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With its prominent angling avenues creating many three-street intersections, it’s rather surprising that Indianapolis does not have any neighborhoods known as “Six Points.” But, newspaper searches and perusals of older history books reveal no such nicknames for intersections, such as this one at Massachusetts Avenue, N. College Avenue, and E. St. Clair Street.

Courtesy of the Indiana State Library

Courtesy of the Indiana State Library

If not for the distinct tower of the Murat Shrine Temple in the distance, younger residents would not recognize this view of Massachusetts Avenue looking southwest toward downtown. The street beyond Haag’s Drugs is E. St. Clair Street and seen beyond the people to the right is College Avenue. Located in the center of the image is the brick, three-story Carter Building. Cars date this image to about the mid-1930s. Note the trolley headed up the tracks in the distance. This photograph was taken in front of the Massachusetts Avenue State Bank (now the Art Bank), best known for one of John Dillinger’s early robberies with a take of $24,800 on September 6, 1933.

Courtesy of the Indiana State Library

Courtesy of the Indiana State Library

Taken from a slightly elevated view, this later photograph shows the same intersection with the camera pivoted a little to the left. The 7-up mural on the Victor Building, helps date the image to after 1936 when the slogan “You Like It, It Likes You” was first used. The license plates appear to be from 1940.

Historic photos courtesy of the Indiana State Library; Panoramic photo by Joan Hostetler, January 2015

Historic photos courtesy of the Indiana State Library; Panoramic photo by Joan Hostetler, January 2015

This prominent intersection in Chatham Arch Neighborhood, today better known for its empty lots, will soon come alive with new building activity.

From left to right:
1. 747 N. College Avenue – The former site of the Victor Block and Bar has been a parking lot for decades but Milhaus Construction is slated to break ground in Spring 2015 on a 42-unit, five-story apartment building designed by DkGr Architects. It will include 8,400 square feet of commercial and retail space.

2. Firefighters Union Hall and Museum РConstruction starts in 2015 on an expansion to the Firefighters Union Hall and Museum on the grassy lot between St. Clair Street and College Avenue in the center of this photo.

3. Firefighters Parking Lot – After several meetings with the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, the Firefighters Union received permission to keep the site as a parking lot–with improvements such as screening, landscaping, and a sculpture. The lot will be available in the evenings for neighborhood events and Fringe Theater activities. ¬†Previously the site contained a two-story commercial building that later housed Haag’s Drugs.

Massachusetts Avenue (commonly known as “Mass Ave”) has come a long way from its early commercial roots, described as the “Heart of the Low Rent District” by one early tenant; to storefronts filled with colorful scarves and signs for gypsy fortune tellers in the 1950s; to seedy bars and flop houses in the 1970s; art galleries in the 1980s and ’90s; and to the present upscale shops, bars, restaurants, and theaters.

What are your favorite memories of Massachusetts Avenue? We get many requests for old photographs of any business on Mass Ave…but we suspect that they’re still hidden in your photo albums and shoeboxes. Dig them out and let us scan them for future columns!

18 responses to “Indianapolis Then and Now: Intersection of St. Clair Street and Massachusetts & College Avenues”

  1. Tim Jensen says:

    Thank you for the article, Joan! Love the photos. This has always been one of my favorite intersections downtown, especially since it serves as a gateway to Cottage Home. So interesting to see it with buildings, and another reason why we need to continue to demand development and good design at this intersection. The early photos remind me of Short North in Columbus. We need to continue moving in that direction!

  2. Basil Berchekas Jr says:

    I remember Gypsy fortune tellers having store fronts in the building on Mass Avenue with the distinctive arched windows; I believe the building now houses an architectural firm, which is “good”, and this building has been nicely renovated…Also remember shopping at Sablosky’s, which served a market niche well.

  3. Bitsy Taggart Fitzsimmons says:

    Love seeing the “Colonial is good Bread” sign beneath the 7 Up advertisement!

  4. Dana Hubbard says:

    I thought that there was at one time a fountain at this intersection, such as the the one in Fountain Square. Iv’e looked through what hi articles I could and find no reference. Am I hallucinating?

  5. Joan Hostetler says:

    The Nathan Morris Fountain stood one block southwest of the intersection (Massachusetts and Park Avenues). It was placed there in 1909 in memory of Morris, who died while trying to rescue family in a fire.

  6. Evelyn Haynes Nicholson says:

    Hello Joan….ran across tis post again today, 2/18/15. We had quite a discussion several days ago about this same intersection. My mom worked at Haag’s Drug store there at College Ave.
    Before I was a teen ager, I lived at the corner of St. Clair and Broadway in a large rooming house with my mom and brother. On one visit back to Indy that house was gone, and a large brick house was there. Just around the corner was Arch St., where a lot of my friends lived. There too has been restoration, tho it has been many years since I was in that neighborhood. I am so grateful for these old photos, as I will be 90 yrs. old next month, and I have only my memories left of these bygone days. Thank you.

  7. Joan Hostetler says:

    Evelyn, I think all of us at Historic Indianapolis particularly enjoy hearing from older residents who can share their memories of the sites we research. Your stories help make these places come alive, so please speak up anytime you have recollections of a place or neighborhood. So glad you enjoy these images as much as I do!

  8. Betty Jones says:

    We lived on Walnut st. and Park st. The building I think was called The Star Furniture building!! When we to the White Castle for hamburgers we had to get past the gypys that lived on the store fronts!!

  9. Jim Walsh says:

    As a child, mid 1940’s I use to ride the College Aveenue Street to school and downtown.I recall a shoe store on Mass Ave. I think it was called Schiff’s, not a chain but independent it was. They had some kind of basket system for getting shoes to the clients.

  10. Jim Walsh says:

    I recall the Hooks Dependable Drugs Store on the SWC of Mass and College Ave. My older sister use to take us on the College Ave Street Car to kindergarten, we had to cross Mass Ave. We were stop at the Hooks Drugs Store to get a soda. I don’t recall the Haggs Drugs Store, maybe it was gone by this time. Would have been 1946- 1947.

  11. Doris Miner says:

    Hi Betty Jones. wow ! We lived in 700 block of College Ave. We would also walk to the White Castle on Mass Ave. Small world! My last name was Martin then.

  12. FredWJensen says:

    any old photos of the Massachusetts Avenue State Bank, Indianapolis, Indiana from the 30’s?

  13. Susan says:

    My mom Betty use to work in the fountain shop.

  14. Barbara Parks says:

    The shoe store was probably Stouts.

  15. Betty Sciscoe says:

    I am 76 years old we lived on Walnut street across from the big church that used to be there. I have looked for pictures of our house but never found any! Memories of the old days!!

  16. Betty Sciscoe says:

    I know I remember that! Do you remember Dorn drugstore corner Mass Avenue and north and east street? I worked there and Triangle Market . Wish I could find pictures of them and any more places!!

  17. Steve Faidley says:

    I’m kind of late to this party, but there was a Kresges just east of the intersection on Mass Ave. I don’t know if I got my first pair of Chuck Taylor’s there or just wanted them so badly I think that!
    Also, where was the White Castle? Mass and Park? And my first pizza came from Randy’s? on the opposite corner?

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