At Your Leisure: Rebirth Along Tinker Street

Written by on March 20, 2015 in At Your Leisure - 7 Comments
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The Hawthorn Restaurant stood where the current McDonald's sits at 16th and Meridian (courtesy Evan Finch)

The Hawthorn Restaurant stood where the current McDonald’s sits at 16th and Meridian Streets  (postcard courtesy Evan Finch)

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.

The Manger Motor Inn Featured the Hearth Embers Restaurant and Purple Tree Lounge (Courtesy eBay)

The Manger Motor Inn Featured the Hearth Embers Restaurant and Purple Tree Lounge (Courtesy eBay)

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.

Is that Mr. Rogers enjoying an evening out? Although this looks like a unique place to grab a cocktail, the Manger chain use this photo to promote its lounges in all 11 of their hotel properties (Courtesy eBay)

Is that Mr. Rogers enjoying an evening out? Although this looks like a unique place to grab a cocktail, the Manger chain used this photo to promote its lounges in all 11 of their hotel properties (Courtesy eBay)

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?

The 200 Block of East 16th Street featured the Cinema Art Theater in 1959 (Courtesy Cinema Treasures)

The 200 Block of East 16th Street featured the Cinema Art Theater in 1959 (Courtesy Cinema Treasures)

 

Printed Sources:

Polk’s Indianapolis City Directory: 1951, 1963, 1966, 1974, 1976, 1980, 1987

 

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About the Author

An avid runner who enjoys daily jaunts throughout Indy's historic neighborhoods, Jeff deeply appreciates the detail and workmanship of old architecture. So much so, that he lives downtown in a restored historic building. He also works downtown as a manager of a not-for-profit that promotes globalization throughout Central Indiana. In a past life, Jeff worked in the hospitality industry and may one day pen a book about the ridiculous things people do while staying in hotels. Stay tuned.

7 Comments on "At Your Leisure: Rebirth Along Tinker Street"

  1. Dempsey (Gene) Phoenix March 20, 2015 at 11:51 am · Reply

    When I was a young boy in the 50s.My half brother’s Aunt and Uncle lived on 15th St. between Delaware and Alabama St..There was a theater up the alley on 16th Street.I think it was called the Cinema Theater and later changed to the Cinema Art.I guess it was an Adult Theater.It propabley closed because of the church next door.The church expanded but I don’t know when.

  2. D M Shea March 20, 2015 at 2:03 pm · Reply

    About the Cinema: I can’t pin dates, but I do remember a one-time visit to that theater when my toddler son was perhaps 4 or 5, so say about l960. It had become or was on the cusp of becoming an “adult” theater, but it also featured really good foreign films etc. not available at the popular theaters and this time a 60-ish well known local woman asked me if I wanted to go with her to see whatever the film was–there was to be a “featured”showing mid-afternoon of whatever it was we wanted to see (I can assure you NOT a porn or adult film.) So, she picked me up and I brought the 4 or 5 year old along…not a problem until we got to box office, while she was parking car and I requested “2 adults, l child” ticket. The seller, a matronly woman, expressed concern “You’re not taking that child, are you?” and when I responded yes, she simply shook her head, so in we went (the earlier film was still playing as we were early.) So, after a precautionary rest room stop for him (thank God the room was empty), we stepped into the back of the theater to wait, just as the other feature was ending—AND OH MY GAWD—in the few seconds to minutes what I saw on the screen made me grab his hand as he persistently hung back gaping “wait Mommy, lookie there…”

    We left without seeing the next film! aND LAUGHED OUR WAY HOME!

    But–another memory of that corner (or two)–there came a time they re-did the front of what was either First or Second Presbyterian Church–I daily idled at the red light and being an old un-reformed proof-reader I noticed repetitively week after week what clearly nobody else had–the big professional sign board had Presbyterian SPELLED WRONG! (I don’t remember how–missing the “y” I think–and it amused me. In that period, a new minister came to town and he was named to the board of the Community Service Council. We sat next to each other the first meeting he attended, somehow I think his name may have been Johnston, but not sure, but he was personable, friendly and in spirit of fun I commented on the error. At first he assured me I was mistaken–he would have noticed it, he said–but sure enough, next time we met, he congratulated my proofing ability and assured it was fixed.

    Second, though, and historians should follow up on this. A few years back I got a call from someone I have not met, John Pappas, but we have exchanged city history look backs by phone. He called to ask about finding right place for stored photos, history, relics as his company was clearing out the debris, trash left by last tenants of a shelter there. I don’t know what became of them, but he would be a great resource, as his knowledge and interest in historic Indy amazing. NOTE: SORRY MY KEYBOARD IS STICKING.

  3. Les Gordon II March 22, 2015 at 10:14 am · Reply

    Great photo of the “Cinema Theater”!

