Please note that this text-only version, provided for ease of printing and reading, includes more than 100 pages and may take up to 15 minutes to print. By clicking on one of these links, you may go directly to a particular text-only section:
Capital at the Crossroads of America Essay
Ethnic Indy Essay
Feel the Need for Speed in Inday
George Edward Kessler and the Park System Essay
Go Diagonal Essay
Going in Circles Essay
Monumental Indy Essay
Neighborhoods in a City of Homes Essay
List of Sites
Maps (must be printed separately)
The National Park Service's Heritage Education Services and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology in partnership with the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers proudly invite you to explore Indianapolis, capital of Indiana, the Hoosier State. This Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary highlights 59 historic places listed in the National Register of Historic Places that bring the history of Indianapolis to life.
The Indianapolis travel itinerary offers several ways to discover the city’s historic places:
• Descriptions of each featured historic place on the List of Sites highlight its significance including color photographs and information on how to visit.
• Essays with background on important themes in the city’s development offer context for understanding historic places featured in the itinerary. Visitors can read about Indianapolis —Capital at the Crossroads of America , Ethnic Indy, Go Diagonal, Going in Circles, Neighborhoods in a City of Homes, Monumental Indianapolis, Feel the Need for Speed in Indy, and George Edward Kessler and the Park System.
• Maps to help plan a visit.
• A Learn More section provides links to such information as cultural events and activities, other things to see and do, and dining and lodging possibilities. This section also provides a bibliography.
View the itinerary online or print it as a guide if you plan to visit in person. The Indianapolis itinerary, the 44th in this ongoing series, is part of the Department of the Interior’s strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage visits to historic places throughout the nation. The itineraries are created by a partnership of the National Park Service; the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers; and federal, state, and local governments and private organizations in communities, regions, and heritage areas throughout the United States. The itineraries help people everywhere learn about and plan trips to visit the amazing diversity of this country’s historic places that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service and its partners hope you enjoy this itinerary and others in the series. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on the “comments or questions” at the bottom of each page.
Capital at the Crossroads of America
Shortly after Congress established the Hoosier State in 1816, the Indiana General Assembly saw the need to move the capital from southern Indiana to a more central location. Indianapolis was founded in 1821 to fill this need. The capital city grew well beyond expectations to become a major site for automotive breakthroughs, urban and suburban planning, sports, literature, the fine arts, and biotech innovations. The National Register of Historic Places recognizes historic places that represent nearly all the historically significant trends that have shaped this, the 13th largest city and second largest state capital in the United States.
Long before European Americans claimed the land, the marshy site at the confluence of the White River and Fall Creek was home to mound building cultures. The Delaware, Miami, and Wea tribes traded, hunted, and lived here. Following the War of 1812, the U.S. Government secured the Treaty of St. Marys in 1818, opening central Indiana to European American settlement. Legislator Jeremiah Sullivan proposed the name “Indianapolis” to the General Assembly during discussions of the new capital. Planners met at McCormick’s Cabin Site on the banks of the White River to discuss the project.
The legislature wanted the capital to have good access to transportation hoping the White River would be navigable by the new flat-bottomed steamboats, but this proved impossible. Overland transportation would be via the proposed National Road, which played a significant role in early development. The National Road became Washington Street as it passed through town linking the capital to the outside world until railroads reached the city. Michigan Road became the main north-south land route of this early era, connecting Indianapolis to Madison, Indiana, on the Ohio River and Michigan City on Lake Michigan.
The plat of Indianapolis would be like no other in the new “western” lands. The General Assembly hired Alexander Ralston, who assisted Pierre L’Enfant in designing the nation's capital, to plan the new town. Ralston’s 1821 plan, which was a mile square, reflects the heritage of L’Enfant’s Washington, DC, with its central circle, radiating streets, and zoned usage of building sites for the Statehouse, a county courthouse, a city market, and other civic buildings.
The city grew gradually, as residents and merchants built more and more vernacular wood-framed houses and stores, but early transportation efforts continued to meet with frustration. As part of the Internal Improvement Act of 1836, the General Assembly planned a great canal to link to the Wabash & Erie Canal, but only a few segments were completed before bankruptcy ended the scheme. Indianapolis had fewer than 8,000 residents in 1847 when workers for the Indianapolis & Madison Railroad finished the line to town. Steel rails delivered the promised development that rivers and canals could not. Within five years, seven different lines met in Indianapolis. The rail firms combined resources to build a Union Station, the first of its kind in the nation. The existing Union Station is the late 19th-century descendant of that pioneering building.
The economy of Indianapolis at first revolved around agriculture, especially grain mills, pork-packing plants and wool mills. With railroad access to coal and the discovery of natural gas deposits in the 1880s, industrialists located foundries, machine shops and, railroad-related shops here. Street railways began in the mid-19th century and interurbans, light, electric, self-propelled rail cars that ran within and between cities, connected Indy’s streets and surrounding farms as early as the 1890s.
With plenty of land on which to build, developers and owners favored single-family homes over the densely packed row houses of eastern cities. Lockerbie Square best illustrates pre-Civil War Indianapolis. Its closely-spaced frame cottages and brick houses reflect the age when most people walked and, if they could afford it, rode a horse or carriage. Streetcars fueled land speculation, especially after the Civil War. Areas like Woodruff Place, Irvington, and Herron—Morton Place satisfied middle and upper class home owners, while satellite commercial areas like the Virginia Avenue Historic District and Massachusetts Avenue Historic District served dwellers on the edge of town.
On the eve of the 20th century, carriage makers began to experiment with the idea of adding internal combustion engines to their wooden contraptions. Hoosiers embraced the auto age with a passion. By 1909, Indy had 17 auto and auto parts makers in town. Thousands of workers cranked out luxury cars like Marmon, Cole, Stutz, and Duesenberg from the city’s factories. The most visible reminders of the city’s auto legacy are the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the industrial suburb of Speedway. Speedway also became home to a national aerospace industry, Allison Division of General Motors, now merged with Rolls Royce.
Development of the automobile and changing attitudes toward recreation and civic spaces led Indianapolis residents to debate the creation of a parks and boulevards plan. Renowned German American landscape architect George Edward Kessler helped create the Indianapolis Parks and Boulevard System, one of the best preserved of its kind in the nation.
Auto sports mirrored the enthusiasm for other sports in Indy. Germans brought their unique attitudes to town, represented by their gymnastic clubs called Turnvereins. Das Deutsche Haus, now The Athenaeum, is a prime example. Basketball, another Indiana obsession, began in makeshift spaces, but more permanent facilities like Butler Fieldhouse were soon constructed. While the Pacers basketball franchise approaches 40, and the Colts football team has resided in Indianapolis for just over 20 years, the athletic traditions behind these teams date back a century or more.
Civic improvement was on the minds of state and local leaders in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Examples from Washington, DC and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago sparked public support for the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza Historic District. Indiana limestone was the building material of choice for these grand monuments.
Indianapolis has a rich, long history in the arts. Literary greats James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, and Meredith Nicholson were nationally published along with other Indiana authors. Perhaps Indiana’s interest in literature explains Indy’s many excellent libraries, including Central Library, as well as the Indiana State Library. Indiana is unique in having a major American Impressionist art movement named for it. Indianapolis was the epicenter of the Hoosier School; the John Herron Art Institute in the Herron—Morton Historic District was the major college for fine art. Irvington was the address of choice for most Indianapolis artists of the early 20th century. African Americans distinguished Indianapolis in the performing arts. Indiana Avenue and the Walker Theatre offered venues for jazz greats like Wes Montgomery. The reputation of “the Avenue” drew performers well into the 1960s.
Attractions abound in present day Indy. Many are comparatively new, such as the world champion Indianapolis Colts, the new Indiana State Museum, or Circle Centre Mall but have roots in the past. The biotech industry in Indianapolis also has deep historical roots. Located on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the National Historic Landmark Oldfields, was the home of J.K. Lilly, Jr., leader of Eli Lilly and Company in the early to mid 1900s. J.K.’s father, Eli, began his pharmaceutical company in the 19th century. Today, Lilly and Company is a worldwide enterprise and remains one of the city’s major employers.
Eli Lilly’s interests in art and culture also have continued to have an impact on Indianapolis. Lilly established Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, a private non profit group that fosters historic preservation. In the 1960s and early 70s, redevelopment threatened many landmarks. Citizen concern led to creation of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. The commission administers community plans and reviews alterations in many historic neighborhoods and districts, including most of the districts in this itinerary. The 60s and 70s also saw the rise of grassroots preservation groups, such as the Woodruff Place Civic League. The Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology has worked with all these groups to obtain National Register of Historic Places designations in the city and other preservation incentives. Today, preservation advocates have a voice in city and state business in Indianapolis. The city continues to support a revitalized downtown and has dozens of historic neighborhoods. Indianapolis is working to preserve its heritage for residents and visitors alike to enjoy while attracting new sports events, conventions, and business ventures to the capital at the crossroads.
Twenty-first century Indianapolis has a vibrant, diverse population. Anywhere in town, it’s not uncommon to find yourself listening to Spanish, English, Japanese, Hindi, German, or French. You can also still hear a distant echo of the Hoosier accent in many voices. This is the same one James Whitcomb Riley recorded in his rural-inspired poetry. Pharmaceutical interests, racing or auto companies, and better economic opportunities have brought people here from many places. Hoosiers celebrate their ethnic roots.
Indianapolis also had a measure of diversity at its founding in 1821. Following the Delaware and other native peoples, the first settlers were mostly Scots-Irish descendants from the Upland South, as well as people from Pennsylvania and Ohio. Alexander Ralston’s survey team included Cheney Lively Britton, an African American. The team platted the original Mile Square of downtown Indianapolis. Anglo Americans from the Upland South dominated the population into the 1860s, though it was a curious blend of Yankee New Englanders, Pennsylvania Dutch, and farmers and tradesmen from the South.
Indianapolis developed a sizable community of African Americans before the Civil War. Several existing churches have origins in the 1840s. Prejudice, legitimized by restrictive state laws, long remained a great impediment to African Americans. At first the near south side of downtown was home to many black residents. By the 1880s, most had moved to the Indiana Avenue area. Indiana Avenue was also the center of the black commercial district, mainly because segregation was an unwritten rule throughout the city. In the 1920s, this part of town became well known for its jazz scene.
The advent of the railroads brought thousands of people to Indianapolis and further broadened its once isolated outlook. Most notably, families from the German States were flocking to Middle America. By 1850, they constituted just over 12 percent of the population of Indianapolis. They remained in the 20 percent range of the population throughout the 19th century. The Germans shook the political and cultural life of the town with their song, dance, and arts. They sided with the abolitionists. Many Germans were also Catholic or Jewish, bringing a new outlook on things for the Protestant upland southerners. The Germans did not surrender their language; instead, they taught it in schools, printed it in papers, and carved it on their buildings.
Ireland was another significant source of settlers in the mid-1800s. The promise of steady jobs digging the Central Canal and building the National Road attracted Irish families to stay. They founded their own Catholic parishes. Later, Irish leaders began to shape politics in the town. Seven Indianapolis mayors have had Irish ancestry.
The late 19th century brought industrialization and a demand for labor. Social unrest in many southern or eastern European nations also brought a new wave of immigration. Italians, Slovenes, Greeks, and other groups sought jobs and better lives in neighborhoods like Haughville and Fountain Square. Indianapolis was still primarily Anglo American in the 1890s, however, the influx of Eastern and Southern Europeans, Germans, and African Americans had changed the town.
As the economic means of these groups increased, the need to stay in the neighborhoods where they had originally settled became obsolete. By the interwar years, Indy’s ethnic enclaves were already weakening. German was banned from public schools, and inscriptions in the language were erased or covered. Successful Irish, Italian, German Jewish, and German families moved away from traditional areas to the suburbs as their labors brought wealth and assimilation. While black congregations stayed put, the families often found newer homes outside of the Indiana Avenue vicinity.
Oppression increased in the 1920s. David Curtis Stephenson had revitalized the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana and moved to Indianapolis. Now rich with membership funds and bribes, he and his cohorts held sway in the Statehouse and City Hall. Under a cloak of Americanism, Stephenson and his Klan supported segregated schools and harassed Catholics and other “foreign” peoples. Stephenson was arrested and convicted of second degree murder in 1925 after an incident with a Statehouse clerk. His implication of other Klan leaders ended their reign, but not the discrimination.
Civil rights advocates pressed for change in Indianapolis in the 1950s and ‘60s. Following Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, Robert Kennedy was in town campaigning for the presidency. He made a significant speech at a park at 17th and Broadway, urging a peaceful response. Indianapolis avoided the riots and violence that troubled many other Midwestern cities thanks to its African American leaders and Kennedy’s calming speech.
Indiana is now experiencing its largest cultural change since the late 19th century, as thousands of people from Mexico or Central and South America seek the opportunity and stability afforded by living in the Midwest. A Mexican consulate opened in downtown Indianapolis in 2002. More than 34,000 persons of Hispanic descent lived in the city by 2002. This latest chapter in the ethnic heritage of Indianapolis is still in the making.
Feel the Need for Speed in Indy
Transportation was the reason Indianapolis was founded. Legislators thought establishing the capital at a central location with good access to all parts of the state would serve both local and national ambitions. The goal of improving transportation never subsided and has had an impact on every era of the city’s growth. Beyond just getting there from here, transportation affected the way Indianapolis developed, industrialized, and even the way the city planned parks.
