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 north and south? 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 building.
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 inhabited by mostly working class unmarried people, such as bartenders, dressmakers, etc. A majority of the surrounding area was single-family dwellings and duplexes. By 1902, it 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 the 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.
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 considered to be “the finest residence in Indianapolis” at one time. 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.
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
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.
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 Almeda at 37 West St. Clair. However, the second Alameda goes 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.
In 1945, the Davlan apartments were sold to Edwin A. Pearson from 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 – 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).
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.
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”).
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 great deal of investors. You can read more about the project and Riley Area’s other accomplishments here.
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. The 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.