    In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, my two brothers and I attended the Saturday afternoon cartoons at the Cinema Theater, located at 213 E. 16th Street. Regular run movies were shown in the evening. The theater was located on the south side of 16th Street and on the east side of the alley just behind the First Presbyterian Church (now the Redeemer Presbyterian Church). Google maps shows that the former theater site is now a parking lot with three (3) trees fronting the property. The theater was built sometime in the late 1930’s and became the Cinema “Art” Theater sometime around 1960. We had moved from the area in 1957. The photo of the Cinema Theater in the “HI” article is probably from sometime in the late 1940’s, since the movie “Gold Is Where You Find It” was released in February of 1938, and the movie “Love From a Stranger” was released in November of 1947.

    The First Presbyterian Church relocated in 1903 to the southeast corner of 16th and Delaware. During the 1950’s there was a home located south of the church that served as a church annex. That site is now occupied by the Harrison Center. A gymnasium had been constructed to the back of the home and adjoining the church that was the home of many afterschool and evening basketball leagues sponsored by the church. The basement of the gym was the site of many ping pong and pool games. The gym still stands today. A room in the basement of the church below the sanctuary was home of the Boy Scout Troop #4.

    A small brick “house style” building immediately across the street from the Cinema Theater on 16th Street housed a cleaners and had a beautiful green tile roof. That building is still standing but the tile roof is gone. A building on the now vacant lot east of the cleaners building housed a auto garage. The building now housing the Nottingham Realty Group was the home of a radiator shop/auto garage with auto parking on the corner.

    One of the shops in the row of shops east of the theater on the south side of 16th Street housed the Timmons Barber Shop where Mr. Timmons cut our hair. A tavern was located at the east end of the row of shops next to the “Harbison Drugstore” on the corner of 16th and Alabama in the early years. A restaurant/cafe was located there in the later years. (The Harbison’s also had a drugstore located on the southwest corner of 16th and Central.)

    The Omar Bakery garage was located around the corner in the building south of the drugstore on Alabama. It is still standing.

    Our family did most of our grocery shopping at the “A & P” (Atlantic & Pacific) grocery store that was located on the northeast corner of the intersection of 15th Street and Alabama Street. Three (3) new houses currently stand on that location.

    The building that still stands on the southeast side of the intersection of 16th Street and Alabama Street was the IPALCO Hall. The building housed a gymnasium and other recreation facilities for employees of the Indianapolis Power and Light Company. The new brick building just south of the IPALCO Hall was the site of a parking lot for the Hall.

    A building on the northeast corner of 16th and Alabama was site of a small short order cafe/restaurant .

    The above brings back a lot of fond memories of a part of “Tinker Street”.

    • Les Gordon II March 23, 2015 at 4:26 pm · Reply

      According to the Indianapolis City Directories, the theater located at 213 E. 16th Street was changed from the “Cinema Theater” to the “Cinema Art Theater” in 1958 and continued as the “Cinema Art Theater” through 1966. After 1966 there is no listing for a theater at that site.

  4. Les Gordon II March 22, 2015 at 6:56 pm · Reply

    D.M. Shea – The new minister of the First Presbyterian Church that you mention in your post was most likely the Rev. Roe H. Johnston, who served the church from about 1953 to 1964. Dr. Johnston was a very affable person and well liked by the members of the congregation. He was a graduate of the Naval Academy and was a member of their football team, a topic that he often used in his sermons. I also recall him coming to our home one time and talking to our family. He went on to serve several congregations throughout his life and passed away in 2007 in Colorado. Rev. Ray A. Bowden and Rev. William L. London served as assistant ministers in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Dr. George A. Frantz was the Pastor Emeritus.

  5. Sharon Butsch Freeland March 23, 2015 at 10:59 am · Reply

    The Cinema Art Theatre was originally called the Victoria Theatre. The theatre opened in January of 1914. You can find the theatre on the 1916 Baist Atlas Plan:
    http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu/cdm/ref/collection/SanbornJP2/id/1829
    and on page 1832 in the 1914 R. L. Polk Indianapolis City Directory: http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ICD/id/7153.
    The first year that 213 East 16th Street was listed in a city directory as the Cinema Theatre was 1938:
    https://archive.org/stream/polksindianapoli1938unse#page/n1603/mode/2up.
    It remained the Cinema Theatre for about twenty years, when it then became the Cinema Art Theatre:
    https://archive.org/stream/polksindianapoli1958unse#page/22/mode/2up.
    I have a scan of an Indianapolis Star article from the week that the Victoria Theatre opened in 1914 and a scan of a newspaper ad from a few weeks later, if anyone would like to see them.

  6. Jeff Kamm March 26, 2015 at 4:52 pm · Reply

    Thank you so much for the great comments and memories. I didn’t even think to check the Baist or Sanborn maps as I was fixated on the 1958 opening date I had found! I especially enjoyed the story of taking a toddler to the theater. Adult content had to be quite the shock in the pre MPAA rating days.

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