Courtesy Indiana State Library

Name of Business: African Ostrich Feather Company

Date of this Advertisement: March 26, 1916

Location:  State Life Building, 15-23 East Washington Street, Fourth Floor

Neighborhood: Downtown, Wholesale District

Service Provided: Millinery, Makers of custom women’s hats

Notable: Millinery: a description of the service/ product provided.  Today it is tough to find anyone donning headwear without the logo of a local sports team on it, but unique custom hats were prized by many women up until the early 1960s–thank you, Jackie Kennedy. Although a few independent milliners still exist, this trade has largely gone the way of the silversmith.

State Life Buildling (image courtesy Library of Congress)

State Life Buildling, looking southeast (image courtesy Library of Congress)

Additional: This particular millinery shop was located in the State Life Building in downtown Indianapolis. Constructed in 1895, the building loomed 13 stories above East Washington Street. Aside from the namesake insurance company offices, the building also contained many retail outlets on the lower floors. The building, later known as the Thomas Building, was destroyed by fire in 1973. Sparked by a welder in the adjacent Grant Building, the fire became one of downtown’s greatest pyro-tragedies.

The Grant Building and State Life Building ablaze in 1973. The site remains parking (Courtesy Indianapolis, Marion County Library)

The Grant Building and State Life Building, on the south side of East Washington ablaze in 1973. Note Merchant’s Bank building to the west of the fire. The site remains a parking lot today  (Courtesy Indianapolis, Marion County Public Library)