The neighborhoods bordering Sixteenth and Meridian Streets are some of the next “in” places to be. Much like Massachusetts Avenue a decade ago and Fountain Square more recently, years of reinvestment in housing is paying off as restaurants and other new businesses locate in old storefronts and abandoned gas stations. Although always an important corridor, the area stagnated in more recent history after the Herron School of Art relocated to the IUPUI campus and the recession stalled planned residential projects. Today this historic road, once known as “Tinker Street,” looks to be the hub of commerce for the historic neighborhoods that share it.
Fifty years ago, this intersection served as a gateway to the prominent entertainment district in Indianapolis. From Sixteenth to Fall Creek, Meridian Street was lined with restaurants, nightclubs and hotels. One of the more famous institutions was the Hawthorne Restaurant at 1611 North Meridian. A postcards shows lunch and dinner served in five uniquely decorated dining rooms. A detailed discussion about the establishment from several years ago can be found here. According to city directories, the restaurant lasted until 1975. By 1980 the street corner was home to the Golden Arches and remains so today. Judging by online reviews of this McDonald’s, the service doesn’t quite live up to the reputation of the Hawthorne Room.
On the southwest corner across the street from the Hawthorne Room sat a complex featuring a hotel, restaurant and lounge. The Manger Motor Inn opened in 1963 and became the Indianapolis outpost for a small chain of eleven properties. Aside from hotel rooms, the property featured a nightspot that proclaimed to be “Indianapolis’ unique cocktail lounge in the city’s finest motor inn.” That statement is misleading, as Manger Inn replicated the Purple Tree Lounge in each of its locations. The complex also featured a restaurant called “Hearth Embers.” By the early seventies, the hotel began a rotation of different hotel brands, including Quality, Ramada, and the independent Meridian Inn. By 2006 what had become known as an Econo Lodge was merely a pile of rubble until Walgreens claimed the busy corner.
Further east on Sixteenth Street, businesses that primarily served the neighborhood featured barber shops, beauty salons and drug stores. A 500-seat theater known as the Cinema Art opened in the 200 block in 1959. The theater must not have been a hit with the neighborhood as it appears to gone out of business by 1966; however, city directories list the location as 213 East 16th, behind Redeemer Presbyterian Church. The building dated back to the turn of the previous century.
Polk’s Indianapolis City Directory: 1951, 1963, 1966, 1974, 1976, 1980, 1987