October Windows

With the lengthening shadows of October, Irvington children will make their way to the Washington Street business district with shoeboxes of paint and brushes where neatly taped window spaces await to be transformed into canvasses of haunting Halloween paintings. Among the most sought after windows are the storefronts that extend west from Audubon Road along the north side of the main thoroughfare.
This Tudor-style row of business rooms was built in the late summer of 1927 by Indianapolis developer Thomas A. Moynahan. My father had recently moved to the Classic Suburb with his family, and as he recalled later, the whole community attended a picnic beneath grand old trees on the grounds of the venerable house that would soon be razed to make way for this much anticipated development.
Moynahan Construction Co. received a building permit on September 13, 1927 for the erection of 17 storerooms, of varied sizes, with outside walls of cinder block and fronts of brick veneer trimmed in limestone and topped with stucco faced gables trimmed in cypress. The windows were designed for maximum daylight to bathe the interior hardwood floors at all times, and six firewalls between stores, if needed, would prevent the spread of flames. The approximate cost of the project, designed by Arthur W. Fleck, was $50,000 (2014: $674,130.59). The formal opening of Audubon Stores was timed to take advantage of the Christmas shopping season. On Saturday, December 10, 1927 a musical program entertained Irvingtonians as they perused the wares in the new trading center. “The accumulated drawing power” of the following businesses would make Audubon Stores “one of the most attractive” shopping destinations of the east side (note – present businesses are in brackets):
No. 5614 — Broeking Furniture Store [The Legend]; No. 5616 — Yankee Doodle Candy [The Legend]; No. 5618 — Center Cleaners [Collector’s Paradise]; No. 5620 — Irvington’s Jeweler [Edward Jones]; No. 5622 — Audubon Realty Co [Izzy & Es. Specialty Retail]; No. 5624 — The Quality Shoppe [James Dant Men’s Clothing]; No. 5626 — Forget Me Not Gift & Art Shop [Black Sheep]; No. 5628 — Ent Quality Market [Black Sheep]; No. 5630 — Bruce’s Bakery [Vacant]; No. 5632 — Kroger Grocery [Black Acre Brewing Co]; No. 5634 — Kroger Grocery [Black Acre Brewing Co]; No. 5636 — Marigold Beauty & Hat Shoppe [Guitar Town]; No. 5638 — Mendel the Tailor [Jockamo’s]; No. 5642 — Hui Laundry [Jockamo’s]; No. 5644 — Audubon Café & Delicatessen [Jockamo’s]; No. 5646 — A & P Grocery [Jockamo’s]; No. 5648 — Morgan’s Pharmacy [Dufour’s].
Over the ensuing years, the storefronts changed hands, closed, or were replaced by new concerns; Morgan’s Pharmacy became Haag’s Drug Store, and on a warm June night in 1933 it was held up by John Dillinger. In the bleak years of the Great Depression, the Clarence Wagner Memorial Race, organized by the Irvington Cycle Club, drew thousands of spectators to the Classic Suburb to watch cyclists from throughout the Midwest compete and prizes were provided by Irvington businesses including Irvington’s Jeweler [No. 5620], Taylor’s Candy [No. 5626], and Chaille’s Shoe Shop [No. 5622]. During World War II the storefronts displayed the community’s patriotism, and the Audubon Barber Shop [No. 5636] maintained a collection of hats worn by men before they were called into the service. At war’s end, the Irvington Business Association decided to revive the Halloween carnival that occurred in the late 1920s. In addition to a costume parade, the business windows were marked off for organized “window soaping” as a deterrence to the “nuisance aspect of the Halloween urge.” Elementary and high school students were encouraged to use “their own ingenuity” on the allotted window spaces. Using water colors, soap, Bon Ami, and chalk, the young “artists” drew witches, ghosts, and haunted houses; cartoon characters — Li’l Abner’s Daisy Mae and Donald Duck — were also popular.
In the following decades the wares offered in Audubon Stores have changed as well as the views from the windows, but late each October along with the brilliant natural colors thousands have gathered in colorful dress and ornamentations to celebrate the season. Happy Halloween!