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“There I grew up” is how Abraham Lincoln described his childhood home, a humble log cabin in southern Indiana. But it’s also how one area woman can describe an 11th floor apartment at the Hotel Lincoln, an Indianapolis high-rise that bore the late president’s name.

Georgiana Rupprecht Schroeder – known as Georgi to her friends – was only three months old in 1931 when she moved to the Hotel Lincoln with her parents.  She remained there until her marriage in 1955.  In between, she was a Hoosier version of Eloise, the fictional six-year-old girl who lived in the Plaza Hotel in New York city.

Pictured above left is the entrance to the Hotel Lincoln, which stood at the intersection of West Washington Street and Kentucky Avenue from 1918 to 1973. Shown right is the entrance to Plaza, the iconic New York hotel that was home to Eloise, a fictional 6-year-old brat who lived in the Plaza's penthouse and ordered all of her meals from room service.

The Hotel Lincoln was still relatively new when Schroeder’s father, Paul Rupprecht, Sr., took over as manager.  The brainchild of banker Albert E. Metzger and architects Preston Rubush and Edgar Hunter, the Lincoln had been on the drawing board for more than a decade as the trio waited patiently for the right opportunity to build a hotel specially designed to cater to the growing number of business travelers passing through the “”Crossroads of America.”

In the early 1900s, Metzger – in partnership with Rubush & Hunter – had taken a renewable 99-year lease on the property at the prominent intersection of Kentucky Avenue and Washington Street from the estate of Magadelena Maus, the widow of brewer Casper Maus.  After acquiring some adjacent land fronting Kentucky Avenue,  they decided in 1917 to finally cash in on the area’s commercial growth and redevelop the site into a new hotel. The 8-story building would be called the Lincoln, in honor of the president who stood across the street in February 1861 and delivered a famous speech from the balcony of the Bates House.

The four-story Commercial Block, above left, was demolished in 1917 to make way for the new Hotel Lincoln. Paul Rupprecht managed the Lincoln from the early 1930s until it was purchased by Gotham Hotels in the mid-1960s.

The Lincoln opened to rave reviews on June 29, 1918. According to The Indianapolis Star, “exquisite pieces of work in bas relief” in a shade of delicate blue adorned the lobby and mezzanine area. The finely-molded plaques on the pillars and ceiling were of “considerable size,” and appeared to show figures that could have been Egyptian or Greek, although the reporter who covered the grand opening admitted that he was “not too well informed on such things.”

One month after the Lincoln opened its doors, the owners announced that the size of the hotel would be doubled to 16 stories. The expanded building would be topped with an elegant marble dining room and formal lobby designed in the “Venetian style.” Although the plans were eventually scaled back to 14 floors, the Lincoln still holds its place in history as the tallest flatiron building ever built in Indianapolis. Construction was completed in 1921, and on  New Year’s Eve 1921, the 14th floor Travertine Room opened its doors to revelers.

The marble-clad Travertine Room opened its doors to New Year's Eve revelers in 1921. Dinner was served at 10 p.m., with dancing to follow until 1 a.m. The neon sign at the front reads "Welcome 1922."

Although it has been 40 years since Schroeder last saw her childhood home,  her memories of life in the Lincoln are still vivid. From her family’s two-bedroom apartment on the 11th floor, she could hear the strains of the Estey pipe organ that had been specially built for the Travertine Room. When the windows were open, she could smell the stench from the massive Kingan meatpacking plant a few blocks west on Washington Street.  But the highlight of her life at the Lincoln was her wedding on April 30, 1955.

While a wedding reception at the bride’s home usually means a quiet affair with a small circle of friends and family, Schroeder had the advantage of living in one of the best hotels in Indianapolis.  Her reception was held in the elegant Travertine Room, and out-of-town friends and family stayed in more than 30 rooms provided by her father. “Fortunately the hotel was air conditioned by then,” Schroeder recalled, “but actually it was a perfect day.”

This section of a downtown real estate map shows how the Hotel Lincoln and adjacent properties were situated around the time of Georgi Schroeder's wedding in 1955. The north-south street on the right is Illinois; Capitol Avenue is on the left.

I connected with Schroeder completely through happenstance last weekend. While researching my most recent HI article on the pioneer legislature, I ran across the original 1828 law establishing Indiana University.  I posted a photo of the law on J.T. Forbes’ Facebook page. Forbes is the executive director and CEO of the IU Alumni Association. Shortly thereafter, I got a Facebook message from one of Forbes’ Facebook friends, Andrew Potts, a Washington DC attorney who grew up in Indianapolis and is also an avid collector of “old” Indianapolis.  I was thrilled to find another collector because I was planning to write about the Hotel Lincoln this week and was looking for interesting memorabilia from the old hotel.

