Today’s modern downtown convention hotels tend to be imposing structures. Often entrances are set back from the street, and sweeping porte-cochères cover guests as they step from their vehicles, almost directly into the lobby. This was not the case with the Claypool Hotel. People walking down either Washington or Illinois Streets would hardly realize they were passing a 600-room hotel, as the ground floor featured numerous storefronts contributing to the active commerce of the day. Let’s look at some of the businesses that called The Claypool “home.”
Looking at the 1905 Indianapolis City Directory, most of the businesses on the street level could be considered amenities to serve hotel guests. There was a barber named William O. Armstrong, and a news and cigar stand operator named Louis Deschler. The corner space was typically occupied by a drugstore of some kind. In 1905, it was The Weber Drug Company.
The lineup of businesses was more diverse in 1929, heading into the Great Depression. The corner drugstore at that time was Clark & Cade Drugs. The rest of the storefronts catered more to household needs and goods. These included Solomon Oriental Rugs, Singer Sewing Machines, Gaines-Nettleton Shoes, C. S. Dayan Linens, and the Claypool Music Shop.
By the post-World War II years, a plethora of travel-related businesses set up shop to aid vacationers in planning their trips out of Indianapolis. Some of these included American Airlines, Eastern Airlines, and Ross and Babcock Travel. The drugstore on the corner was then the Claypool Pharmacy. Other retail outlets of the time included King Jewelry, The Squire Shop (men’s clothing), Claypool Coffee Shop, and Estates Liquor.
Miraculously, a collection of stores outlived the hotel operations. With the southwestern portion of the building still covered in soot from the 1967 fire that closed the hotel, the street-front businesses remained open. Although the building’s management ordered the premises vacated by May of 1968, the remaining tenants fought for their existence. The final five to continue operations in the disheveled shell of a once grand hotel included: American Airlines, Estates Liquors, Bonheim Gift Shop, Smith Jewelry, and Indiana News. Although American Airlines had the resources to relocate, the remainder were small mom and pop operations. They attempted to sue the ownership, so their leases might be fulfilled, but to no avail.
Condemnation by the City insured the last light was out by November 2, 1968, and the building’s fate was sealed.
What, if anything, do you recall about the impending demolition of an Indianapolis landmark?
Indianapolis City Directory, Polk’s, 1905
Indianapolis City Directory, Polk’s, 1929
Indianapolis City Directory, Polk’s, 1954
Indianapolis News, June 30th, 1967
Indianapolis Star, May 30th, 1968
Indianapolis Star, November 2nd 1968