Earlier in May 2022, the Beauchamp family donated the historic 13-24 Drive-In to Honeywell Arts & Entertainment. Provided image
Earlier in May 2022, the Beauchamp family donated the historic 13-24 Drive-In to Honeywell Arts & Entertainment. Provided image
Earlier this month, the Beauchamp family donated the historic 13-24 Drive In to Honeywell Arts & Entertainment.

“The nostalgic 13-24 Drive In has been a staple of summer fun for decades, said Honeywell Arts & Entertainment marketing specialist Kaitlynn Still.

In 2011, the property was acquired by the families of Mike and Angie Beauchamp and Parker and Katie Beauchamp, who partnered with Honeywell Arts & Entertainment to ensure the property remained intact and operational.

“Today, after 12 years of partnership, the Beauchamps are generously donating the ownership of the cultural icon to Honeywell, who will continue to manage the Drive In and preserve its special place in the community,” said Still, on May 6.

Still said that while owning the Drive In is new for Honeywell, operating and managing the Drive In is not.

“The Drive In has been operated by Honeywell Arts & Entertainment since it was acquired by the Beauchamps in 2011. This unique partnership was born amidst concerns about the construction of the nearby industrial park whose proximity threatened to demolish the Drive In,” said Still.

Parker Beauchamp said the Drive In was a valuable asset to the community and that tearing it down would be a major loss.

“I think communities like Wabash need so many things since they’re lacking natural resources like mountains or oceans. This (Drive In) was a unique thing that I felt was relatively cool in a world where there’s going to be streaming and it’s not the big box movie places anymore. I thought those would all fail but only the cool ones would stay, like Eagles and the Drive In,” he said.

The Honeywell Foundation oversees Honeywell Arts & Entertainment programs.

“The Honeywell board had just made a substantial commitment to acquire the Eagles Theater, so buying the Drive In was not possible at the time. But Tod and Parker agreed that if Parker could purchase the Drive In, Honeywell would run it, so Parker set about finding the money to buy it,” said Still.

Parker Beauchamp is a Wabash native and Purdue graduate who had recently moved back to Wabash at the time.

“I didn’t have any money at the time,” he said. “I had just bought and preserved our home and personally acquired what became INGUARD. So I went to my dad (Mike Beauchamp) and was like, ‘This is the deal to save the Drive In, do you want to just split it?’ And so he split it, in fact, he loaned me the half that I owed and I paid it back later that year. The worst part was the very next year, we had to buy a digital projector which was more than the cost of the Drive In.”

Honeywell Foundation president and CEO Tod Minnich was the one who had started a conversation with Parker Beauchamp about how to save the Drive In.

“It gave us the ability to operate (the Drive In) without the risk. We didn’t have to buy it. We were able to just operate it and they took on that risk and allowed us to do that,” said Honeywell Arts & Entertainment chief development officer Cathy Gatchel.

Gatchel said Honeywell “is in a perfect position” to continue running the Drive In in part because they also have the screens at the Eagles Theater to fill.

“Because we also operate the Eagles Theater, it allows the two theaters to be in symmetry. When working with the movie companies, it makes more sense if you have a bit of a scale and have more than one screen,” said Gatchel.

After purchasing the Drive In in 2011, Parker Beauchamp continued to invest in the Drive In. He involved INGUARD, “his Wabash-based insurance company with a flair for innovation,” where he serves as CEO.

“We made gifts to do improvements,” said Parker Beauchamp. “We volunteered out there many times. We did in-service days where we’d go out there and paint or do stuff like that with the company.”

Later, Parker Beauchamp decided to make the Drive In free for children under 12. Since then, he and INGUARD have paid the ticket price for 50,000 children.

Still said by donating the Drive In to Honeywell Arts & Entertainment, “the Beauchamps are showing yet again this characteristic generosity which Parker credits to growing up in the Honeywell community.”

“I think there are many disciples of Mark Honeywell in Wabash and beyond,” said Parker Beauchamp. “We all grew up in this very generous community, it gives almost double the national average of the household income to charitable causes and there’s this huge volunteerism ethic in the county. Growing up in that, being around that, helped build my ethos.”

Besides the Drive-In, Parker Beauchamp has been heavily involved in revitalizing downtown Wabash and other economic growth initiatives.

“That was the whole goal, to try to work for INGUARD, and buy INGUARD, and run INGUARD, and use all the proceeds from INGUARD to try to help the community – and vice versa. Hopefully, an organization like INGUARD would get notoriety for that and people would give INGUARD contracts. That was the whole design, that was my childhood dream, that was my whole life’s plan. I think it was just kind of built into my ethos. I really wanted the community to be in demand. I don’t know that I got it done, but I tried,” said Parker Beauchamp.

In April 2021, the property was officially recognized by the National Register of Historic Places after a meeting of the Indiana Historical Preservation Review Board. The 13-24 Drive-In Movie Theater was approved for addition to the state and national registers after the meeting held at the Westfield City Hall Assembly Room.

During the meeting, architectural historian Holly Tate recommended the property for inclusion, which opened in 1951 on 17 acres on Wabash’s northeast side and is currently operated by the Honeywell Foundation.

“The drive-in features its original concessions and ticket sales buildings, as well as its large, iconic neon and tracer bulb-lit highway sign, original driveway lights and car speakers,” said Tate. “The massive outdoor screen overlooks 13 rows for automobile parking and a playground for children. The concessions building is centered in the parking area. Internally lit signs with row numbers are located at the north end of the parking rows at the entry drive. Driveway lighting also extends along with the entry and exit drives.”

Tate said rows of car window speakers extend along the front edge of each parking row.

“An exit drive connects all of the parking drives and exits the grounds onto the state highway south of the entry and large sign. A playground with metal play structures is located just west of the exit drive,” said Tate.

Tate said the theater was eligible for inclusion “for its demonstration of evolving forms of recreation.”

“With the explosion of outdoor movie theaters in the 1950s, and their subsequent demise, the 13-24 Drive-In is an exceptionally well-preserved example with nearly all its buildings and structures extant,” said Tate.

Tate said “because of the rarity of the resources” the property also qualified for architecture.

Board member Jason Larrison said there had been a duplicate of the theater’s sign in Columbus, but that one had “unfortunately been torn down.”

Tate said there were around 10 other drive-in theaters included on the state’s registry, but that the 13-24 Drive-In Movie Theater was the one that was best preserved.

For this effort, the Beauchamps received an Indiana Historic Preservation Award.
Copyright © 2022 Wabash Plain Dealer