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Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society, NHPRC Cirkut Negative Preservation Collection
Staff at the Indiana Historical Society dated the photograph as 1906 based on a date on a poster.

Before Massachusetts Avenue was known as a cultural district filled with theaters, galleries, and restaurants, it housed a variety of businesses as seen in this 1906 photograph of the north side of the 300 block. Most viewers will quickly get their bearings since Stout’s Shoes has occupied this site just east of Delaware Street since the 1880s. Other than the buildings on the ends, the block is remarkably intact.

The two sole shoppers in this photograph do not reveal that Massachusetts Avenue was a busy shopping district offering nearly every product and service required. On the left is Owen J. Conrad’s clothing and cloak store, followed by a saloon in the tall, skinny Italianate building. Signs advertise “People’s Choice Terre Haute Beer.” Next is Stout’s, then named “Stout’s Factory Shoe Store,” offering shoes for $2.50 and $3.00. Sharing the same building is Jenner’s picture frames and mirrors and a steam dye house specializing in cleaning, dying, and pressing clothing. The five- story George J. Marott Department Store, on the right, was constructed in 1906. Cloth blocking the windows may indicate that the store is not yet open and workers are preparing for the “big reveal.” Newspapers from the era advertise apartments for rent above the shops.

This image is a detail of a larger 9″ x 34″ panoramic photograph made by Indianapolis photographer Charles F. Bretzman. Several years ago a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission funded the preservation and duplication of hundreds of cirkut photographs owned by the Indiana Historical Society. If you have some time to kill, zoom in on the digital version of this photograph and then check out the rest of the collection. Be forewarned that you might lose several hours of your life as you become engrossed with the minutiae of Indianapolis as revealed in the detailed, large-format negatives.

Courtesy of Riley Area Development Corporation

Revitalization began on Massachusetts Avenue in the 1980s, as seen in this 1980 photograph from Riley Area Development Corporation.

Google Street View, July 2009

As of 2009 the block is bustling once again with the Front Page Sports Bar & Grill, Full Circle Hair Studio, Stout’s Shoes, Bazbeaux Pizza (since moved across the street), and the Marott Center, which today leases space to a variety of medical and other businesses.

Do you still think of Herbert H. Reiner & Son Furs, Cunningham Gallery, Kelly’s Bargaintown, or Ripley (Stout’s squawking macaw) when you remember this block? Share your memories about Massachusetts Avenue.

[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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11 responses to “Then & Now: 300 Block of Massachusetts Avenue”

  1. Jim says:

    Very cool. Shame the other part of Conrad’s isn’t there anymore, but I guess that would mean there would be no outside seating at the Front Page today! Having lived in Terre Haute for 9 years, I dig the “Terre Haute Beer” sign next to the saloon’s entrance.

  2. Michael says:

    Other the losing the far end of the former Conrad’s, the block has held up pretty well. Thanks for sharing!

  3. basil berchekas jr says:

    My current set of dress shoes were bought from Stouts on Mass Avenue in 2008.

  4. Tristan says:

    I could probably live in the past: They had beer there!

  5. Tom Davis says:

    I worked for a couple of year’s across the street from this view in the very late 80s. Stenz Construction renovated the Marott Bulding during this time for the law firm of Rubin & Levin. Does anybody remember the Brother Juniper’s Restaurant that was also in this block back then on the east side of the street? I don’t remember what else was on that side of the street though.

  6. Joan Hostetler says:

    Does anyone remember a restaurant in this block from the mid-1980s that was two names (such and Floyd & Mary’s, but those weren’t the names)? I remember that it was small and crowded and the wife was not afraid to ask you to sit with someone else or hurry and finish if there was a long line! I’d love to find a photo of the place.

  7. David Brewer says:

    I don’t recall the restaurant. However, I do remember that the Hammond Block across the street was a bait and tackle store called Budnick’s. There was a large sign shaped like a fish out front. My dad took me in there in the late 1960s when I was a little guy. I vividly remember seeing two old guys playing checkers on top of a barrel.

    I think I have a shot of this block that I took in the mid-1980s. I’ll take a look and see if I captured the restaurant’s name.

  8. Joan Hostetler says:

    Thanks, David! I’d love to have a scan of the 1980s photo of the block. Sometimes it is harder to find more recent photos than really old ones. Send any scans to heritagephotoservices@gmail.com. Thanks!

  9. Tom Davis says:

    Joan, I wouldn’t have remembered without your hint and I may be wrong anyway, but it seems like there was an Ed and Mary’s Cafeteria in the Chamber of Commerce Building in the late 80s. Could it have been on Mass Ave before that?

  10. Tom Davis says:

    Actually the name I was trying to remember is Ed and Marge’s Cafeteria. This article says their were two downtown locations but I only remember the one in the Chamber of Commerce. http://goo.gl/2RptE

    http://goo.gl/wydaF

  11. Joan Hostetler says:

    Tom, I think it was Ed and Marge’s. I seems like it might have been where Bazbeaux Pizza was originally located, but I’m not positive. I sure wish I’d taken more photographs of these funky mom-and-pop businesses when I first moved to Indianapolis.

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