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One of the city’s little-known gems is the Colonel’s Cupboard, tucked away on the grounds of Arsenal Technical High School. The restaurant, operated by high school students, is located in a brick Italianate house completed in 1870. For over thirty years it was home to the highest ranking officers at the United States Arsenal, located on the near east side near Woodruff Place. The Arsenal was built during the Civil War and remained active until after the Spanish-American War when it was no longer needed for military purposes. The government sold the seventy-six acre grounds and buildings to the Winona Technical Institute in 1903 for a technical training school, but the school went into receivership by 1909. Residents loved the park-like setting and considered many uses for the site, until movers-and-shakers realized the need for another high school. Despite legal issues with the property, Arsenal Technical High School opened on September 12, 1912…100 years ago yesterday.

Indiana Album: Photograph by Joan Hostetler, 12 September 2012

The house was one of two nearly identical houses flanking the Arsenal Building, thus named West Residence and East Residence. Each served as home for the fifteen different commanders who oversaw the Arsenal throughout its history, along with their families and visitors. A history of the Arsenal states that one distinguished guest in the West Residence was George Armstrong Custer, who famously met his demise at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. The East Residence was demolished in 1928 to make way for additions to Treadwell Hall.

Indiana Album: Photograph by Joan Hostetler, 12 September 2012

The circa 1900 historic interior photograph is one of many glass negatives of the Arsenal and adjacent neighborhood owned by the Woodruff Place Civic League. We are currently scanning and preserving the glass plates, so expect to see more of these detailed images. The photographer is unknown, but I suspect that the fourth place setting on the dinner table was for the camera man. Through the years the house served many purposes such as offices for school adminstration, teachers, and the school newspaper and yearbook. (Just in time for the school’s anniversary, all of the school’s yearbooks have been scanned and placed online where they are keyword searchable.)

Today, the space serves as a dining room managed by the eighty students in the Culinary Arts Program of the Career Technology Magnet at Arsenal Technical High School. The students learn about classical food preparation, current trends in the food industry, culinary math skills, restaurant management, and customer service. Although repairs have required the restaurant to operate out of an adjacent building for the past year, by October 1 Colonel’s Cupboard will return to the West Residence where the restaurant opened in about 1980. The restaurant is open to the public during the school year from Tuesday through Friday, 10:15 a.m. through 1:30 p.m. The students, supervised by chef Brenda Snorton, also provide catering and have space available for small meetings. As weather permits, they will now offer seating on the newly replaced wrap-around porch. Look soon for menu updates to the Colonel’s Cupboard web page. Directors of the Junior ROTC also have offices and storage in the upstairs rooms.

Indiana Album: Photographs by Joan Hostetler, 12 September 2012

The house was closed for a year to undergo much-needed improvements such as air conditioning, plaster repairs, and decorative painting (notice how the new stenciling matches the wall treatment in the historic photograph). School administrators made efforts to retain the building’s historic integrity, and the house still has the original half-dozen or so marble fireplaces, interior wood trim and doors, decorative plaster cornices, encaustic tile kitchen floor, and curved front and back stairways. Come celebrate the 100th anniversary of “Tech,” take a walk on the campus in the fall, and support the culinary students while dining in this beautiful historic house.

[Would you like to see your old photographs featured in this Then and Now column? If so, attach a high resolution jpeg or png and any details about the building within our “Say Hi” link in the footer of our website.]

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9 responses to “Indianapolis Then & Now: West Residence / Colonel’s Cupboard, 1500 E. Michigan Street”

  1. Ivey Long says:

    Very nice article, Joan! I would like to try out the restaurant!

  2. Tori Brown says:

    I think this house is simply amazing and I hadn’t a clue it was even there! It’s wonderful that they decided to keep the building and renovate instead of demolishing as they did with it’s counterpart, and then to turn it into a restaurant for the culinary program is awesome!

  3. Mark Meier says:

    I love this article. My grandmother, who is soon to be 98 on Oct. 2nd, attended Arsenal Tech in the late 1920’s/early 1930’s. I checked out the yearbook website and found the years she attended. I have some searching to do to find her. Anyway, I sent the link to this story and to the yearbook website to her via facebook. (Yes, she uses facebook and email! I hate to hear people older than 40 who say they can’t use computers, etc. There is no excuse.) Thank you for the excellent articles and keep up the great work. Thank you.

  4. basil berchekas jr says:

    Joan, this is an excellent presentation! Although I finished at Thomas Carr Howe High School, my sister finished at Tech, and later became the first Tech alumnus to be appointed Tech’s Principal (her name is Peggy (Berchekas) Clark; she served from 2001 through 2005 or 2006; she’d know exactly, of course!). She and her husband Clay Clark (a Howe graduate) reside in Houston, TX now since she retired from teaching.

  5. Joan Hostetler says:

    Wow, Mark…I’m glad you shared this with your grandmother. Ask her how the house was used in her school days. I couldn’t find it in early yearbooks. Nonagenarians on Facebook rock!

  6. karen Perkins says:

    As a former editor of The Cannon, i have fond memories of the West Residence. so happy to see it has been restored and is serving the community in this way. Living in california, i seldom return to the midwest so reading this article and viewing the pictures is like visiiting an old friend. Thanks for sharing.
    Karen Madritsch Perkins

  7. Mark Meier says:

    Joan, I’ll check with my grandmother to see if she remembers and I’ll let this page know. 🙂

  8. Joan Hostetler says:

    Thanks, Mark! I hope you’ve taken the time to tape record her. I’m sure she has lots of interesting memories of Tech and her life in general.

  9. Kevin J. Brewer says:

    Joan,

    Thank you for presenting this history of the West Officers’ Residence in this Centennial Year of the school.

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