Author: Jeff Kamm

At Your Leisure: History Paved Over

Although it’s heartbreaking to think about the buildings and businesses that have been lost over the years in Indianapolis, it is still exciting to discover a long lost building for the first time. Interstate 65 looms over the area just north of downtown. The elevated highway acts as a barrier between downtown’s Saint Joseph Historic Neighborhood and the Old Northside.  Many of us have no recollection of the area prior to the construction of the highway. During the mid-twentieth century, many historic homes, apartments, and businesses were lost so that– in theory– thousands could scurry through town without stopping. One...

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At Your Leisure: Beware of the Witch

This 1960s era postcard promises a country style meal served by the Sloan family (courtesy Amazon) A once popular way to make your business stand out from the competition was to build a structure to look like the theme represented. Folks around Indy have seen these examples throughout the years — from a seafood restaurant built like riverboat to an upside down house to promote an area home builder. A long-standing restaurant in our metropolis embraced the theme of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about two wayward children and their encounter with a cannibalistic witch. Between 1959 and 1960, Purdue...

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At Your Leisure: At the Drive-in

This ticket advertises a free pass for the driver at the Shadeland Drive-in (Image: eBay) For those who grew up in between the 1950s and 1980s, a summertime rite of passage always included a few nights at the local drive-in theater. Whether you were a youngster on the playground, indifferent to the show, or capitalizing on the opportunity to canoodle with your significant other, indifferent to the show, the drive-in served as an entertainment mecca for a few generations. Many believe that the beginning of the drive-in era coincided with sock hops and tail fins, but they would be...

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At Your Leisure: Celebrating our Independence

The Knights of Pythias Building as it appeared in 1906, looking north on Pennsylvania St. where  Massachusetts Ave. intersected it. (Courtesy Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library) July fourth is the symbolic birthday of our great nation. Although the date is not exactly accurate — the Declaration of Independence was ratified on July second and not signed until a month later — the Fourth of July was chosen by the Continental Congress as the date for the annual celebration of our breakup from Great Britain. Thousands flock downtown to witness the largest fireworks display in the region. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time,...

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At Your Leisure: Inn the Huddle

The interior of a Huddle restaurant awaiting eager diners (Courtesy of Evan Finch) A twenty-four hour restaurant tends to bring out some of the more interesting examples of mankind — especially in the wee hours of the morning. A mix of shift workers, college procrastinators, and weekend revelers trying to sober up on coffee and greasy fare can be found in the vinyl clad booths in area restaurants such as Steak ‘n Shake, Denny’s, and IHOP. While today’s examples tend to be corporate giants, Indy once had a destination where locals cured those 3 A.M. omelet cravings. The Huddle Restaurants...

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At Your Leisure: The Fading of the Orange Roof

A postcard showing the grandeur of the downtown Howard Johnson’s (Courtesy Amazon) We often look towards chain businesses with a bit of disdain. Large corporations sending profits out of state while serving up conveniences with little to no sense of place. It’s easy to think of theses behemoths as being too big to fail. That said, we have seen our share of these restaurants, hotels, and stores storm into the Circle City only to pull up roots years later. Howard Johnson’s once had a large presence across Indianapolis with its recognizable orange roofs offering accommodations along with a whopping...

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At Your Leisure: An Evening in Merry England

A postcard showing the Sheffield Inn. The single story section was a later addition as a large house stood in its place the year the inn opened. At some point this structure was replaced with a different that sits off the street but built in a similar style. Fire perhaps? (Courtesy Amazon) Have you ever walked down the street and noticed a particular building that seemed completely out of place? Although commonly found in residential neighborhoods throughout Indianapolis, the Tudor Revival style of architecture is almost completely absent from downtown commercial and residential structures. That’s probably why exposed timbers and...

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At Your Leisure: A Stay off of The Circle

The Harrison Hotel located at Capitol and Market once featured a decorative limestone base and awning to protect guests from the afternoon sun (courtesy Amazon) The fate of a historic building dating back to 1928 is unclear. The State of Indiana has recently moved the Indiana Public Retirement System from its longtime home at 143 West Market Street. The building is currently without a tenant and awaits a buyer. The office building, now covered in stucco and modern windows has housed offices for over forty years. Most don’t realize the first half of its life was spent catering to travelers and bar patrons....

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At Your Leisure: Pardon my French

Not many would picture fine French dining at a roadside motel as this ad from the 1960s boasted. (Courtesy Indiana State Library) When Indy residents head out of the city on State Road 67 towards Vincennes, they may notice an aging sign advertising a French restaurant fronting a lonely vacant lot strewn with gravel and fallen trees. For recent additions to the area, it seems self-evident why classic French cuisine would not make it in this southwestern Marion County outpost. After all, the area today is still somewhat rural, and it would seem folks might feel more at ease downing comfort...

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At Your Leisure: The Greatest of All Time?

Mobil Oil boasts three consecutive victories in this ad, including the 1953 race won by Bill Vukovich. Notice the wooden grandstands and brick front-stretch. (Courtesy eBay) Memorial Day weekend brings about another exciting edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The ninety-ninth running of The Indianapolis 500 has many exciting story lines to follow. Can Ryan Hunter-Reay become the first repeat winner in over a decade? Can Helio Castroneves dance his way into the winner’s circle to become a four-time winner? Throughout the weekend, many debates around bar stools and campfires will occur amongst veteran speed enthusiasts on who was...

