1988: Tee Pee restaurant comes tumbling down

Posted at 5:30 AM, Jun 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-15 05:30:04-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Despite being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Indy’s famed Tee Pee restaurant met its demise 35 years ago.

Built in 1939, the Tee Pee restaurant stood at the corner of 38th Street and Fall Creek Parkway, serving as a landmark for travelers across the Hoosier state.

With items like the Big Chief and Big Teep burgers, the popular restaurant operated up until October 10, 1984, when the Indiana State Fair Board terminated its lease agreement.

At the time, a fair board representative told former WRTV reporter Derrik Thomas the board wanted to look at all options.

“We would love to find an operator to make it a viable part of the community," the board said. "Unfortunately, the last few operators that we’ve had, we’ve had a very bad experience with them not living up to the contractual agreements. I think the Fair Board would like to reassess the whole situation.”

Supporters hoping to save the building managed to get it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

That same year, retired state fair manager Estel Callahan voiced his support of demolition during a fair board meeting.

“It’s had its day," Callahan said. "As a young man, I cherished it. I went there as a single young man. But I’d rather live in the happy memories of what it was than to see the deplorable condition it’s in now. And I don’t see anyone pouring money into a building at that location.”

After the meeting, the board voted to delay demolition decision for a year while a developer sought, but one was never found and the Tee Pee was razed on June 21, 1988.