Avriel Christie Shull

Avriel Christie Shull
(February 9, 1931 – March 6, 1976)

Credit: Indiana Landmarks

Avriel Joy Christie was born in Carmel, Indiana during the Great Depression. She was recognized as gifted while still very young and was able to develop her design talents with the support of her parents. At age 15, her life was nearly cut short during an attempt to drive a boyfriend’s car that ended in a serious crash. Ms. Christie suffered a damaged pancreas and having never fully recovered, her injuries led to her untimely death three decades later.

Credit: Pinterest

In the years following the car crash, her daughter, September Shull, noted that her mother “lived furiously.” She graduated from Carmel High School and attended Butler University and the John Herron School of Art. She left school before completing her degree in 1948 to launch her own commercial art business named “Avriel.” In 1951, she married Richard K. Shull, a well-known Indianapolis journalist who became a syndicated columnist and television critic. The couple had two daughters.

As her art business grew, Mrs. Shull was intrigued by a pamphlet she received from a local builder, and by 1954, she was designing and building her first home. Being of a modern design in conservative Carmel, it got a lot of attention. She was also helped, no doubt, by both her ability to market herself and her husband’s ability to get column inches in the Indianapolis Times where he worked. A crowd of 600 came to the open house and Mrs. Shull, now a self-taught architect, set out to design more homes, including a whole neighborhood known as Thornhurst. Featuring her characteristic shed and butterfly roofs, clerestory windows, and vertical cedar siding with stone exteriors, the Thornhurst homes were in great demand then and remain so now, 70 years later. In some, she even painted murals in the bathrooms, giving them her distinctive “Avriel” signature.

Credit: Realtor.com

Her homes were built in other parts of town, including the Ladywood Estates located near Emerson Ave and Fall Creek. She eventually included other designs for churches, restaurants, libraries, and an apartment complex, and her buildings were no longer just in Indiana but in California, West Virginia, and beyond. Sadly, her health problems and insulin shock comas became common as her career grew. Eventually, her diabetes led to the heart attack that took her life in 1976 at age 45. Her legacy continued and her husband filled hundreds of orders for her designs for years. In 2010, the Thornhurst Addition was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So popular are the Avriel Shull Mid-Century Modern homes even today that there’s a “For the Love of Avriel” fan page on Facebook.

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Location: Community Mausoleum, Niche D-47