Although Potts didn’t have any Hotel Lincoln souvenirs or memorabilia, he did have the phone number and email address for a family friend who just happened to grow up in the Lincoln.  Having the opportunity to talk to Georgi Schroeder and share her living history is – in my view – about 1,000 times more interesting than writing about another old teapot anyway.

As a child growing up in Kokomo, I was fascinated by the Eloise stories. Originally published in 1955 – the last year that Schroeder lived in the Lincoln — the first Eloise book told the tale of a bratty six-year-old child who lived in the penthouse of the Plaza Hotel with her nameless nanny and frequently absent mother.  Eloise charged all of her meals to room service, eatings delicacies such as Planked Medallion of Beef Tenderloin with Fresh Vegetable Maison.

The Rupprecht’s apartment lacked a kitchen, so whenever Schroeder and her family decided to dine in, they also ordered from room service. But Schroeder made clear that she was no Eloise. Room service meals for her and her younger brother were ordered by her mother, although sometimes Schroeder ate alone in the hotel’s restaurant or coffee shop when her parents were out for the evening.  However, the Mirabar – the Lincoln’s Art Moderne lounge — was strictly off limits.

Nor were the Rupprecht children permitted to engage in the same sort of antics as Eloise, such as pouring water down the mail shaft or ordering a single raisin from room service. The Lincoln’s owners didn’t want children running around the hotel, so Schroeder and her brother were tasked with being on their best behavior while using the elevators and other public spaces in their own “home.”

During the 1930s and 1940s, there wasn’t really any place downtown for the Rupprecht children to play outside, so they spent a lot of time after school and in the summers at their grandparents’ house in Woodruff Place. Their mother usually made them ride the back elevator if they were dirty after playing outside because grass-stained, muddy children were not tolerated in fancy hotels back in those days. If they were really dirty, however, Schroeder and her brother cleaned up and changed clothes before taking the streetcar back to the Lincoln.

During her 20+ years at the Lincoln, Schroeder became friends with a couple of other girls who lived in the “neighborhood.” One girl’s father managed the Hotel Washington, and the other’s managed the Severin.  Schroeder was not permitted to walk alone to visit her friend at the Severin because the route passed by several third-rate hotels, including the Lorraine, which was opposite the Statehouse on the corner of Washington and Capitol.

The Lincoln primarily catered to business travelers, with generous-sized Sample Rooms where salesmen could sleep at night on a Murphy bed and then show their wares by day.  However, it was also a popular site for conventions, and during WWII, was packed with soldiers from nearby Camp Atterbury and their families.

Schroeder recalls that during the hectic war years, her father never took a vacation. And he was facing his own battle on the home front, after enemies invaded the Lincoln in the form of bedbugs carried in by traveling soldiers. Victory over the pests proved elusive, despite the advances in modern chemical warfare. At one point a desperate Rupprecht resorted to a home remedy suggested by one of the maids.  Although the infested rooms were usually off-limits to guests when they were being treated, the room shortage in the city was so severe that one guest insisted on staying there anyway despite the awful smell of the homemade concoction. He apparently survived the experience, although his companion bedbugs were not as fortunate.

The Lincoln was purchased by the Sheraton Hotel chain in 1955 and renamed the Sheraton-Lincoln.  It was sold again in 1968 to Gotham Hotels, which launched an ambituous overhaul of the aging hotel. Two years later with renovation only 25% complete, Gotham decided to shut down the Lincoln.  The building’s few remaining tenants, including the State Democrat Party, were given three days to vacate. For the next three years, the Lincoln sat vacant.

Schroeder and her family paid a final visit to the Lincoln after the hotel had been empty for a couple of years.  They were surprised when they were allowed to enter the building, which was dark and dank with plaster falling everywhere. After a brief look around, they quickly left. That was the last time Schroeder ever saw her childhood home.

The Hotel Lincoln was imploded with 300 sticks of dynamite in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 9, 1973.  In the short span of 10 seconds, the 55-year old building was reduced to a pile of rubble.  Schroeder was teaching Sunday school that morning and missed the implosion.  She was surprised when I told her that a video of the implosion was available on YouTube, but didn’t seem especially to eager to watch it.  I can’t say I blame her.

If you’d like to learn more about the Hotel Lincoln or see the video of the implosion, check out Joan Hostetler’s Then & Now article from 2011.

15 responses to “Indianapolis Collected: Life in the Hotel Lincoln”

  1. Norm Morford says:

    Thanks, Libby. I was working downtown for the State of Indiana when the Lincoln Hotel was taken down. Zebroski did a lot in a short time to change the way downtown Indy looked.

  2. John Lethen says:

    What a great story! It is such a shame that this building, along with many others in Indianapolis, have been torn down. This building was particularly unique and would be such a neat building if it still stood.

