34th and Illinois

This corner has long piqued my interest. The star of the show is the former Ritz Theatre (shown here in its heyday), a bit north of 34th Street:

Southeast corner:

Southwest Corner, including a still-operating cleaners:

More buildings along 34th Street. Man, I loved mini-putt as a kid:

The northeast corner has a non-descript building that is off of the street corner.

Comments 24

  • My personal favorite graffiti tag is on the south side of that white building in the southeast corner.

    Funny you should post this; I just mentioned this corner/that tag in a Daytum panel.

  • Hey, nice find on the picture of the Ritz from back in the day. I’ve wondered what it looks like.

    I wonder what it would take to bring that corner and the area west of it on 34th street back to life.

    I could imagine a restaurant in the Ritz …

  • I’ve been trying to figure out what that old building is used for. Was it a theatre as in movies or productions. I would love to get in there and see it. I am on a board that has renovated and rejuvinated an old theatre in Shelbyville.

    Is the graffitti tag your referring to the “Prof. Eww!” I’ve seen thouse everywhere.

    • It was a movie theater showing 1st run films for a while, then dropped into lower quality productions. It was closed for a while until a group that I was a part of took the seats out and turned it into “Middle Earth” for musical productions. We left and it returned to the Ritz name under new operators and continued with the music till it closed again, I believe, for good. It was a fun, affordable music venue for a few years.

      • David,
        My best friend and I would go to Middle Earth in the summer of ’70 to see your concerts including Savoy Brown. We were headed into our Jr. year at Wabash College and became inspired by your business model. We decided we wanted to promote a concert in the college gym in the late spring of 1971. The concert was Johnny Winter, ELP, and Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. We went on to promote Jethro Tull and Yes at the Armory on N. Pennsylvania on July 5, 1970 and other shows through the fall of that year. We made a bit of money so in the winter of that year we sought out the owner of the theatre and proceeded to rent it from him. Our first show was in Janurary of 1972. As you may remember, our last show was with John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra in late July. The rest is history. Thanks for the inspiration. It was a fun ride.

  • It would take a boatload of money (and the displacement of a lot of current neighborhood residents) to create the income base to support businesses in those storefronts.

    Or maybe a few years of $5 gasoline.

  • I saw the tag. It’s not the Prof Eww! one.

    Here is a bit more info on the Ritz.

  • Thanks for the present/past pictures of the Ritz- we haven’t read much about that theatre.

  • I did mean the Prof Eww one, actually. Something about the minimalism of it strikes me as funny. There’s this huge white surface, but the tag is small in proportion to the face of the building and just black, you know?

  • Nice find on the info about the theater, Kevin. Amazing to think that building has been boarded up since the 1970s ….

    I don’t think I agree with “thundermutt” that all the residents need to be displaced to get that area to work again. There’s a lot of traffic that goes up Illinois … 38th Street and the Children’s Museum are close by.

    I think it would take but a little vision and that area from 38th street down could come back to life … the bigger problem to me appears to be the lack of parking for any perspective business looking at the area.

  • Richard, the urban form in that area is “streetcar suburban”, which is why there’s no parking. You are essentially suggesting that the existing buildings be adapted to “corridor retail” uses, not necessarily neighborhood-serving ones. The issue is access and control points for the business (parking in back or on the side requires that the controlled entrance face the parking) as well as the amount of parking that ordinances now require for those corridor businesses.

    Another point: I didn’t say that the residents “need” to be displaced. I said that in order for the market to fill up those boarded or underutilized storefronts, it would require different residents with higher incomes.

  • Don’t you just love the Ritz Theatre? The architect, George Vincent Bedell, also designed these movie theaters: Talbott St., the Dream (in Brightwood), and the Tacoma (this remuddled building now houses El Sol restaurant on E. Washington St.)

    According to cinematreasures.org :
    “The theatre had a 2 Manual Geneva organ. For many years the theatre was one of the leading movie houses in Indianapolis. It became known as the Northside Theatre in August of 1958 through June of 1970. (a comment states that it was called ‘Middle Earth’ in 1970).

    In 1962 movies became a thing of the past when burlesque moved in. Burlesque was short-lived though when the strippers and management were hauled off to court.

    In June of 1970 it was remodeled and all the seats were removed to become a rock concert venue. In January of 1972 the name was changed back to the Ritz and continued on with an attempt to keep the rock concerts going but that failed and the Ritz closed in the latter part of 1972.”

    • I was one of the partners in the Ritz Theater back in January of 1972. We were young and very idealistic back then and had very grand ideas for that lovely theater. It was a short run but some very memorable concerts. It was a perfect venue for concerts and I still have many, many memorable experiences.

      • Finally – a chance to thank a Middle Earth / Ritz presenter from the ’70s –
        just awesome – Mark-Almond, Edgar Winter, Richie Havens (“Freedom”!),
        Bonnie and Delany, The Flock, Joy of Cooking, Mahavishnu John McLaughlin
        (above all – on July 22, ’72), it was a short run but it was the Fillmore of Indy –
        thank you, Chris – wish there was a way to communicate – Ed

  • Thanks for the information on the Ritz. The building on the southeast corner has been torn completely down in the past couple of months.

  • I lived directly across from the Ritz as a kid through 1974 and have a few tidbits to share.

    The building at the southeast corner was the B&F Drug Store, where I got my candy fix. Adjacent to the east included a karate school, a barber shop. The cleaners you see on the southwest was there still in ’74. Doyle’s Restaurant occupied that northwest corner building directly adjacent to the Ritz. The owner made a popular burger. Sadly, he died not long after the Ritz shut down. A part of the Ritz did open briefly as a skating rink in the summer of ’74. Across the street was a bar and a large auto service center. The bar is long-closed and only a part of the auto service building remains. I lived in a duplex, at 3437, which is now condemned and home to squatters. Where it not for the influence of the Children’s Museum to the south (another story I can relate there, long before it became what it is now) and the artery of 38th Street to the north, I fear my own neighborhood would be far worse off than it is.

  • Hi Kevin. Can you tell me are all the buildings including the ritz owned by the same person/corp. do you know who owns them. Thank you

  • can anyone remember a bar called the Parkway ? Ray White owned & ran it address was 34 th & Illinois

  • So much of the stuff in this post is gone. The Ritz is still there, but the building connected to the south part of it was partially torn down. The buildings from the SE corner of the intersection and then east on the south side of 34th were all torn down more than 5 years ago. Just empty lots at this point.

    • I found out via Indianapolis Monthly that former IU basketball and NBA player Allan Henderson now owns the Ritz and hopes to restore it. Here’s hoping he can find restoration success, although of course it’s a monumental challenge at this point.

  • Can anyone tell me if there is a list somewhere of all the concerts at Middle Earth? Or if someone could list hear the ones they remember that would be great. My friends and I went to most of them, but can’t remember all of them. We remember Zappa, Alice Cooper, Savoy Brown, and I seem to recall seeing Yes there..

  • Try this website for a list of local concerts: https://indianarockhistory.com/

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