According to family legend, recent German immigrant Frederick Ruskaup wanted to build a grocery store in the newly developed Woodruff Place on the east side of Indianapolis. Because the exclusive suburban town only allowed residential buildings, Ruskaup bought land on the west side of the United States Arsenal (today Arsenal Technical High School) where his entrepreneurial spirit eventually made him a wealthy businessman.
This 1890s photograph depicts the brick grocery store and tavern constructed by Frederick Ruskaup in 1875 and expanded a decade later. His family lived upstairs until 1891 when they moved into their new brick house next door designed by architects Vonnegut and Bohn. At that time the upstairs was converted into four apartments. The store featured a meat market, bakery, and a delivery service. Older residents recalled that the tavern had a sample room in the back for women (since proper ladies were not seen in bars) and a side door where customers, including children and women, could “rush the growler,” meaning they had their tin buckets and cans filled with beer to go. Helen Ruskaup, Frederick’s daughter-in-law, shared this photograph with Cottage Home Neighborhood in the 1980s. With a twinkle in her eye, she shared that Frederick was “the J. R. Ewing of the Victorian era” (referring to the ruthless character on the then-popular television series Dallas.) The grocer allowed customers excessive credit and when they could not pay up he made them sign over their houses. By the time of his death in 1901 Ruskaup had built and acquired over a dozen rental houses and was one of Marion County’s top property tax payers.
From 1875 though the 1950s three generations of Ruskaups operated the grocery. Frederick’s son William H. (the older man in the doorway), assisted by his mother Mary, took over the operation in 1901. William’s sons grew up in the business. This circa 1910 photo postcard was shared by Myrtle (Ackerman) Patterson whose family lived upstairs when her father worked at the store in 1907 until about 1910.
Henry Luedemann, a relative of Mary Ruskaup, operated the neighborhood tavern and pool hall in the south half until prohibition, when he offered candy, ice cream, and soda. Luedemann managed his bar and confectionery store for over 55 years working until he was well into his 80s. This 1952 or 1953 snapshot shows the Ruskaup store and house in the background.
Snapshot loaned by Ron Hayward, shown here in front of a car. The Haywards lived in one of the five Ruskaup-owned doubles across the street.
2007 photo by Joan Hostetler
Google StreetView, 2010
After the Ruskaups closed the business in the late 1950s, the building was used as a pool hall and storage for Hogue Construction and Cliff Mills Caulking. Windows were boarded up and the decorative brackets removed. After sitting vacant for over a decade the current owners began restoration of the building in 2007 with a new roof, replacement brackets, and interior stabilization. A façade grant from LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) partially funded the restoration and replacement of windows and doors. The next phase will restore the interior. The old store’s off-the-beaten-path location and lack of parking probably limit future high-traffic uses such as a restaurant or coffee shop, but neighbors dream of once again making the Ruskaup building a community destination.