Author: Jeff Kamm

At Your Leisure: Snack Time

An unfortunate truth about downtown Indianapolis streetscapes is the “missing teeth” in what was once a picture-perfect urban smile. Suburbanization took its toll, particularly in the once bustling retail districts. One stretch that remained noticeably neglected, even after the renaissance brought on by the opening of Circle Centre Mall, is the first block of East Washington Street. Just over a decade ago, the block consisted primarily of empty storefronts, unused upper floors, and a sidewalk strewn with glass from window panes falling from the McQuat building. During those dark days, a demolition occurred that brought down a location which had been...

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At Your Leisure: Third Time’s a Charm?

This is a patch that a Frisch’s carhop would have worn during the Fifties and Sixties (Image: eBay) Some sizable restaurant news hit this past fall. The CEO of the Atlanta-based company that bought the iconic Frisch’s Big Boy chain of family restaurants announced bold intentions to expand throughout the Circle City. While some may roll their eyes at yet another out-of-state chain eatery setting its sights on our seemingly ever-expanding waist lines, this is hardly the first run-in we’ve had from the giant burger wielding caricature who stands guard in front of every location. Many can recall two failed...

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At Your Leisure: Flying Around the Track

Indy has been abuzz about aviation in the news this past week. First, the ultimately aborted downtown ‘buzz-by’ from a Boeing 747, which featured locally produced Rolls-Royce engines. Second, and perhaps the bigger news, was the announcement of a new event at The Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On October 1st and 2nd of 2016, IMS will feature a Red Bull Air Race. According to the Red Bull website, the air races began in 2003 and feature 14 pilots running elimination rounds, pairing the field down to a final four who compete for the podium.  Planes will take off from Hullman Boulevard,...

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At Your Leisure: At the Y

As the ribbon is cut on the sparkling new YMCA on South and Delaware Streets in downtown Indianapolis, many youthful downtown residents are eagerly awaiting spacious new digs to serve their fitness needs. The “M” in said organization stands for Men, and prior to the 1970s, only those with a Y chromosome could enjoy their services and facilities. What was a young lady to do? For over a century, a counterpart dedicated to the fairer sex provided a support network for Indy’s young women. The Young Women’s Christian Association can trace its roots in Indianapolis back to 1895. Much...

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At Your Leisure: Indy’s Once Favorite Pasta

Shorter and colder days, increase cravings for comfort food. And comfort food means everybody’s favorite carb group: pasta dishes. Unfortunately, Indy doesn’t have ethnically named enclaves like other culture-rich cities. No “Little Italy,” “Little Tokyo,” or “Chinatown,” exists in Indianapolis. The closest approximation is a small enclave of Italians in and near Fletcher Place neighborhood, on the near southeast side, which connects to the owner of a once-favorite downtown Italian eatery. The Fletcher Place neighborhood gave us David Page, who grew up near the intersection of College and Virginia Avenues. For nearly twenty years, Page owned one of downtown’s...

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At Your Leisure: The Marion Political Party!

Did you do your civic duty on Tuesday by voting? Unfortunately, it looks as if many people skipped the polls. Nevertheless, Joe Hogsett will become the 22nd Democrat to hold the Mayor’s Office in Indianapolis. Many feel uncomfortable discussing political matters at work or in public, and even here, it’s in an historic context. These feelings have existed for generations though–private clubs have existed for years– to put like-minded people in a more comfortable setting to engage in political discussion. Many are familiar with the venerable Columbia Club, which has always been a stronghold for Republicans, but did you know that another right-leaning...

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At Your Leisure: Relaxing at Fireside

Indianapolis is a ‘meat and potatoes’ type of town. That tends to happen when you’re located some 600 miles from the nearest coastline. That’s why it’s not too hard to see why many of the most popular restaurants tend to be purveyors of USDA Prime. Several more steakhouses are ready to come online soon — one may rightly be concerned that the city may succumb to meat-induced cardiac arrest. The steak market in Indy has had a number of favorites come and go over the years. One sentimental favorite had the chops to last half of a century on the near south side....

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At Your Leisure: Indy Ghost Stories

As we approach that spookiest of holidays, the subject of haunted places and ghost stories always come up. Whether you are a believer or skeptic, it’s always interesting to reflect on the history and reasoning of such tales. Often they are derived of extreme tragedy. Other times, the eerie appearance of an abandoned building brings about idle gossip. Indianapolis has its share of ghostly tales. Here are three legends that focus on the downtown area. The Indiana Theater has been serving the community since 1921. Tales of the supernatural, however, did not surface until a fateful day in 1991. After...

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At Your Leisure: In Celebration of our Origins

Fall brings a plethora of internationally themed festivals in Indianapolis. Some of the more popular offerings include the French Market sponsored by St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church and Irish Fest in Military Park. Activities culminate in early November with the multi-national International Festival.  Although the lederhosen and dachshund racing may seem a bit patronizing, the annual German Fest gives us an opportunity to celebrate a culture that is a part of many Indy residents. Prior to the first World War, observers would be hard pressed to find a big difference between Indiana and the Rhineland. Everything from street signs...

