Our History

History of Fountain Square Theatre Building

Since 1928, the Fountain Square Theatre Building has anchored the corner at Shelby and Prospect Streets in Fountain Square. The area has weathered many changes in Fountain Square from a vibrant commericial and theater district to suburban flight beginning in the 1960’s.

Thanks to the efforts of many organizations, groups, and individuals, the area is again developing as a primary live/work community for artists and independent entrepreneurs. The gradual transformation of the commercial district has attracted growing investment in surrounding residential areas, with both long-time residents and new homeowners participating in improving the quality of area homes.


Completion of the Fountain Square Theatre Building

On Friday, May 4, 1928, the Indianapolis News announced the completion of the Fountain Square Theatre with a full news section with advertisments and articles outlining the evening’s entertainment. The building is referred to as “the Big Light on the Avenue”.



Fountain Square Recreation 1928-1957

Fountain Square Recreation, a bowling alley and billiard hall, was located on the fourth floor of the Theatre building from 1928-1957. Photograph of American Can Company Bowling League, 1938-1939 season.


Fountain Square Recreation Ladies Bowling Team 1938


Fountain Square Theatre Interior 1940’s. looking toward the East

The Theatre enjoyed many years as a premier entertainment venue showing moving pictures as well as hosting live vaudeville entertainment with a full orchestra pit and Marr-Colton organ. The organ console, located to the left front of the stage, was on a “lift” that could be adjusted to various heights.

Fountain Square Theatre

Photograph of Theatre Ushers in front of Shelby Street marquee circa 1941.



Changing Times

By 1955 the original Prospect Street and Shelby Street marquees had been removed and replaced with a new marquee on Shelby Street advertising a “COOOL” theatre space. Several businesses had also changed in the street front retail locations. By 1957 the fourth-floor bowling alley was closed and empty


Woolworth’s takes over the Building 1960’s

By 1960, the Fountain Square Theatre was closed and gutted, it’s contents sold at auction. Woolworth’s bought the building and opened the ground floor interior as shopping space, including a lunch counter. The outside of the building was covered with an enameled porcelain skin, which required the removal of the marquee and a few exterior terra cotta decorations. Woolworths’s lasted throughout the 1960’s but was closed by the end of the decade.


1970 – 1993

Throughout the 1970’s and into the early 1990’s, the Fountain Square Theatre Building’s second and third floor offices, which previuosly had doctors, dentists and other professionals as tenants, were now sitting vacant and falling into disrepair. The groundfloor was occupied by various buisnesses including a used furniture store and the Value Village thrift store.

1111 Prospect Street entrance, the original marquee and terra cotta tiles were removed by Woolworth.


A New Life for the Bowling Alley 1993

In 1993 restoration of the fourth floor bowling alley started, to bring the alley back to life with eight lanes of duckpin bowling. As everything was removed from the original fourth floor alley, equipment and furniture was sourced from all over the country to make the alley as original as possible. Most of the bowling equipment, including ball returns, lane seating and masking units where found in an old barn in Columbia City, Indiana. After almost 40 years of “storage” in the barn, much work was involved to return it to working order.

Action Duckpin Bowl…the start of restoration.

1105 Prospect Street Indianapolis, IN 46203 (corner of Shelby St. & Prospect St.)