Mass Ave History

MASS AVE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE PLACE TO BE

Laid out in 1821 as one of four diagonal streets that led straight to the heart of Downtown (the other three were Indiana, Virginia and Kentucky), Massachusetts Avenue mainly serviced the immediate area. When streetcars and interurbans came to town, businesses edged out residences along the strip and made Mass Ave a veritable hotbed of commerce between 1870 and 1930.

In the mid-20th century, the area’s prosperity started to wane, but it soldiered on, serving the surrounding community and beyond. Then, in the 1960s, construction on the I-65 inner loop virtually cut off Massachusetts Avenue from outside traffic, withering its vitality. Since then, merchants have reinvented Mass Ave as a thriving art district and home for unique entrepreneurial endeavors. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

 

THEN AND NOW

The urban plan for diagonal streets to lead into the heart of downtown from 1821 brings us a vibrant and exciting cultural district that is 45 degrees from ordinary! From dining, to shopping, to nightlife, Mass Ave has become a major destination in Indianapolis! We invite you to visit Mass Ave and all of the fun it has to offer.

 

HISTORIC ARCHITECTURE

Hammond Block (1874) – 301 Massachusetts Ave.

This flatiron (triangular) building has housed many businesses, including a physician’s office and residence, a saloon and a fishing supply store. The law firm of Price Waicukauski & Riley, LLC., has resided in the restored building since 1985. The storefronts and window hoods of this Italianate classic are made of cast iron.

The Athenaeum (1894) – 401 E. Michigan St.

Bernard Vonnegut, grandfather of Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut, and Arthur Bohn, both first-generation German-Americans, designed the Das Deutche Haus (the German House) in the German Renaissance style. It was a gathering place for members of local German societies, a culture that had a strong presence in Indianapolis. The Rathskeller restaurant has been a tenant since 1898. The building also houses the YMCA.

The Marott Building (1906) – 340-358 Massachusetts Ave.

George Marott built his department store in the image of Chicago-style commercial buildings. With five stories, it’s the area’s tallest historic building.

Murat Shrine Temple (1909) – 510 N. New Jersey

Moorish arches, onion domes and a minaret tower make the MuratShrineTemple an exotic addition to the Indianapolis skyline. The Islamic-inspired facility is the organization’s largest temple. The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb influenced the 1922 addition of the Egyptian Room, which is decorated with hieroglyphics. With an $11 million renovation in 1996, it became the Murat Centre, attracting patrons with Broadway shows, concerts and a variety of top-notch entertainment.

Coca-Cola Bottling Company (1931) – 858-868 Massachusetts Ave.

The prominent architectural firm of Rubush and Hunter designed this superior art deco specimen using glazed white terra cotta and abundant ornamentation. Later additions earned the building the reputation as the world’s largest Coca-Cola bottling plant. The company sold the building to Indianapolis Public Schools in 1969, and it has since been used as the IPS Service Center ever since.

 

HISTORIC DISTRICTS

Lockerbie Square, Indianapolis’ oldest existing residential neighborhood, is a mix of humble homes and grand mansions. In his later years, Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley made his home here. His home is preserved as a museum.

Chatham Arch is quaint blend of working-class, middle-class and upper-class homes dating to the Civil War era. It also is home to the Nestle Inn, Mass Ave’s signature bed and breakfast.

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