Saturday, March 09, 2019

Midwest Cities

I have two nice vintage slide scans for you, each featuring a city from the midwest. Of all the wests, the midwest is definitely in my top 10. I was born there, after all!

First up is this photo of a street - it is undated and unlabeled, but I love old views of cities, and doing a little research is half the fun. Judging from that car, I'd guess that this is from the early 60's (what do you think, Nanook?). There are a few clues to help ID the location, such as the building to the right, "L.S. Ayres and Company", not to mention the Claypool Store to our extreme left. My sassy robot butler determined that this is a photo of downtown Indianapolis (Indiana, of course) - Washington Street, to be more specific. Look at those huge, distinctive street lamps angled above the road...

Here's one vintage postcard view, with the Claypool Hotel, with more of those street lamps. Not sure what's going on with the 'Merican Airlines office. Did somebody abscond with the "A"? Let's go to the Indiana Theatre and see "Son of Robin Hood" and "The Oregon Trail".

Here's another vintage postcard image.

Next is this October 1951 Kodachrome photo from St. Louis, Missouri. It's so clear and colorful that it looks like it could have been taken yesterday, and not well over 60 years ago. The large art deco building is the Park Plaza Tower, built in 1929. The red brick building to the extreme right is the Chase Park Plaza, built in 1922. 

Surprisingly, a Google street view shows this area looking remarkably unchanged, at least superficially. The Park Plaza Tower was undergoing some sort of renovation, but other than that and the modern-day automobiles, you can hardly tell the difference!

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the midwest.


Nanook said...


It all seems to be about Fords in that first image. Heading towards us is a 1960. Directly to its right is a 1957 Ford. Then more to the right is a two-tone 1955 or 1956 Mercury. And just behind it, is a 1959 Ford. And finally - just to prove not all cars in Indianapolis are Fords - the car in front of Baker's Shoes is a 1958 Buick. Those streetlights look like the 'explosion-proof' version of the lights on Hollywood Blvd (without the stars-!)

Thanks to Cinema Treasures - here's a little rundown on the Indiana Theatre... "The revived Indiana Theatre is a former movie palace which opened on June 18, 1927 with 3,313 seats, and it once housed bowling alleys and billiards in its basement and the Spanish/Atmospheric style Indiana Roof Ballroom upon its roof (which had its own entrance at 140 W. Washington Street). At some point during its history, the Indiana Theatre was modified to allow for showings of Cinerama movies.

But in 1980, the theatre became the home of the Indiana Repertory Theatre. To accommodate the theatre group, the house was split in half, and the balcony was made into a second theatre. Thankfully, the alterations did not destroy the theatre’s luxurious, upstairs Spanish/Atmospheric style ballroom.
" Sounds pretty swell.

Long live Kodachrome-! What a beauty.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I always love your vintage "city view" posts. I'm glad to see that those two buildings in the St. Louis pic are still standing today.

Nanook, I'm also glad to hear that the Indiana Theater is still standing. However, I can't imagine them splitting the theater in half, without destroying some of the architectural details. But I guess doing that, is still better than tearing down the entire theater. In the early nineties, I went to a theater on Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena, to see "Truth or Dare." I can't remember the name of the theater and I don't know if it's still standing today, but it had originally been a large, single screen theater with a balcony and at some point, they divided it into four separate theaters. It was pretty strange. We were sitting in what had once been part of the balcony, but they had built a wall right at the edge of balcony and then hung a screen on it. They hadn't reworked the seating layout, so all the rows had this weird uneven curve to them that ended at another wall, where they had divided the balcony in half.

JC Shannon said...

Great to see vintage city photos like these. Where I live, most of the grand dame buildings are still standing, as the whole district has been landmarked. It is comforting to know that these buildings can never be torn down to make way for some glass and steel monstrosity. Those buildings were built to last, and to be pleasing to the eye at the same time. The vintage cars and signs are icing on the cake. I bet if you were to visit the TWA office, you would find models of both the Super Constellation and the new 707 in the lobby. Sweet planes both. Thanks for sharing these Major.

Chuck said...


I just looked up the site of the former Claypool Hotel, 110 W. Washington Street, on Google Street Views, and there's nothing recognizable today from the location of your first slide. Backing out a bit to the site of your first postcard view, you can see the Indiana Theatre, but the vista beyond is completely different.

In your second slide, behind us and to our left (to the southwest) is Forest Park, site of the 1904 World's Fair, although the fairgrounds proper actually began another mile west on Lindell Avenue. Tucked in amongst the vintage automobiles is a St Louis Public Service Company TD-4506 or TDH-4507 (the company operated both models) GM "Old Look" bus.

I have a friend who lives just around the corner from the Chase. He's single and dialed in to the cultural scene in St Louis, so I'm always kept abreast of what's happening downtown, something we suburbanites on the "wrong" side of the river don't always keep track of.

Chuck said...

Forgot to mention that behind us and to our right in that last photo is the Barnes-Jewish Hospital/St Louis Children's Hospital/Washington University in St Louis School of Medicine campus, where they reconstructed my eyelid after I tried to gouge out my right eye with a tent pole in August of 2015. At 164 acres, it's bigger than the original Disneyland (including the beloved parking lot, gone these 20+ years now) and has its own MetroLink station, an important feature that proved exceptionally useful in getting to follow-up appointments during recovery when I couldn't see well enough to drive.

Nanook said...

