Flats Lost & Saved: Two Alamedas and the Avenue Hotel

Written by on February 9, 2013 in Vintage Flats - 3 Comments
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1914 Sanborn Map

The 400-block of Massachusetts Avenue is one of the most interesting blocks in the city – historically and architecturally. Doesn’t it seem like it’s been neglected in history, compared to the blocks just northeast and southwest of it?  What started as a riddle on two buildings given the same name has resulted in the following information, with a focus around a key building that many of you may know as the Hoosier or Davlan.

The original Alameda building stood at 442-446 Massachusetts Avenue.  According to the 1898 Sanborn maps, it was called the Patterson Flats – this three-bay, three-story structure had bay windows and twelve-foot ceilings.  Early city directory records indicate that the building was mostly inhabited by unmarried working class people, such as bartenders, dressmakers, etc.  A majority of the surrounding area was single-family dwellings and doubles.  By 1902, the Patterson had been renamed the Alameda.  In 1914, the name had been appropriated by the structure next to it, which has been referred to as the Avenue Apartments/Hotel and the Hoosier Apartments/Hotel/Inn.  It is unclear when this Alameda was demolished, as multiple sources commonly refer to the Avenue as the Alameda until it is formally renamed the Hoosier.  By 1950, the Alameda/Patterson lot was a parking lot.

3/3/1912, IndyStar; evidence of the Alameda next door, three story structure with bay windows

Plans for a new structure came in 1911, when a realty company received a 99-year lease from George J. Marott on 430-444 Massachusetts Avenue and 423-427 North Alabama Street (addresses had shifted slightly on this block around this time).  Seven one-story frame structures were demolished for the new three-story Avenue Hotel, as well as homes on the Alabama Street side, including Marott’s own two-story frame home (“Plans New Business Block,” IndyStar, 3/1/1911).  It was also noted that in the rear of 438 Massachusetts Avenue was a two-story brick home known as the Willard homestead; this home, built in 1861, was at one time considered to be “the finest residence in Indianapolis.”  George E. Hoagland, a local architect, released plans for the three-story plus basement family hotel for the Star in 1912 (above).  The Massachusetts Avenue Realty Company built the structure for $75,000 with the intent to build the larger structure to the south as well as the Alabama Street section later (“New Building For Massachusetts Avenue,” IndyStar, 3/3/1912).  These were smaller apartments than normal for the time, just two rooms and a bathroom.  The original plan called for eight storefronts on the ground level, marble wainscoting on the walls, tile flooring, and mahogany woodwork.

Avenue (Alameda right edge of photograph) ca. 1915, image courtesy James Cordell, Heartland Architects

Massachusetts Avenue Realty Company extended the building in 1913, this time with the help of the architect M.L. Cass, who intended to utilize the same style of architecture and construction.  The plan called for storefronts on the ground floor and sixty rooms on the second and third floors (“Announces Plans to Erect Addition to Family Hotel,” IndyStar, 6/29/1913).  It is unclear if the additional floors were added at this time or slightly later – by 1950 there were six floors to the building.  In 1914, a five-room apartment at the Alameda was renting for $30/month by the John S. Spann & Co.; the Avenue Hotel had fifty-two rooms at $3.50/week.  Some businesses at this time (1913-1914) include:

-Iroquois Theater at 430 Massachusetts Avenue

-Best Candy Kitchen at 440 Massachusetts Avenue

-Plating company at 446 Massachusetts Avenue

-Duncan & Reynolds, men’s and women’s hats, at 448 Massachusetts Avenue

-Grand Millinery, women’s hats and headwear, at 450 Massachusetts Avenue

-Saloon at 454 Massachusetts Avenue

Facade on Massachusetts Avenue, photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton

This was the second location for the Iroquois Theater; the first one was located at 253 West Washington Street.  For more information about Indianapolis theaters, take a look at the book Indianapolis Theaters from A to Z, by Gene Gladson, 1976.  By mid 1915, the Iroquois Theater had closed; the newspaper contained many for sale ads in May of items belonging to the theater.  In 1916, the connecting structure on Alabama Street, the Davlan, appeared in the city directory.

Terra cotta detailing in the cornice, photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton

A fire started in the basement of the Hoosier’s shop, Best Candy Kitchen, in 1923.  According to reports, the fire was confined to the basement and only resulted in a loss of $1,500 from water and smoke damage in the storefront (“Fire in Candy Kitchen Drives Hotel Guests Out,” IndyStar, 2/20/1923).  Interestingly, in the year 1930, the city directory listed the Alameda at 464 Massachusetts Avenue and the Alameda at 37 West St. Clair.  However, the second Alameda went by the name of the Shaw Apartments after that until 1989.  For the last twenty-four years, the Alameda name has been used by the structure at 37 West St. Clair.