In the beginning, planners hoped that a strong combination of the National Road, Michigan Road, river travel, and canal trade would bolster the economy. George Washington had suggested construction of a road from the Northwest Territory to the eastern United States. Thomas Jefferson signed the legislation for the National Road in 1806, and construction began in Cumberland, Maryland, in 1811. From 1827 to 1834, workers completed the 156-mile route across Indiana. A large number of Indiana’s 90,000 new settlers each year traveled the National Road. Alexander Ralston’s 1821 plat of Indianapolis named the road Washington Street as it passed through town. This made Washington the main commercial street, a distinction still seen in the Washington Street-Monument Circle Historic District. The National Road also spurred development of villages within Marion County, such as Cumberland.
Indiana had federal backing to hire contractors for the Michigan Road, which slashed diagonally across Indiana. Eventually, toll companies took over the Michigan Road. A tollhouse and the Aston Inn remain on Michigan Road from this early era. With all their baggage and wagons, pioneer families could hope to make 5 to 10 miles a day on these early roads.
The Indianapolis & Madison Railroad arrived in Indianapolis in 1847, linking the capital more firmly to the national economy. In some cases, the railroads sapped the vitality of the city’s early wagon and carriage roads. New Augusta, an intact railroad village, is a good example of changing fortunes due to changing transportation routes.
In 1853, Union Station was built to handle all the rail lines coming into Indianapolis. The site of this Union Station became, in 1888, a new landmark Union Station and a symbol of the city’s status as a major rail center. The area along South Meridian and Illinois Streets became home to businesses that sold rail-shipped goods. Today, this area is called Indianapolis Union Station—Wholesale Historic District, or, just simply the Wholesale District. One locomotive from the steam rail era is on display near Indianapolis, Nickel Plate No. 587, a light Mikado-class freight hauler. This 300,900 pound locomotive could haul a full load of coal and cars at about 30 to 40 mph, depending on load, grade, and line conditions.
In 1894, Indiana entered the auto age when Elwood Haynes of Kokomo rumbled down a back road in his home-engineered gasoline-powered carriage. Indianapolis carriage makers soon were fiddling with their light carriage designs, devising ways of adding internal combustion engines to them. By 1910, Indianapolis was a city of over 233,000, and already had 17 automobile plants or auto parts manufacturers making it fourth in the nation in auto production. By the ‘teens, Ford and the Detroit factories had outstripped Indianapolis, but local makers found another niche – the luxury auto. Cole, Stutz, Duesenberg, and Marmon were brands known internationally. Cole cars of the 1920s, for example, were better known for their excellent fit and finish than for their speed and affordability. A typical Cole sedan had a top speed of about 60 mph and cost about 4 thousand dollars, the average price of a decent single family house in Indianapolis at the time.
Auto magnate Carl Fisher and a group of fellow auto industrialists built the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909. Fisher’s initial purpose for the 2½ mile oval was as a test facility for automobile engineering and safety. Testing would be by way of grueling competition. In 1911, Fisher and business partner James Allison established the first 500 Mile Race. Ray Harroun, driving a locally made Marmon Wasp, won the first race with a breakneck average speed of 74.59 mph. Along with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Allison and Fisher planned the industrial suburb of Speedway, just south of the track. Many residents of Speedway worked in the auto industries there, including Fisher's Prest-O-Lite auto headlight and battery plant. Allison was also interested in aircraft engines, and workers at his Allison Experimental Company produced the Liberty engine during World War I. Allison Experimental became the Allison Division of General Motors.
In the 1920s and 30s, plant engineers invented the V-1710 engine, which, with improvements, powered the Tomahawk, Lightening, and Air Cobra fighters during World War II. The P-40 Tomahawk with its Indianapolis-made piston engine could cruise at about 300 mph, approximately the speed current Indy Cars reach on the front stretch at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! The Allison firm continued to make history with new jet engines in the late 1940s and 1950s. Allison merged with Rolls Royce in 1995, but the tradition continues. Very likely, as you read this, a Rolls Royce/Allison-powered aircraft is breaking Mach 1 somewhere.
The need to accommodate the auto helped shape the built environment in Indianapolis. Carl Fisher promoted the idea of a “Dixie Highway,” now U.S. 31, to connect north and south. Indianapolis auto entrepreneurs popularized the suburban Cold Springs Road area, overlooking White River, and built impressive estates there. The Allison and Frank Wheeler estates are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The 1925 Test Building is another unique response to the auto age, with its built-in parking garage.
Making room for the auto age even extended to park planning in Indianapolis. In 1909, in his plan for the Indianapolis Park and Boulevard System, George Edward Kessler called for sweeping auto pleasure drives following the meandering creeks of Central Indiana to connect all parts of Indianapolis. Driving the park and boulevard system is an excellent and leisurely way to experience Indianapolis, but please pay attention to the posted speed limits. After all, you’re not in the Indy 500!
George Edward Kessler and the Park System
Including over 3,400 acres of parkland, planned boulevards, and six major bridges, the National Register of Historic Places listing for the Indianapolis Park & Boulevard System is one of the largest of its kind. Visitors today can experience amenities ranging from two golf courses to bicycle routes, swimming, and simply driving the parkways.
When Alexander Ralston mapped out the Mile Square plat of Indianapolis in 1821, he did not include parks. Military Park was originally a militia training grounds, and shortly after the Civil War, businessman George Merritt installed a badge-shaped walk and fountains for it. University Park was the home of the Marion County Seminary, and it served as such for years before becoming a city park in the 1870s.
Indianapolis grew rapidly in the late 19th century, and the city needed more parks for its citizens. Volunteer park efforts were inadequate. In 1880, the city’s population was more than 102,000, but by 1900, it exceeded 197,000. City consultations with landscape architect Joseph Earnshaw in 1894 led to consideration of a broader system of parks. In 1895, the City Council created a Park Commission. Shortly thereafter, the commission brought John C. Olmsted on board to create a full plan. Both the Earnshaw and Olmsted plans focused on parks lining White River and Fall Creek.
Legal challenges to the Olmsted plan ended its viability within a few years, though city parks director J. Clyde Power began to improve Riverside Park and oversaw construction of the first stone bridges over White River and Fall Creek. Little funding was available for other parks, and the city still had no overall plan. Most residents wanted parks in their own areas, not just on one side of town. Concerns about where parks were needed, legal disputes, and escalating land values threatened the whole parks movement.
George Edward Kessler stepped into this politically charged situation in 1908. Kessler was one of the preeminent landscape architects in the United States. Born in 1862 in Bad Frankenhausen, Germany, he came with his family to the United States in the mid-1860s. The Kesslers lived in Dallas, Texas, when George was a child. In 1878, George returned to Germany and studied forestry, botany, and landscape design at the Grand Ducal Gardens in Weimar, and civil engineering at the University of Jena. He came back and established his office in St. Louis quickly building an excellent reputation. His impressive plans for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, and his other city park plans – for Cincinnati and Kansas City among others – were probably foremost in the minds of Indianapolis leaders when they selected him to develop a plan for the park system.
Kessler’s Indianapolis plan is among the best known of his city park system plans. His genius did not lie in simply designing a sound plan from an engineering and aesthetic point of view, but in implementing the plan in a way that quelled opposition and united the city. In 1909, after a year’s worth of study, Kessler presented his Park and Boulevard Plan to the city. It was adopted, and along with a new parks law, withstood legal challenges. A combination of the City Beautiful and the city practical, Kessler’s plan included major regional parks on every side of town, along with a comprehensive parkway system. The plan combines parks with green spaces and boulevards in a network of transportation and recreation corridors that help guide urban growth, preserve the environment, protect water from pollution, and provide flood control.
Kessler gave each of the major parks its own character. For Garfield Park, he designed formal sunken gardens with spray fountains. Ellenberger Park would maintain its old tree stands and natural paths. In the heart of the city, Kessler redesigned University Park, with formal paths and a recommendation for a central fountain. The meandering routes of his parkways would create foils to the relentless grid of subdivisions.
The very waterways which Earnshaw, Power, Olmsted, Kessler, and Lawrence Sheridan, who followed Kessler, hoped to celebrate were the only significant natural barrier to development. Power and Kessler especially disliked the 19th century metal truss bridges crossing Fall Creek and White River and began their replacement with artistic stone and concrete arch spans.
Kessler guided the Park Commission for six years until 1915. A good portion of the system had been surveyed and constructed by then. The city hired Kessler once again in the 1920s. He was in town, supervising construction of a new belt road, when he died in 1923. The new belt road was named Kessler Boulevard in his honor.
Lawrence Sheridan had the unenviable task of following up on Kessler’s grand scheme. Sheridan matriculated from Purdue University and later attended Harvard School of Landscape Architecture. Sheridan implemented the Kessler idea over several decades. He had served on the Park Commission and became the city planner for Indianapolis after Kessler’s death. In 1928, Sheridan unveiled an expanded version of the Kessler Plan, one which created new parks and parkways in the farthest reaches of the county. Sheridan’s efforts in Indianapolis continued past his brief service in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II.
The work of Kessler and Sheridan laid the foundation for much of Indy’s park planning well into the 20th century. The parkway system took on new life as part of the Indy Greenways system in the 1990s, a series of linked pedestrian and bicycle trails. City efforts to revitalize parks led to a landmark restoration of the sunken gardens at Garfield Park in the late 1990s. The City of Indianapolis Parks Department officially recognized the importance of the park movement legacy in 2003. The Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, the State Historic Preservation Office, worked with consultants to prepare an 80-page National Register of Historic Places nomination with complete mapping that summarized a century of park development. Restoration and preservation of the system is ongoing and involves a dialogue between transportation engineers, park planners, trail enthusiasts, citizens, preservationists, and conservationists.
Alexander Ralston’s 1821 plan for Indianapolis created diagonal avenues radiating from the center of Ralston's Mile Square. Two of these diagonal streets, Virginia Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue, were continued by later speculators and became outlying commercial areas with residential development in their corridors. Kentucky Avenue, running to the southwest, connected with major routes to southwestern Indiana. Indiana Avenue, running northwest, was home to the African American community. Today, each of the surviving diagonal avenues retains its own character.
The diagonal streets of Indianapolis became known for their odd, flatiron-shaped buildings, ethnic character, and vibrant satellite commercial strips. They gave, and continue to give, a unique identity to Indianapolis. Unfortunately, to later city planners more concerned with auto traffic than urban character, the diagonal streets meant headaches and traffic jams.
To the detriment of some of the city’s best examples of flatiron architecture, redevelopers found a ready ear from many when it came to eliminating sections of the diagonals. The magnificent Lincoln Hotel was an early victim in the 1970s, when a new bank plaza and hotel resulted in the loss of part of Kentucky Avenue. The 1970s Hyatt Regency building at the intersection of Washington Street and Kentucky Avenue, where the flatiron Lincoln once sat, “memorializes” the diagonal street and its triangular masses. The revolving restaurant at the top offers great views. A further section of Kentucky Avenue was lost to the RCA Dome in the early 1980s. A portion of Indiana Avenue has been gone since the 1980s when the American United Life tower was constructed.
In the early and mid 20th century, Indiana Avenue was the heart of the African American community. Visitors would have found the streets teeming with life and, at night, the air laced with jazz music drifting through nightclub doors. As society gradually changed and the black community won hard fought opportunities to prosper elsewhere, the avenue declined. The surviving portions of Indiana Avenue have made a dramatic resurgence in recent decades. Several historic buildings anchor Indiana Avenue. The Madame C. J. Walker Building with its Walker Theatre, itself a flatiron, is at 617 Indiana Avenue right on the diagonal.
Virginia Avenue, by contrast, built upon its transportation roots. This avenue was the terminus of several important roads connecting the city to southeastern Indiana. By the 1870s, Virginia Avenue and Fountain Square were satellite commercial areas to downtown Indianapolis. Virginia Avenue and the square were also entertainment districts. On a typical 1920s or 1940s Saturday night here, a visitor would find couples hurrying to catch a movie at one of many theaters, eating at a diner, or bowling. Many folks would just be strolling, enjoying the flashing theater marquees and the old fountain at the intersection of Virginia, Shelby, and Prospect. The Fletcher Place Historic District borders Virginia Avenue.
Massachusetts Avenue was also a transportation corridor where several trolley lines converged on their way in and out of downtown. Mass Ave was a bustling place during the early to mid-20th century. Groceries, laundries, and offices served the surrounding neighborhoods. Clothing stores drew shoppers from the city as a whole. Institutions gave Massachusetts Avenue a distinct character. The Germans built their largest clubhouse in town, Das Deutsche Haus, here in the 1890s. The Murat Shriners constructed an exotic Middle Eastern-inspired fraternal lodge complex on Mass Ave in the early 1900s. These institutions still survive.
Today, the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District; Chatham—Arch Historic District, which includes part of Mass Ave; and the Virginia Avenue Historic District are home to generations-old businesses, art and antique shops, diners, new independent restaurants, night clubs, coffee shops, and more. Bring your pocketbook, and walking and bowling shoes for a journey down Indy’s diagonal streets!
