The Topolgus Building

 
 
 photo credit: Patrick Siney

photo credit: Patrick Siney

Topo’s 403 is located in the Topolgus Building, so named by Dr. James N. 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 from the 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 gynecological department.  During his time at IU, Topo Sr. met and married Catherine Poolitsan, whose family first owned the Greek Candy Kitchen on the east side of the square, and then became known for operating the Gables restaurant in Bloomington from 1931 until 1978.  The Gables was a legendary campus hangout where Hoagy Carmichael famously penned “Stardust” in 1927, when it was known as the Book Nook.  Topo Sr. and Catherine’s son James N. Topolgus Jr. (“Topo Jr.”) joined his father’s practice as a general surgeon in 1973 to form Topolgus Surgical Associates.  The Topolgus Building was used for this purpose until 1995 when Topo Jr. moved his offices to the new medical park at the Southern Indiana Surgery Center, of which he was also a founder.  

His son James N. Topolgus Jr. joined his practice as a general surgeon in 1973 to form Topolgus Surgical Associates.  The building was used for this purpose until 1995 when "Topo Jr.” moved his offices to the new medical park at the Southern Indiana Surgery Center, of which he was also a founder.  The building then housed several business tenants, including White Orchid floral, Elegant Options antiques, and early offices of Bloom magazine.   

The idea of Topo’s 403 was born by Topo Jr. and his daughter Stephanie Topolgus 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 one of Bloomington’s oldest and most historic homes.  Restoration and renovation work began in 2010 and Topo’s 403 was opened in August 2012 as an upscale greek and mediterranean restaurant.  After six years of successful operation, Stephanie found that most of the restaurant’s business came from guests choosing the location to celebrate their special occasions and gatherings, as well as business and university clients using the private dining rooms for meetings and receptions.  Topo’s 403 was rebranded as a private events venue in August 2018 to expand the events business by allowing more flexibility in scheduling and planning.  

Construction of the 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.