Author: Libby Cierzniak

Indianapolis Collected: Hotel Salvage

Ever since the Bates House was demolished in 1901–with the Denison to follow in 1933, the English in 1948, the Claypool in 1969, and the Lincoln in 1973–eager collectors and cash-hungry salvage dealers have rushed ahead of the wrecking ball in an effort to grab a piece of hotel history before the walls came tumbling down. One of the savviest salvagers was Ed Zebrowski, the self-proclaimed “wrecker with a flair.” Zebrowski was the man behind the wrecking ball that felled many of Indianapolis’ most majestic buildings. Love it or hate it – and most HI readers probably lean toward...

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Indianapolis Collected: Hotel Memorabilia

I was digging through my purse earlier this week and ran across a small white card with a black magnetic strip. After puzzling over its origin for a few minutes, I remembered that it was the nondescript key to an equally nondescript hotel room where I recently stayed on a business trip. I tossed the card in the trash, but thankfully light-fingered tourists from earlier times decided to keep their keys as souvenirs, thus spawning one of the more popular categories of hotel collectibles. The simple hotel key evolved into a souvenir in the late 1800s. In order to...

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Indianapolis Collected: Tourist Souvenirs

“The scenery is simply grand, don’t you know,” raved Sophie after taking a drive down Fall Creek Boulevard in 1908. “It’s finest thing I ever saw,” exclaimed Aunt Bessie as she tried to describe the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument to relatives back in New Hampshire. “Ate a potato. This place suits me fine,” wrote Bertha to a friend in Kokomo when she visited Indianapolis in 1908. While most people collect old postcards for the pictures, if you take the time to read the back, you may actually catch a fleeting glimpse of how visitors saw Indianapolis in the early...

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Indianapolis Collected: Statehouse Salvage

Anyone who has ever restored an old house knows that one of the biggest challenges they will ever face is finding either original fixtures or faithful reproductions to replace the avocado toilets, track lighting and vinyl floors that were installed by well-meaning but apparently taste-deficient former owners. Imagine, then, the challenges faced by restoration experts in the late 1980s when they undertook the daunting task of restoring Indiana’s Statehouse to its Victorian grandeur. Over the past 100 years, the public areas of the 1888 building had undergone several extensive “modernizations” in an effort to accommodate both the changing tastes...

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Indianapolis Collected: Spoils of the Newspaper Wars

During the first week of June 1903, aspiring publisher George McCulloch paid a hot air balloonist $650 to drift over the countryside and drop 500,000 paper stars. Indianapolis residents were puzzled by this strange turn of events, which culminated on June 5 when thousands of additional stars were scattered from the top of the Soldiers & Sailors Monument. The mystery of the falling stars was solved the following morning, when Indianapolis residents woke up to find a free copy of the inaugural edition of the Indianapolis Star on their doorsteps. Although it’s doubtful that any of McCulloch’s stars still...

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