This afternoon I went downtown to our museum to watch an IMAX film on Jerusalem. I’ve only visited the museum once since I moved here. It was shortly after I moved and I wasn’t enthralled with my new home. The museum visit did nothing to endear itself to me and I haven’t been back. But in the years since then I’ve grown to love Indy – I’ve gotten to know some aspects of its history and I have a desire to learn more. So I might be giving the museum another chance. The IMAX film was very good and as the audience exited, our route took us by the gift store. I saw a display of minerals for sale and wandered in, then browsed around until a book with a great big clock on the cover caught my eye. Entranced, I immediately went to investigate and it turned out to be a history of L.S. Aryes Department Store. I knew nothing of this. Apparently from 1905 until 1992, this downtown department store was one of the best known and largest stores in the Midwest. The clock hung over the entrance to the store. It was 8 floors of shopping goodness in this amazing old building with crystal chandeliers and fine carpets! It was known for its Tea Room which served meals to its customers for decades – apparently chicken pot pie was a favorite. Ayres was one of the first businesses to establish discount stores. They had a bargain basement, and during the 30s and 40s the bargain basement brought in more profit than all the other departments together. They had branch stores throughout the Midwest, but the flagship location remained the grandest. It must have been something to see in its heyday.
I left the store and went to visit another display that had caught my attention because it had festive garlands strung up and I thought it might be a Christmas scene. It was. In fact, it was the window display that Ayres had made for 1983 Christmas season. The display itself was the outsides of Ayres in the 1920s and features animated figurines looking at the bright shopping windows and strolling the streets. They even had the clock. It was really neat to see a display that was actually part of the store and that showed what it might have looked like way back.
I must say that I am now thoroughly enchanted with this store and would love to read the book on its history. I did briefly read about it on Wikipedia and found the address where it used to be. So on the way home, I drove by to see what it looks like now. Still a grand, beautiful building, it now houses a Carson’s and is adjacent to our downtown Circle Center Mall. And yep, that clock is still there.
I also learned from Wikipedia that a replica of the Tea House is on display at the Indiana State Museum. That settles it, I’m going back.
Blessings to you,