The Wholesale District

The Wholesale District, one of six cultural districts in Indianapolis, is located between Maryland and South and Illinois and Delaware Streets. In 1863, August and Henry Schnull, recognizing the potential profit to be gained with the proximity of Union Station, built the first wholesale house on the corner of S. Meridian and W. Maryland Street. The two brothers gradually expanded their holdings to include the building of the Merchant National Bank and other commercial properties in the area. After August returned to Germany, Henry Schnull remained to encourage further development of wholesaling in the District. By the early 1870’s, the Wholesale District of grocers, dry goods, and hardware stores between South and Washington was flourishing, and history has given credit to Henry as the Father of the Wholesale District. Long before the modern grocery store arrived, shoppers in the city could now buy products at one central location, and farmers could sell their local produce in the area known as Commission Row. Effectively, the railroads had practically eliminated the middleman retailer, and a town had become a city. In time, however, the automobile, the trucks, and the Great Depression brought about a temporary decline in the early economic prosperity of the District. Today, with millions of dollars invested in its renewal, the area has become a prime business, convention, and tourist destination, a busy center for sports, arts, and entertainment.

The Wholesale District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, and much of the architecture from the early 1900’s has been preserved. Six of the original buildings including Concordia House, Hotel Lockerbie, and Hotel Severin are restored as hotels, restaurants, and offices. The Majestic Building, the city’s first skyscraper, the Murphy Building, now converted into lofts, and the Chesapeake Building, now a Hampton Inn, all remain a part of the District’s history. With Monument Circle, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, and the Eli Lilly Civil War Museum at its center, the District has over 300 shops and restaurants, hotels, museums, clubs, and bars. The entire area has a great deal of charm with sidewalk planters of flowers and greenery, outdoor cafes, lighted trees, and canopied marquees.

Circle Centre Mall, featuring two blocks of shopping and dining, opened in 1995. The Mall is an interesting combination of modern and historic, having kept several of the original building entrances in its architectural design. The seven-story Arts Garden is a glass enclosed exhibit and performance center located adjacent to the Mall. Other attractions in the Wholesale District include the Conseco Fieldhouse, home for the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever basketball teams, and the RCA Dome where the Indianapolis Colts currently play, but are scheduled to move to their new Lucas Oil stadium in 2008. The Hilbert Circle Theater, built in 1916, was renovated from 1982 — 1984 and is now home to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The Symphony performs classical, pops, and holiday music every weekend throughout the year. Theatergoers enjoy the non-profit professional plays at the Indiana Repertory Theater and the appeal of the original Spanish baroque architecture of the old Indiana Theater built in 1928.

The Wholesale District sponsors numerous events throughout the year including the Circle of Lights, the day after Thanksgiving ceremony, and the IPL May Festival parade featuring the Indy 500 drivers. Other activities in and around the District include the Strawberry Festival in June, the September opening of the performing arts season, and the weeklong exposition of African American culture and history in July.

Residential, commercial, and retail development in the Wholesale District has grown tremendously in the past few years and property is much in demand. Prime real estate such as the Conrad Indianapolis Residences, luxury suites and apartments at The Block, and exclusive lofts at the Meridian and the Janus offer the convenience of a downtown location and the amenities of urban living at its finest.

Walking Tours: Historic Landmark Association of Indiana sponsors 90-minute tours leaving from Borders Books and Music at 11 S. Meridian St., 10:30 a.m., Friday and Saturday, May through October. Adults – $6.50; Landmark members, Indiana & Purdue University students, children 13 to 18 – $5.50; seniors and ages 6 to 12 – $3.50.
Parking: Circle Centre Mall garages, $1.50

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