The neighborhood around Sixteenth and Meridian Streets is identified as the next “in” place to be. Much like Massachusetts Avenue a decade ago and Fountain Square more recently, reinvestment in housing has started to pay off as restaurants and other new businesses locate in old storefronts and abandoned gas stations. Although always an important corridor, the area became somewhat stagnant after the Herron School of Art relocated and the recession stalled planned residential projects. Today this historic road once known as “Tinker Street” looks to be the hub of commerce for the two historic neighborhoods that share it.
Fifty years ago, this intersection served as a gateway to the prominent entertainment district in Indianapolis. From Sixteenth to Fall Creek, Meridian Street was lined with restaurants, nightclubs and hotels. One of the more famous institutions was the Hawthorne Restaurant at 1611 North Meridian. A postcard boasts lunch and dinner served in five uniquely decorated dining rooms. A detailed discussion about the establishment from several years ago can be found here. According to city directories the restaurant lasted until 1975. By 1980 the street corner became home to the Golden Arches and remains so today. Judging by online reviews the service received at this McDonald’s location doesn’t quite live up to the reputation of the Hawthorne Room.
On the southwest corner across the street from the Hawthorne Room sat a complex featuring a hotel, restaurant and lounge. The Manger Motor Inn opened in 1963 and became the Indianapolis outpost for a small chain of eleven properties. Aside from hotel rooms the property featured a nightspot that proclaimed to be “Indianapolis’ unique cocktail lounge in the city’s finest motor inn.” That statement is a bit misleading, as Manger Inn replicated the Purple Tree Lounge in each of its locations. The complex also featured a restaurant dubbed the Hearth Embers. By the early seventies the hotel began a rotation of different hotel brands, including Quality, Ramada, and the independent Meridian Inn. By 2006 what had become known as an Econo Lodge was merely a pile of rubble as Walgreens claimed the busy corner.
Further east on Sixteenth Street, businesses that primarily served the neighborhood featured barber shops, beauty salons and drug stores. There does seem to be a bit of a mystery in this location. A 500-seat theater known as the Cinema Art opened in the 200 block in 1959. The theater must not have been a hit with the neighborhood as it appears to gone out of business by 1966; however, city directories list the location as 213 East 16th. This would be approximately where the Redeemer Presbyterian Church stands today in a structure that dates back to the turn of the century. Could the theater have been located across the street in a building that collapsed in 2006, or did the church expand to the east sometime after 1966?
Polk’s Indianapolis City Directory: 1951, 1963, 1966, 1974, 1976, 1980, 1987
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