Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Final Days of the Mohawk Manor Motorist Hotel: 1955-2012

Dear Mrs. Hobbs and Family,
     This is where we are spending the night.  It is really nice.  Thanks so much for always being nice to me.  See you next year.  Charlotte Hall

        On the back of a Mohawk Manor postcard sent from Indianapolis, August 24, 1961

The end of an era rapidly approaches as the neighborhood prepares to remove the former Mohawk Manor Motorist Hotel (5855 East Washington Street).  Mid-century roadside architecture is quickly disappearing from the highways of America and the Mohawk will now join that ever increasing number on the demolition list.  Built in 1955, and managed by Elry Rutter, the inn served as a haven for travelers sojourning along Route 40 across the US.  The hotel was part of a chain that was based in New York. Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Cincinnati all hosted a Mohawk Manor.  Besides being air-conditioned, a luxury in 1955, the inn also had a coffee shop and dinette managed by Mrs. Mary A. Thompson.

It was the second half of the story that spelled doom for the structure.  By the 1980s, new owners renamed the inn the Indy East.  A much reviled place by neighbors, the hotel served as host to folks down on their luck, drug dealers, prostitutes, and even one murderer.  A seemingly lawless place, infested with rodents and roaches, the police made frequent runs to the now seedy motel.  By the dawning of the new century, Irvington made it a priority to close down this troubled business.  With dogged determination, the community breathed a sigh of relief when the city sided with the neighborhood to close the derelict and poorly managed building.

Then a small debate began.  What should happen to the structure?  Most in the neighborhood wanted the building leveled.  It was to them a painful eyesore and representative of a troubled past.  Others saw it as an opportunity.  One proposal even called for it to become an artist colony.  In the end, the community decided to purge the structure from the site and build apartments.  It will be the first major housing construction in Irvington in nearly sixty years.  A new generation of Irvingtonians will now leave their stamp upon the community although it will come at a cost of erasing just a small part of America's past.


  1. Before 1955, this large lot was vacant (and appeared never to have been developed). I and many other kids played there in 1943-1954. It contained many habitats -- a sun-baked northern third with a lone tree and grasshoppers, a swampy SW quarter with frogs and tadpoles, and a wooded central portion (where we kids climbed trees, built a tree house, and dug a "fort"). For those of us who lived just south of the vacant lot, a trail from its SE corner through the woods and past the lone tree to its NW corner provided pedestrian access to Washington Street. People connected to the apartment complex just east of the vacant lot planted small gardens and/or mowed small lawns on that edge of the lot. I shall always remember the "lot" because of the many and varied opportunities it provided for many, many seasons of my formative years.

  2. Thank you for your wonderful recollections!!!

  3. my grandparents used to work there as i wasgrowing up. the former managers always remembered the employees children at christmas time.they treated their employees as family. it was great. i have so many memories of it.

  4. Thank you for sharing your memories. If you have any photos from that time period, let me know and I will feature them on this blog. You can contact me at williamfranklingulde@gmail.com. Take care!