Metal balconies and more terra cotta detailing on Davlan, photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton

In 1945, the Davlan apartments were sold to Edwin A. Pearson by Hugh McLandon for $153,000 (“Davlan Apartments Sold; E.A. Pearson Plans New Store,” IndyStar, 12/3/1945).  Pearson intended to use the first floor as showrooms for his family’s furniture and appliance store.  There was an effort in 1971 to turn the buildings into elderly housing, when a Dayton, Ohio, firm purchased the Davlan and the Link-Savoy for $3 million (“Buildings to be Changed for Aged,” Michael Tarpey, IndyNews, 12/5/1971).  The next year, architect Peter Mayer of Woollen Associates planned the “Hoosier” mural on the southside of the building.  The seventy-five foot long mural was completed in four days (“Supergraphics? Well, It Just Looks Like Corn,” David Dawson, IndyNews, 8/4/1972).

“Hoosier” Mural, image courtesy Indiana Historic Architecture Slide Collection, IUPUI

Federally subsidized housing contracts were up on five downtown buildings in 1990 – the Hoosier, Blacherne, Link, Academy (1400 North Meridian Street), and Carpenter (222 East Michigan Street).  According to Tom Harton in the article, “Project Homeward: Plan Would Renovate Five Downtown Buildings, Construct Housing for Displaced Residents,” private investors intended to buy, then renovate the section 8 buildings so they could be turned into market-rate housing (Indiana Business Journal, 2/12/1990).  New housing for displaced residents was supposed to be built as well.  The Blacherne, Link, and Hoosier apartments were in “maintenance default” with HUD, which meant the living conditions in the buildings weren’t up to par with HUD standards (“Project Homeward,” Harton, IBJ, 2/12/1990).  Eight years later, these historic structures still hadn’t received any bids from local developers.

Terra cotta detailing, photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton

In 1999, Riley Area Development Corp began the renovation planning for the mega-structure.  The plan called for many of the original features of the building to be restored, such as the ground level storefronts, brick and terra cotta façade, the tile mosaic flooring in the lobby, and the stair railings of metal (“Historic Hotel Receives New Lease on Life,” Mason King, Indiana Business Journal, 5/29/2000).  The Hoosier and Davlan buildings were renovated in 2001 for $7.1 million and $1.2 million, respectively.  The first floor is called Hoosier Commercial Place and the second and third floors are referred to as the Avenue Condos on the Massachusetts Avenue side; the Alabama Street side is still called the Davlan.  The intent was to provide affordable housing for those who are “modestly paid,” with thirty-six units being priced in that range and another fourteen at market rate (“New Boost for Massachusetts Avenue,” Gargi Chakrabarty, IndyStar, 4/25/2002).  Eight of the units were priced in the $75,000-$120,000 range.  The Davlan section contained fifty units, with rents ranging from $350-$1,200 (“New Boost for Massachusetts Avenue”).

Renovation prep, photo courtesy James Cordell, Heartland Architects

James Cordell from Heartland Design (he also was involved in the Blacherne renovations) was the head architect for the project.  The building had numerous structural issues that had to be dealt with.  The project received many awards and was made possible by a large number of investors.  You can read more about the project and Riley Area’s other accomplishments here.

Alameda at 37 W. St. Clair, photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton

The second Alameda was built in 1925 at 37 West St. Clair Street.  As previously mentioned, it has also been referred to as the Almeda and the Shaw, but since 1989 it has retained the name Alameda.  This commercial/flat mixed-use structure has three storefronts on North Illinois Street and four on West St. Clair Street.  There are twenty-four units on the upper two floors.  At one point, the corner was a diner, beginning in the 1930’s.  This Alameda is listed in the National Register of Historic Places – Apartments & Flats.  The façade is made of rough-cast buff brick.  The main highlight of this flat is the basketweave brickwork, which is slightly different between the two façades.

Brickwork detailing, photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton

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About the Author

Jordan Ryan is a 2010 graduate of Herron School of Art & Design's Art History program. This fall, she will continue her studies with the Public History master's program at IUPUI. She is currently employed at the Herron Art Library, where her work focuses on circulation and reference services as well as research for the library's historic architecture & neighborhood digital collections. She is also an intern at Indiana Landmarks and is a TA at Herron for an art history course. She is currently a resident of Fountain Square.

3 Comments on "Flats Lost & Saved: Two Alamedas and the Avenue Hotel"

  1. basil berchekas jr February 9, 2013 at 11:46 am · Reply

    This extensive blog on these flats is very interesting…must stay with this…hope the Blacherne renovations go well! (My Dad lived in the Link units just before he got married; when I was born they lived in an apartment above the Elbow Room lounge on Pennsylvania Street, under that “7-UP” sign that was on top there for decades, before they rented a double in the 1400 block of North Emerson, before the Justus East Side Addition was built across Emerson on the former Rupp family dairy farm)

  2. LaShawna Harris May 4, 2013 at 11:11 pm · Reply

    My brother was killed in the Hoosier Apartments August 15, 1997. There were many murders that year in the building, and it was closed, then reopened.

  3. Richard McCoy December 27, 2015 at 9:16 am · Reply

    Thanks, Jordan, for writing this history. I’ve long wondered about the “Hoosier” mural on the Davlan building and am glad to find a little about the story behind it. Thanks! Richard

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