Going in Circles
Monument Circle is the heart of Indianapolis. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is dramatic, with its overwhelming scale and lavish sculpture, and the buildings lining the circle provide a rich backdrop with their own sense of place and beauty. In 1821, Alexander Ralston did not specify land uses in his plan for the circle, other than for the center of the circle, which was to be the governor’s residence. Until the 1860s, many lots on the circle were owned by churches. Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Episcopalians all built simple frame chapels facing the circle. Only the Episcopal church remains today; Christ Church Cathedral is a stone Gothic Revival sanctuary dating from the 1860s. Gradually, the congregations found their members living farther and farther away, with office and commercial uses crowding out their church buildings. Merchants bought up the church sites. Contractors began construction on the State Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the 1880s, and in time, its limestone obelisk rose above its surroundings. The completion of the monument in 1902 made the circle a civic space. The circle’s gradual transformation into a business, commercial, and civic core was complete.
Architects of several generations have had to contend with fitting their design concepts into a concave footprint to match the radius of the circle. Early architects chose to ignore the radius and placed conventional buildings at a tangent to the circle. By the 1870s and 80s, however, the freedom of expression that came with cast-iron fronts allowed builders to warp façades easily. One of the best remembered buildings on the circle, the English Hotel, filled a quarter-radius of the circle with its Italianate/Queen Anne façade. The English Hotel succumbed to progress after World War II. A Penney’s store replaced it with a Modernist curving blank limestone curtain wall. Eventually, Penney’s vacated the store, and a Postmodern façade now fills the northwest quadrant of Monument Circle.
Indiana limestone became the most popular building material for the new generation of buildings lining Monument Circle. The Guaranty and Test Buildings, both from the 1920s, occupy portions of the southwestern quadrant. These two show the refinement and quality of Monument Circle’s architecture, with their curved facades, tasteful Neo Classical design, and respectful height that allows the State Soldiers and Sailors Monument to stand tall. The Test Building also features sculptural panels. Other buildings on Monument Circle have public art: Circle Theater, with its terra-cotta frieze and mural over the marquee; the Columbia Club with its sculpted panels; and Circle Tower’s intricately cast neo-Egyptian brass screens set in the main entrance arch.
However impressive, the technological innovations of 1920s architecture raised concerns. Would Indiana’s revered c. 285 tall State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, completed only two decade before, be cast into shadow by steel-framed skyscrapers? In 1921-22, local architect William Earl Russ and city leaders proposed, and the city implemented, local legislation that limited heights to 10 stories and called for elevation setbacks to preserve the prominence of the monument. George Edward Kessler had made the initial suggestion to the city during his years as a consulting park planner. Circle Tower, with its Deco stair-step roofline, is the most obvious example of how the legislation shaped architecture on the circle. The Emmis Building, completed in the 1990s, also reflects the setback design concept.
Attempts to beautify Monument Circle took shape after the war years in the late 1940s. Architect Edward Pierre was a leading home, business, and civic designer in Indianapolis in the 1920s and 30s. Pierre, then near retirement, made suggestions about revitalizing the circle. Among others, he recommended that Monument Circle and the Monument itself be strung with holiday lights. Thanks to his idea, visitors lucky enough to be in downtown Indianapolis during the holidays will experience the magical effect of the lighting. The City of Indianapolis hoped to improve the image of the circle in the 1970s. Workers laid paving bricks on Monument Circle and Market Street and installed brick walks. Names of donors to the project were inscribed on the sidewalk bricks.
In the 1970s, the downtown was developing into a sports destination, with the Indiana Pacers playing at the then-new Market Square Arena. The Indiana State Museum was downtown in the Old Indianapolis City Hall, but the downtown lacked other major cultural draws. In the early 1980s, city officials lured the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra downtown to the old Circle Theater, turned into a fitting home for the symphony, thanks to a multimillion dollar restoration. Today, Monument Circle more than fulfils the civic ideas Alexander Ralston had for Indianapolis.
Indianapolis built on its classical roots to become a city of grand public places and buildings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The movement to create beautiful public places embraced cemeteries, government buildings, two major war memorials, formal parks, and public sculpture. At the beginning in 1821, Alexander Ralston envisioned Indianapolis as a grand capital. His formal plan reserved spaces for large public buildings, balanced on the east and west sides of a circular drive.
Crown Hill Cemetery was constructed in response to a movement for a new cemetery in the 1860s. Unlike the tidy rows of pioneer cemeteries, Crown Hill was large in scale and picturesque in appearance. Its massive stone gates and Romanesque Revival waiting station gave the cemetery an imposing quality. The individual stones and mausoleums provide a remarkable collection of sculptural work.
While not grand, the Marion County Courthouse of the 1820s was suitably formal – a brick, cubical “coffee grinder” building with Palladian windows, likely inspired by earlier such courthouses in New England. The State of Indiana followed with its first permanent government
building in the new capital. In the 1830s, the General Assembly retained architects Town & Davis for the design work. The nationally-known pair conceived of a Greek Revival Statehouse, capped by a Roman Revival dome. Either due to poor craftsmanship, maintenance, or design, the stucco-covered brick exterior walls and metal roof did not withstand Hoosier weather conditions.
The decades of the late 19th century saw the replacement of the Statehouse and Marion County Courthouse and the beginning of major civic space planning in the city. The Marion County Courthouse was a bombastic French Second Empire building of brick and limestone, encrusted with sculpture. In the decades of its service, prior to demolition in 1962, the courthouse was an important downtown landmark.
Planning and creation of a monument to honor Indiana’s Civil War veterans signaled a dramatic change toward monumental civic architecture. The Indiana General Assembly appointed a committee to plan the State Soldiers and Sailors Monument in 1887. The c. 285-feet-tall monument transformed the heart of the city into a grand commemorative space, when it was completed in 1901.
The trend toward grand classicism would continue in the 20th century. Nearly 50 years in planning and execution, the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza, a National Historic Landmark, is nationally recognized as one of the largest and most harmonious City Beautiful-era spaces of its kind. The city’s and nation’s movement to create grand places came at a time when limestone mills in southern Indiana were just stepping up production. Thanks to steam power and new industrial techniques, Indiana limestone would produce the sparkling image of classicism most Americans would recognize.
The City of Indianapolis helped set the trend of grand classicism on the Plaza. In 1916, famed Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley left a generous bequest for the city library system upon his death. Along with other donations and funds, the city amassed enough for a grand Central Library. Nationally known architect Paul Phillipe Cret planned this chaste limestone Doric building at the north end of the mall. Even Frank Lloyd Wright had to admit that Central Library was a fine classical statement when he came to Indianapolis decades later. The grand main circulation room is one of the best classically inspired spaces in town. The Old Indianapolis City Hall, another Indiana limestone building, was completed in 1909 and served as City Hall until the 1960s. It, too, is classicism at its American best, and the interior is splendid.
The city’s park system is monumental by any measure – 3,400 acres of the system are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Citizen concern for planned open spaces began in the late 19th century but came to fruition during the early 20th century. George Edward Kessler planned the system and also contributed several specific park designs, such as University Park. The park is part of the World War Memorial Plaza and combines the themes of open space planning, classicism, and beautification. The park doubles as an art gallery with its large bronzes by artists such as Henry Hering, Laredo Taft, and Alexander Calder.
Classical concepts of balance and restraint continue to shape civic planning in Indianapolis. In 1960, the new City-County Building that replaced the 1876 building took the form of a central tower with symmetrical wings. By the 1990s, state officials decided to consolidate offices in a new Indiana Government Center complex. The intent was to harmonize with the classicism of the Statehouse and State Library.
Some of Indy’s suburbs have followed the classical tradition in urban planning. Today, the remarkably formal and monumental spaces of Indianapolis stand in marked contrast to the typically informal and inviting homes of the city.
Neighborhoods in a City of Homes
Alexander Ralston’s 1821 plat for the City of Indianapolis encompassed a Mile Square, and for at least a decade, that was sufficient land for the few hundred hardy settlers who lived in town. Streets were unpaved and housing consisted of vernacular log or frame buildings.
When the first train pulled into Indianapolis on the Indianapolis & Madison line in 1847, things began to change more rapidly. Soon, precursor routes to the Pennsylvania, Big Four, Monon, Nickel Plate, and other railroad lines arrived. As the old Mile Square filled with more commercial buildings, housing became scarce. Land speculators surveyed and filed plats outside the Mile Square on all sides of town. Indianapolis was still a “walking” town. Lockerbie Square, with its large and small houses densely packed into narrow lots, is the best example of a neighborhood that once typified pre-Civil War Indianapolis.
The railroads themselves attracted more residents and also shaped where people lived. The south side of the city thrived with German American neighborhoods, but with multiple rail lines often blocking access to the area, most wealthy citizens chose to live north or east. As industrialists set up shop along the rail lines and the Belt Railway, constructed in 1878, middle and upper class home owners were further alienated. Rail technology opened large portions of outlying farmland to residential and satellite commercial development. It was not, for the most part, steam power that made the transformation possible at first, but instead, horsepower, or more accurately, mule power. Investors formed the Citizens Street Railway Company in 1864. By 1890, the successor firm had established electric streetcars.
A new generation of suburbs began to develop after the Civil War, thanks in part to streetcar service. Herron—Morton Place and Irvington are examples of streetcar suburbs. Also in the 1890s, interurban companies formed and ran streetcars on Indianapolis streets. Interurbans were light, electric, self-propelled streetcars that ran between cities. By the early 1900s, an extensive network of interurban lines served nearly every town of any size in the state. Their local network included Homecroft, Cumberland, and Speedway.
Citizens expected water and sewer lines, fire protection, schools, gas lines or electric service, and improved streets in areas where they might build homes. Public parks were also high on the list. George Edward Kessler’s Park and Boulevard System of 1909 included formal parks, parkways, and small parks that spurred residential growth.
The early 20th century was a golden age for Indianapolis. Between 1900 and 1920, the population nearly doubled from 169,164 to 314,194. An expanding industrial base anchored in auto parts makers, furniture making, grain processing, pork packing, and railroad repair shops attracted thousands of families from the rural Midwest and overseas. With streetcar lines improving transit, suburbanization could extend as far as demand would take it. With sources of employment spread out along the Belt Railway and no limitations on land in place, single family houses quickly became the norm in Indianapolis neighborhoods.
More and more, how far one would travel to work downtown began to classify suburban areas into poor, middle and upper middle class, and wealthy areas. The automobile was changing the landscape. Land speculators began to drop the alley from their plats as superfluous. Instead, owners wanted side driveways and room for garages. Indianapolis residents were proud of their city, because it lacked the crowded neighborhoods so common elsewhere. The city continued to sprawl outward with neighborhoods of single family houses. The Indianapolis News used the descriptive banner “A City of Homes” on its front page during the early 1900s.
Domestic architecture in Indianapolis ranges from a handful of surviving Upland South-influenced vernacular houses to a fine collection of Arts & Crafts homes. Because of overwhelming redevelopment during the 1870s and 80s, very few if any downtown neighborhoods have surviving early vernacular architecture. T- or L-plan cottages with simple Italianate or Queen Anne details typified working-class neighborhoods of the late 19th century. Away from the coal soot, those who could afford the commute began to find respite. The (Old) Northside Historic District was among the early developments that attracted home owners an unheard-of 16 blocks from downtown in the 1870s and 80s. Neighborhoods like Herron—Morton Place and Woodruff Place illustrate the middle and upper income life of the 1890s. Every Queen Anne design feature was at home here, including tall porches with lathe-turned posts, circular towers, offset bay windows, and imbricated wood shingles.
The 1900s brought new architectural ideas to Indianapolis. Frank Lloyd Wright never designed one of his Prairie style homes in the city, but several of his followers did. Other out-of-town proponents of the Arts & Crafts movement had significant commissions here, including Price & McLanahan, Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Home Builder’s Club, Howard Van Doren Shaw, and Robert Spencer, Jr. A talented corps of local architects, contractors, and builders also played a significant role in interpreting the modern Arts & Crafts style. Neighborhoods like Meridian Park are known for their Arts & Crafts housing.
Indianapolis citizens later changed tastes toward the period revival styles beginning in about 1915. By the late 1920s, builders replaced the Bungalow with the more traditional Tudor Revival cottage. The well-to-do chose North Meridian Street or Pleasant Run Parkway in Irvington as ideal sites for larger Colonial Revival or Tudor Revival homes.
Home building revived just before the war in the late 1930s. Small Tudor Revival cottages and Cape Cod houses were most popular. America’s entry into war curtailed home construction for four years, though branches of the military built several apartment complexes to house workers during the war. With the population explosion of the post-war period, developers went further afield to lay out ranch-house tracts. Builders filled several areas with prefabricated units sold by National Homes of Lafayette, Indiana. More permanent versions of the ranch house followed the starter neighborhoods.