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At Your Leisure: We’ve Got Next

Tonight the Indiana Fever will try to extend its quest for a second WNBA Championship. Although women’s team sports have struggled throughout history to gain traction, the winning ways and intense game day environment have helped the Fever gain a place in the heart of many an Indy sports fan. Women’s basketball has always thrived in the state at the amateur level. The first high school girl’s basketball team was established at Shortridge High School during the 1898-99 school year. Until the Great Depression, many high school girls’ teams shared billing with the boys in Indiana gyms on Friday and Saturday...

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At Your Leisure: There Goes the Theater

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

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At Your Leisure: That’s the Spirit!

It’s easy to pick out an out-of-towner at the grocery store on a Sunday. Often times he or she will walk confidently up to the cash register holding a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine, only to be turned away due to Indiana’s Blue Laws. It’s a common complaint among visitors — the hassle of not being able to buy cold beer at a grocery, not being able to bring your children into a bar, and the dreaded no Sunday sales. Things always could be worse. When looking at the history of liquor regulations in Indy, Big Brother...

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At Your Leisure: Football Fantasies

This simple black and white press guide introduced the Capitols during their championship season (Courtesy Amazon) Monday night kicks off another exciting slate of home games for the Indianapolis Colts. The nation’s eyes will be on the Circle City for what will be one of the most watched sports programs of the week. Expectations are high for the home team, which has become woven into the fabric of the community over the past two generations.  But it hasn’t always been this way in this basketball hotbed. Many remember when the Colts arrived under the cloak of darkness in 1984,...

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At Your Leisure: A Lost Oasis

Sometimes you just can’t stop “progress.” As the sprawl of Indianapolis spreads further past the boundaries of Marion County, small, independent communities are being gobbled up along with their identity. From a recent trip, it appears that this is happening to a west side crossroads known as Six Points. The area known as Six Points can trace its history back to 1851, during the construction of the Terre Haute and Indianapolis Railroad. The railroad crossed the old National Road near the Marion and Hendricks County lines at the intersection of another north and south road, creating a six-pointed intersection....

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At Your Leisure: It’s Fun to Stay

You can certainly see the result of residential growth when driving around downtown Indianapolis and encountering numerous construction sites. All of these new people will certainly need more places to shop, eat, and play. A brand new recreational facility is under construction at the corner of South and Delaware Streets. However. the YMCA is hardly a new name to the downtown community. The Young Men’s Christian Association has a history in Indianapolis dating back to 1854.  Did you know that the organization’s flagship facility once sat at 304 North Illinois Street? A bold move was in the works in...

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At Your Leisure: In the Woods

This postcard shows how the Pennsylvania Hotel would have looked shortly after opening (Courtesy eBay) Why would anyone want to surround a beautiful historic building with a brick wall separating the occupants from the rest of the outside world? You may have wondered this while walking along Pennsylvania Street just north of downtown. Searching for the answer uncovers a long forgotten hotel and night spot that existed for over forty years. The area along north Pennsylvania Street looked much different at the turn of the twentieth century. Instead of the mid-rise buildings and walk-up apartments we’re accustomed to seeing...

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At Your Leisure: All’s Fair

August brings about a favorite tradition amongst Hoosiers. Every year nearly one million people descend on the Indiana State Fairgrounds in the capitol city to celebrate the agricultural spirit of the State of Indiana. If you can get past the often unfortunate combination of deep-fried treats and the colorful rides of the midway, the exhibitions remain surprisingly close to the roots that stretch back over 160 years. Did you know the fairgrounds have not always been located at 38th Street and Fall Creek Parkway, and that early fairs took on a nomadic existence? A large write-up on the fifty-fifth anniversary...

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At Your Leisure: A Night on the Circle

Monument Circle is always a pleasant place to take a stroll on a summer evening. The center of the city is always bustling with people enjoying the picturesque surroundings. Despite the great location, there isn’t really a good place to enjoy a nice meal or a cocktail, unless you’re fortunate enough to be a member of the Columbia Club. This wasn’t always the case. The southeast quadrant of Monument Circle has changed quite a bit over the years. While the venerable Circle Theater serves as an anchor — as it has since 1916 — the space immediately to the...

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At Your Leisure: Saint vs. Saint

Even those who know little about Indianapolis are likely familiar with that “saintly” steakhouse on Illinois Street that has been serving up massive chops and fiery shrimp cocktails since 1902. Today there is no shortage of high-end steakhouses and a promise of more to come. Some 30 years ago, there were two candidates vying for bovine divinity in Indianapolis. It was a battle of the patron saints of soldiers and sailors, one–a mere block away from the monument– that pays tribute to both. Although the victor is obvious, many have fond memories of the other saint: the former St. Moritz...

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At Your Leisure: This week in Indianapolis 1965

What was that I just saw? This will be a common reaction from many downtown residents and workers through the weekend. The 48th annual Gen Con kicks off in Indianapolis. The event will bring nearly 60,000 table top game enthusiasts downtown, making it one of the largest conventions of the year. Attendees can often be seen roaming the streets dressed as their favorite fictitious characters. It truly adds to the ambiance of the city for one weekend, and everyone, gamers and non-gamers alike, enjoy the show. Indy has long catered to conventioneers. In fact, one publication greeted arriving guests for...

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Learned something new? Question answered? New connection made? Generally inspired or entertained? Love Indy more?

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