It’s unclear what made this the “Most Streamlined Restaurant in the Middle-West” but it was clearly a point of pride. (Image: Evan Finch)
When your travels lead you to the intersection of Lafayette Road and Sixteenth Street, you may notice the odd little building with a faded sign, promising “packaged liquor, cold beer, and carry-out.” The high-pitched roof gables and covered porte cochere are not indicative of a seedy liquor store, dive bar, or whatever occupied this space in it’s final incarnation, but if you look closer you can see large picture windows long since covered by siding and a painted over brick facade. Clearly this was once a much more prominent destination.
The structure dates back to at least 1935 and appears to be an early example of a “supper club.” These venues were intended to be a one-stop destination for an entire evening’s entertainment. A typical night started with cocktails, followed by an elegant dinner and professional entertainment. This seems to have been the focus of Red Gables for the first two decades of existence, but during the 1950’s the establishment suffered from what some might consider a branding crisis. The club was owned by the Brodey brothers and went through no less than four name changes in the same decade. The owners eventually settled on “Club 52,” possibly in homage to the highway that emptied traffic into the Circle City from Chicago, precisely at the intersection where the club sat. That vehicle-snarled location may have eventually proven to be a deterrent to attracting couples in suits and evening gowns as North Meridian Street became the preferred entertainment destination of the day.
An article published in 1978 paints an entirely different picture of what the establishment had to offer. The bar was sold to Ray White and George Weber in the late fifties and renamed the “Two by Four.” From this point onward it seems the bar would operate as a friendly neighborhood tavern where businessmen and factory workers would unwind after a day’s work. By the time the 1989 city directory was published, no such business was listed at this address. Today the building still stands, but in poor condition. It is not listed for sale and appears to be utilized for storage by an auto repair business located immediately to the north. Too bad these walls can’t talk, or even hum us a tune from its booming dinner club days.