Submitted by: Robert Newport, McGowan Hall Executive Director, Lover of Cakes
At any rate, why “The Bakery?” You, like I, may drive by dozens or even hundreds of buildings every day. I often wonder “what was that building built for?” or “what USED to be there?” There is an amazing website where you can satiate your curiosity for architectural history at whatwasthere.com. I also encourage you to visit another spectacular website with in-depth articles on historic Indianapolis buildings: historicindianapolis.com…from which I will be heavily borrowing for the answer to the query, “Why ‘The Bakery?’”
Well, if you guessed “ummmmm…was the building that used to be there a bakery?” You nailed it. I hope I didn’t give it away too soon for those of you still wondering. The preceding complex at the southeast corner of 16th & Bellefontaine wasn’t just any corner bakery though. It was home to Omar Bakeries: a major player in the Midwest baking game. At one point Omar was the eighth-largest baker in the nation, and owned two flour mills as well as baking plants in Omaha, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Peoria, and Columbus and Hamilton, Ohio. According to the Indianapolis Star, in their 1950s heyday, “Omar had more than 280 route men from 12 distribution points throughout the state and 91 in Indianapolis. Omar turned out 525,000 loaves of 17 varieties of bread each week and 48 varieties of cakes, rolls, pies, doughnuts and specialty pastries.” ‘Omarzing’ you might say!! Unfortunately I was too late to contribute to their advertising strategy. Omar was bought by Continental Baking Co. in 1958 and the Indianapolis bakery was closed by 1966.
The popular jingle enjoyed heavy airplay in the ‘50s:
Oh, Mom! Here comes the Omar man!
I’m the Omar man, (tap,tap,tap)
knocking at your door (rappa tap tap).
When you taste my bread (mmmm boy!),
you’re gonna want more (rappa tap tap).
Yes, everyone loves those cookies and cakes
and the wonderful bread the Omar bakes!
Get it from your Omar man!
Interestingly, prior to Omar operating out of the complex, the original builder of the structure, baker William Elwarner of City Baking Co, incorporated 4 residential apartment units in addition to the garages and bakeries. Each apartment featured a small, attractive balcony facing Bellefontaine. Perhaps he wanted the residents to “smell what the Elwarner was cooking?” Again, wish I could have helped with marketing/advertising. And now after many years of vacancy, the original 1915 structure and added buildings have been replaced by “The Bakery” town homes. The Old Northside welcomes “The Bakery” residents to the neighborhood, and personally I won’t be satisfied until every town home participates in a fierce bake-off for the “Omar-zing” Grand Prize for excellence in baking. I will graciously volunteer to serve as judge. Let’s do this Bakery dwellers.
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