Albert R. Worm Building at 1223 West Oliver Avenue – Photo by Ryan Hamlett
A day after the Nationwide OTR Recycling plant at 220 S. Belmont pelted downtown and the near southwest side with toxic smoke and ash, I thought it would be a swell idea to get myself a closer look. However, IPD had (wisely) blocked off Belmont between Washington and Oliver Avenue, diverting lookie-loos with self-preservation deficiencies, such as myself, away from the smoldering mass of steel and huge, scrapped, earthmover tires.
Heading east on Oliver, away from the site of the blaze, I came across a series of neglected buildings adjacent to the splendiferous Guanajuato Restaurante and Carniceria. Most striking to me (well, second most striking, after the bright blue Hoffa’s Silver Cafe, more recently “Fatso’s” across the street) was a two-story brick store front proudly bearing the name of Albert R. Worm.
The Worm Building, constructed in 1899, was one of two buildings featured in a 2011 “Sunday Prayer” post by HI contributor Nathan Bilger, identifying the top floor of the Worm building and of a now demolished building next door as what was the “Worm Hotel” accessed by a (what was likely super shady) stairwell entrance between the two buildings seen below.
The man behind the building (and unfortunately named hotel), Albert Worm was one of Indianapolis’ most successful butchers and meatpackers in the late 1800 and early 1900s. A short article from July 1, 1911 in the ubiquitous, weekly meat-packing industry publication, “The National Provisioner” tells of how Worm grew his small butcher’s shop into “Worm & Company” with stockyards near Ray and Dakota Streets (roughly where National Wine & Spirits is now) and a worth of $300,000 (around $10,000,000) today.
It is uncertain (and also unlikely) that Worm operated a butchery out of the Worm building. I imagine that, in those pre-airconditioned days, planting a hotel atop a business disposing of all manner of raw meat wouldn’t be the best business model. Still, these loading door at the rear of the building hint to a commercial use of some nature, if not meat-packing related.
Whatever odors may or may not have been emanating from the Worm building circa 1915, things stunk of a political nature for Albert Worm according to a series of articles from the Indianapolis Morning Star. Worm, a wealthy and prominent Republican was duped into signing a petition publicly endorsing the administration of Indianapolis’ 20th mayor John W. Holtzman, Democrat. While busy at work, Worm was asked to sign a petition in support of a plan to elevate train tracks throughout the city cut back on deaths (and more importantly) delays running trains at street level, a Holtzman pet project. The next day, Worm’s name appeared in the Star endorsing Holtzman the man, which Worm quickly set right within the press, denouncing Holtzman and his lackey Henry Warrum.
The Holtzman administration responded on October 21st by shutting down Worm’s private pool hall at 1231 Oliver Ave, on a Sunday. Said Worm:
It is intolerable that I must be singled out for their malice just because I am a Republican and refuse to be a Democrat. Because I will not submit to their trickery I am attacked, while others in all directions are permitted to violate the law.
If I have said it once, I have said it 100 times. One does not screw with the John Holtzman administration.