    You mention in the article that she was friends with the daughter of the manager of the Severin. Do you know her name? I ask because I recently purchased David M Parry’s mansion in Golden Hill. It was purchased by William Atkins in 1927 and he had interest in the Severin. I have a wealth of knowledge on David Parry but I cannot seem to find anything on William Atkins other than he was the heir to Atkins Saw Company, the Severin and some parking garages or something. I don’t know if he had any children or how many. Can you help me find any history on Atkins?

    PS- I love your articles!

  3. basil berchekas jr says:

    Very good! It’d be interesting if someone did an article on the Claypool Hotel and the Claypool family as well. Also, one on the Sutherland family that used to be involved with the state fair at its former Morton Place location would be good, too…just a suggestion!

  4. Libby Cierzniak says:

    Thanks, John. I wrote an article about the Atkins factory in late October, and later was contacted by a couple members of the Atkins family. I’ll dig out the contact information and send it to you.

  5. John Lethen says:

    Oh my gosh! That would be fantastic! I’ve been trying to find someone, anyone, that knew any descendants of William Atkins. They are an integral part of the history of the house. The house that stands today is mostly from the Atkins renovations done in 1927.

  6. Nancy Showalter says:

    When I lived on College Avenue In 1966, the older gentleman next door told me that he had worked at the Lincoln for many years in the finanacial office. I don’t recall if he was their accountant, bookkeeper or what his exact position was.

  7. d mikels shea says:

    Libby: Wonderful story–loved the Lincoln–in my hotel memorabilia I have the marked LINCOLN doorman’s hat–hanging right over the pay phone from the across-the-street Claypool Bar. (Full size wooden telephone booth complete with folding door,triangle seat and another pay phone was my teen daughter’s surprise birthday present–hinged so that the back concealed and opened into her “hidden room” (photo on request.) Both the Lincoln, Claypool were “my beat” walking daily to and from City Room old INdpls.Times,214 W. Maryland, just down the street. Family member has dozens of phones from rooms removed just before ‘implosion”–and last, final Lincoln memory was that our kids carried Robt.Kennedy hats, posters when he campaigned here–where we were invited up to meet with him,Ethel in suite (R. was not there, changed plans to make unplanned speech.) Ethel was wearing sleeveless dress and when complimented on it surprised us all by saying she was lucky she could still “get into it…”==revealing she was again “expecting.”

    But back to your Lincoln “Eloise”–The across-the-street neighboring hotel family was W. Bryan Karr, his southern belle wife Pauline and capricious daughter Paula (Paula Carr was her radio name, WIRE deejay,lst woman given No.1 pass to pits at 500–from close friend Wilbur Shaw. When officious guard questioned her badge and halted her, pretty Paula pouted to Wilbur who quickly wrote on badge “WHEN I say No.l,I mean NO.1!” She kept it all her life. Like the Rupprechts, the Karr’s lived in the hotel in huge 4th floor as I remember suite which faced both Ill and Wash. The Karr’s,Rupprechts took turns each week playing cards one week night….funny incident:

    The Karr’s were at cards at the Rupprecht’s in Lincoln one evening when Mr.Karr got frantic phone call from Claypool desk. Passing motorists,pedestrians were reporting a man wearing trench coat was exposing himself from window of his room-facing Washington (thus visible to Lincoln Rupprecht suite.) Problem was–Claypool desk could not pin down what room no. was–flasher would leave,re-appear–and knowing Bryan Karr knew every room by heart, they asked him for help. Sure enough–the Lincoln watchers darkened room, took watch and when flasher re-appeared Mr. Karr counted up from bottom,down from top and across—informing desk and now Police who had been called “It’s Room No. so and so.”

    “But it can’t be.” flustered Claypool desk protested. “We’ve checked and that room is occupied by (name of very prominent and well known bishop of major church denomination._ But it was, and he was and the entire incident was hushed hushed hushed.

    I have many photos from the era when Paula Karr (Carr) was the Eloise of the Claypool, from her teens until her marriage to iconic Hoosier golf pro Fred Wampler Jr., plus she was yearly visitor with daughters to our house until her death a few years back. Paula was smart, pretty, funny, a local “celeb” with her weekly morning “Breakfast with Paula” radio show from Claypool restaurant. Her guests included everybody from then-GE promo guy Ronald Reagan, Nat King Cole (Nat was one of first blacks to break color line–Paula wheedled her Daddy who finally agreed “providing he uses service door” (alley facing Blocks.) But on day of show Paula walked him in the front door, nobody protested and world didn’t fall in.)

    She once went in the drug store counter in corner Claypool for sandwiche, saw a familiar face of man seated at the counter eating chicken salad sandwiche–they sat side by side and finding man was staying in hotel, knew no one invited “Come up with me and meet my folks” and he did….when they entered she called out to her father who was so engrossed in a TV show he didn’t welcome Paula’s “Daddy I want you to meet my new friend…” until he stood and walked to the hall to find himself being introduced to Jack Benny! (wonderful story she told.)

