Monday, August 18, 2008

L.S. Ayres Tea Room

Sunday brought me to the L.S. Ayres Tea Room at the Indiana State Museum. I was privileged to share this trip with a woman celebrating her 70th birthday and a group of other women friends.

In its heyday, the L.S. Ayres Tea Room was part of the famous department store (of the same name). The tea room opened in 1905 and was one of those grand meeting places in downtown Indianapolis. It was a place for ladies who lunch and for kids learning manners. It was a place to meet for a fancy afternoon tea, but it also offered humble lunch plates, along with an employee's cafeteria (starting in 1949). At the employee's cafe, a bowl of chili cost 15 cents. The total price of a hearty lunch was 47 cents!

Sadly, the department store and tea room closed in the early 1990s. Yet we are fortunate that the tea room has been recreated at the Indiana State Museum and can be enjoyed with the past in mind and a nod to the future.

My favorite things about the tea room:

1 - That it has been preserved and is part of the Indiana State Museum. The setting is fabulous, nested within the museum that borders the canal in White River State Park with fabulous views of downtown.


2 - The L.S. Ayres Tea Room, Recipes & Recollections book. This clever book blends history, recipes and photos together into a fabulous resource. I have found it very valuable in learning about my state's past. (Note: The book features historical cafe recipes, many of which could be adopted for a tea party, but it is not a "tea party" cookbook.)


Isn't this clever?! That view outside the window is a reproduction of what you would have seen - it's not real!


The tea room today. The chairs and tables are original.


The food

If you go, steep yourself in the historical significance and the ambiance. The food was tasty, but not the best I've had, and the tea was Bigelow bags. But the fact that someone thought to preserve the concept of this space, and what it meant to Indianapolis, is worth its weight in tea!

Note: Coincidentally, if anyone local subscribes to the H-T, the paper ran an article on this tearoom on Friday, 8/15.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a forward-thinking/backward-thinking thing for a city to do! Very cool!

Angela McRae said...

The downtown skyline looks beautiful! And if the L.S. Ayres people are smart, they'll hire a certain well-educated, semi-local tea lover (hint, hint) to be their tea consultant! I'm glad you could appreciate the experience, and if I'm ever in the neighborhood, let's definitely try to be "ladies who lunch!"

Angela McRae said...

I forgot to add a thank-you for supplying us with all the photos! It's so nice to go somewhere and have an idea of what's in store!

Alice said...

Ahhh, your post makes me miss our local downtown tearoom. It was THE place to have tea or lunch when I was a little girl. I always felt so grown up there.

Steph said...

I had the privilege of going with a woman who had visited the original tea room as a high school student. It was fun to hear her stories!

Anonymous said...

Hi Steph,Remember me?I talked to you a while ago about your trip to London with denise.I remember the real Ayres tearoom well.I use to take my youngest daughter there for a special treat.She was picked at an audition for a big full page ad for the Ayres Hare.A big stuffed rabbit they were selling for easter.She was standing in the middle of a huge number of them and holding as many as she could in her arms.I loved the real tearoom and took my 2 year old grandaughter the last day they were opened.The line was sooo long.Now there's no tearoom or L. S. Ayres either.How sad.I think I'll always miss the Ayres downtown store along with many others.The tearoom at the museum just isn't the same.I was so excited for them to open it but was so disappointed. Sandi

Steph said...

Hi, Sandi! Good to hear from you! Thank you for sharing your story, too!

VeeTea said...

Very cool! Miss Millie Coleman lectures and writes on a famous tearoom in Atlanta and the history of tearooms (and women) in the U.S. Fascinating stuff! So glad you got to visit.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I have such fond memories of the L.S. Ayres tea room here in my hometown.

I went there as a young girl and I took my daughter there when she was tiny.

Both L. S. Ayres and the other very upscale department store in our area had tea rooms. I miss them.

Linda said...

That is so cool! I remember shopping at L.S. Ayers.

Anonymous said...

I was looking up L. S. Ayers on the web today. I have very fond memories of going to lunch in the Tea Room in the Ayers Store at the Glenbrook Mall in Ft. Wayne, IN with my mom.

I posted a link to your blog on Facebook for my friends to see. Thank you for being so thoughtful and making the Art of Tea a feast for the eyes on you blog. Susan Meek

Anonymous said...

I use to go to the tearoom with my grandmother and I remember somehow she got recipe for their wonderful dry turkey dressing. I want that recipe so bad! Anyone out there have that recipe?? It was the best dressing you will ever taste.

hisamsmith said...

I remember going to the L.S. Tea Room with my great grandmother almost every Saturday. She and I would ride the bus downtown and she would have her hair "washed and set" for church the next day. If I was good while her hair was done we would eat at the tea room. I would always get the chicken velvet soup, a little peoples hobo lunch, and if I was really good a clown sundae. It was so special to be "grown-up" enough to eat there (I was 7 when the doors closed). I took her to eat at the museum when it opened and she loved it. Now she's gone and I take my three younger sisters to share the tradition. It's almost like Grandma is there as I teach them the manners she required to eat at the tea room.