Block’s department store was one of three great department stores in Indianapolis. Hermann W. Bloch, a former subject of the Kaiser of Austria-Hungary, began his retail career as a peddler in New York state. Transformed into William H. Block, he located his store at this location because it was immediately opposite the Traction Terminal. All of the city’s street cars converged here as well as all of the state’s interurban rail lines.
Vonnegut & Bohn Architects designed this beautiful building, completed in 1911. Vonnegut, Bohn & Mueller designed the western addition using the same white-glazed terra-cotta cladding, but updated it in the Art Deco Style in 1934-36 during the Great Depression. The sleek Art Deco entrances with polished black marble and nickel-plated brass doors were part of the Depression-era addition. Note the “B” in the shields on the facade. This Wappenmotif (shield motif) was a signature of Vonnegut & Bohn. The building ceased to be a department store in 1993. It reopened as The Block Apartments in 2003. Teenager Kurt Vonnegut got paid to write advertising copy for the store while in high school and he even modeled Block’s clothing.
Cover image: Main terminal of Indianapolis Traction and Terminal building, 1913. Image in the public domain.