Locating historic photographs of certain intersections in Indianapolis is nearly impossible. They are either off the beaten path, building owners had not hired professional photographers, or existing collections have not yet been located. And sadly many photograph collections have been ~shudder~ discarded. So as a photo historian I’m thrilled when new collections become available to the public. I imagine that the photographer who documented power lines for Indianapolis Power and Light in the 1920s and ‘30s would be amused to find his utilitarian images enjoyed for historic purposes ninety years later.

These two historic photographs come from the collection of Dee Dee Davis, who loaned them to IUPUI’s University Library for scanning. The album contains Indianapolis Power and Light photographs from 1927, 1935, and 1936 documenting the consolidation of power lines, which by the 1920s visually cluttered the streets. In about 1935 IPL reduced the number of lines and eliminated or cut off many of the wood poles, usually on just one side of the street.

Illinois, 3000 block, N from 30th, 1927

In 1927 the IPL photographer aimed his camera north on North Illinois Street at the intersection of West 30th Street. This appears to be a “before” picture of the electric poles. Visible businesses on the east side of Illinois Street include Western Union, Fletcher Savings and Trust Company, and the Tasty Bakery (listed as the Frank R. Knoth restaurant in the 1930 city directory). Note the streetcar tracks and the overhead wires directly above them for electric trolleys. (Courtesy of Dee Dee Davis, IUPUI University Library, Indianapolis Power and Light Co. Distribution System Photographs)

Illinois, 3000 block,N from 30th, IPL 1936

The same scene was rephotographed in 1936 after the tops of some of the wood poles have been chopped off. The Fletcher Bank has been spruced up with new awnings and different signage. Western Union remains on the southeast corner and the city directory does not list a restaurant, but a sign advertises some product as “ALWAYS 15” cents. (Courtesy of Dee Dee Davis, IUPUI University Library, Indianapolis Power and Light Co. Distribution System Photographs)

Do you have any observations that I missed?

Photo courtesy of Tammi Burns.

Photo courtesy of Tammi Burns.

I’m always curious to type the street names into Google Street View to discover what currently exists on the site. Today, dinosaurs burst forth from the “Dinosphere” to welcome visitors to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The rounded structure was converted into the Dinosphere exhibit from an existing CineDome large-format IMAX theater in 2004. (Google Street View, 2009)

Since Georgia has been on my mind as city leaders contemplate a new name for Georgia Street, I could not help notice the creative signage at this intersection. The official names are “Illinois Street” and “30th Street,” but the streets have alternate names in honor of the dinosaur exhibit. “T. Rex Trail” and “Gorgosaurus Avenue” are seen on smaller signs. Perhaps the city could make the disgruntled public happy by branding the new Georgia Street public venue in this manner, or via banners, and leave the historic street name on the books. (Google Street View ca. 2009)

14 responses to “Then and Now: 30th and Illinois – The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis”

  1. David says:

    In the 1936 photograph, there is something above the ” Always 15 cents” that looks like the corner of a theater marquee. Could it have been?

  2. Tom Butters says:

    Joe “Priority Theaters” Cantor owned a movie theater where the museum’s parking lot now is. I remember being invited to screenings there in the 1960s-70s. It was an art house, showing mainly foreign films, as I recall. I cannot remember the name of the theater.

  3. Rebecca Bandy says:

    The only comment I can add about a 100 yrs of progress….is the LACK of TREES. We have made our cities devoid of all green trees and landscaping. We now have a concrete jungle…so sad. Beautiful buildings but no trees!!!!

  4. Tom Butters says:

    I bet it’s the theater. It was not new and was smallish, probably why it was relegated to showing art and foreign films. Joe Cantor’s newer theaters were “rocking chair” theaters where smoking was allowed. And there was a drive-near what is now Lafayette Square.

  5. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    The theatre at 30th and Illinois Streets was called The Esquire. My Shortridge High School friends and I went there in the ’60s, thinking we were very cosmopolitan to be seeing the kinds of films that played at The Esquire. The theatre started its life as The Garrick in 1914. I don’t know who built it, but it was soon owned by Anzi Zaring, who built the eponymous movie palace at Fall Creek Boulevard and Central Avenue. Zaring was the one who renamed the neighborhood theatre The Esquire. The theatre was in the southeast quadrant of the intersection, which I don’t believe is a Children’s Museum parking lot. That property was part of the Indianapolis Life Insurance Company for many years (I got my life insurance policy there forty years ago!). It’s now part of the International Medical Group’s “campus.” That property is also the location of Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks’ home. I believe the entire city block from 29th to 30th and from Illinois to Meridian is now owned by the Brougher family. Here’s a link to an image of The Esquire: .

  6. Tom Butters says:

    The Esquire! Yes. And I remember the Zaring, though it was closed by the time I had an office in the Marott (late 1960s) and traveled that way to work. The Egyptian-style decorations of the Zaring always intrigued me and I bet it had, at one time, an interesting interior. I moved to NY in 1974 and by the time I returned to Indianapolis 8 years later, much had changed, moved on, been altered, disappeared.

  7. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Tom, I was the Realtor who sold Mary Ann’s and your home at 646 East 48th Street when you moved to New York in February of 1974. My mother, Gloria Butsch (now Bulger) was your Realtor, and I represented my good friend, Jim Kohls, in the purchase of your house. I think our real estate company was called Bulger & Mason at that time. We were one of the first companies in Indiana to purchase a Century 21 franchise, at which time the company name changed, but I think that didn’t happen until a year or two later. I remember that Jim assumed your FHA loan, which made it a fairly simple and smooth transaction. Sadly, Jim was killed in a hot air balloon accident in August of 1978, along with my grade school and high school friend, Elizabeth Cohen Domont, who was piloting the balloon. I sold your former home again in May of 1979 on behalf of Jim’s estate.
    Regarding the Zaring Theatre, my grandparents were friends of Anzi and Mayme Zaring. Once talking movies were established and silent movies were passé, the Zarings no longer needed the baby grand piano in the Zaring Theatre. They knew my mother wanted to learn to play the piano, so they gave it to her as a birthday present. The piano had a unique appearance, as the Zarings had hired an artist to paint it with an Egyptian motif to match the décor of the theatre. As it commanded a fairly prominent place in every living room of every home in which my family lived, the piano was always a conversation piece when people came to visit.