List of Sites
• Crispus Attucks High School
• Das Deutsche Haus (The Athenaeum)
• Madame C. J. Walker Building
• Holy Rosary—Danish Church Historic District
• Ransom Place Historic District
• Lockefield Gardens Apartments
• Massachusetts Avenue Historic District
• Chatham—Arch Historic District
• Virginia Avenue Historic District
• Fletcher Place Historic District
• Christ Church Cathedral
• Circle Theater (Hilbert Circle Theatre)
• Circle Tower
• Columbia Club
• Cottage Home Historic District
• Forest Hills Historic District
• Homecroft Historic District
• Herron—Morton Historic District
• Irvington Historic District
• Oliver Johnson's Woods Historic District
• (Old) Northside Historic District
• Lockerbie Square Historic District
• Meridian Park Historic District
• North Meridian Street Historic District
• Woodruff Place Historic District
• State Soldiers and Sailors Monument
• Indiana World War Memorial Plaza Historic Disrict
• Indiana Statehouse
• Indiana State Library and Historical Building
• Old Indianapolis City Hall
• Crown Hill Cemetery
• James Allison Mansion
• Aston Inn
• Cumberland Historic District
• Indianapolis Motor Speedway
• Indianapolis Union Railroad Station
• Indianapolis Union Station—Wholesale Historic District
• Michigan Road Tollhouse
• New Augusta Historic District
• Nickel Plate Locomotive No. 587
• Speedway Historic District
• Test Building
• Wheeler—Stokely Mansion
• Wheeler—Schebler Carburetor Company Building
• Fall Creek Parkway Bridges
• Garfield Park
• Brookside Park
• Arsenal Technical High School
• Butler Fieldhouse
• City Market
• Fort Benjamin Harrison Historic District
• Indiana Theatre
• Majestic Building
• Merchants National Bank Building
• Old Pathology Building
• Roberts Park Methodist Episcopal Church
• St. Mary's Catholic Church
• St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church
Crispus Attucks High School
The Indianapolis School Board opened Crispus Attucks High School in 1927 as the first and only public high school for African Americans in the city. Designed by well-known Indianapolis architects Harrison & Turnock, the high school is not only important in education and social history, but also architecturally for its Collegiate Gothic/Tudor Revival style and terra-cotta detailing.
Before Crispus Attucks High School was constructed, Indianapolis had a number of segregated elementary schools, but African Americans were able to attend public high schools. After World War I, with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and demands of segregationists, a delegation of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce petitioned for a separate high school. Despite the opposition of the Better Indianapolis League, a civic organization of progressive black citizens, prominent black citizens, and black churches, the school board voted unanimously to build a separate high school in 1922. Archie Greathouse, a black community leader, held up construction with a series of court challenges, but the school board prevailed. The board decided to name the new school “Thomas Jefferson High School.” This resulted in numerous petitions to change the name to “Crispus Attucks High School” in honor of the former slave killed in the 1770 Boston Massacre, who is generally considered the first to die in the American Revolution.
The high school became a strong source of pride in the black community when it opened in 1927, despite initial opposition. Though taxed for space and equipment, faculty was the best available, hired from traditionally black colleges in the south. Students were taught a special course in black history as well as the usual subjects. School segregation was outlawed in Indiana in 1949, but the student body remained almost exclusively African American until the 1970s, when busing for racial integration began.
The brick exterior of Crispus Attucks is Tudor Revival in style, with glazed terra cotta moldings. The plan is a good example of school layout from the early 20th century, using ample banks of windows for light and ventilation. The triple-arched entry is also framed in terra cotta moldings on the interior; the corridor leading to the entry has a matching terra cotta archway.
Crispus Attucks High School is located on the near northwest side, at 1140 N. Martin Luther King, Jr. St. The interior includes a museum open by appointment only by calling 317-226-2430. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #34 Michigan Rd., disembark at West and Indiana stop; walk north to building.
Das Deutsche Haus (The Athenaeum)
Das Deutsche Haus, now called The Athenaeum, is the best preserved and most elaborate building associated with the German American community of Indianapolis. Germans constituted a major social and cultural force in the city, and the opulent Northern European Renaissance Revival style of the building is architecturally unique in the community.
German social life extended to European-style clubs and institutions. Das Deutsche Haus is the best example of this in Indianapolis. The founding group was a Turnverein or gymnastic club. The German American community founded the Indianapolis Trungemedinde (Gymnastic Community) in 1851 and changed the name to Socialer Turnverein (Social Gymnastic Club) later. The Turnvereins were for more than athletics; the movement advocated intellectual and physical health. In Germany, these clubs contained theaters, classrooms, gyms, dining halls, and beer halls, just as Das Deutsche Haus does. Originally the building also included a bowling alley in the basement.
The group began by building the east wing in 1893-1894, followed by a large west wing in 1897-1898. German American architects Vonnegut & Bohn designed both sections. It was the company’s first major commission. The Vonneguts, together with Bohn and a later partner, Otto Mueller, designed schools, churches, department stores and numerous private homes in Indianapolis. Bernard, the first architect of the Vonnegut family, was the grandfather of modern novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
The club survived through the anti-German popular sentiments after World Wars I and II, renaming itself to a more neutral “Athenaeum.” An ongoing restoration started in the 1990s has reclaimed the glory of its 19th-century years. The architecture is unique. Vonnegut & Bohn selected a 19th century version of German Renaissance Revival for the building. German Renaissance influence is clearly seen in the banded stonework and columns, the scroll-topped gable ends, round-arched windows, and lofty hip roof with domed dormer windows. The building also includes a remarkable collection of leaded art glass windows.
The interior contains the original theater space, rehabilitated to house the American Cabaret Theater, and the original Rathskeller restaurant, the oldest restaurant in town. The back walls of the complex enclose a Beer Garden with a bandstand, still used for live music in season.
Das Deutsche Haus, The Athenaeum, is located an easy walk up Massachusetts Ave. from Monument Circle, at 401 E. Michigan St. General building hours are 11:00am to 9:00pm. Visitors can enjoy dinner in the Rathskeller or take in some live music and libations at the Beer Garden. Visit the Athenaeum Foundation for more information on tours and events. Das Deutsche Haus has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Madame C. J. Walker Building
Probably the best-known historic building associated with
African Americans in Indianapolis, the Madame C. J. Walker Building is
nationally significant as home to one of the earliest, and for years the
most successful, black business empire in the United States. The Walker
Building illustrates Madame Walker's commitment to the employment of black
women and her promotion of arts in the black community. Its
terra cotta architectural detailing is rare for its use of African art motifs and imagery.
The building is located in the vibrant Indiana Avenue corridor, which
was the home of businesses, jazz clubs, and churches of the black community.
Born Sarah Breedlove in the Louisiana Delta in 1867,
Walker acquired her name from her husband Charles Walker, whom she married
while living in Denver. Madame Walker had by that time invented a hair
treatment for black women and began mail distribution of the product.
The Walker System of products grew from the original treatment of shampoo,
the Wonderful Hair Grower, and a special patented comb, to include facials,
manicures, make-up application, and diet and weight control advice. Madame
Walker's beauty business helped black women enhance their appearance and
created job opportunities for them as hairdressers and sales agents, known
as "Walker Agents."
While traveling, Madame Walker passed through Indianapolis,
was impressed with the city, and relocated her business here in 1910.
Walker soon became a millionaire and lived on and off
at her palatial house just outside of New York City. In 1919, she died,
leaving daughter A'Lelia in charge of the firm. By 1927, sales had grown
to such an extent that A'Lelia planned a new headquarters. The company
hired one of the best-known firms in Indianapolis, Rubush & Hunter,
to design the multi-storied, tan brick "flatiron" shaped building.
At one time, Indianapolis had a number of "flatirons," thanks
to the radiating diagonal streets. The 1927 Walker Building is among the
best examples left.
The building became the national headquarters and manufacturing
site for the products, where some 3,000 women worked, and also
a community cultural center housing the factory, a ballroom, a theater,
hair salon, corporate offices, and more. In keeping with the Walker Building's
role as center of a unique business empire, the company's leaders called
for a fitting building. The brick exterior is trimmed in richly ornamented
architectural terra cotta. The overall feeling is Art Deco, but on closer
inspection, Yoruba-like masks, zig-zags, and other ornament were inspired
by African art. The interior continues the African theme with "Deco-ized"
Egyptian and Moorish plaster work in the magnificent Art Deco theater.
The theater space served not only as a movie house, but also as a showcase for live jazz. The Indiana Avenue area was rife with live jazz venues. Now the Walker is the only building left to recall this significant chapter of local cultural history.
The Madame C.J. Walker Building is located at 617 Indiana Ave. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file. Guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more. Call 317-236-2099 for tour reservations. Cost will vary. For more information contact the tour office or Madame Walker Theatre Center. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #34 Michigan Rd., disembark at West and Indiana. The Madame C.J. Walker Building is the subject of an online lesson plan, Two American Entrepreneurs: Madam C. J. Walker and J. C. Penney. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.
Holy Rosary—Danish Church Historic District
Holy Rosary—Danish Church Historic District illustrates how close enclaves of European immigrants settled Indianapolis in the late 1800s. These groups left their mark in churches and dense areas of modest vernacular cottages on the near south side of Indianapolis.
This pocket of small frame cottages, brick commercial buildings, and churches lies south of downtown, adjacent to the sprawling Eli Lilly corporate headquarters. At first home to a mix of ethnic groups in the mid-19th century, two took precedence by the 1890s. Italian families constituted 90 percent of the population of the area by 1910. Most were involved in the produce trade and many family names survive as produce companies today.
In 1910, the Catholic Italians obtained permission to build a new parish church, named Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church. Designed by Kopf & Wooling, the brick and stone church is clearly Italian Renaissance in inspiration. The parish was designated an Italian National Parish. The houses of the district are not Italian in design; most were built before Italian immigrants settled here. The other ethnic group represented in this district was the Danes. Following social upheaval after the loss of the 1866 Danish-German War, a number of Danes immigrated to the United States. In 1872, a group of Danes that had formed a congregation bought land in the district and built a small brick church. The front gable inscription contains the only Danish writing on a building in Central Indiana. Translated, it reads “Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church.”
A good place to begin touring the district is the former Danish Church at 701 E. McCarty. Indianapolis once had many vernacular gable-front Gothic Revival chapels like this one dating from 1872 with a Danish inscription in the gable end. Further south on Noble or Greer are typical vernacular cottages with milled trim work and simple wood porches with lathe-turned posts. Horace Mann School #13 is at the southern end of the district, at 714 Buchanan Street. Indianapolis architect Edwin May designed this two story brick Italianate schoolhouse, completed in 1873. It now houses condominiums. Holy Rosary Catholic Church is at the north end of the district, at 520 Stevens Street. Built from 1910 to 1911, architects Kopf & Wooling’s Renaissance-flavored design features twin campaniles, recessed Corinthian columns, and terra cotta tile roofing. Initially, the first architect, George Bedell, had planned a central dome and domed towers for the building. Bedell’s design only rose to the upper foundation walls before the parish switched architects.
Holy Rosary-Danish Church Historic District is located between Virginia Ave.,
I-65/70 and South East St. roughly bounded by Virginia Ave. to the northeast, Interstate 65/70 to the east and south and South East St. to the west. Private homes in the district are not open to the public. The Italian Street Festival takes place in the early summer. See the Italian Heritage Society of Indiana website for exact dates and times. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #22 Shelby, disembark at South and Virginia; walk south on Virginia to district.
Ransom Place Historic District
Ransom Place Historic District is the most intact 19th century neighborhood associated with African Americans in Indianapolis. The district was home to many black business leaders over its long history.
The area northwest of Monument Circle was identified as a black settlement in writings as early as the 1830s. Here churches, schools, and commercial areas developed to serve the black community. Redevelopment pressures from a major university in the 1960s meant that very few sections of the original neighborhoods of African Americans would survive. This section, however, remained a vital black community well into the 20th century.
The district is named for the prominent Ransom family that resided in the district. Freeman Ransom was the patriarch of the family. Freeman was an attorney and for years was the corporate attorney and manager of the Madame C. J. Walker Company. His son, Willard, also lived in the district and was a noted attorney. Other well known black civic leaders, doctors, attorneys, and other professionals lived in the district as well.
In 1945, the neighborhood received a boost from the newly formed Indianapolis Redevelopment Commission. The commission selected an area slightly larger than the current district as its first redevelopment area. The designation provided assistance in home repairs. In other nearby parts of Indianapolis, the commission removed existing houses and assisted in construction of new homes.
Queen Anne cottages with T-plans and L-plans were popular in the neighborhood. Most date from the 1890s. Researchers of American vernacular architecture have long theorized that the “shotgun” house type is African in origin. The district has several examples of this house type on Camp Avenue that likely date to c. 1875. The Ransom family owned two houses on California Street, 828 and 824.
Ransom Place Historic District is roughly bounded by West 10th, West, Camp and St. Clair Sts. Its private homes are not open to the public. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #34 Michigan Rd., disembark at 10th and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Poppie-Hickman House has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Lockefield Gardens Apartments
Lockefield Gardens Apartments was one of the first group of peace time projects initiated, funded, and supervised by the Federal Government as part of the recovery programs of the New Deal. Completed in 1937, the apartments are innovative in design, based on European prototypes of housing and urban design of the 1920s and the principles of the International style. This complex was the nation’s first experiment in high rise public housing. It also has very significant associations with the black community.
The Great Depression hit already economically disenfranchised African Americans hard in Indianapolis. Neighborhoods adjacent to the Indiana Avenue corridor were filled with deteriorated wood frame cottages. In an attempt to aid the black community, city leaders requested a Public Works Administration (PWA) grant to construct new apartment housing to eliminate the deteriorated housing. Lockefield was one of an initial batch of 51 projects that PWA sponsored nationwide in the mid-1930s.
Authorities hired Indianapolis architects Merritt Harrison and William Earl Russ to design the complex of 24 buildings with 748 units, on 22 acres of land. The two turned to guidelines offered by the PWA’s Housing Division, as well as European housing models. The resulting design of a series of chevron-shaped, crisply detailed International Style buildings was unprecedented in Indianapolis. The buildings served black families into the 1970s. As part of a redevelopment scheme in the early 1980s, all but seven of the original buildings were demolished. Today, however, life has returned to the Avenue and infill apartments have filled the vacant land.
