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An early postcard showing the Marott Hotel and Meridian Street Bridge. (Image: eBay)

Today’s visitors to the Circle City have a wide array of lodging options when looking for a place to spend the night. The downtown area boasts thousands of modern hotel rooms that attract celebrities, athletes and politicians. While Indy may not have a landmark hotel like Chicago’s Palmer House or New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria, an early example in the city’s lodging heritage still stands among the busy intersection of Meridian Street and Fall Creek Parkway. While they no longer take guests on a nightly basis, the Marott Apartments provide housing to hundreds of city dwellers. While commuters zip by the imposing structure regularly, they may not realize that this former hotel claims some of Indy’s most important visitors slept here.

This matchbook cover indicates the old two letter telephone exchange numbering pattern. WAlnut seems to have covered the areas around Fall Creek on the northeast side. This system was phased out beginning in 1958. (Image: eBay)

The Marott Apartment Hotel began serving Indy visitors and residents in November 1926. The property was developed by a prominent retailer of the time. Featuring two identical ten-story brick towers under its distinctive neon sign, the property featured a pharmacy, restaurant, billiard and card rooms, deli, beauty salon and on-site laundry service. There is, however, no mention of the cocktail lounge, that would come later, since the building’s debut occurred during prohibition.

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Early view of the former (and first) Governor’s Mansion from The Marott.

Along with providing luxurious amenities, the Marott may attribute part of its cache to location, location, location. The building sat next door to the first designated Governor’s Mansion since the failed and oft-noted one on the circle, making it a go-to place for hosting political fundraisers and other social engagements. If you were a celebrity visiting Indianapolis during the its heyday, there is little question of your first choice of lodging. Famous folks who signed a registration card at the Marott include Clark Gable, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Jane Mansfield, and Paul Newman.

The Driftwood Room Restaurant, a late addition to the Marott, could not restore the hotel to its former glory (courtesy Evan Finch)

The Driftwood Room Restaurant, a late addition to the Marott, could not restore the hotel to its former glory. (Image: Evan Finch)

Eventually, the hotel’s appeal eventually faded. George J. Marott passed away in 1946 and the hotel went through a series of owners, each desperately trying to hold onto the allure of the past with additions such as: an above ground swimming pool, dining rooms, and expanded parking lots where spacious lawns and gardens once existed. None of those additions could overcome the change in tastes and decline in popularity of the surrounding area.

The once-grand apartment hotel remained an eyesore at one of the city’s busiest intersections for only two years. Investors poured more than 16 million dollars into the building, restoring the former gem into more than 200 apartments. Current day residents can enjoy amenities such as: an indoor pool, coffee shop, business center and concierge. According to the list on their website, some high profile guests in more recent years have included: Eric Dickerson, Reggie Miller,  Evan Bayh, and the late Governor Frank O’Bannon.

Can you think of a place and time where you may have had a chance to rub elbows with movers and shakers of the Circle City?

5 responses to “At Your Leisure: Rubbing Elbows with Indy’s Elite at The Marott Hotel”

  1. Jeff Congdon says:

    Prior to the renovation that currently exists, the author of this article has neglected to mention the low income apartments that existed for many years and the continuing decline until the current renovation took place. The article gives the impression that it was a hotel until 1980.

  2. Jeff Kamm says:

    Jeff,
    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! According to the 1979 Polk directory the business was still operating as a “hotel” at the time. The property, being of a mixed use did feature apartments as well. The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis published in 1994 seemed to indicate around one dozen of these units were leased at the end of the building’s original purpose. Being familiar with the life-cycle of lodging properties what I suspect is the hotel was being occupied with a more “permanent” type of guest. These are often folks whom are teetering on the edge of homelessness and cannot commit to a long-term lease or pass the credit and background checks that often accompany one. Many roadside motels on former U.S. Highways in the area operate in a similar fashion today. I neglected to include this as it is pure speculation on my part. It was not my intent to mislead readers. Any insight you may be able to provide is welcome and appreciated as I was too young to grasp the events of the time.

    -Jeff Kamm

  3. Bob Palma says:

    Nice article, Jeff; thanks. Ironic that Mr. Marott died the very day before I was born (February 11, 1946).
    .
    Do you have any idea how long it took to phase out the two-letter telephone prefixes?
    .
    I ask because you said the process began in 1958. However, we moved here from Illinois in 1962, when I was 16. I remember the two-letter-digit prefixes existing and being in use for quite some time after we got here, possibly as late as 1970, or even later.
    .
    I was working in full-service NE Indianapolis suburban gas stations at the time (1966-1972) and spent a lot of time on the phone, telephoning customers to advise them of needed repairs, so I remember using the LIberty prefix (now 54) in NE Indianapolis quite a bit…and going out to the drag races in Clermont; prefix AXminster, now 29….and visiting friends in Brownsburg, now 85 but ULrey during those years, all of which were quite some time after 1962.
    .
    It must have taken Ma Bell a long time to phase out something that seems to have been so simple.
    .
    Thanks. Great article on the Marott. (Any idea of the significance of the bison/buffalo on the matchbook cover? Considering all the politicians who frequented the place, was that a symbol for the nature of the conversation? The “bull” does look to be straining, you know…) Bob Palma

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