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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Crescent City key part of local nomenclature

To say that Evansville looks like it does because of the Ohio River would be an understatement. The gentle horseshoe bend that straddled the original town became its economic heart for transportation, commerce, and drinking water. The image of that bend from the esplanade of Riverside Drive is the same visage our grandparents saw from Dress Plaza, when they watched LSTs, or tank landing ships, roll downstream in the 1940s. Their own grandparents saw the old paddlewheel excursion steamers with their calliopes and colorful characters.

The shape of the river — that crescent — has also played a role in the city’s development in terms of nomenclature and commercial image.“Business art,” which describes signage, symbols, and advertising, has used the crescent image since the records of Evansville commerce began.

The Crescent City Brewery, for instance, was founded in Evansville in 1858, according to the Hoosier Beer Story website.

The Aug. 18, 1890, special edition of the Evansville Journal gave its readers a glimpse of the businesses in the community and an overview of the “Men of Affairs,” as they were then called. In 1871, businessman Charles Reimer started the Crescent Steam Laundry. The enterprising Reimer also started the Crescent Cigar Box factory. Cigars were one of the city’s specialty products, and the Charles Denby cigar was named for the political celebrity, an Evansville native.

John Klenck established the Crescent City Feed store in 1876. The Crescent Furniture Company was founded in 1889. The furniture store manufactured bedroom, dining, and kitchen furniture, the Evansville Journal said. Evansville, at the time, was experiencing a boom in the furniture industry because of the amount of raw timber in the area. The Ohio River and railroads were also able to ship the finished products.

The area was dotted with coal mines, coal being the fuel for industry and home heating during the 19th century. The Crescent Coal Company was started by politician John K. Jennings, a Democrat who ran for mayor several times. He was never elected.

Records show in 1922 that Robert Eckler, a career telegraph company officer with Western Union, purchased an automobile dealership selling Maxwell Motor Cars, one of the stylish cars of the Jazz Age. He named his dealership the Crescent Automobile Company. A newspaper article from June 12, 1925, extols his business acumen, reporting that Eckler increased his vehicle sales from 250 cars in 1922 to 1,200 cars in 1925. Eckler was able to hire a fleet of salesmen at Crescent to handle mundane details, as he spent most of his time at the “country club playing 18 holes,” according to the article.

The 20th century saw frequent use of the crescent from Crescent Plastics (now Crescent-Cresline Wabash) to the Crescent Dry Cleaners (whose blue signs were landmarks around the city at one time). Crescent Dry Cleaners is now owned by Pearl Laundry and Cleaners, but the old blue crescent sign is still at the 2712 Lincoln Ave. location. Meanwhile, Crescent Liquors and Crescent City Aviation were both owned by William Dorr. In 1947, Dorr flew one of his planes around the Downtown area, bombing the urban crowds on Main Street with free movie tickets celebrating Evansville’s 100th anniversary as a chartered city. Dorr would, 20 years later, crash at North Park Shopping Center in a helicopter, ferrying his friend Bill Bretz, who was dressed as Santa Claus. Both men were killed (see Evansville Living November/December 2012).

Today, one of the most recognizable uses of the Crescent name is Keller-Crescent, a longstanding pharmaceutical packaging and printing business in Evansville. Additionally, the University of Evansville Crescent Magazine, a student publication, carries the long Crescent tradition into the 21st century.

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