Gatling Gun Club building set for auction

November 10, 2010

The historic Gatling Gun Club building on North Illinois Street in downtown Indianapolis is set to be sold at a 2 p.m. auction Wednesday.

The sale follows the closing earlier this year of the men’s private club, which had struggled to attract younger members in recent years. Founded in 1910, the club is named for Richard J. Gatling, a city resident who invented the famous rapid-fire gun in 1861. He died in 1903.

With a reproduction of a Gatling gun on the porch and tall, white pillars dominating the front of the three-story structure, the relic from the past looks out of place among the downtown landscape surrounding it.

auction The former Gatling Gun Club at 709 N. Illinois St. is being sold at auction.(IBJ Photo/Perry Reichanadter)

“When the building was constructed, it was considered on the outskirts of downtown,” said Matt Gallivan of locally based Gallivan Auctioneers, which will conduct the sale. “It’s definitely an interesting building.”

Indeed, it was built as a residence in 1850. The porch and pillars were added in the 1920s after the gun club purchased the building in 1919. The structure was widened in 1962 and a patio added to the rear of the building in 1995.

The 8,000-square-foot building, owned by club membership, has not been appraised recently, so Gallivan has no idea how much it might fetch at auction. A 19,000-square-foot parking lot across the street also will be auctioned, either with the building or separately.

The local office of Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis listed the building and parking lot for about six months at $950,000, to no avail.

“This is a group whose membership is aging and costs are going up dramatically, and frankly needed an exit strategy to be out of their real estate by the end of the year,” said Donna Hovey, vice president of retail sales and leasing for CBRE.

Both Gallivan and Hovey said they’ve fielded several calls about the property, which likely is best suited for residential development, said Jim Crossin, vice president of development for Flaherty & Collins. Residential properties are faring better than retail right now in the downtown market, Crossin said.

For example, the Cosmopolitan on the Canal project, developed by Flaherty & Collins, has leased all but two of 218 residential units. Yet, 16,500 square feet of accompanying retail space sits vacant.

“The most active development product in the city is multifamily,” Crossin said. “Retail is very slow.”
The gun club’s location, at 709 N. Illinois St., however, is “less than ideal,” Crossin said, because it’s not in a neighborhood setting such as Massachusetts Avenue.

Hovey said the home is a “well-positioned piece of real estate” near the Cultural Trail.

The decision to sell the building was very difficult for the dwindling  membership of the gun club, whose average age is well into the 70s, Hovey said.

Members closed the bar and kitchen, which once served lunch and dinner, before the building went on the market.

Though male-only private clubs are becoming a remnant of a simpler time, when fewer activities vied for their time, a few still exist downtown. They include the Antelope Club at 615 N. Delaware St. and the University Club at 970 N. Delaware St.

The Gatling gun is one of the best-known early rapid-fire weapons and a forerunner of the modern machine gun. It was first used in the Civil War.


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