Indianapolis Then and Now: The Ayres Clock Cherub

Written by on November 22, 2012 in Then & Now - 1 Comment
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The L. S. Ayres cherub, one of the city’s most beloved little sculptures, makes its appearance every Thanksgiving eve and looks out over shoppers until Christmas.

Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society, L. S. Ayres and Company Records, 22 November 1947

The sculpture has its roots in drawings created for the 1946 catalog of L. S. Ayres, the city’s premier department store. Advertising artist Virginia Holmes used angel illustrations to fill space in the somewhat sparse, post-war catalog and they became a hit. With their 75th anniversary approaching in 1947, the store commissioned sculptor and Herron School of Art instructor David Rubens to create the thirty-six inch tall bronze sculpture. Employees unceremoniously placed the cherub upon their well-known clock at the corner of Washington and Meridian Streets on the day before Thanksgiving in 1947 and created a sensation. Through the years, generations of residents visited downtown during the holidays to enjoy the store’s decorated Christmas windows and take a peek at the angel, especially since it was a tradition for shoppers to “meet under the Ayres’ clock.”

The May Company bought out L. S. Ayres in 1986 and moved the sculpture to their Saint Louis warehouse after closing the downtown store in January 1992. Administrators likely did not understand the fondness that Indianapolis folks had for the little cherub, nor did they anticipate the public outcry when they ignored the tradition and the clock sat lonely during the 1992 and 1993 seasons. After hundreds of calls, passionate notes, and letters to the editor, the May Company finally gave in and returned the cherub to the city in 1994 and it again appears yearly on the old Ayres clock. Today Carson Pirie Scott occupies the old Ayres building. Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. is the guardian for the whimsical cherub which celebrates its 65th birthday this year. (Undated photograph, ca. 2010)

I hope you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving with friends, family, and loved ones and enjoy your own traditions! Thanks for all of your kind words, comments, and shared memories and photographs of Indianapolis.

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About the Author

Joan Hostetler and John Harris own Heritage Photo & Research Services. The company specializes in house and building research and historic photograph preservation, interpretation, archiving, and digitization. Since they see so many cool photographs tucked away in attics and basements, they recently created "The Indiana Album" to borrow, scan, and share hidden Indiana images with the public. Like them on facebook or send them an email to share your photographs.

One Comment on "Indianapolis Then and Now: The Ayres Clock Cherub"

  1. Ken Turchi November 22, 2012 at 8:24 am · Reply

    Very nice!

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