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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.

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Doorway access to what was the Worm Hotel – Photo by Ryan Hamlett

Albert R. Worm - photo from www.findagrave.com

Albert R. Worm – photo from www.findagrave.com

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.

The National Provisioner. Alas, I've let my subscription expire.

The National Provisioner. Alas, I’ve let my subscription expire.

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.

Rear of the Worm Building - Photo by Ryan Hamlett

Rear of the Worm Building – Photo by Ryan Hamlett

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.

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From the October 24th, 1905 Indianapolis Star

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.

18 responses to “Albert R. Worm Building”

  1. Alice Roettger says:

    For many years, Albert Worm lived in the large, white house on the south side of Kessler Blvd. between Compton and Crestview. In the back yard, he placed the keystone from his former home on Illinois. the keystone says “Albert Worm and gives the house number (which I forget at the moment).

  2. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    The address of the house on N. Illinois Street was 1907. It’s gone (of course). It’s now the parking lot for the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors, whose building faces Meridian Street. The address of the house on Kessler Boulevard East Drive is 1215.

  3. Phil Beanblossom says:

    Thank you for featuring this area. From 1915 – 1968, my family operated the Wm. D. Beanblossom Mortuary at 1321 West Ray Street, about a block from Oliver Avenue. The mortuary and many other buildings were razed as the federal government purchased property to make way for Interstate 70/65.

  4. David Brewer says:

    I think the Worm Building is one of my favorite buildings in “the valley”. Incidentally I believe that the recycling facility that burned over the weekend was originally Malleable Plant #2. Malleable made trucks (the metal thingies that hold the wheels) for railroad cars and was a huge employer on Indianapolis’ West Side for many years.

  5. Ryan Hamlett says:

    Thank you for the comment Phil. If, at some point, would like to talk and share a photo to three and have the Beanblossom Mortuary featured in a future article, I’d like that very much.

  6. Ryan Hamlett says:

    I very much like the Hoffa’s Silver Diner directly across from the Worm Building and had intended to feature it instead, but got caught up in the Worm’s history. Thank you for your addition. It’s certainly sad to see such damage done to such a large area.

  7. Phil Beanblossom says:

    Ryan:

    Thank you. Just read this. I’ll get this info to you soon.

  8. Christianne hilgenberg says:

    I grew up down the street from the mini mansion of Mr. Albert Worm.. I played on the beautiful grounds reminiscent of European aristocracy.. I used to sit on this all-white marble or stone bench that is carved with Mr. Worm’ s name and indeed 1907.. Until TODAY I thought this was the year the grand house was built. Ha! I am reading an find out it is the keystone from his home on Illinois.. Needless to say I am processing..

  9. Chris Gee says:

    I had occasion to visit the house on Kessler recently and got interested in Mr Worm. I did a little research and discovered him in the 1940 census (died 1944) he gave Germany/East Prussia as his place of birth. On the census form, there was a question about citizenship. According to the census, neither he or his wife were ever US citizens. Though that was interesting since according to the article cited, he was so adamant about local politics.

  10. Eric Aue says:

    My great-great-grandmother, great grandfather, and my grandpa ran Hoffas Silver Cafe for 30+ years. My
    Mom is a Hoffa. Would love to see an article on it!

  11. Michael says:

    It is my understanding that the property recently sold, but I do not have details for that.

  12. Rebecca Davis says:

    I lived at 1256 oliver ave, from 1955 to 1964. Went to ps.#47 and went to Ray St. Nazarene church as a child. So many memories of the neighborhood. Back then, it was a lot different. We lived in an old double across the street from Yaverwitz’s dept. Store. Harsin’s
    furniture store to the left and the Westside enterprise newspaper to the right of us. Everything is different now. Not many old things remain. But I’ve got a lot of good memories. Becky

  13. Rebecca Davis says:

    I remember when the Beanblossom’s mortuary was in business. I lived on 1256 Oliver ave. I also briefly worked with one of their wives in tailoring in indy.

  14. Urban Survivor says:

    LOVE ME SOME VALLEY RATS!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Chandler says:

    Great read. Please use The Valley when featuring an article in this neighborhood. The Valley needs all the love it can get…since big corporations bought the stamping plant and tried to rename it Waterside. For shame

  16. Marty Sanders (Sprowl) says:

    I grew up on West Morris street, 2401 West Morris St., part of the Butler/Sprowl families (West Indianapolis Market/Butler Produce), I am so happy to have stumbled onto this article. I recognize some of the names of the people who commented – SMALL world! Love it!!

  17. Debbie Doss Parks says:

    Phil – I lived at 1349 W Ray St. my family bought the property in 1951 we also lived there until the highway bought our home and we moved to Perry Township. My question to you is; Did your family build the funeral home and was it a single home structure and the business built on ? I was in the residence many times. I remember the grand piano. Jan would let some of us neighborhood girls come in and dust her furniture and the staircase leading to the upstairs residence. Thank you

  18. Joanna Daffron says:

    My maternal grandparents lived at 1316 W. Ray Street until the interstate came to be. I remember a funeral home across the street from their home. My paternal grandparents also lived in the same area and had a grocery store named Dunlap’s Market on W. Ray Street.

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