Today’s modern downtown convention hotels tend to be imposing structures. Often entrances are set back from the street, and sweeping porte-cochères cover guests as they step from their vehicles, almost directly into the lobby. This was not the case with the Claypool Hotel. People walking down either Washington or Illinois Streets would hardly realize they were passing a 600-room hotel, as the ground floor featured numerous storefronts contributing to the active commerce of the day. Let’s look at some of the businesses that called The Claypool “home.”
Looking at the 1905 Indianapolis City Directory, most of the businesses on the street level could be considered amenities to serve hotel guests. There was a barber named William O. Armstrong, and a news and cigar stand operator named Louis Deschler. The corner space was typically occupied by a drugstore of some kind. In 1905, it was The Weber Drug Company.
The lineup of businesses was more diverse in 1929, heading into the Great Depression. The corner drugstore at that time was Clark & Cade Drugs. The rest of the storefronts catered more to household needs and goods. These included Solomon Oriental Rugs, Singer Sewing Machines, Gaines-Nettleton Shoes, C. S. Dayan Linens, and the Claypool Music Shop.
By the post-World War II years, a plethora of travel-related businesses set up shop to aid vacationers in planning their trips out of Indianapolis. Some of these included American Airlines, Eastern Airlines, and Ross and Babcock Travel. The drugstore on the corner was then the Claypool Pharmacy. Other retail outlets of the time included King Jewelry, The Squire Shop (men’s clothing), Claypool Coffee Shop, and Estates Liquor.
Miraculously, a collection of stores outlived the hotel operations. With the southwestern portion of the building still covered in soot from the 1967 fire that closed the hotel, the street-front businesses remained open. Although the building’s management ordered the premises vacated by May of 1968, the remaining tenants fought for their existence. The final five to continue operations in the disheveled shell of a once grand hotel included: American Airlines, Estates Liquors, Bonheim Gift Shop, Smith Jewelry, and Indiana News. Although American Airlines had the resources to relocate, the remainder were small mom and pop operations. They attempted to sue the ownership, so their leases might be fulfilled, but to no avail.
Condemnation by the City insured the last light was out by November 2, 1968, and the building’s fate was sealed.
What, if anything, do you recall about the impending demolition of an Indianapolis landmark?
Indianapolis City Directory, Polk’s, 1905
Indianapolis City Directory, Polk’s, 1929
Indianapolis City Directory, Polk’s, 1954
Indianapolis News, June 30th, 1967
Indianapolis Star, May 30th, 1968
Indianapolis Star, November 2nd 1968
Does anyone also remember the nearly invisible Washington Hotel amid a jumble of shops, some upscale and some a bit dicey?–Goldstein’s Furniture, a wonderful stationery store with a children’s bookstore in the basement, etc. The hotel was about two blocks down from the Claypool in the middle of the block opposite a five and ten cent store.
In a 50’s emergency, I went to a gloomy dental office in the Claypool. The dentist pulled a good tooth and later lost his license to practice. His wife owned a lovely flower shop on the main floor.
I was almost a fixture in the Claypool from the wartime activities (unsolved murder of cpl Maomi Rydings (spelling memory dim) to the much later dresser drawer murder of Dorothy I forget –wrote about both and actually played a small part in nabbing the perp in the latter–maybe Dorothy Poore,my memory poor indeed). As a young reporter for the Indpls Times, I was sent to cover a Legislature and found my way to the heart of politics –the Claypool. In the process there started a lifelong friendship between me and Paula Carr (radio name) daughter of Claypool live in longtime manager Bryan Karr and wife Pauline. Latter two were big on the local VIP scene, family occupied corner suite facing both Washington and Ilinois and lived in the grand manner, Paula had daily live show from coffee shop on WIRE–so I spent a lot of personal time as well as assignments–Claypool is where I interviewed everyone from Louis Bromfield to first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, worked as a maid sub rosa in Eisenhower suite on a story tip–so I knew everything from the grand lobby to the 2/1/2 floor linen closet. It was a home away from home from 40’s way up to near demolition (after Mr.Karr’s terminal illness and closing) When the Karr’s left, they gave me many relics, artifacts plus I purchased many at the final auction Jim Marsh conducted=-=my home today is crowded with Claypool artifacts–heraldic shield from Louis room, service plates, silver, even table from old New Orleans Court and I have some magnificent sketches a book done at time of major re-do. Where was I? Oh, about demolition. I am a little less proud of role I played publicizing the final gala party and demolition–local salvage guy Ed Zebroski did not do everything by the book….but I stage managed the final final days, likewise the Lincoln across the way. It ought to be documented where certain artifacts are–the wonderful railing around the balcony overlooking grand lobby went past my bid, 2 decorators put it around their Washington Blvd corner property, now home of Julie Slaymaker. It was b efore my time but it is said the balcpny from which Lincoln spoke when it was Bates House is on historic old Shaw Brenner house on l3th or so, off Central……and, footnote, for many years daughter Paula who became wife of Hoosier golf legend Fred Wampler stored many Claypool artifacts (including that infamous dresser drawer and contents of Carol Lombard suite where she spent her final night. Some years b ack I arranged for her to sell most at auction to benefit Propylaeum–some of Lombard furnishings there.
Thank you so much for the great memories you shared. The next piece I have scheduled touches on the murders. It was quite sensational news at the time and much was written in the three daily papers regarding the victims and the details of the crimes. It’s great to hear that you’ve been able to acquire so many artifacts. This topic was actually covered in an earlier piece linked here. http://historicindianapolis.com/indianapolis-collected-hotel-salvage/