We received a question from one of our loyal readers, Gordon Durnil, about the Indianapolis “comfort stations” that were located in the middle of Kentucky Avenue, at the southwest corner of the Kentucky/Illinois/Washington Street intersection.
Looking northeast at the women’s entrance, 1911 (Bass Photo #24702)
Around the advent of the 20th Century, the development of public sewer systems were placing toilets in every office and business. However, there was still a need for convenient public restrooms in downtown for the multitudes of shoppers and workers who were in the streets everyday.
In order to accommodate their needs, in the summer of 1910, Indianapolis built a “comfort station” in the middle of Kentucky Ave, just outside of the intersection of Illinois and Washington Streets. An unusual design being partially underground, it was a nice example of late Beaux Arts style, costing $17,000. As shown in the Bass photos and the floor plan, the women and men sections each had its own stairway entrance, at opposite ends of the facility.
Looking southwest at the mens’ entrance, 1911 (Bass photo #24723)
Two attendants, one woman and one man, maintained the comfort station. Initially, the open hours were 7:30 am to 11:30 pm, illustrating an apparent need for late-night facilities for patrons of the nearby theaters. Most of the toilets were arranged in the familiar configuration of individual toilet stalls and sink basins in the common space, but there were three women and four men pay stalls that included private sinks with hot and cold water, mirror, towels, liquid soap, and a comb and brush. Quite a package, compared to what a modern pay toilet often provides.
The plan for the comfort station, 1910 (from Municipal Engineering, December, 1910)
The comfort station facility remained in service for many years, though I cannot yet find exactly when it was closed. It was definitely removed by 1956. The entire length of Kentucky Avenue through this block was gone with the construction of what is now the Hyatt Regency Hotel in 1977.
If any you have stories you’d like to share of using the Comfort Station, or can help pinpoint the year when it was closed and demolished, we’d love to hear from you! Either add a comment below, or send us your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.