Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Looking Back . . . and Ahead

The leaves have begun to fall from the trees and the cool breeze is in the air. My favorite season has arrived, and with it has come some time for reflection on the past few months.

We held our 2016 Bicentennial State Street Walking Tour on Sunday, July 10. On behalf of the West Lafayette History and Research Center, I want to thank everyone for their support and assistance in making the walking tour such a success. I also want to thank everyone who went on the tour and spent some time with our docents. I know each of them enjoyed sharing some of West Lafayette's rich history with everyone who would listen.

We learned some new things from the tour, as well.
For instance, we all know Purdue Pete. Well, he's celebrating his 60th anniversary as one of Purdue's mascots this year, but Pete himself is actually over a decade older. He was born in 1940 when University Book Store's owners at the time created him to serve as the store's advertising logo. He didn't become a mascot for Purdue's athletics department until 1956. This is only one story we heard from visitors on the tour, and we are so grateful for all the stories shared that day.

Even though the event has passed, we're still working to capture all of the information and memories shared that day. We will soon have a video from the event, which will feature each of our highlighted stops, to share with everyone. We will also be adding photos to our growing collections in the archives. If anyone has any stories to share with us, please, don't hesitate to reach out to us. I'd love to hear about everyone's favorite parts of the tour. State Street will be completely transformed before we know it, and it's imperative that we capture its history so it's not swept away.

In other news, we have received many new donations to the West Lafayette Public Library's archives these past few months, and I am actively working to sort through them and get them organized. It's always fascinating to learn new information about the history of this great city. There will be much more to share in the coming weeks, so please check back to the blog soon. Happy fall, everyone!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

SAVE the DATE : Sunday July 10 : State Street Walking Tour!


State Street walking tour: SUNDAY, JULY 10 
from 1 to 4 pm

State Street - the heart of old West Lafayette and gateway 
to the newest of West Lafayette! 

Join us for a walk down State Street & share memories of the old days 
& the bright new days to come.

Docents will be ready to talk with you at selected sites along the route. 

We hope you’ll share YOUR memories of the State Street past with us too.

More information will follow in the coming weeks. 

Sponsored by: 

 West Lafayette History and Research Center   

and the West Lafayette Public Library

and the Mayor’s Office of West Lafayette


A Bit of Background on the State Street Walking Tour 
scheduled for Sunday July 10

 Indiana’s bicentennial during 2016 and the major changes coming to the State Street landscape this year and years following have prompted the West Lafayette History and Research Center to focus our efforts at capturing the history of the retail corridor long known as State Street in West Lafayette - Then and Now. 

Remember the street car lines running down State Street?  Or how State Street has evolved from a thriving family centered retail/service artery for West Lafayette offering everything from grocery stores to barber shops, drug stores to women and men’s clothing stores lining State Street to the current emphasis on serving the retail needs of Purdue students and staff ? 

We look forward to collecting YOUR memories too – we hope you’ll share them with our docents and on written comment cards available during the tour at the Library before and after the tour.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Monthly Memories

Members of the West Lafayette History and Research Advisory Council meet most every month to discuss developments for the West Lafayette History Center and to share city memories.  

The Council members have asked to share those memories with our blog readers and so beginning with the March 28, 2016 meeting notes we're glad to make them available.

Comments and clarifications are welcome!

We're focusing our attention on State Street for the 2016 Bicentennial Year and so the March meeting of the Council discussed a wide number of State Street building topics and traditions.  

Here is a summary of those March 28, 2016 discussions.....

State Street in the Village Area of West Lafayette was a retail center for the community for many decades from the late 19th and well into the 20the century. State Street's retail importance continues with a sometimes different cast of business characters today.  

Highlighting this retail commerce, several notable buildings located along State Street - from the Levee area deep into the Village - are discussed in a video series produced by Purdue students as well. Watching these videos offers us a look back into a West Lafayette from earlier days.......... 

And with Triple XXX is all about the root beer...and the burgers..... Triple XXX

Elsalyn Shop for women’s wear opened on Northwestern Avenue in the Village and moved to State Street across from Harry’s Chocolate Shop (located at 318 State Street in the 1960 and 1970 City Directories; it was located at 724 Northwestern Avenue in the 1950 City Directory).  The shop was owned by Judge Parkinson (a Federal Judge in Chicago) and his wife Elsie and was known as a chic women’s fashion store in its day.  It was a neighbor to Geisler’s Style Stores for Men (1950, 1960 City Directories) at 316 State Street and by Steck’s Wear-haus for men (1970 City Directory) at 300 State Street.

Drug Store competition in the Village!  The Walgreens/CVS competition of the modern day was presaged by a local drug store competition in the 1950’s ‘60’s and ‘70’s.

