The florist trade in Indianapolis began about ten years before the Civil War. One of the earliest to venture into that line of businesses was a German immigrant named Anthony (née Antoine) Wiegand. He arrived in Indianapolis in 1850 and made a name for himself in short order. Wiegand rented an acre of land between Kentucky, Missouri and South Streets to grow oleander trees, raspberry bushes, tomato plants, flowers and more. City directories indicate that Wiegand lived where he worked. Today, the same piece of geography dodges in and out of Lucas Oil Stadium’s shadows. Wiegand’s learned his trade in this native country, but he continued honing his artistry for the benefit of Indiana’s capital city for the rest of his life.
spoke from a balcony of Bates House at the corner of Illinois and Washington Streets in February 1861 to the people of Indianapolis. It’s reasonable to believe that flowers adorned Lincoln’s surroundings. Equally plausible, then, that the talented and generous Anthony Wiegand may have supplied such an amenity. Reports were effusive about the profusion of “camellias, carnations, smilax, and exotics,” provided by Mr. Wiegand at a notable banquet of the time. He was touted as the “leading florist of the city.”
By all accounts, his generosity and passionate dedication to his work demonstrated an Indianapolitan “doing well while doing good.” Both business and civic life were an integral part of Wiegand’s. His flowers were displayed regularly at the annual State Fair and Exposition. In 1871, as one example, the management of the Floral Hall at the Fairgrounds was under the guidance of his expertise, and ever-popular with the crowds. The same year, Mr. Wiegand gave generously of his time and resources, to adorn Military Park, with approximately 2000 plants and flowers, as a gift to the city–and an ideal advertisement of his products and skills.
In 1879, Wiegand moved from the encroaching industrial and railroads concerns, relocating to an ample swath of real estate on the northwest corner of Seventh (now 16th) and Illinois Streets. He established an impressive mini “campus” on the site, growing and selling at the same place. In 1889, the company expanded into the landscaping business with a large evergreen nursery at 26th and Kessler (long before it was Kessler).
The family tradition of living close to work continued at this location. The Wiegands still lived close enough to smell the flowers. The business operated at 1610 North Illinois Street, and the family lived at 1620 North Illinois Street.
In 1900, Wiegand’s sons, George and Homer officially joined the firm. The official business name was changed to A. Wiegand’s Sons Co. Florists.
What had been filled with greenhouses in the 1880’s, gave way to a smaller storefront and made room for a handful of other businesses on that bustling corner. The elder Wiegand died in December 1910, leaving his two sons to continue operating the business.
The enterprise continued to thrive until the deaths of the two brothers. In 1950, their once flowering retail store stood vacant. Couches and coffee tables replaced the flowers and plants with a used furniture store in 1951. The evergreen nursery continued for a few more years, run by Homer’s widow, Florence.
Based on city directories, the block of small retail establishments in the 1600 block of Illinois were still standing until 1981. Advertisements for a White Castle at “16th and Illinois” started appearing in local newspapers in 1977. Today, the fast food chain stands atop the former shops, surrounded by a moat of asphalt.
Sadly, the Wiegand philosophy no longer flourishes here: “The florist has back of his product a sentimental interest touching all human activities and happenings.” Wiegands was one of the oldest florists in the midwest when the company closed for good.