    Last story: When 500 was re-started after WW2, hotels had 3-day minimum stay Race Weekend–social calendar was heavy with invitation-only Borg Warner, other big ticket events but these were primarily for “in” VIP’s —visitors attending Race had no where to go, nothing to do…e.g.

    On an evening preceding the Race, Mr/Mrs.Karr,Paula –blacktie,cocktail gowns–came down in elevator en route to one of the “VIP” events of the era–not sure which–and had to pass through the grand lobby of the Claypool. There, seated alone in one of the big chairs looking alone and bored they saw Sir Adrian Conan-Doyle (son of Arthur)–and nearby equally at-loose-ends “names” in town for Race; It gave rise to the comments that all the “affairs” of the era were primarily for locals and directly-Race-related “celebs”==
    and, because Mr.Karr,then Mayor Alex Clark, some others had recently experienced the KY.Derby “festival” –it gave rise to the creation of what ultimately became today’s 500 Festival–
    We were among about 30-40 people invited to Karr’s suite, wined,dined–and then got the arm put on all to sign up to become 500 Festival charter members–Mr.Karr donated space in hotel for the l-woman office (and gave a job to Boots Shaw,widow of Wilbur recently killed in plane crash.) I have wonderful photos of some of the founding events,,,Tony Hulman,visiting celebs like Jerry COlonna, others

    You know, of course, my scavenger passion for “saving” old hotel memorabilia–the Claypool was my “beat”–I sat across from and interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt in a minimum rate single’, met with celebs like authors, movie stars, politicians (including infamous dressing as hotel maid and working in suite of Dwight Eisenhower until “outed), covered 2 infamous murders there–plus more wonderful stories (and stories that never made print–like afore-mentioned Bishop.)

    If you ever come to my home, the shield in front foyer was from palatial Louis room Claypool, plus my breakfast table is marble/wrought iron dating back to New Orleans Grill there. I PR’d the final auction, demolition of Claypool, salvaging the rear elevator brass Elevator Indicator which now, on stair newel post, is cocktail table in my bar. (Only elevator indicator I ever saw that had 2 1/2 floor –it was maid’s linen closet (where I snitched my uniform) and also Democrat hq. _)

    What fun–maybe you can’t live in the past…but it’s a wonderful place to visit.

  8. Andrew Potts says:

    I have a few items from the Atkins family library in my book collection – including some genealogical info. Happy to supply the info, although it sounds like Libby’s info will be much more helpful. I also have some Maxwell and Parry items — so happy to hear the house is going to get the attention it deserves! PS Great article Libby! Well done.

  9. John Lethen says:

    Fantastic Andrew! I will take anything I can get! Let me know how I can get in touch with you.

  10. basil berchekas jr says:

    Will wish to stay with this excellent blog!

  11. Norm Morford says:

    Great trip down memory lane!

  12. etaoinshrdlu1 says:

    Re Atkins, I used to collect little advertising “items” of local businesses and long ago firms. I have a small metal miniature saw inscribed (as I remember) E. C. Atkins. Wish wonderful Mickey Maurer and IBJ would create a search for local businesses of long ago to archive at the State Museum. PS: Family member has a H U G E — maybe 5 ft. or so — pristine red-and-white Coca Cola button from the old Hinkle Field House. It hangs on the wall of the home of 60 plus years I am emptying of too much kept too long—wish someone would do an auction and take it back to the Field House. Any interest?

  13. Steve Koepper says:

    Weren’t the Rupprechts members of Trinity Lutheran Church, then at Ohio and East Streets? Those names sound very familiar, and when you were talking about Georgianna’s wedding reception at the Lincoln, I kept waiting for you to refer to the wedding itself being held at Trinity…

  14. D MIKELS SHEA says:

    As I clean out my home of 50 plus years, somewhere in the huge storage closets are the Claypool Hotel gray and navy uniform for either doorman or bellman–but far more glorious the XXL overlarge bright Kelly Green Lincoln Doorman’s coat, and visored hat–both marked Lincoln. I am puzzled about what to do with them—too great to toss, too much to keep. My last 2 Lincoln visits of note were the day Robt. and Ethel Kennedy visited, and our family and a couple friends were invited up to the Kennedy suite. Bobby was not back from speech–but Ethel welcomed and chatted, including revealing she was “expecting.” That was a happier visit than my last–when I managed the PR and made the last sweep through the rooms (while one family member happily disconnected and acquired all the phones left behind—just hours before the demolition). Only memories–many, many–of walking by daily on the block long trek to the dear old Indianapolis Times, eating that “hot brown” in the coffee shop where, during WW2, there was sign behind the counter “We Serve Oleomargarine.” (there was a law-really!)

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