This 1953 view shows the 500 block of W. Washington Street as it appeared in 1953.
(Courtesy of The Indiana Album: Photographed by J. Parke Randall)

This week we share another 1953 photograph of Indianapolis taken by J. Parke Randall, a young architect/photographer charged with documenting potential areas of urban development for his boss Edward Pierre.

While today the commercial district along West Washington Street ends east of the State House, prior to the 1960s shoppers continued west to White River. As seen in this 1953 photograph, which looks east at the north side of the street, the area had a much grittier feel than downtown with a hodge-podge of businesses and upper-floor apartments. The late 19th-century brick buildings housed businesses including Louis’ Pool Room (552), Steve’s Package Liquors (542), Jonesy’s Bar, and several lunch rooms with Coca-Cola signs. Polk’s 1949 Indianapolis City Directory reveals that this long block stretching between California and West Streets was home to Peter Dufek sign painter, Globe Industrial Supplies, Riley Apartments (with eighteen apartments), Spivey Brothers Roofing, Crescent Print Shop, Esau R. Owens restaurant, George Michael shoe repair, Columbia Fish & Poultry Co., Vasil Arnaudoff grocery, Harold Waechter restaurant, Frank J. Muecke veterinarian, the Cozy Lunch Room, Vangel Shishcoff jeweler, Harry Wiess liquors, Thomas K. Martin barber, Charles W. Martin used furniture, J. Christ Counia barber, Joseph C. Nungester restaurant, the Carlisle Block apartments (with eleven apartments), and Suess Pharmacy. In the distance is a sign for the Star Store, a more affordable option than the better-remembered downtown department stores such as Ayres and Blocks.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, updated to 1913 (Courtesy of the Indiana State Library / IUPUI University Library)

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, updated to 1913 (Courtesy of the Indiana State Library / IUPUI University Library)

As seen in this 1913 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, the 500 block of W. Washington was solid with two- and three-story brick buildings, many built in the Italianate style and dating as early as 1887 (the first year that these detailed maps are available for the city). Lack of zoning, and an era where people needed to walk to their jobs, created a block that contained a mixture of commercial buildings (colored pink to indicate brick), houses (yellow to indicate that these are wood structures; note the seven one-story shotgun houses tightly built along Court Street, which was an alley), and a quarter of the block was home to the Kahn Tailoring Company. To the west is the old Public School 5, replaced in 1922 by theĀ Oscar C. McCullouch School 5. During a preservation dispute, in 1985 the White River State Park Commission partially razed the school, but a court granted a stop work order and Indiana Landmarks salvaged the facade. Today one wall of the brick and terracotta school can be viewed in the nearby Indiana State Museum.


500 Block W Wash 02272014

Today the 500 block of W. Washington Street is the lawn and sidewalk for the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Photo Courtesy of Tammi Burns.

The Whitetail Deer bronze sculpture and the south lawn of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art now occupy the site of this once-vibrant block. A Holiday Inn replaced the structures east of the alley by 1962 and the other buildings gradually met the wrecking ball through the 1980s. The Eiteljorg opened as part of White River State Park in 1989.

To view other 1953 photographs by J. Parke Randall:
Northeast corner of N. West and W. Washington Streets
City Market and Tomlinson Hall
W. Market Street / Robert D. Orr Plaza

All that remains of the many businesses along this block are family stories, photographs, and ephemeral mementos such as matchbooks, advertising, and menus. Please share your memories and contact us if you have photographs or other items to be scanned by The Indiana Album: a community-submitted digital collection.