In 1870, the Bee Hive Dry Goods Company opened at 2 West Washington Street. The store underwent several changes in ownership before Hiram P. Wasson bought into the business in 1874. Nine years later, Wasson became sole owner, moved the store to 12-14 West Washington Street, and changed the name to H. P. Wasson and Company.

H. P. Wasson & Co. at 6-12 West Washington Street, 1920 Credit: W.H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

With the death of the founder in 1910 and his son, H. Kennard Wasson, two years later, the family sold the company to Gustave A. Efroymson and Louis P. Wolf in 1912. Efroymson was president of the company from 1912 to 1930.

A second Wasson’s store opened on Monument Circle as an annex in 1930. Indianapolis architects Rubush and Hunter designed a new downtown flagship store at the corner of Washington and Meridian streets, which opened in 1937.

The 2 West Washington Street store was the prominent architecture firm’s last commercial building. The design eliminated windows on the upper floors. With fluorescent lighting, windows on the upper floors were no longer required.

The architects actually remodeled several existing buildings by refacing them with limestone and polished granite, which were decorated with Art Deco panels, screens, and canopy. Vertical glass-block ribbon windows finished the exterior.

This “Campus Bound” themed window featured mannequins with the latest back-to-school fashions, ca. 1960 Credit: The Bretzman Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

Following the Korean War, Wasson’s added suburban stores in the Eastgate (1957) and Eagledale (1961) shopping centers. Other branch stores opened in Kokomo and in enclosed malls in Anderson and Bloomington. Louis C. Wolf, the grandson of Louis P. Wolf, became president of the company in 1963. After Louis C. Wolf died in a plane crash in August 1967, members of the family sold the company to Goldblatt Brothers, Inc. of Chicago.

The former Wasson’s annex building on the Circle burned down in 1969. Emmis Communications later built its corporate headquarters on the site.

A crowd gathers inside the record department of H. P. Wasson & Co., 1946 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Wasson’s languished under Goldblatt’s ownership. The department store had catered to the middle-class consumer while Goldblatt’s was a discount department store. The quality of the merchandise declined, and Goldblatt’s did not expand to any new locations.

In December 1979, Goldblatt’s closed the downtown Wasson’s store, which was purchased by Melvin Simon and Associates (Simon Property Group) for $2.25 million ($7.5 million in 2020). Four months later, Wasson’s suburban Indianapolis stores closed citing annual losses of $400,000. The only remaining Wasson’s store in Bloomington closed on February 28, 1981.

Melvin Simon and Associates developed 2 West Washington Street as its first mixed-use property, which opened in 1983. In 1997, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Washington Street-Monument Circle Historic District.

Revised February 2021

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