@ TM!-

In 1985, I was visiting Manhattan, and the same thing was done to an old Times Square theatre - I just can't remember which one. The original balcony was 'turned into' its own screen, but as with virtually all of these "conversions", they're done on the-cheap. So, to save money, the powers-that-be decided to leave the original beautiful draperies in place, and merely hem them to meet the new "floor". That part was fine, but as the original design for the draperies, and its accoutrements, was to encompass the rather large size of the proscenium arch, the scale of things became a bit bizarre. The curtains were adorned with very large tassels - probably about 30" across, and about six feet high - which were now placed at eye level of the first few rows. It felt as if one had entered the Land of the Giants-! (Calling Irwin Allen...)

You gotta love 'Mr. Theatre Owner' - among the cheapest folks on the planet.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, thank you for the car ID’s; maybe the photo is from a little earlier than I thought - perhaps closer to 1960. “Explosion proof” lights? Is that a thing? Thanks also for the info about the Indiana Theatre. I don’t know how they split a theatre in half without it looking weird or messing up acoustics (or whatever), but I guess they made it work.

TokyoMagic!, I’m glad you like this kind of post! Gosh, I wonder which movie theater on Colorado Blvd. you went to; I lived in Pasadena for about five years. There were several older theaters, and sadly I have forgotten about most of them. Ugh, I think I’d hate that weird seating that you described, it sounds really awkward. Then again, maybe once the movie got going you forgot about it; I’ve had to sit in some bad seats for movies, and if the film is good enough, I get caught up in the story and don’t think about the fact that I’m sitting in the second row against the wall.

Jonathan, sometimes I truly am amazed when I building or street looks so much like it did 50 years ago. Seems like so many cities are in a constant state of change and renewal, and yet the new buildings never have the beauty and character (and history of course) of the old ones. Where can I get one of those vintage models of a Super Constellation? I have a really great photo of what I believe is just a regular old Constellation for you guys.

Chuck, as you may have noticed, I like to grab Google street views to use as a comparison to the old photos, and like you, I found that it was SO completely different that it wasn’t much fun to even bother. Since the Indiana Theatre was in the postcard, I didn’t concern myself with it very much, though I am glad that it is still around. There’s nothing like a great old theater. Interesting about the site of the 1904 World’s Fair, I would have never known that. How in the world can you possibly ID that bus when it’s mostly a blur?

Chuck, yikes, I remember your eye accident. Just thinking about it gives me the willies. I assume the 164 acres is for the entire campus? 164 acres is huge. I’ve been to some large hospitals made up of multiple buildings, and it can be a challenge to know where to go.

Nanook, six foot high tassels! Where do you even go to get something like that. “Tassels ‘R Us” I guess. I’ve always wanted to tour the remaining old movie palaces in downtown L.A. (the ones that haven’t been turned into permanent flea markets or non-denominational churches) but… downtown isn’t exactly convenient.

Nanook said...


YES - 'explosion-proof' lights are a thing.

And for all your tassel needs - one merely goes to a theatrical supply house. In Los Angeles I'll bet Grosh & Sons Scenic Studios can still supply that sort of thing. Just check them out to see the number of famous backdrops, theatrical curtains & scenic projections they've supplied in their 87 years of business. Most major cities had (or have) a theatrical supply house that specializes in "notions" on the grand scale-! We need a pair of curtains at work, size 15'-6" W x 41' H, and I'll be using a theatrical supply house up this-a-way to supply and install the pair.

Nanook said...

Almost forgot...

In that first image, just peeking-out on the left edge is a 1959, Sunrise Coral, Pontiac Bonneville.

JC Shannon said...

Just when you thought an airliner couldn't get any cooler than the Constellation, the 707 came out and made props a thing of the past, almost overnight. The Connie however, had those sleek lines and that sexy tri-tail. Can't wait to see the photo Major.

Chuck said...

Major, yeah, the 164 acres is the whole thing...including the parking garage under the tennis courts.

When they went to do my surgery the Sunday morning after the accident, the thingamawhatsit they needed wasn't working in the normal eye clinic near the garage, so they walked me by the hand to the opthalmalogy surgical unit at the other end of the campus. It took forever to get there, and then we had to walk all the way back to the garage. I just measured it out, and I walked more than a mile that day without going outside. Still, the walking was much more enjoyable than laying in surgery for an hour-and-a-half-long 45-minute procedure with a blue rubber contact lens over my eye and nothing more than a local anesthetic while a crack surgeon stitched my eyelid back together with invisible thread.

With the bus, luckily the photo showed the rear windows which told me it was a GM "Old Look" bus. Then it was just a matter of looking up which one of several very similar-looking models St Louis Public Service Company was operating in 1951. Had it been a different angle, it would have been much more difficult, since they were operating the also-very-similar-looking Mack C-45-DT at the same time.

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook, six foot tall tassels? I'm imagining them never being dusted or vacuumed because of their size. I've seen some old theaters with some very old and dirty drapery.

Major, I asked my brother about that theater on Colorado Blvd. He said it's "The Academy" and that they are still operating today. He thinks that it is a "second run" type of theater and that they might even show double features. I just might check it out again!

Anonymous said...

Hello Major and GDB team. Checking in late to this thread, but wanted to say thanks for the great photos and comments.

I've visited both St. Louis and Indianapolis, but never got downtown in the latter. Suburbs look the same everywhere, and no one makes postcards of them. I also love the Midwest cities, they seem more "real" than the west coast counterparts. Can't say why I think that, it's just a vibe.

I've worked on a number of theater projects and can confirm Nanook's recommendations. the science (and jargon) of theatrical draperies is pretty amazing.

Check, your story of the hospital walk is stunning, but believable. Wayfinding in healthcare is becoming it's own separate specialty, much like that for airports. It's rare to find a major hospital that isn't a warren of multiple buildings tied together with bridges and tunnels. I'll soon be starting a big job for a major California hospital where this cleanup is part of the program. It's a real puzzle.