403 N. Walnut St. Bloomington, IN

Topolgus Building
photo credit: Patrick Siney

The Topolgus Building, 403 North Walnut Street, was named by Dr. James Topolgus, Sr., after he purchased the building in 1947 for his medical offices.  “Topo Sr.”, as he came to be known in Bloomington, immigrated to the US via Ellis Island in 1913, fleeing his home village near Smyrna, Greece, from Turkish invasion.  Prior to WWII, Topo Sr. had moved to Bloomington from Gary, Indiana, to attend Indiana University and was one of the first to graduate from the School of Medicine’s newly established obstetrics and gynecology department.  

During his time at IU, Topo Sr. met and married Catherine Poolitsan, whose family owned the Greek Candy Kitchen, located on the east side of Bloomington’s square.  Catherine’s mother, Angelica Zaharako, became a Poolitsan by marriage, and she learned the trade from her family owned business, Zaharako’s Candy, in Columbus, Indiana.  Later, the Poolitsan family was known for owning and operating the Gables restaurant, from 1931 to 1978.  The Gables was a legendary campus hangout where Hoagy Carmichael famously penned “Stardust” in 1927.  

James Topolgus, Jr. (“Topo Jr.”) joined Topo Sr.’s medical practice as a general surgeon, in 1973, to form Topolgus Surgical Associates.  The 403 North Walnut Building was used as their medical practice office for many years, until 1995, when Topo Jr. moved the group to the new medical park, located on Tapp Road and Highway 37, with offices connecting to the new outpatient surgery center, Southern Indiana Surgery Center.

The 403 North Walnut Building then housed several business tenants over the years, including Elegant Options antiques, White Orchid flowers, and early offices of Bloom Magazine.

To continue the family’s long history in the Bloomington dining scene, as well as the family’s stewardship of restoration and re-use of historic properties, Topo Jr. and daughter Stephanie, birthed the idea of a modern greek restaurant, for 403 Walnut building.  This property is one of five of the oldest buildings in Bloomington, and it appears on the original Bloomington plat map.  Restoration and renovations commenced in 2010, and Topo’s 403 restaurant, opened in 2012.

Construction of the 403 house dates to three periods–1844 when the rear wing was built by Covenanter William Millen, Sr. as the original house facing East Eighth Street; 1854 when the house was added to with what is now the main house facing east by former New Yorker Aaron Chase; and 1871 when merchant and Covenanter John McCalla remodeled the house in a combination of the Greek Revival and Italianate styles.

The Millen family were members of the Associated Reformed Presbyterian church whose members emigrated from the Chester district of Upland South Carolina. These Scotch-Irish, known locally as Covenanters, are most notable in history for their strong anti-slavery stance and participation in what has become known as the Underground Railroad. However, locally they were one of three early Presbyterian branches instrumental in the formation and growth of Monroe County, including Indiana University. William, Sr. and Elizabeth Millen emigrated to Monroe County around 1833 and constructed their brick home ten years later. One of their nephews was William Moffat Millen, who constructed the Greek Revival style Millen-Stallknecht House (Raintree House) in 1850 at what is now 112 North Bryan Street. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

Originally from New York, Aaron Chase and his wife Deborah, brought their family to Bloomington between 1850 and 1854. Little is currently known about the Chases nor what brought them west, but documentation shows they expanded the house in 1854 with what is now the main house facing North Walnut and resided in it until 1861.

The house then went through a period of decline until it was purchased in 1871 by John and Elizabeth McCalla. They renovated the home into its current stylistic appearance. John McCalla and his family were also Covenanters from South Carolina who came to Bloomington in 1833. In 1844, McCalla and his brother Thomas opened a general store in downtown Bloomington under the name

McCalla Brothers. In 1852, McCalla bought out his brotherʼs share, changed the storeʼs name to McCalla & Co., and moved it to the Wylie block on the west side of the square. There it flourished until McCalla retired in 1888 and sold the business. During this time he had married Elizabeth Wylie, the daughter of Dr. Andrew Wylie, the first president of Indiana University.

In 1900, the McCallaʼs home was sold to Elizabethʼs brother and Johnʼs former business partner, the youngest son of Dr. Andrew Wylie, Redick McKee Wylie. The house was occupied by the Wylie family until 1924. In 1926, Arthur Day, proprietor of Day Funeral Home, purchased the house which was just north of his funeral home. In 1928, Day and his new wife, Mary, began residing in the second floor apartment and opened a funeral chapel on the ground floor. They operated the chapel until 1934. The house was rented until it was sold it to Dr. Topolgus in 1947.

The house was listed on the Indiana Register of Historic Places in 1991 as the Topolgus Building. It will be listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 as the Millen-Chase-McCalla House.