Lockefield Gardens Apartments is located at 900 Indiana Ave. Apartments are private and not open to the public. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #34 Michigan Rd., disembark at West and Indiana; walk northwest on Indiana to the complex. Lockefield Gardens has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Massachusetts Avenue Historic District
Massachusetts Avenue is one of the city’s most intact diagonal streets, originally laid out in the Ralston plan of 1821. The Massachusetts Avenue Commercial District developed as an important outlying commercial area that served trolley commuters during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The district includes a remarkable collection of commercial, light industrial, and institutional architecture, from vernacular Italianate blocks of the 1870s to imposing institutional and fraternal complexes designed by the city’s leading architects.
Massachusetts Avenue was platted to link to an existing diagonal road, the Pendleton Pike. The pike reached far into northeast-central Indiana, so it was natural for businesses to develop along the route to serve those entering town and leaving. Houses also faced the avenue, but Citizen’s Street Railway extended a trolley line down Massachusetts fostering a conversion to all commercial use by the 1870s and 1880s. Other lines that split off for other neighborhoods and eventually interurban cars added to the volume of potential shoppers on the avenue. Institutions came to the avenue in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Das Deutsche Haus, now called The Athenaeum, opened its doors in 1894, the Murat Shrine in 1909. Chinese Americans also found a niche on Massachusetts Avenue. They operated restaurants and cleaners in several storefronts.
The avenue was in decline in the 1940s and 50s but remained viable, because auto traffic still funneled to downtown on it. In the 1960s, construction of the inner loop of I-65 and a bank tower in the 100 block effectively cut off most through traffic. Listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 1981 and a concerted effort by merchants have revived the avenue as a center for art galleries, local restaurants, rehabilitated apartments, and small specialty stores.
Starting at the south end of the district, the Wright Block at 318-336 Massachusetts is a good example of Italianate commercial architecture. Stout’s Shoe Store has been an occupant here for over 100 years. Even if you don’t need new shoes, step inside and check out the “change trolley,” a system of overhead wires that carries baskets with the customer’s purchase and change to a mezzanine area, where the transaction is finalized. Chinese Americans maintained a club room in the upper floor of the Wright Block. Across the street at 301 is the Hammond Block of 1874, a prime example of one of Indy’s “flatiron” buildings. The brick Italianate façade has cast iron storefronts and window hoods. Up the avenue at 340-358, George Marott built Marott Department Store in 1906. This is one of the city’s Chicago Style commercial buildings with its banks of windows, simple moldings and plain overhanging cornice. At five stories, it is also the tallest historic building in the corridor.
Further up, at New Jersey and Massachusetts, is a unique architectural wonder, the headquarters of the Indianapolis Ancient Arabic Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine — the Murat Shrine Building. Oscar Bohlen of D.A. Bohlen & Sons designed this building in 1909. Bands of tan and brown brick, Moorish arches, onion domes, and a 208’ minaret tower make this landmark stand out on the Indianapolis skyline. In 1922, architects Rubush & Hunter designed a north addition with Egyptian Room, inspired by the recent find of King Tutankhamun’s Tomb. Across the street is the German social club, The Athenaeum (Das Deutsche Haus).
Two commercial buildings in the 700 block of the avenue are noteworthy for their original Italianate designs. 706-710 and 707-711 are brick c. 1875 Italianates. Both retain original stone arcaded storefronts. Further up the avenue past restaurants, galleries, and drinking establishments, 858-868 is an Art Deco masterpiece. Local architects Rubush & Hunter designed this large complex for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in 1931. The gleaming white glazed terra cotta exterior is ornamented with chevrons, sunbursts, and stylized pilasters in relief.
Massachusetts Avenue Commercial District is located on Massachusetts Ave. from Delaware to I-65 roughly bounded by one block to either side of Massachusetts Ave. Businesses are open to the public. Galleries and restaurants are open at night. Visitors can take a gallery tour and enjoy a meal at one of the many eateries. INDYGO bus line from downtown: The Blue line shuttle takes riders from one side of downtown to another. Das Deutsche Haus has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Chatham—Arch Historic District
Chatham—Arch Historic District is significant for its vernacular late 19th-century architecture and as the home of a group of African American families. Located just northeast of the original Mile Square between Lockerbie Square and the (Old) Northside Historic District and adjacent to the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District, this residential area has a number of late 19th- and early 20th-century houses, churches, and several commercial buildings.
The name of the neighborhood often raises curiosity. John Wood, Sr., first attached the name “Chatham” to this part of town. Wood came from New York State in 1834 and platted a portion of the area in 1836. He named Chatham Street (later renamed Park Avenue). In the 1860s, another landowner named Arch Street. In the 1970s, neighborhood advocates combined the two place names.
Most architecture is Queen Anne in inspiration. Gabled cottages embellished with porches in a variety of patterns fill the streets of the district. Construction tradesmen and their families initially occupied many of these cottages. Most had emigrated from Germany. Many attended St. Joseph Catholic Church on College Avenue in the district. Some families built larger, brick Italianate homes. A majority of early owners were German American shopkeepers or professionals.
The College Avenue corridor near 11th Street developed during the streetcar era. In 1894, German merchant August Buschmann built the red brick and limestone commercial block at 1022-1036 North College Avenue, now finely restored. Other nearby apartments had commercial spaces on the ground floor. The district also includes a firehouse on 11th Street constructed in the Tudor Revival style in 1932. A recent owner has ingeniously converted it to a residence.
Several significant buildings are linked to the African American heritage of Indianapolis. Allen Methodist Episcopal Church at 629 East 11th Street and an adjoining early sanctuary are among the few traces of an African American community that existed in the area. The church conducted classes and became a significant cornerstone of black settlement in what was once an outlying section of the city.
Chatham—Arch Historic District is bounded by I-65 and 10th St., College Ave., and East St., on the near northeast side of downtown. Homes are private and not open to the public. INDYGO bus line from downtown: The Blue line shuttle takes passengers from one side of downtown to another.
Virginia Avenue Historic District
Virginia Avenue Historic District is a satellite commercial area that thrived because of its location on important roads and trolley lines. The district includes some of the best examples of commercial architecture left in the city, and in particular, a fine collection of former neighborhood theater buildings.
Virginia Avenue, one of the city’s important diagonal streets, tied together other early roads to Shelbyville and Madison, creating a strategic stopping point at present day Fountain Square. While a handful of small wooden general stores predated the Civil War, it was not until the 1860s that shopkeepers began to line the avenue with buildings. In 1864, the Citizen’s Street Railway announced plans to extend a line down Virginia Avenue. Previously, the construction of Union Station and its multiple rail lines had cut off the area from access to downtown. The trolley allowed relatively safe access for residents and customers. The City of Indianapolis and railroad conglomerates agreed to build a viaduct for Virginia Avenue, completing the project in 1892.
Early on, the terminus of Virginia Avenue at Shelby and Prospect Streets was marked by a fountain which merchants contributed to build in 1889-1890. The fountain had separate drinking spots for people and their horses. This fountain was replaced in 1924 when an Indianapolis state congressman donated funds to build a new one at Fountain Square. Myra Richard Reynolds, a well-known Indianapolis sculptor, designed the Pioneer Family grouping for the fountain. After being dismantled for traffic safety purposes and stored at nearby Garfield Park, the fountain was rebuilt in 1979 and returned to the square.
After surviving decades of neglect, Fountain Square and Virginia Avenue have re-emerged as a slightly bohemian commercial area, with a mix of both old businesses and new artsy stores. Virginia Avenue has a number of brick Italianate stores. Most owners “modernized” storefronts over the decades, but the upper floors have been retained. The three-story Italianate commercial block at 1024-1026 Virginia Avenue is among the larger 19th-century commercial blocks to survive in the area. Built in 1875, it once housed various specialty stores and, on the upper floors, a cigar factory. The exterior features arched window hoods and a bracketed cornice of pressed sheet metal.
The limestone Neo-Classical building at 1059 Virginia has the solid, traditional look that used to appeal to banks. Fountain Square State Bank hired local architects Vonnegut, Bohn & Mueller in 1922 to design this small gem. Two-story high limestone Doric columns frame the main entrance.
Fountain Square residents did not have to go far for entertainment, because Virginia Avenue had plenty of theaters. The avenue and square had so much theater space that thousands of people could have a night on the town here. Two examples stand out. The Granada at 1043-1047 was operated by the U. I. Theater Circuit Company when it opened in 1928. Later, a G. C. Murphy’s was located here and in adjacent storefronts. The upper façade still has the original tan brick and glazed buff terra cotta ornamentation in Spanish Mission Revival style.
At 5-stories high, the Fountain Square Theatre Building at 1101-1115 South Shelby dominates the square overlooking the historic fountain. Architect Frank Hunter designed the building in 1928. The exterior makes extensive use of glazed terra cotta for the cornice, belt courses, and Corinthian pilasters on the flanks of the building. The interior had a ballroom and 1,800 patron capacity theater. The theater space with Italian garden theme has been rehabilitated as a reception and dance hall, and other entertainment, including two duckpin bowling alleys, are located in the building.
Virginia Avenue Historic District is located along Virginia Ave., from the 800 block to Fountain Square. Businesses are open to the public, and hours vary. Try a game of duckpin bowling at the Fountain Square Theatre Building. Duckpins are much smaller than standard pins and so are the bowling balls. Friday night dancing is held in the restored theater space. Several local diners, art galleries, antique shops, and coffee shops are located in the district. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #22 Shelby, disembark at Fountain Square.
Fletcher Place Historic District
Fletcher Place Historic District developed along the Virginia Avenue diagonal and is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. Its residents made contributions to the development of religion, commerce, and education in Indianapolis. The neighborhood illustrates how the south side of town was settled, and in its combination of cottage and high style architecture, mixing of land uses and density, is representative of early Indianapolis as a whole.
Influential early Indianapolis pioneer Calvin Fletcher owned much of the land in the area starting in 1825. The family farm, Wood Lawn, filled this side of town, with the family home located at the point of Virginia and Fletcher Avenues. Calvin was the first attorney in town. He also served on the school board and in the Indiana General Assembly, and established a bank that eventually became American Fletcher National Bank. In 1857, Calvin, his brother Stoughton, and a group of Ohio businessmen platted off much of Fletcher's holdings. The name “Fletcher Place” was in common use to describe the neighborhood by the 1870s.
As with the Virginia Avenue Historic District, when Citizen’s Street Railway opened trolley lines on the diagonal avenue in the 1860s, Fletcher Place began to develop. Virginia Avenue became the commercial thoroughfare, and builders lined the other streets with a mix of vernacular and high-style houses in the late 19th century.
The former Fletcher Place United Methodist Church on a prominent site at the intersection of Fletcher Avenue and Virginia Avenue is a good place to start an architectural tour of the neighborhood. The c. 1880 church is an imposing red brick building in the Gothic Revival style with stone sills and details. The design is unusual for its asymmetrical towers. Dr. Charles Tinsley, first pastor of the church, is credited with its design.
The mid- to late-19th-century cottages on Lord Street are typical of many of the side streets in the area. Some houses, like 725 Lord Street c. 1865, are gable-fronted wood-frame Italianate cottages with circular attic vents, scroll brackets, and entablature headers over the windows.
Fletcher Avenue was home to middle class families. One of the oldest houses is 601 Fletcher. This three-bay brick Italianate house dates to 1866. Andrew Wallace, a paper maker, likely hired well known Madison, Indiana, architect Francis Costigan to design the house. Up the street at the northwest corner of Fletcher and College stands the Laut Sheet Metal Shops. Henry Laut, a German immigrant, first opened a grocery in this building in the 1870s, but by 1892, Laut converted his building to tinsmithing. Laut and his crew built many sheet metal cornices and details for Indianapolis buildings here.
Virginia Avenue was always in mixed use as the neighborhood developed. The former Fletcher School at 520 Virginia Avenue opened in 1857, and with additions, continued to serve as a public school into the 1970s. In the 1980s, the building was rehabilitated for office space and more recently has been converted to condominiums. Other avenue buildings date from a much different time. The former Virginia Avenue State Bank at 630-632 Virginia Avenue (1924) has a finely detailed architectural terra cotta exterior.
Fletcher Place Historic District is located south of downtown. The district is bounded by Virginia Ave., I-65, and Lord St. Homes are private. Businesses and restaurants in the neighborhood are open to the public. Several eateries on College Ave. just north of Fletcher Ave. serve Italian cuisine. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #22 Shelby, disembark at South and Fletcher. The Joseph White House has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral is the oldest religious building in continuous use in Indianapolis, built for the oldest Episcopal congregation in the city. This church is the only one remaining of the five major Protestant churches located on the circle during the Civil War period, at a time when the circle was known as Governor’s Circle. The building is also the city’s best example of early Gothic Revival architecture.
Episcopalians came early in the city’s history. The parish of Christ Church built a simple chapel on this site in 1838, a year after the congregation formed. In 1857, the church hired Irish immigrant William Tinsley to design the present stone Early Gothic Revival church, which opened for services the next year. Tinsley had an active practice in Ireland before coming to the United States. He had several commissions under the church building program then active in Great Britain. Tinsley’s simple yet effective design includes dressed stone details such as the buttresses, plate tracery, and jamb moldings. In 1869, a spire was added to the tower. In 1900, the church selected W. and J. Lamb, with assistance from local architects Vonnegut & Bohn, to design the porte-cochere that extends to the south.
