A 1940s view looking northwest on Virginia Avenue shows this recognizable building as the Granada Theatre. (Image: W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)

With spring approaching, many are looking forward to spending quality time outdoors. The development of the Cultural Trail over the past decade has succeeded in connecting once hard-to-access neighborhoods. With the introduction of the bike sharing program last summer, the stream of people enjoying the city is nonstop on nice days. When the trail finally made its way down Virginia Avenue, the long-proclaimed “up and coming” Fountain Square neighborhood finally began living up to its potential. While strolling the streets, the architecture provides hints to some of the past destinations to which people once flocked.

Many may recall the Murphy Art Center as home to the large discount retailer; however, a closer look reveals earlier uses. The Art Center at street level appears to be one long continuous building but in reality consists of two. The furthest portion to the southeast was once known as the Schreiber Block. This building, constructed in 1895, features decorative stained glass windows on the upper floors.

This 1941 Sanborn map shows the alley that was built over to connect the Schreiber Block with the Granada Theater (Courtesy IUPUI)

The 1941 Sanborn map shows the alley that was built over to connect the Schreiber Block with the Granada Theatre. (Image: IUPUI)

Heading northwest along Virginia, you notice a Spanish influenced building, complete with distinct terra-cotta trim. This building, constructed in 1928, began its life as the Granada Theatre, which was part of Universal Pictures. The theater featured 1,417 seats, making it one of the larger neighborhood theaters in the city.

The Granada would not live to see its silver anniversary however. In 1929, the G. C. Murphy Company opened a store in the Schreiber Block. G. C. Murphy could be best described as the precursor to today’s big box store. Offering a wide variety of merchandise at below retail pricing, the chain actually expanded and thrived during the great depression.  In 1951, riding the wave of post war economic growth, the store took over the Granada Theatre space and connected the two buildings. The store survived the decline of the neighborhood and the Interstate construction, which cut it off from downtown during the 1970s. It remained open to shoppers until 1997, when the parent company declared bankruptcy.

A similar view when the G. C. Murphy Company occupied the building (Courtesy W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society)

A similar view when the G. C. Murphy Company occupied the building. (Image: W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society)

The buildings would not stay vacant for long. The former Murphy space became a community art center, where aspiring local artists set up studios. Today more than twenty artist’s studios are housed here. The street level retail took off after the completion of the Cultural Trail and now features three popular restaurants. In 2011, Heartland Films took over the former theater space. Their facility even features a small screening room, where films are often presented, proving that what was old is new once again.

Were you ever in this building during its time as a theater or variety store? What are some of your memories?

Today Heartland Film occupies space in what would have been the theater's entrance (Courtesy Jeff Kamm)

Today, Heartland Film occupies space in what was formerly the theater’s entrance (Image: Jeff Kamm)

Printed Sources:

For The Love of Murphy’s, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008

Indianapolis Star, May 6 2011

7 responses to “At Your Leisure: From Films to Film Festivals”

  1. Tank says:

    G. C. Murphy’s was the place to go as a kid in the ’50s and ’60’s. They sold hoagies (subs) for a dollar, as I recall, maybe less. It was affordable for the preteen set. Never knew it was a theatre in a past life, and I don’t recall the ornate facade. Thanks for the article.

  2. Tom Renick says:

    I lived in the Fountain sq. area ca. 1949 (Age 9) . Went to the Granada theater, Fountain Sq. theater many times. There was also a small movie theater nearby that showed old B cowboy movies at a bargain price. We shopped at the Murphy store and as someone said it was the “Walmart” of it’s day.

  3. Tim McKinney says:

    We lived on Prospect St across from the Safeway store, 1967 to 1971. My aunt worked at GC Murphy’s in 1967. I remember the hippie club known as Le Scene. Lots of activity there in the 60’s. Many fond memories of Fountain Square.

  4. Anonymous says:


  5. Danielle says:

    In the late 80’s we lived in Fountain Square and my grandparents lived two houses down. I remember many times going into Murphy’s with my grandma and getting to pick a small toy if I was good as they seemed to have everything.

  6. norma rodriguez says:

    I think the subs were only .25. Ate dozens of times at the lunch counter where my cousin worked in the 60s.

  7. norma rodriguez says:

    I lived there from birth in 1946 until about 1958. Went to IPS 28.

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