The Legend of the Cherub Continues in 2016
By Jennifer Hanson
Downtown Indy, Inc.
It was 1946. World War II just ended and thousands returned home from military service. Among them was Virginia Holmes, a prize-winning commercial artist who came to Indianapolis to start her career in the advertising department at Downtown department store, L.S. Ayres. When it came time to compose the stores 1946 holiday catalog, merchandise was in short supply. To fill the somewhat empty pages, Holmes created whimsical cherubs. The cherubs captured hearts and began an Indianapolis holiday tradition that continues today.
The following year, Ayres’ 75th anniversary, called for a special addition to the store’s holiday plans. Not only did Ayres perpetuate the cherub’s appearance in their 1947 holiday advertising, but they also commissioned nationally recognized Indianapolis sculptor and Herron School of Art instructor, David Rubins to create a bronze cherub. The Cherub was to be placed on the store’s landmark clock, located on the outside of their building on the corner of Washington and Meridian streets.
The store is now Carson’s Department Store, which continues to honor this cherished tradition. In fact, this holiday season you’ll find the Cherub featured in Carson’s holiday window display on the corner of Meridian and Washington streets as well as featured on the 2016 holiday shopping bags.
Cherub Keeps Watch
As legend has it, the whimsical Cherub mysteriously appeared above the clock on Thanksgiving Eve 1947 to keep a watchful eye on the holiday shoppers until Santa took over on Christmas Eve. In the 69 years since, thousands have had the pleasure of seeing the Cherub perched atop the famous clock outside Carson’s each holiday season. This tradition lives in the memories of a city and its grateful citizens.
“Carson’s is honored to be a steward of the historic Cherub and continue the tradition for years to come in partnership with Downtown Indy, Inc.,” commented Jacky Howlett, store manager of Carson’s. “We hope the community will enjoy Caron’s holiday windows which feature the history and celebration of the Cherub.”
“We couldn’t be more delighted,” said Sherry Seiwert, president of Downtown Indy, Inc. “Carson’s has truly demonstrated its commitment to Downtown Indianapolis and this long-standing holiday tradition. We thank Jacky and the staff of Carson’s and Bon Ton for treating the Cherub and its history with respect, dignity and holiday joy.”
The May Department Store Co. purchased L.S. Ayres in 1986 and, in 1992, moved the Cherub to its headquarters in St. Louis. There was tremendous public outcry when the Cherub did not appear that holiday season. May donated the Cherub to the City of Indianapolis and in 1994 Downtown Indy, Inc. became the Cherub’s legal guardian. Downtown Indy, Inc. is pleased to partner with Carson’s Department Store on this tradition.
Side note: Indiana Landmarks recently campaigned to raise funds to repair the clock, which had shown incorrect times for a while. More than $60,000 was raised for a restoration and maintenance fund and the clock is in perfect condition today.
Keep an eye out… the Cherub is appearing atop the famed clock outside of Carson’s now! (Nov. 24 – Dec. 24, 2016)