The interior of the building has a plaster vault ceiling. In 1900, the congregation undertook a major alteration of the interior, including a new rood screen above the altar and a remarkable program of stained glass windows. Though confirmation is lacking, the windows are believed to be from Tiffany Studios in New York City. Regardless, the windows are masterpieces of turn-of-the-century glass work.
Christ Church was once one of several large congregations with houses of worship located on Monument Circle. The church, now designated the Cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, is the only one left, still proud but dwarfed by its neighboring buildings.
Christ Church Cathedral is located at 125 Monument Circle. The sanctuary is open to all during business hours and for Sunday services. The cathedral offers excellent free live music at various times of the year, including organ recitals and choral pieces, often aimed at the afternoon lunch crowd. Don’t miss the stained glass. Contact 317-636-4577 or visit the Christ Church Cathedral website regarding music schedule. Christ Church has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Circle Theater (Hilbert Circle Theatre)
Circle Theater (Hilbert Circle Theatre) is one of the city’s best examples of a classic early 20th-century movie palace. The building is a fine work in the Neo-Classical Revival style with a Neo-Adamesque interior in the style of Robert Adams, an 18th-century British architect, who used a combination of Greek, Etruscan, and Pompeian motifs in his work.
A livery stable occupied this site on Monument Circle from the 1830s until the early 1900s. In 1916, local businessmen bought the site and financed the construction of the theater. Prominent Indianapolis architects Rubush & Hunter designed the building. For the exterior, the two planned a Neo-Classical Revival façade of glazed white terra cotta, with Adamesque figures on the frieze across the top in the pediment. Irvington Group artist Clifton Wheeler used tinted cement to paint the mural over the marquee, depicting a pastoral scene.
The interior of the theater includes classical-inspired coffered ceilings of plaster. Relief panels carry the Adamesque theme into the interior. The theater space combines historic elements such as the ornate wall ornamentation, with new seating and state-of-the-art acoustic measures.
Like many theaters of this period, the Circle hosted live acts and film features. In 1928, the Circle played the first movie with sound ever shown in Indianapolis, The Jazz Singer, with Al Jolson. In the 1940s, big band jazz came to the theater, including Glenn Miller. By the 1970s, the Circle Theater had fallen into disrepair. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra decided to move back downtown to the Circle Theater in 1982. After an extensive rehabilitation, the Circle reopened as the new home of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
Circle Theater (Hilbert Circle Theatre) is located at 45 Monument Circle. The building is open for performances and group tours (call 317-262-1100 for tours). Hilbert Circle Theatre is home to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra and its pops orchestra offer a varied schedule of fine performances. Call 317-639-4300 or 1-800-366-8457 (Outside Central Indiana) for tickets, or go to the Indiana Symphony Orchestra website for performance schedules.
Circle Tower is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Washington Street—Monument Circle Historic District. The tower is one of the city’s prime examples of Art Deco architecture and is especially noteworthy for its excellent metal work.
Architects Rubush & Hunter secured yet another significant commission next to the Circle Theater, which they had designed nearly 15 years earlier.
Finished in 1930, Circle Tower was designed by the firm and built to house prime office space, with commercial storefronts on the ground floor.
Faced in smooth-dressed Indiana limestone, the building rises to stepped back top stories, ziggurat-like upper stories that recede from the outer façades in terraces, punctuated by Art Deco sculptures.
Each pier top is ornamented with capital blocks carved as stylized foliate panels. The north entrance has a massive one and one-half story arch lined with foliate banding. The ziggurat crown, sculpture façade panels, granite sculptures of the arched entryway, and the design of the interior lobby, elevators, and street-floor shops are highly illustrative of the Art Deco style.
Circle Tower was completed only eight years after archeologist Howard Carter’s sensational discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922. The intricate bronze screen over the north entry arch reflects the widespread interest in Egyptology at the time. Sculptor Joseph Willenborg filled the bronze grille with hieroglyphic-like images, stylized into the Deco mode.
Circle Tower is located at 5 East Market St. Businesses in the building are open to the public. Hours vary. The first-floor lobby is open for photography and viewing. The Deco bronze work over the north entrance is a worthy photo opportunity.
The Columbia Club is important in the political and social life of Indianapolis and the state as the leading gathering spot for supporters of the Republican Party from the 1890s to the present. The clubhouse is another significant work from the Rubush & Hunter firm, leading architects in the city in the early 20th century. Its exterior design combines French and English Tudor Gothic influences, as well as fine art in the form of carved relief panels.
The origins of the club extend to 1888, when fellow Republicans formed a group to support the candidacy of Benjamin Harrison for president of the United States. The club officially incorporated in 1889 after Harrison’s successful bid and developed into one of the leading men’s social clubs until women were admitted in 1979.
In 1924, the Columbia Club hired Rubush & Hunter to execute plans for a new clubhouse. The group razed the 1898 building they had built and began construction of this 10-story limestone building on the northeast quadrant of Monument Circle. Throughout its history, this clubhouse has hosted every Republican president while in office or afterward, as well as scores of nationally famous political thinkers and office holders.
Rubush & Hunter designed the club to contain guest hotel lodging, dining rooms, meeting rooms, reading areas, and club offices within its concrete frame. The exterior style combines Late Gothic and Early Renaissance elements. The multi-story oriel window with banks of leaded glass casement windows is the dominant feature. Architectural sculptor Alexander Sangernebo carved the limestone relief panel over the windows, at the base of the oriel, and in the tympanum over the main entrance. Diagonally across Monument Circle at 20 North Meridian stands the Guaranty Building, a 9-story speculative office building, again by the architectural team of Rubush & Hunter, with Sangernebo providing the classical stone carvings for the façades.
The Columbia Club is located at 121 Monument Circle. The club is private.
Cottage Home Historic District
Cottage Home Historic District is an intact grouping of typical worker housing from the late 19th century with a significant collection of restored wood frame vernacular housing, typical of this period in Indianapolis. This small enclave of workers' cottages is named for one of the land subdivisions of the neighborhood. Landowners began platting lots here in the 1860s, shortly after the Bellefontaine Railroad built repair shops nearby. In addition to the repair shops, residents worked in many different trades. Policemen, firemen, house painters, and mechanics lived here with their families. Later, the Indianapolis Street Railway built a trolley barn in the neighborhood, providing jobs for operators, conductors, and mechanics.
Most houses in the district are cross plan or L-shaped wood frame cottages. One resident of the district, however, changed the streetscape in the Cottage Home neighborhood. Frederick Ruskaup built the brick commercial building at 713-715 Dorman in about 1875. He earned a good living from his grocery there, which provided many amenities for residents of the area. In the late 1880s, Ruskaup hired fellow German Americans Vonnegut & Bohn, who were prominent architects, to design a series of two-story shotgun doubles at 702-716 Dorman. Recent owners have restored several of the doubles, which feature hip roofs and full-width porches with lathe-turned posts. In about 1890, Ruskaup again hired Vonnegut & Bohn to design his own Queen Anne/German Renaissance Revival home at 711 Dorman.
Cottage Home Historic District is located just east of downtown, in the 700 block of Dorman St. and 1100 block of East and Clair Sts. Residences are private homes. Visit the neighborhood during the Cottage Home Block Party, usually held on a Saturday in October. You can contact them by email or website. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #10 10th St., disembark at Oriental; walk south to 9th and east to Dorman.
Forest Hills Historic District
Forest Hills Historic District is known for its picturesque, winding street plan, and for its groupings of fine Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, and Bungalow housing. The quiet enclave of 1920s homes is distinguished by the brick piers flanking its major entrances and historic street lamps on the curbs. The wide, gently curving streets are very uncharacteristic of nearly all of Indy’s early 20th century developments.
In 1922, landholder Benjamin Stevenson filed a plat with the small town of Broad Ripple, at a time when the Indianapolis city limits were still five blocks to the south of 56th Street. While town leaders in Broad Ripple considered the development, the City of Indianapolis annexed a vast tract including Broad Ripple. Stevenson’s addition became part of Indianapolis.
The designer of the unique layout of gently curving streets in Forest Hills is unknown, but local landscape architect Lawrence Sheridan was probably the consultant. Unlike other 19th-century neighborhoods that had picturesque street plans, streets in Forest Hills were designed to be wide enough to carry 2-way auto traffic. The district had no alleys; each lot would have its own driveway. Forest Hills was also unique for its governance. Lot owners agreed not only to setbacks and development restrictions, but to theformation of a neighborhood association.
Architecture in Forest Hills dates from 1922 to 1940. Picturesque Tudor Revival cottages are the most common type. Cape Cod houses, Bungalows, and other house forms were popular as well. Brick contractors showed their skills on these homes, selecting textures or unusual bonding patterns to enrich wall surfaces. Designer-contractors built most of the houses in the neighborhood. The district retains its original “Washington DC” acorn light standards, which were once common throughout Indianapolis.
Forest Hills Historic District is located on the north side and includes College, Carrollton, Guilford, Winthrop, Wildwood Aves. and Forest Lane, 5600 to 5900 blocks. The neighborhood is bounded by the Monon Trail tracks, Kessler Blvd., College and Northview Aves. The district includes private homes, but visitors can drive, stroll, or bicycle ride on the quiet tree-lined streets. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #17 College Ave, disembark at Kessler at the northwest corner of the district.
Homecroft Historic District
The increasing accessibility of the automobile and public transportation, as well as idealization of life in the countryside away from the problems of the city, spurred intense suburbanization in the United States in the period after World War I. Homecroft Historic District reflects the importance of interurban and trolley lines in the early suburban development of Indianapolis. The district has survived later suburbanization, retaining its character as a small satellite town.
Homecroft is located about four and one-half miles south of downtown beside Madison Avenue (the south leg of the Michigan Road of settlement times). In January of 1900, the Indianapolis, Columbus & Southern Interurban Company opened an interurban line on Madison Avenue from downtown Indianapolis to several southern Indiana towns. The Frank E. Gates Real Estate Company bought the site in 1923 and named it Homecroft. Frank Gates and his son Oliver were partners, whose firm had developed subdivisions in Ohio and Michigan as well as Indiana.
Homecroft is a typical 1920s suburb for middle-class families following the American dream to own their own homes. The Gates offered design services to prospective lot buyers based on model houses they had built. Others chose their own designs. Most homes are modest period styles popular at the time, one and one-and-a-half story brick or stone veneered houses with Tudor Revival or Colonial Revival elements. Sidewalks were installed in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration, and Gates began planting maple trees on the lots after the sidewalks were added.
During the 1950s, the intervening space between the south side of Indianapolis and Homecroft filled with housing and commercial strips on Madison Avenue. Homecroft, however, still retains its remote suburban feeling and cohesiveness. This small middle-class suburb of well-kept single family homes shaded by mature maple trees is a significant illustration of suburban community planning and development.
Homecroft Historic District is located on the south side, in the 1400-1600 blocks of Loretta and Maynard Aves. between Madison and Orinoco Aves., including 6602 to 6730 Madison Ave. The district is made up of private homes. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #31 Greenwood, disembark at Banta Rd.
Herron—Morton Place Historic District
Herron—Morton Place Historic District is known for its outstanding collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century residential architecture, especially its Queen Anne houses. Many north-south streets in Herron—Morton feature esplanades down the center, adding to the spacious feeling of the lots and large homes. The area is also culturally significant as the home of a major art school and art movement. The neighborhood is named for two former institutions. Camp Morton, a Civil War prison camp, occupied a portion of the district. John Herron Art Institute built a small campus at 16th and Pennsylvania which was in use for decades. The neighborhood has been the home to prominent Indianapolis citizens including many of the city’s physicians, attorneys, business owners, and political figures.
In 1859, the Indiana State Board of Agriculture bought a large tract of land here to establish a new Indiana State Fair Grounds. With the onset of the Civil War, however, the Union Army temporarily used the site as an induction center, and later, a prisoner of war camp interring 15,000 rebel troops. While owners of land south of 19th Street capitalized on the city’s growth in the 1870s and '80s, the campsite returned to Fair Grounds use. Not until the fair moved shortly after 1890 did local investors divide the land for residential use. John Herron Art Institute was funded by a bequest from local art admirer John Herron, whose home stood on the site. Indiana artists T. C. Steele and William Forsyth, considered the two best-known painters in the state in Indiana’s “Hoosier School” era, began to offer informal classes on this site in the 1880s. Both later taught at the Art Institute.
In 1906, the school hired architects Vonnegut & Bohn to plan a museum and library building. This fine Italian Renaissance Revival building includes high-relief portrait roundels of the Renaissance and Baroque greats, Leonardo da Vinci, Peter Paul Rubens, Albrecht Durer, Diego Velazquez, and Michelangelo. Rudolph Schwarz, sculptor of much of the ornament on the State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, carved the portraits. The museum building is largely windowless, since the architects used massive skylights to uniformly light the tall exhibit rooms. By 1929, the school needed additional studio space and retained nationally known architect Paul Phillipe Cret to plan an administrative and studio building, called the Main Building or Studio Building. Cret’s design combined Classicism with Art Deco influences. Large banks of “greenhouse” windows allowed steady north light to infuse the drawing and painting studios. In the early 1960s, Herron hired young modernist Evans Woollen to plan a new wing, Fesler Hall. Though not historic, Woollen’s exposed concrete frame and arched brick windows in Fesler Hall strike a harmonious note with the other buildings. The Herron School of Art moved from this small campus at 1701 North Pennsylvania to a new campus on the west side of downtown in 2004.
