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.
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.
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?
For The Love of Murphy’s, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008
Indianapolis Star, May 6 2011