L. S. Ayres & Company Department Store, 1 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, Marion County, IN
Significance: The L.S. Ayres & Company Department Store is locally significant in the areas of architecture and commerce. The original 1905 portion of the department store, located at the corner of Washington and Meridian Streets, was the work of one of Indianapolis' most famous architectural firms, Vonnegut & Bohn. When opened, the original building was the first "modern" department store built in the city. It was eight stories high, with six modern elevators, 250 feet of show windows, soda fountain and Tea Room - plus a startling concept locally, the Economy Basement. For nearly eighty years, the Ayres department store, was one of the leading retail dry goods operations in Indiana. Additions constructed in 1914 and 1928-29 were designed by the firm of Vonnegut, Bohn & Mueller. The final addition, built in 1946, was the work of the nationally recognized firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill of Chicago. The construction was under the personal supervision of Nathaniel Owings, a former Indianapolis resident. From its founding, the department store has been "first in Indiana": in 1872, city water, in 1876, illuminating gas. A telephone was installed in 1877, and in 1880, electric lights. The year 1890 saw the first elevator and 1928, the first air conditioning in an Indianapolis department store. Escalators came in 1937, with access to all selling floors by 1954. The new and now familiar credit card service, the Carga-Plate was introduced in 1937.
Survey number: HABS IN-253