members of the Flanner and Buchanan families, who were brought together by marriage in the 19th century. Frank Flanner, who began in the mortuary business in 1881, founded Flanner House (initially known as Flanner Guild House), a nonprofit to assist African Americans, including former enslaved people who had come to Indianapolis. His sister, Anna Flanner Buchanan, helped start the first YWCA in the city.

All of that and more will be explored during our show when Bruce Buchanan, the CEO of Buchanan Group Inc. (which includes Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers), the fourth generation owner, is Nelson's studio guest. The massive Community Life Center on the city's far eastside, a multi-purpose event space owned by Flanner and Buchanan, and adjacent Washington Park East Cemetery are on the site of David Buchanan's farmland in the 1830s. The multi-generational impact of the families on the funeral business and civic affairs is described in a lavishly illustrated book, Building Community: The Flanner and Buchanan Families of Indianapolis written by local author Julie Young.