A few other buildings in the district are associated with the Art Institute. For example, in about 1917, Charles Williams developed the Studio Apartments, an Arts & Crafts style courtyard that included small art studios in each apartment, at 1922-1924 Talbott St. The neighborhood also includes a large and fine collection of upper and middle class homes in various styles with Queen Anne the most prevalent. North Delaware Street has a number of examples including 1922 North Delaware, which features a corner tower with conical roof and classic large front porch, and 1932 Delaware with its circular “oriel tower,” bay window, and large porch. Smaller Queen Anne cottages are also represented, such as the one at 1657 Talbott, a simple one-story cross gabled cottage, ornamented with Stick Style wood strips and carved panels.
Herron—Morton Place Historic District is located on the near north side, and includes the 1600-2100 blocks of North Pennsylvania, North Talbott, North Delaware, North Alabama, North New Jersey, and North Central. The residences are private, but the Herron—Morton Place Home Tour offers a look inside some of the area’s homes. Consult Herron—Morton Place website for more information. Talbott Street Art Fair is held in summer. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #18 Nora, disembark at 16th St; walk east toward district.
Irvington Historic District
Irvington was among the first planned suburbs of Indianapolis and is important for its Victorian Romantic winding street pattern, the varied architectural styles and types, and for its cultural and educational role in the city. Sylvester Johnson and Jacob Julian, prominent abolitionist lawyers from Centerville, Indiana, bought the site in 1870 and hired surveyor and friend Robert Howard to lay out the winding street pattern. Johnson recommended using the design of Glendale, Ohio, as a model. Irvington included a public park, proposed educational site, and deed restrictions against “vicious” land uses. A town board formed and incorporated the area in 1873.
In the early 1870s, Northwestern Christian University announced a competition for a new site. Irvington won, and by 1875, the school had completed a Main Building and opened its doors, soon changing its name to Butler University in honor of its founder Ovid Butler. Its policy of admitting any person regardless of race or gender was highly unusual, reflecting the Quaker abolitionist background of the town’s leaders. Butler University remained in Irvington until it moved in 1928 to its present north side location.
In 1900, the Indianapolis & Greenfield Rapid Transit Company laid tracks down the center of Washington Street and followed the National Road to Greenfield and beyond, giving Irvington efficient light rail service. Soon Citizen's Street Railway moved its new electric trolley line up to Washington Street. Taking advantage of this dramatic change in transportation routes, business owners quickly built commercial blocks on Washington Street. A new school (IPS #57) and other improvements and services from the city drew many new residents after the City of Indianapolis annexed Irvington in 1902. Developers filled lots with new houses during the first decades of the twentieth century. George Edward Kessler completed the final planning stages of the community with his 1909 Park and Boulevard System plan. Ellenberger Park and the Pleasant Run Parkway were finished much as he intended in the ‘teens and ‘twenties.
In the early 1900s, Irvington became a favorite haunt of the city’s best fine artists and writers including Kin Hubbard, creator of the nationally syndicated cartoon Abe Martin. An art colony gave the community a namesake art movement, the Irvington Group. Led by noted Indiana painters William Forsyth, Dorothy Morlan, Clifton and Hilah Wheeler, and others, the group drew national attention in the 1920s and 30s. Pleasant Run Creek was a favorite plein air site for the artists.
Architecture in the district displays a variety of late 19th and early 20th century styles. These include the French Empire Benton House at 312 S. Downey, the brick Italianate George W. Julian House at 115 S. Audubon, the outstanding Victorian Gothic Eudorus Johnson House at 5631 University, and the fine Arts & Crafts home of State Librarian Demarcus Brown at 251 Audubon.
The Benton House is best remembered for its association with Silence Benton, who served as president of Butler University for several terms in the 19th century. The Julian House was the home of George Washington Julian, who relocated from Centerville, Indiana, in 1873, to follow his brother Jacob, a co-founder of Irvington. Julian won two terms in Congress in the late 1840s and 1860s, and he also ran unsuccessfully for vice president of the United States on the Free Soil ticket in 1852. Famous for his abolitionist stance, Julian welcomed Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth to his Irvington home. His daughter, Grace Julian Clarke, a lifelong resident, was a statewide leader of the Indiana suffrage movement and the first female columnist for the Indianapolis Star.
Farther west at 5350 University Avenue stands the last remaining complex of buildings associated with Butler University. The tan brick Bona Thompson Memorial Center was built in 1903 as the college’s main library. Architect Jesse Johnson used refined Greek Ionic columns for the flush portico executed in Indiana limestone. Inside, Irvington Group art shows are on display. The red brick complex to the rear, 222 South Downey, served as the Butler affiliated Sarah Deterding Davis Missionary Training School and the International Headquarters of the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) from 1928 to 1995. It is currently elderly housing restored using the federal historic preservation investment tax credit.
Irvington’s business district is lined with antique shops, curiosity stores, and restaurants for several blocks near Ritter and Washington. The former Irvington Bank at the southeast corner of Ritter and Washington dates to 1913, as the tablet in the parapet reads. The commercial block stretching from Layman to Audubon on the north of Washington dates to 1928, as revealed by its Tudor Revival gables.
Churches of many faiths came to Irvington with new residents. Irvington United Methodist Church, in the middle of North Audubon Road just north of Washington, is an excellent example of Tudor Revival designed by local architect Herbert Foltz in 1925. Facing south, the 1911 Tudor Revival house of Jacob Forest and later Thomas Carr Howe was saved by the congregation for offices. Presbyterians rebuilt their church at 55 South Johnson in 1928 turning it into a grand limestone Tudor Revival designed by Merritt Harrison. Up the parkway are period revival houses.
Irvington Historic District is five miles due east of downtown, bounded by Emerson Ave., Pleasant Run Parkway, Arlington Ave., and the CSX Railroad. The district extends about 5 blocks either side of the 5000 to 5900 blocks of East Washington St. Most buildings are private homes. Open to the public are Benton House, 312 S. Downey (call 317-353-1210 for an appointment); Bona Thompson Memorial Center, 5350 University Avenue (call 317-353-BONA for hours); Irving Circle Park and Ellenberger Park and Irvington Branch Library, 5625 E. Washington. Events include: Farmers Markets at Ellenberger Park – 2nd Saturday, May – October; Ice Cream Social, Bona Thompson Memorial Center, 5350 University – first Sunday in August, afternoon; Benton House Home Tour – September, call 317-353-1210 for more information; Halloween Festival with live music, children’s events, food the Saturday before Halloween on Washington St.; Luminaria Night – entire neighborhood illuminated by candlelight, Sunday night before Christmas. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #8 East Washington, disembark at Ritter Ave.
Oliver Johnson’s Woods Historic District
Oliver Johnson’s Woods Historic District illustrates the remarkably swift suburban development of the north side of Indianapolis, from the 1860s Johnson family farmhouse to Tudor Revival houses of the 1930s. Indianapolis civic and business leaders built houses in Johnson’s Woods, which flourished from 1910–1935. The name Johnson’s Woods comes from the family that owned the land from the 1860s to the early 1900s. Oliver Johnson’s farmhouse, a once typical five-bay wood frame I-house dating from 1862, still stands in the district at 4456 North Park. It once faced Central Avenue, but when the plat was still under development in 1919, a new owner moved it to face Park Avenue.
The family encouraged suburban development before deciding to divide the farmstead. In 1903, they sold land along present-day College Avenue to the Northern Traction Railway Company for use as part of the Broad Ripple–Indianapolis interurban route. Silas and Franklin Johnson, Oliver’s sons, platted the family farmstead in 1909. By the 1920s, the area was attracting auto industry leaders, business owners, and successful German Jewish merchant families among its prominent residents. Early residents of the district reflect the social and cultural change occurring at the turn of the century. As immigrants and their children became better educated and more successful financially, they moved from ethnic neighborhoods to more affluent and diverse neighborhoods.
Homes are of various architectural styles popular during the first two decades of the 20th century, and the many old trees visually unify the district. Broadway Street near 46th has several early Arts & Crafts houses. The Judson-Moschelle House, 4586 Broadway, and the Francis Morrison House, 4560 Broadway, were both designed by local architect Charles Byfield. The Judson-Moschelle House, c. 1910, is an American Four Square, but with highly original Oriental-inspired bargeboards, brackets, and flared roof corners. The Morrison House, c. 1910, reflects interest in the Prairie style.
Local builder William F. Nelson designed a number of Colonial Revival houses in the district. Nelson was a prolific home builder in Indianapolis in the ‘teens and ‘twenties. He was among the new generation of builder-contractors who combined drafting skills with real estate know-how. The Lemaux brothers hired Nelson to build houses at 4550 and 4560 North Park, both well-designed brick veneer Colonial Revival homes. Nelson also designed houses at 4444, 4565, and 4545 Broadway, all similar in massing but with varied Colonial entries or side porches.
Oliver Johnson’s Woods Historic District is located on the north side bounded by Central and College Aves. and 44th and 46th Sts. and includes the east side of Central and both sides of Park and Broadway between 44th and 46th. Most buildings are private homes. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #17 College, disembark at 46th St; walk west to district.
(Old) Northside Historic District
(Old) Northside Historic District is the city’s finest collection of high-style Victorian-era architecture. Home to prominent politicians, business owners, and attorneys, the neighborhood is lined with impressive brick and wood frame Italianate and Queen Anne mansions, mostly built between 1870 and 1900.
While Lockerbie Square was developing in the 1850s, this area just north of downtown was still considered too far away to be useful for residential lots. One of the main landholders, Ovid Butler, a successful attorney, built a Greek Revival farmhouse in 1848, at what would become 1306 North Park. His convictions led him to become involved in the abolitionist cause, and he began a newspaper, the Free Soil Banner. Butler also was active in the Christian Church, and a founding member of a church board that sought to establish a Christian Church-based university.
True to his convictions, Butler and his partners would make the school open to all regardless of gender or race. In 1850, they secured rights from the Indiana General Assembly to found Northwestern Christian University, which became Butler University. Butler donated part of his holdings just east of his house for a building site and sought funding for the school. An existing street was extended to the college grounds, and named College Avenue. In 1855, Northwestern Christian University opened its doors with Butler managing it from his house, “Forest Home.”
With the college and a handful of people who moved there when it was still “rural," the area became an intellectual community of well-to-do residents. The coming of mule-drawn trolleys and extension of streets brought more development after the Civil War. Benjamin Harrison moved to the neighborhood in 1868. Harrison, a Civil War veteran and partner in a successful law firm, held a seat in the U.S. Senate from 1881 until 1887. The Republican Party nominated him for president in 1888, and he was elected the 23rd president of the United States. Other law and political figures were also attracted to the area. Thomas Taggart, mayor from 1895-1901 and National Democratic Chairman during Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency, built at 1331 North Delaware in 1913. Noble Chase Butler, a U.S. Circuit Court judge, lived at 1204 North Park for many years in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Business owners added to the social mix in the 1880s and 90s. Prominent families moved away after the Depression. New owners converted homes to apartments. When highway planners routed a downtown leg of I-65 through the area, dozens of significant homes were razed isolating the remaining intact segment of the neighborhood. Revitalization efforts began in the early 1970s. Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana gathered funds to restore the Morris-Butler House, a significant Second Empire-style house. Gradually, families were lured back into the neighborhood by revitalization efforts. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission has guided ongoing restoration since 1979, when the area was designated a historic district.
A tour of the neighborhood could begin at the Old Centrum (former Central Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, 512 East 12th Street, designed by Dayton, Ohio, architects Otter & Williams in 1891, and one of the better examples of Richardsonian Romanesque in the city. The octagonal tower with stone checkerboard openings at the top is remarkable, and the inside of the sanctuary includes an “Akron Plan” auditorium with fanned-out banks of pews.
Down 12th Street at 1204 North Park is the French Second Empire style Morris-Butler House. The home, built in 1864 -65 by banker John D. Morris, is thought to have been designed by German born Dietrich A. Bohlen, one of the first trained architects in the city. Morris lost the house in the financial panic of the 1870s, and District Judge Noble Butler and his family moved in. Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana guided the restoration of the house, now open to the public as a museum of American Victorian-age life.
The Gerstner-Dalrymple House at the southwest corner of 13th and Park was built by a German tailor in 1873. In the early 1900s, John Dalrymple, president of both the Indianapolis Saddlery Company and an insurance firm, bought the house. It has incised work on the stone window surrounds and richly embellished sheet metal entablature. Ovid Butler’s “Forest Home” stands across the street at the northwest corner of 12th and Park.
Delaware Street has some fine Italianate houses from 13th Street north, including the Benjamin Harrison House, a National Historic Landmark. The Harrisons hired Herman Brandt in 1871 to design their brick Italianate house, and later, architect Louis Gibson to design the Neo-Classical wrap-around porch. 1410 Delaware is a locally outstanding example of Romanesque Revival. John Schmidt, owner of Schmidt Brewing Company, was the first resident in 1892. In 1902, another brewer, Joseph Schaf and family, moved in. The Propylaeum, a private women’s organization, has owned the house since 1921. The Harrison Art Center is at 1505 Delaware.