The long established Bartlett’s Drugs was a locally owned Lafayette/West Lafayette pharmacy just up the street from State and Northwestern (just east of Southworth’s at 306 State Street – 1950 and 1960 City Directories).  

 A second Lafayette/West Lafayette pharmacy – University Rexall - was located in the nearby Jacques building at 314 State Street. (150 and 1960 City Directories).   A 1956 photo shows both University Rexall and Bartlett’s on State Street.

Bartlett’s was challenged by the “upstart” Norb Arth who purchased and moved into Bartlett’s drug store as of the 1970 City Directory.  (University Rexall by that time had changed its name to “Priced Rite Discount Center”.)

Note: Arth’s Rexall Drugs is shown at a Stadium Avenue address in the 1950 and 1960 City Directories; Arth’s stayed at this address for many years after adding the State Street location.  

Arth’s Drugs became a fixture in the Village for the next several decades with an entry/exit on both State Street and Northwestern Avenues.  

Cafeteria and Restaurants in the Village: a number of small restaurants and one cafeteria were to be found along State Street between Northwestern and Grant Streets - The Varsity Inn, Kampus Kitchen, Jul’s Diner. A cafeteria was located in the storefront that now holds University Bookstore; named the “The College Inn Cafeteria” it address was 356 State Street near Grant Street (1950 City Directory). These eateries were staffed, we are told,  with both Purdue students and local residents from Lafayette and West Lafayette.

The Jacques building sported a local Pool Hall in the basement listed as  “Johnston’s Billiard Hall” in the 1960 City Directory; it was later known as “The Hole” (see the 1970 City Directory; also see the establishment’s advertising sign in the 1950’s photo of State Street). This was a place for high school and college kids to hang out “back in the day”. 

The upper (second) floor was the Sunday home of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church.  A long time resident remembers - selling the Sunday Journal and Courier to the parishioners after church services when he was sa youth. 

In the 1950’s the Jacques building also housed at 314 State Street University Rexall Drug store; and Geiseler Style Store for Men at 316 State Street. Both stores were located on the building's first floor. 

Across State Street the Lux (1950) and then Howard’s Market (1960) offered groceries at 317 State Street.   This is now the location of Von's Shops.

“Big Rock Market” was a grocery store located at the base of State Street at River Road located at 101-105 State Street (1950 City Directory).  It may have been named for the folkloric “Rattlesnake Rock” that legend places near this site in early West Lafayette history.  Supposedly rattlesnakes infested an outcropping of rocks near this location and so early State Street and River Roads meandered around them.

The Stabilizer Bar (actually located at 125 Pierce Street and now part of Purdue’s Rawls Hall) was known as a “counter culture” bar in West Lafayette from 1976.  It was one of the few – and popular – venues for live music in the City. Previously it was a “rent a freezer locker” with various names over the decades, an establishment where local residents would store sides of beef and other large freezer items for eventual use in home cooking. It was “vacant” in 1971 but then became a restaurant with a different name each year; in 1973 it was “The Barefoot Boy” restaurant. 

Too, State Street in the Village was a center for Purdue student, faculty and staff living for many many decades....

The VARSITY APARTMENTS at 101 Andrew Place on the corner of State Street and Andrew Place is now the home of many Purdue students. In its past it was the home of many Purdue faculty and staff since its establishment in the earlier 20th century. It is said the Varsity also housed Purdue football team members for a number of years – do you know when???  

The Varsity Apartments are featured on a YouTube video : Varsity Apartments
Andrew Place, just off of State Street and east of the Grant/State Street intersection retains one of the oldest standing homes in West Lafayette.  The house, located next to the Purdue parking garage and almost facing State Street is said to have been originally built and owned by one of the founding families of the West Lafayette area, the Andrew family.

A long standing fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha (the “Pikes”), located at 149 Andrew Place ceased to be listed as a fraternity after 1965 and was not rebuilt at that address, moving to University Street by 1970.  

It was noted too that West Lafayette was home to a Jewish Fraternity and though not located on State Street or Andrew Place the Jewish Fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (Pi Upsilon Chapter at Purdue) was founded in 1952 and was located at 503 University Street; it is now located on David Ross Road.  Alpha Epsilon Pi

And we're learning that modern day traditions like "Breakfast Club" were not the only campus hi-jinks to find a home along State Street....
It was reported that the “NUDE OLYMPICS” associated with Purdue students took place on State Street in the Fall of 1976.  The resident who remembered them reported that crowds lined both side of the Street as the event took place.  The resident remembered only one male who ran the race in the nude – wearing boots and a clear plastic raincoat; other male and female runners were wearing swimsuits/bikinis.