  8. Tom Butters says:

    Sharon, I stand awed by your command of dates and events. We knew Jim Kohls socially and liked him- I think he was in our home for a party–but didn’t meet him during the sale of our little Dutch Colonial on 48th St, and didn’t even know he was the buyer until much later. (Was Elizabeth Domont perhaps John Domont’s sister-in-law?) We remember the sale because our net proceeds were enough to buy a bottle of Johnny Walker Black; we were motivated sellers. Mary Anne had been promoted to the New York office of her agency and I was turning out the lights for Dick Lugar’s failed first run for the Senate before joining her in the Fall. Yes it was Bulger and Mason and John Bulger rented me a small office on the 2nd floor of the house on College when I specialized in motorsports marketing and PR. He was a kindly man.

  9. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Tom, I was dating Jim Kohls when he bought your home in 1974. We continued to be good friends to the day he died, four years later. As he had no family in Indianapolis, my sister (who had been Jim’s assistant at Community Action Against Poverty, aka CAAP) and I stepped up to help settle his estate. It was a very sad situation.
    Elizabeth Cohen Domont was the wife of Dan Domont, John’s older brother. Their parents, Benjamin and Adele (Sternberger) Domont owned the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Indianapolis. I had known Liz since we were 8 years old.
    I laughed out loud at your description of the net proceeds from 646 E. 48th St. I had forgotten that the sale didn’t give you much money to move on. At least you got your priorities right about where to spend it. 🙂
    I see that I misspelled Mary Anne’s name by omitting the “e.” My apologies for the gaffe. If you rented a room at 6338 College Avenue, then you and I must have at times been in the Bulger & Mason building concurrently. I guess I’d forgotten that fact (see, my memory’s not all that great).
    John Bulger became my stepfather on May 1st of 1975. He and my mother, who will be 92 this year, had almost twenty years of marriage together. John died in 1994. He was indeed a very nice man. By the way, have you seen the renovation of our former office building in Broad Ripple?
    I’ve met your son Bill and your daughter Molly. I was Executive Director of the Broad Ripple Village Association from 2006 to 2012. Bill was a BRVA member. I recall that he lived in College Court, the brick apartment building south of the Jazz Kitchen that was converted to condos in recent years. Molly attended a couple of meetings of the Committee for Historic Broad Ripple, which was working on getting some of the older buildings in Broad Ripple nominated to the National Register of Historic Place. It seems as if Molly was staying in Bill’s place at the time she was attending our meetings, while Bill was off on some project in another city.

  10. tom butters says:

    Memories. I knew we knew Jim through ACLU or CAAP or some such, having met him through Catholic priest Father Larry (can’t recall last name). Larry and Jim were poker buddies and Jim may have been with us one night as Mary Anne and I joined Larry for adult beverages in the rectory, probably after the Star’s Bulldog was put to bed. Time stood still in those days and we had all the energy in the world. I recall Jim as having been an Episcopalian priest who turned in his collar on behalf of social activism. Re: Domonts, MA and I were a husband-wife racing team nationally sponsored by Pepsi, and had an unlimited draw of product at the Domont plant; we were popular at the racetrack with our iced barrels of Pepsi. A few years ago I got to know and appreciate John’s work and was flattered when he asked me to exhibit at his gallery.
    Life is a series of concentric circles that begin to reveal themselves with time. Tempus fugit. It’s great hearing from you!

  11. tom butters says:

    ps: Bill still owns his condo near BR but returned to the Marine Corps and is a Major living with his Lt Col wife in their condo on the edge of the French Quarter; Molly and her husband Aaron live just north of BR and will become first time parents next month.

  12. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Father Lawrence William Voelker was the Roman Catholic priest’s name. I knew him quite well too, since Jim and he were at times inseparable. They also shared the same birthday, July 5th. Sadly, Larry is no longer with us either. He died in 2010.
    Jim was a graduate of Christian Theological Seminary and an ordained Disciples of Christ minister (not an Episcopalian priest). He only briefly had a congregation, as his interests were always in community organization. Being from Chicago, he was well-versed in the teachings of Saul Alinsky. Jim helped to establish some of the older neighborhood organizations that still exist in Indianapolis today. He also lobbied hard for a better transit system in Indianapolis, through a group he formed called the Coalition for Adequate Transportation (CAT). Unfortunately, Jim didn’t live long enough to make much headway. And here we are — 35 years later — with the same lousy transit system.
    Ah, yes, now I remember that it was the Marines that took Bill away and the reason Molly was living in his condo. And if Molly and Aaron are about to have their first child, then Mary Anne and you are about to have your first grandchild. Congratulations.

  13. tom butters says:

    You are a font of information for forgotten names and places. Larry Voelker, indeed. He and Jim were making waves back in the day. BTW, next month’s won’t be our first grandie: we haven’t mentioned our oldest girl, Meredith Butters Easley who, with husband Mark, have turned an old ice cream factory on College into the state’s 2nd largest winery. Mark’s dad began the Easley Winery in the Fertig icecream plant in 1973 and the kids have turned it into a much bigger operation. More Olde Indy lore.

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