At Your Leisure: There Goes the Theater

Written by on October 2, 2015 in At Your Leisure - 1 Comment
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Have you ever driven down a street for the first time in years and realized something doesn’t quite look the same? A great shortcut for west siders trying to avoid rush hour traffic on the morning commute is bailing off the Interstate at Harding Street and cutting down Oliver Avenue. This street runs adjacent to the former General Motors stamping plant. The view is quite bleak. Many houses are abandoned and in a severe state of neglect. When you get to the 1200 block near Warren Avenue, a decaying business district emerges. This area was once the hub of an area affectionately known as “the valley” or more properly referred to as West Indianapolis.

The building once housing the Savoy Theater was still standing as of 2012.

The building once housing the Savoy Theater was still standing as of 2012.

If you are under the age of forty, it would be difficult for one to imagine anything actually being in business along this stretch. It was once home to one of the oldest neighborhood movie theaters in the city, among other businesses. The Savoy Theater, located adjacent to the Worm Building became the seventh movie theater to open in the city back in 1914. With a capacity of over 650, the theater served the working class neighborhood well for the next forty years.

This Baist Atlas from 1927 shows the theater in pink. Notice that the land north of Oliver Avenue has not been cleared for the General Motors Plant.

This Baist Atlas from 1927 shows the theater in pink. Notice that the land north of Oliver Avenue has not been cleared for the General Motors Plant.

The theater was operated by Mr. J. F. Trulock, though theater ownership was not Mr. Trulock’s primary profession. He served as one of the first licensed pharmacists in Indianapolis. His pharmacies were located at Washington Street and Tacoma Avenue and along Indiana Avenue at California Street. The Savoy was his first theater, but he later opened movie houses along east Washington Street and in Aurora, Indiana. In over ten years of theater ownership Mr. Trulock maintained his pharmacy job.

After John Trulock’s ownership, the movie theater became known as the Oliver throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s. It switched back to the Savoy briefly, before shuttering in 1955. According to city directories, the building has been sparsely occupied since the demise of the theater. It housed a paint store in the 1960’s, nothing in the 1970’s, and Pro Cycle Motorcycle Parts in the early 1980’s. In fact, the only consistent business located in this commercial node during the time period was a barber shop. After having been vacant for at least fifteen years, the building unceremoniously disappeared in 2013. Perhaps there is hope for the remaining structures in the area, as redevelopment plans are hashed out for the former GM plant, but for now, the remaining buildings remain unoccupied and crumbling.

How would you like to see this district redeveloped?

The former site of the Savoy/ Oliver Theater sits vacant and for sale today.

The former site of the Savoy/ Oliver Theater sits vacant and for sale today.

Printed Sources:

Indianapolis Star, February 26 1956

Polk’s City Directory, 1916, 1955, 1967, 1975, 1981

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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.

One Comment on "At Your Leisure: There Goes the Theater"

  1. Kim Luppino October 2, 2015 at 4:02 pm · Reply

    The Valley was once a terrific working class neighborhood, full of caring families and thriving businesses. It was the place my grandparents settled in a home that had survived the 1913 flood, birthed and raised 13 children, the same home that my sister and I grew up in after my grandmother passed away. My parents bought that house, then sold it to my sister, where she started her,own family. It was a sometimes rough (and financially declining) neighborhood, but I can honestly say that because of my family and friends on Arbor Avenue, it was a perfect childhood. (Yes, even in IPS). We were taught well both in school and out; everything from manners, respect, compassion, patriotism, to honor your parents and elders, independence, self-control, that the world didn’t owe us an easy living or that anything was free, that you earn what you get and should strive all we could dream of. All that was obtained in a rough and tumble atmosphere that many looked down on. We used to walk to the grocery, ice cream stand, school, church, the barber or beauty salon, the bank or work/or take a bus downtown without fear for ourselves or our children. That beautiful old house is now being demolished, the homes are decrepit, churches/businesses and their owners long gone…a bittersweet thing indeed. It would be a WONDERFUL thing to see this place rebuilt, renewed, rejuvenated!

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