When considering Indy’s shopping legacy, many think of longtime institutions, L. S. Ayres, William. H. Block’s, or Wasson’s. While those venerable names are still remembered fondly by many, other retailers offered similar experiences and had a fine reputation not only in the circle city, but across the country. Unfortunately, many stores did not survive the Great Depression. One of those was the Selig’s Dry Good Company, which offered fine women’s apparel and other items from 1890 until disbanding in 1932.
In 1908, the store moved into the high rent retail district along West Washington Street. After the move, the store stopped operating as a general dry-goods department store and began specializing in high-end women’s fashion. Business must have been good since, in 1914 the store bought out the Henry Huder drug store located at 22 West Washington Street to expand its offerings. Advertising during the time boasted the finest in women’s fashion, comparable offerings to the likes of what you’d find in New York City or Philadelphia.
The Selig family suffered the tragic death of son, Sidney, in 1919, followed shortly thereafter by patriarch, Moses. Despite these setbacks, the family undertook a grand remodel. The original structure was demolished, and a grand seven-story building sprang up on the same site. The store temporarily relocated to South Meridian Street. During that time, Herbert, the last remaining Selig son, passed away, leaving the store in the hands of the widow, Mrs. Moses Selig, and a Mr. Hahn. The store celebrated its 37th anniversary in grand fashion in 1927, with a large birthday cake that set Washington Street ablaze with light.
In 1930, Samuel Hahn retired amid an illness and turned the reigns over to Grover Millet; however, by this point, the Depression loomed large in the life of the typical Indianapolis consumer. The store went in to receivership and was gone for good by 1932. In 1933, the building became the longtime home of Morrison’s Women’s Apparel. By the 1970’s, the former store stood vacant. Things got livelier for the building again in the early 1980’s, as the city tried to acquire the entire block where Selig’s Building stood from the Goodman family, owners of Goodman Jewelers. During this time, many art shows and performances were staged on the upper floors, while plans to build Circle Centre north of Washington were scrapped. The Selig’s Building interior was remodeled into office space. Today the ground floor serves as the longtime home of Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery.
Indianapolis Star, May 3, 1927
Indianapolis Star, March 30, 1930
Indianapolis News, June 21, 1933
Great story,. Jeff; thank you.
We have a most proper older lady friend here in Brownsburg who was a sales lady in women’s fashions for many years at the downtown Ayres store and well-versed of such retail endeavors in Indianapolis,. She will enjoy this article but does not “do” the internet, so I ran off a copy and will give it to her.
Keep up the good work. Bob Palma
My retired Indianapolis Fire Department firefighter and fellow old car enthusiast friend tentatively agreed that the photo of the Selig store said to be “before its 1924 demolition” has to be misdated. The cars in front are too new to be 1924 model automobiles or earlier.
We were certain that the roadster out front and perhaps the sedan, the first car on the right that is wholly visible, were Model A Fords, the first year of which was 1928. (Ford had an early Model “A” in 1903, which is largely forgotten because only 670 or 1,708 of them were built, depending on the source.)
Not being certain, I forwarded the photo to another friend of 54 years in the Indianapolis Model A Ford Club, Steve Jones. Here is what Steve had to say late Sunday afternoon, February 28:
Bob, good to hear from you again. ‘Went to the Model A Club meeting today. I took a copy of the photo. Members seem to agree the photo is after 1924 but no later than 1929 or 30. No one was certain that the the 2 cars you pointed out were actually Models A’s, but perhaps could have been.
Hope this helps. Keep in touch. Steve Jones
PS: I gave my Model A to daughter Chris and husband Ron Lantz about a year and a half ago. The A sat in the garage unused for 23 years when we got it out, cleaned it up, and it started on the 3rd revolution of the first attempt. The car looks better now than it did when I was last driving it. I owned that A for 52 years. It’s a GREAT feeling to see them enjoying the car, a car she grew up in. Ron is the Model A Club President and Chris is the Secretary. Peg and I have been members since 1962.
So, Jeff; I’m sure the photo said to be 1924 or earlier, is a later photo. Even if the 2 cars questioned out front are not Model A Fords, their general design is still too new to be 1924 models or older. 1924 and older model cars from any manufacturer didn’t look that “modern.”
Again, ‘greatly enjoy Historic Indianapolis. Keep ’em coming.
Bob Palma, Columnist
Hemmings Classic Car
You forgot its life as Emroe sporting goods, owned by the Hardy family, which fully occupied the building for some years, maybe 2+ decades, and kept using it so it never went into full disrepair. There are some historic interior details of the building still left: original freight elevator, some upper floor interiors, including some of the original wooden floor on the top two floors — 6 and 7. We also retain the original terra cotta pieces from the south elevation cornice, maybe some day to be re-installed. One of the Morrison window glass pieces is still on the south elevation on an upper floor, visible from the street, with a store logo. There are some interior details left above the existing Rock Bottom ceiling in the first floor, either from Selig or Morrison’s. The Selig or Morrison stairway from Fl1 to the Lower Level is still there, including several of the faux stone wall panels, visible in Rock Bottom.
I wonder if the Selig’s who owned the store in Indianapolis were of any relation to William Nicholas Selig who started the Selig Polyscope movie company in Chicago? Selig’s company would also be contracted to film the movie called “Indiana” or “Your Indiana,” which was filmed for the State of Indiana’s Centennial. James Whitcomb Riley, the Hoosier Poet, was the icon of Indiana at that time, and he was filmed for that movie – as the “narrator.” The iconic image of Riley surrounded by children with his pet poodle on his lap was staged for the Selig film.
Of course, my interest in Mr. Selig is in his relationship to Little Orphan Annie. The very first Little Orphant Annie movie – which was based on the Riley poem was created by Selig in 1918, and featured a very young Colleen Moore. Clips of the State Centennial film of Riley were used in the Orphant Annie film – as Riley acts as narrator for that film too. Riley died in 1916 – so this is why they re-purposed the Centennial film’s clips.
Selig’s company would start out in Chicago – but would end up in California. In fact, the Orphant Annie movie would be one of this last films. He would go bankrupt, and the only thing left of his production company would be the Selig Zoo – which would live on until the 1930’s. It is said that the MGM Lion – came from Selig’s zoo.
The women’s fashions pictured in the early Selig’s ads remind me a lot of the costumes appearing in the last couple seasons of “Downton Abbey”, on PBS. It would have been from approximately the same time period, mid- to late-1920s, between World Wars. Fascinating stuff!
Thank you for this Selig Remembrance My great grandparents were Moses and Hannah Selig.