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This 1960s-era postcard promises a country style meal served by the Sloan family. (Image: Amazon)

A once-popular way to make your business stand out from the competition was to build a structure to look like the theme represented. Folks around Indy have seen these examples throughout the years — from a seafood restaurant built like riverboat to an upside down house to promote an area home builder. A long-standing restaurant in our metropolis embraced the theme of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about two wayward children and their encounter with a cannibalistic witch.

Between 1959 and 1960, Purdue electrical engineer, Alvin Sloan, went into the restaurant business with his wife Ruth. The Sloans converted a small house on Allisonville Road to look like something out of a Bavarian fairy tale. They named their restaurant “The Storybook House Restaurant of Hansel and Gretel,” offering “country style” meals. Perhaps the threat of a cannibal witch helped keep fussy children at bay in the dining room.

The Sloan family continued to operate the restaurant until 1972. No full-sized ginger-bread house should ever go unused, so the business then came under the stewardship of Frank Mueller, a German immigrant who came to the United States after a successful career in restaurants and hotels in his native country. Mr. Mueller continued to successfully operate under the Hansel and Gretel name with the fairy tale theme.

So what became of the little storybook house? The Indiana Department of transportation certainly didn’t do it any favors by bypassing Allisonville Road with a new expressway (now Binford Boulevard) in 1961. In later years, Allisonville curved to meet the new road instead of going through to Keystone Avenue, causing potential diners to have to turn on an abandoned stub of land to access the property.

Frank Mueller sold the Hansel and Gretel in 1985 and went on to have great success running the Indianapolis Athletic Club and saving the Athenaeum’s Rathskeller restaurant from failure in 1993. The house on Allisonville was not devoured by hungry children, but by demolition contractors in 2004, according to city records. The last known property owner was a company by the name of DWI Entertainment. Original owner Alvin Sloan lived to the age of 101 before passing away in 2008, outliving his creative restaurant.

Do you have any memories of dining in this storybook house? Do you remember other places that stood out from the road due to bizarre architecture?

The former site on Old Allisonville Road looks like a place no child, let alone adult should wonder in today. No trace of the gingerbread cottage remains.

The former site on Old Allisonville Road looks like a place no child, let alone adult, should wonder in today. No trace of the gingerbread cottage remains.

 

Printed Sources:

Indianapolis Star, February 18, 1999

Indianapolis Star, December 20, 2008

Polks City Directory 1959, 1961, 1972, 1984, 1985

One response to “At Your Leisure: Beware of the Witch”

  1. Jack Rhodes says:

    For a few years in the mid 1960s, this was where the family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner. It was somewhat hard to find after the Allisonville Road realignment. I remember how the floors creaked as you walked to your table. There was an overall mustiness to the building — combined with the pungent smell of the pickled beets on the relish tray.

    Thanksgiving meant it was one of those occasions where you had to dress up for the meal. I remember having to wear a ridiculously itchy wool sweater one year. It was a mild November, the restaurant itself was quite warm and in that sweater it felt like turkey dinner in a sauna. I could be wrong, but I seem to recall the meal was served family style by stout, older waitresses in Bavarian garb. Thinking about it reminds me of the famous family dinner style restaurants still in business in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

    At least on Thanksgiving, it was almost assembly line style dining — working to get you in and out to keep turning those tables. I was always a little disappointed in how quickly the meal went. I don’t remember the food being bad, and I liked the kid friendly kitschy atmosphere, but I always found myself thinking that I’d have preferred the family opting for dinner at the nearby Lotus Garden Chinese restaurant just down old Allisonville in the Town and Country Shopping Center.

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