May 19, 2023

What’s old is new again at The Stutz


Courtesy of The Stutz

Courtesy of The Stutz

It's 1911. There's no radio, much less TV or the internet. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the Circle is nine years old. The hit song that year as determined by sheet music sales that you played on the old piano at home was "Alexander's Ragtime Band" by Irving Berlin. And in 1911 for the very first time, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would host a 500-mile race.

A man named Harry Stutz built a car in 10 days and entered that car into the race. That car – nicknamed the Stutz Bearcat – was driven by Gil Andersen and finished the race in 11th place. But that was enough for students and his business partner, Henry Campbell, to create what they called the Ideal Motor Car Company.

"With the advent of the automobile, business and manufacturing business in the Midwest, particularly Indianapolis, it became the hotbed for manufacturing," Turner Woodard said in a conversation with our Indiana public broadcasting partners at WTIU.

In 1913, the Ideal Motor Car Company became the Stutz Motor Car Company, with a sprawling complex between 10th and 11th Streets and Senate and Capitol Avenues. The company would build 35,000 cars there before succumbing financially to the Great Depression in 1935. But the building stood at least until it appeared to be headed to the wrecking ball in 1993. And that's when Woodard – artist developer, and avid car collector – stepped in. 

He bought the Stutz and, as he said at the grand opening of the Stutz Car Museum there three months ago, "We thought that there'd be three components, and that would be architectural preservation. We thought it would be a community enhancement. Then finally, it had to be an economic decision and an economic driver."

Woodard opened space for other artists and businesses at the Stutz. But then, the vision expanded.  Woodard sold the Stutz to another developer – SomeraRoad. And whereas a century ago the sounds inside the building would have been the assembly of vehicles, the sounds lately have been the renovation of those car building areas for other types of businesses. Businesses like Amelia's – a bakery and neighborhood market that’s soon opening its third location at the Stutz.

"So, you got to work within what the building has. But fortunately we have a lot of space to work with, so we were able to get what we wanted out of it," said Charlie McIntosh, co-owner of Amelia's.

The Stutz Car Museum already is open. It features cars from Woodard's personal Stutz and non-Stutz collection, and the museum space can also be used for other events.

"It is an elevated experience here and the status is an icon to the Indianapolis area," said Julie Johnston, who manages the museum's events as well as other Stutz event space for her company, VisionLoft. "I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to experience its new elevation and watch it grow for years." 

The Stutz is holding an open house and block party to show off what's new about the old place on Sunday, May 21, one week before the race that started the Stutz Motor Company in the first place. Information is available at thestutz.com.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Charlie McIntosh's last name.

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