Indianapolis White Castle #3 opened in 1927. Located at 660 Fort Wayne Avenue, the 600-square-foot square restaurant was a simple whitewashed cement block building. The exterior bricks were white enamel with green enamel bricks wrapping the entire base of the structure. Battlements and turrets added a Medieval feel to the structure. The one-story building featured “White Castle” spelled out in stained glass in transom windows. The interior had only five bar stools for customers. A renovation in 1930 added four more.

Exterior view of a small brick building painted white. The building has a castle-like structure. A sign on two sides of the building advertises 5 cent hamburgers.
White Castle #3 located at 660 Fort Wayne Avenue, n.d. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

This structure remains the oldest intact building of its kind and only one of six remaining White Castle structures built of white enameled brick, a rare prototype constructed from 1925 to 1928. After 1928, the buildings used porcelain steel as the exterior material. A rear addition allowed for carry-out orders in 1951.

Billy Ingram and Walter Anderson opened the first White Castle in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921. Ingram modeled the restaurants on the Chicago Water Tower, with battlements and turrets.?The castle motif connoted a sense of permanence and stability, while the white exterior brickwork, white interior, white walls, and white employee uniforms conveyed a sense of cleanliness.

The emphasis on a sterile environment was in response to the unsanitary Chicago meatpacking industry conditions Upton Sinclair described in his 1922 novel The Jungle. His description of the Chicago stockyards left the American public highly suspicious of contaminants in the meat sent to the market for public consumption. White Castle waged its attempt to win public confidence in the ground beef it used in its hamburgers through the design and materials of its buildings.?Furthermore, White Castle partnered with area women’s club members in a direct mail campaign that invited local housewives to inspect the Castle, top to bottom.

According to the advertising manager for the entire White Castle enterprise, White Castle #3 has the distinction of being the longest-operating White Castle in the nation still in its original building and location at the time of its closing. It opened on August 6, 1927, and closed on April 30, 1979, after White Castle built a much larger restaurant at 16th and Illinois streets.

Exterior view of a small white brick building with a castle-like design. The sign on the side of the building says, "Hurwitz."
White Castle #3 building occupied by John Hurwitz Co. real estate, 1986 Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source

Since the closing of the original White Castle #3 building, it has been one of few saved from demolition and instead adaptively reused. In 1983, the building had been used as a real estate office. It was later used as an Indiana National Guard recruiting office. White Castle maintains a protective covenant on its buildings that prohibits future owners from serving food inside the structure.

Indiana Landmarks had sought protection for the building since the 1980s. After the National Guard no longer needed the building in 2005, the state transferred ownership of the building to the City of Indianapolis’s Department of Public Works (DPW).

Sitting unused, Indiana Landmarks submitted a National Register Nomination to protect the building from demolition in 2009. The nomination notes the preservation of architectural motifs over time relative to the two older White Castles, which have not been well preserved. White Castle #3 was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 23, 2011.

The building remained vacant until Indiana Landmarks purchased it for one dollar in 2017. The nonprofit organization signed an agreement to make improvements and sell the building with the preservation covenant. In 2019, Indiana Landmarks sold the building to Jason Hartman as a retail investment property. It is now home to Chroma Salon & Studio. 

Revised November 2023

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