Grab a cup of tea and cozy up on the couch, Hoosiers — it’s storytime.
🛍️ The department store
We’re taking you back to the year 1936. It was the Great Depression and a newspaper cost a single penny. The beloved department store, L.S. Ayres, had been at the intersection of Washington and Meridian Streets for 31 years, and even during tough times, it was a place where Hoosiers flocked to look at its elaborate holiday-themed window displays.
🕕 The clock
Enter: a little friendly competition. Things were heating up between Ayres and the nearby William H. Block department store. William H. Block had just expanded and installed beautiful art deco detailing on its facade along Illinois Street. Because of this makeover, it was getting a lot of attention and free publicity, so naturally, Ayres was looking to outshine the competing retailer.
The best way to do that, Fred Ayres’ team determined, was to install an eight-ft tall, 10,000-pound clock, which would later be one of the only reminders of L.S. Ayres’ history downtown.
👼 The cherub
Continuing on this journey through time, let’s stop at 1947. This was the year of the cherub. Because of shortages resulting from WWII, there wasn’t a whole lot of merchandise to advertise in L.S. Ayres’ Christmas catalog. To take up space, little angels and cherubs were scattered throughout the pages. This inspired management to commission Herron School of Art instructor David Rubens to create a real-life sculpture of a cherub and mount it on the then-famous clock.
You won’t see this angelic baby year-round, though. Legend has it, the cherub only appears the day before Thanksgiving and is gone after Christmas.
We can’t let you go without mentioning the time we lost the baby. When the May Company bought out L.S. Ayres in 1992, it locked up the cherub in storage all the way in St. Louis. Well, that didn’t last long. After protestations from the public, the baby was returned home just a year later.
This is only a small fraction of the history surrounding Ayres, and if you’d like to take more strolls down memory lane, check out “The Magic of Ayres: Christmases Past and Present,” a presentation by Indiana Landmarks.