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At Your Leisure: Congratulations, Seniors!

Manual High School students enjoy a picnic, courtesy of Stark and Wetzel meats. The plant, located as  west Ray Street went through a couple of different names after being sold in 1974. In 2004 Hebrew National closed their operation at the former plant. Today much of the site is gravel lot used for Colts parking. (Courtesy Indianapolis Marion County Public Library) The end of May is quickly approaching, and for those who grew up in Indianapolis, thoughts of warm weather and race cars quickly come to mind. Most importantly, this month signifies the end of the school year! One...

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At Your Leisure: The Hoosier Grand Prix

1965 Program (Courtesy eBay) This weekend, the month of May heats up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For the second straight year, fans will be treated to the Angie’s List Grand Prix as a precursor to the ninety-ninth running of The Indianapolis 500. The race will feature many of the same drivers and teams who will participate in The Indianapolis 500. Traditionalists who have grown up with the Speedway in May might balk at the idea of seeing cars running clockwise around the famed oval while navigating the twisting turns of the infield road course. Did you know that...

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At Your Leisure: Summertime Cruisin’

Happy May 1st! As spring heads into summer, we start thinking of how to take advantage of the warm weather. Some sixty years ago, area teenagers participated in a deeply-rooted cruising culture as way to meet up with friends and show off their wheels. Drive-in restaurants, scattered on all sides of the city, provided hubs for socializing. The first of these establishments popped up way back in 1930, when The Peacock Restaurant on East 38th Street started serving patrons in their cars. These establishments mushroomed over the next thirty years. Many offered different gimmicks to attract crowds. Al Green’s on...

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At Your Leisure: Last Train to Indy

No passengers can be seen waiting in this 1970 photograph. (Courtesy Library of Congress) Walking past the Romanesque Union Station can create some conflicting emotions. It is refreshing to see such a gorgeous building restored, when other cities such as Columbus and Atlanta demolished their grand train stations. On the other hand, it’s frustrating to see what was once the entry point for the city of Indianapolis sit quiet and underutilized more often than not. Of course many are knowledgeable about the railroading history of the building. The series of events that lead to the salvaging and restoration of...

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At Your Leisure: A Lost Roadside Beacon

The big green sign could once be seen by drivers exiting turn one at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Courtesy eBay) For anyone who may have grown up from the sixties through the eighties, childhood trips often meant a stopover at one of the many Holiday Inn hotels located across the country. The chain was envisioned by Kemmons Wilson in 1952, after encountering poor lodging choices during a family vacation, and essentially created the standardized hotel chain concept prevalent today. Until 1982, travelers could look for the giant green neon signs and be assured of consistency in  accommodations and services....

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At Your Leisure: Sorry, No Ladies Allowed

The long gone Ye Ark Saloon stood at 15 East Ohio Street, approximately where the Chase Tower lobby entrance is located today. (Courtesy Evan Finch) This past weekend, the nation’s eyes were focused on Indianapolis during the NCAA Men’s Final Four Basketball Championship.  Early reviews are glowing, and area merchants are boasting record revenues, even beating out the 2012 Super Bowl. This is a welcome sign after a week of controversy and heated dialogue in fear that some of our visitors and neighbors may not have felt so welcome. Thankfully, cooler heads appear to be prevailing, and we can...

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At Your Leisure: Final Four Fun in the Wholesale District

Saint Elmo’s Steakhouse doesn’t look nearly as inviting covered in plywood and a tacky mansard roof during the very early nineties.  (Courtesy Library of Congress) The NCAA Final Four returns to Indianapolis this weekend in what is sure to be a fun-filled weekend for visitors and locals alike. Although Indy hosted the championship rounds in 1980 at Market Square Arena, the city didn’t become part of the regular rotation until 1991, as the NCAA moved toward placing the weekend’s events in massive football stadiums capable of holding crowds of 40,000 plus. This seventh installment features some familiar faces.  This...

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At Your Leisure: Why is that a Parking Lot?

The rooms and lobby appear to be very well appointed for 1960s standards. (Courtesy eBay) When enjoying a spring day on the War Memorial Mall, it is easy to become mesmerized by the vast island of green space in the middle of the city. Stretching for five blocks, this oasis is surrounded by various high and mid-rise buildings that create what appears to be a miniature Central Park, when observed from a high vantage point. Unfortunately there are some missing teeth in what should be a continuous wall of buildings surrounding the park. One of the more bothersome gaps...

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At Your Leisure: Rebirth Along Tinker Street

The neighborhoods bordering Sixteenth and Meridian Streets are some of the next “in” places to be. Much like Massachusetts Avenue a decade ago and Fountain Square more recently, years of reinvestment in housing is paying off as restaurants and other new businesses locate in old storefronts and abandoned gas stations. Although always an important corridor, the area stagnated in more recent history after the Herron School of Art relocated to the IUPUI campus 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 historic...

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At Your Leisure: From Films to Film Festivals

A 1940s view looking northwest on Virginia Avenue shows this recognizable building as the Granada Theatre. (W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society) With spring approaching, many are looking forward to spending quality time outdoors. The development of the Cultural Trail over the past decade has succeeded in connecting once hard-to-access neighborhoods. With the introduction of the bike sharing program last summer, the stream of people enjoying the city is nonstop on nice days. When the trail finally made its way down Virginia Avenue, the long-proclaimed “up and coming” Fountain Square neighborhood finally began...

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