(Old) Northside Historic District is roughly bound by 16th St., I-65, and Pennsylvania and Carrollton Sts. Most buildings are private homes. The President Benjamin Harrison House at 1230 North Delaware St. is a National Historic Landmark. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file. It is open to the public. The interior includes authentic furnishings and belongings of the family and displays on the accomplishments of the Harrison administration. Call 317-631-1888 for tours and hours. The Morris-Butler House at 1204 North Park, is also open. Call 317-636-5409. Harrison Art Center, 1505 North Delaware is open during business hours, offering programs and hosting contemporary art shows, art studios, and live music in the historic Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Consult Harrison Art Center website or call 317-396-3886 for more information on gallery openings or special events. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #17 College, disembark at 12th St. The Benjamin Harrison House and the Morris-Butler House have been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Lockerbie Square Historic District
Lockerbie Square, where many immigrants built their homes, is the oldest remaining residential neighborhood in downtown Indianapolis. The district includes fine examples of vernacular cottages as well as high-style brick residences from the mid to late-19th century. This quiet enclave provides visitors a glimpse into life in early Indianapolis. The oldest portion of the district is located in the original Mile Square dating from 1821, when the city was platted with an area of one mile square. East Street, the eastern line of the original Mile Square, defines the western boundary of the district.
Lockerbie Square was among the earliest “suburban” developments, still an easy walk to the heart of the city. The name of the district comes from Lockerbie Street, which was named after the Lockerbie family, who platted out portions of the district. Though many land holders here were Scots-Irish or Scottish in ancestry, settlers from the German states soon found home here in the 1840s and 1850s. Newspapers referred to the area as “Germantown” in the 19th century.
The most famous resident of Lockerbie Square was James Whitcomb Riley, who was widely published and revered nationally for his Hoosier dialect poetry. His home is designated a National Historic Landmark. Riley was a renter at the house of Major and Mrs. Charles Holstein. The mansion was built by John Nickum in 1871-72, using in part profits from his bakery’s contracts to supply crackers to the Union Army during the Civil War. Riley lived there 23 years during the height of his popularity. His poems such as “Little Orphan Annie” and “The Raggedy Man” captured the lives of common people and looked back nostalgically to the simpler times of his childhood. Nearly every school child was well acquainted with Riley and his verse. He toured the midwest frequently performing readings and sketches on many an opera house stage. At 528 Lockerbie Street, the classic Italianate Riley home designed by R. P. Daggett is a museum, preserved from Riley’s time with original furniture, belongings, and finishes.
Typical of Indianapolis in this period, skilled workers lived side by side with wealthier families. Just down the street at 538 Lockerbie stands the 1863 Johan Despa House, a typical Lockerbie gable-fronted cottage with simple Italianate details. Despa was a house painter who emigrated from the German states. Just around the corner at 407 North Park, Herman Lieber, another German immigrant, bought a lot and built a bracketed wood-frame cottage about 1860. This unusual “Swiss Chalet”-like house could have been inspired by illustrations in one of A.J. Downing’s house pattern books, or perhaps by Lieber’s homeland. The 1859 Joseph Staub House, 342 North College Ave, is a brick, vernacular side-hall plan house, with simple Greek Revival elements that recall the form of many earlier dwellings in the city with a two-story side gallery porch once common on Indianapolis homes of the 1830s–1860s. Staub, a German settler from Cincinnati, was a merchant tailor and made Union uniforms in this house during the Civil War.
German residents continued to build in Lockerbie Square during the 19th century, but few homes were constructed after 1910. In the 1920s, industrialists began to encroach on the neighborhood. Buildings like the Indianapolis Glove Company factory at 420-430 North Park, now condominiums, became more common and often claimed the sites of houses. By the eve of the second World War, Lockerbie Square was filled with boarding rooms, and most of its houses were in decline. Preservationists focused on this district as one of their first efforts in the late 1960s, and the restoration of neighborhoods took root. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission has guided the rehabilitation of the area.
Lockerbie Square Historic District is an easy walk from downtown and is bounded by East St., I-65, New York and Michigan Sts. Homes and businesses are private and mostly not open to the public. The James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home, a National Historic Landmark is at 528 Lockerbie St. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file. It is open to the public to experience turn of the century high society. Hours are Tuesday—Saturday, 10:00am to 3:30pm, Sunday: Noon to 3:30pm. For group reservations, call 317-631-5885. The Despa House, Holler House, House of Crane Building, James Whitcomb Riley House, Joseph W. Staub House, and Webber House have been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Meridian Park Historic District
Meridian Park Historic District contains an outstanding collection of Arts & Crafts architecture. Lovers of bungalows will not want to miss this district. Located north of Fall Creek, Meridian Park represents the northward residential growth of the city in the early 20th century. Elias Atkins filed a University Place plat in 1890 in the area, and by 1904, other developers had subdivided the former farmland into residential lots. One principal addition was called Meridian Park.
While Meridian Park has a small number of late 19th century and some contemporary buildings, a majority of homes date from the early 20th century. Most have typical Arts & Crafts details such as overhanging eaves, knee braces, exposed rafters, and low horizontal lines. Tudor Revival, American Four-Square, Colonial Revival, and more exotic influences are evident in the design of other buildings.
The architecture demonstrates how well Indianapolis architects absorbed Arts & Crafts tenets. In 1907, Frank Bakemier built the house at 3128 North Pennsylvania Street for George and Nellie Meier, who called it “Tuckaway.” This low-slung bungalow with brown-stained wood weatherboard siding is among the better preserved Arts & Crafts homes in Indianapolis. The Meiers were as quirky as their new modern home. George was a well-known fashion designer and buyer for L.S. Ayres Department Store, and Nellie was a famous psychic whose clients included many national celebrities.
The house at 3127 North Pennsylvania was designed in 1909 by Lawrence George for Will H. Brown, vice president of the Overland Auto Company. The home’s stucco and half-timber upper story with oriel windows and simple lines reflects Arts & Crafts influence. The district also includes a residential court, called Washington Court, located in the 3200 block off Washington Boulevard. Jose-Balz Company designed and built most of the eleven bungalow, Craftsman, and American Four Square houses in this part of the district. Indianapolis has few of these Bungalow court style developments.
Meridian Park Historic District is located on the north side, including North Pennsylvania St., Delaware St. and Washington Blvd. between 30th and 34th Sts. All homes are private. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #18 Nora, disembark at 34th St.
North Meridian Street Historic District
Between World Wars I and II, this stretch of Meridian Street became home to the wealthy and social elite of Indianapolis: industrialists, professionals, and merchants, among the foremost leaders in the community. The district is a living encyclopedia of American architecture from the roaring twenties, when tradition returned to overtake Arts & Crafts modernism. The city’s leading architects designed many of the palatial homes in a variety of high styles including Tudor Revival, Jacobean, Colonial Revival, Neo-Classical, and Prairie styles. Meridian Street had long been the upper class address of choice. It did not extend north of Fall Creek until the completion of the street and the advent of city services in the early 1900s, when wealthy homeowners finally sought out Meridian Street north of 40th.
4270 North Meridian is one of the earliest remaining houses in the district. Built in 1911 for the Hare family, the house is influenced by both Tudor and Craftsman styles. It became the home of famous Hoosier author Booth Tarkington from 1923 until his death in 1946. A two-time Pulitzer prizewinner, Tarkington earned wealth from his novels based on Indiana families and their surroundings, such as The Magnificent Ambersons. Tarkington described the houses in his neighborhood as having a “picture book house” appearance.
One of the fanciful later Tudor Revival buildings, the McKee-McKinney-Schaler House at 4906 North Meridian, features a rambling plan, stone quoin work, a two-story bay window and massive front chimney. Prolific north-side home builder H. L. Simons designed the house. Across the street at 4909, the Cole family, owners of the Cole Motor Car Company, hired Frederick Wallick to plan their massive French Norman Revival-style stone mansion, complete with red terra-cotta tile roof and circular two-story tower.
Classicism in various forms was another favorite choice for Meridian Street homeowners. The Thompson House, 4343 North Meridian Street, features Italian Renaissance arched casement doors, a small central portico, and broad hip roof with hipped dormers. Popular Indy architect Frank Hunter designed the house, which served from 1945 to 1970 as the governor’s mansion. That distinction then progressed up Meridian Street to 4750. In 1924, the Osburn family hired H. L. Burns to design 4411 North Meridian, which has a stately portico with triple Corinthian columns and green terra-cotta tile roof.
North Meridian Street Historic District includes North Meridian St., 40th, and Westfield Blvd. (5700 block). All buildings are private homes. The Johnson’s Woods Historic District on 46th St. is nearby. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #18 Nora, disembark at 46th and Pennsylvania; walk one block west to Meridian.
Woodruff Place Historic District
Woodruff Place is among Indianapolis’ finest Victorian-era suburbs. Laid out as a residential park, the neighborhood retains its formal plan of distinctive, well-proportioned streets and esplanades. Architecture includes fine examples of Queen Anne, Stick, and Arts & Crafts homes.
In 1870, James Woodruff, a civil engineer from Auburn, New York, came to Indianapolis to direct completion of the city’s new waterworks. Woodruff bought a 77-acre parcel and laid out Woodruff Place east of downtown in 1873. His ideal for the development was a Victorian version of formal Italian Renaissance gardens. Three streets were constructed, each centered by a wide, landscaped esplanade with fountains, flower urns, and cast-iron statuary built to resemble the figures of Versailles. A fence would surround the purely residential enclave and isolate it from what might come later on surrounding land. Woodruff wanted prospective buyers to get the proper image of his community.
The financial panic of the 1870s bankrupted Woodruff, but other investors carried his plans forward. Woodruff Place incorporated as a small town in 1876, and remained independent until the 1960s. A stuccoed English Cottage-style Town Hall at 735 East Drive, designed by Elmer Dunlap in the 1920s, reminds visitors that Woodruff Place had its own government. In the 1960s, the community’s strong sense of pride began to lead to restoration and better maintenance of public fountains and private homes, with the Woodruff Place Civic League leading the neighborhood’s efforts. Later, the Woodruff Place Foundation began to purchase and restore homes. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission has designated Woodruff Place a local historic district, and the commission reviews alterations to historic properties within its boundaries.
Town Hall is a good place to start a tour of the neighborhood. The fountain in front is one of three original fountains. They and the cast-iron statuary were likely ordered by catalog from the J. L. Mott Iron Works in New York.
The cottage at 811 East Drive is a double-gabled bungalow with Arts & Crafts and Tudor Revival influences. Brandt Steele, son of famous Hoosier School painter T. C. Steele, lived here designing the home himself in 1904. Just south of the East Drive fountain, 686 combines influences from Tudor, Shingle, and Arts & Crafts architecture.
On Middle Drive by the center fountain are three houses that are unusual for their building materials. 756 Middle Drive, Stick style in appearance, is unusual for its dressed concrete block walls. 680 and 686 are two matched houses, both with concrete block lower walls and clay tile upper walls.
At 578 Middle Drive, architect Thomas Winterrowd designed a large 2½-story frame house with Queen Anne features and an arcaded Romanesque Revival/Shingle Style porch, c. 1890. The cast-iron urn on the esplanade in this location is the literary urn, with relief portraits of Shakespeare, Milton, and other greats. The house at 720 West Drive has Free Classic elements including the large, columned porch, bay windows, and center gable with Palladian window. 894 West Drive, one of the oldest remaining houses in Woodruff, is a riot of color, texture, and design in the Stick Style with its 1875 construction date carved into the gable end. The unusual house at 638 West Drive combines Romanesque Revival and Shingle styles with an interesting arcaded porch and circular tower/balcony.
Woodruff Place is located on the near east side, including West, Middle and East Drs. from 10th to Michigan St. (1800 block east). Homes are private. Public park areas are open dawn to dusk. The Woodruff Place Flea Market, the first weekend in June each year, includes yard sales, entertainment, refreshments, and family fun. The Fourth of July Parade, weekend of the 4th, features the Woodruff Place Lawn Chair Brigade as they put their nylon-strapped tubular chairs through the paces. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #10 10th St., disembark near Woodruff Place Middle Dr. Woodruff Place, East, West, & Middle Drives have been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
State Soldiers and Sailors Monument
The State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a focal point and symbol of the city, is a remarkable sculptural group and creates a dramatic civic space. The quality of its sculpture, bronze work, and concept is unparalleled in the state. Indiana made critical contributions to the Union cause with rich and poor volunteers from the farm and city and with funds from private and public sources. When the war ended, leaders wished to impress everyone who came to the capital with the weight of this sacrifice.
After Indiana’s Civil War Governor Oliver Morton first recommended the idea, the Indiana General Assembly created a commission in 1887 to build a monument on the circle laid out in Alexander Ralston’s 1821 master plan and originally designated as the site of a governor’s house. The 1887 proposal for a permanent monument on the circle to Indiana’s fallen Civil War heroes added a dramatic new element to Ralston’s old plan.
In 1888, the state held an international competition for the monument and selected German architect Bruno Schmitz as the designer. Schmitz had an excellent reputation in Germany but had never worked in the United States. Indiana was accustomed to taking artistic leads from Germans, who seemed to be involved in performing and visual arts in many Hoosier towns. For the winning design, Schmitz offered a remarkable Victorian confection, part Egyptian obelisk, part Romantic-era sculpture, part Neo-Baroque with cascading fountains and theatrical, stage-like groupings. Quarries in Owen County, Indiana provided the limestone. Approximately 285 feet high and encompassing essentially an entire city block, the monument became the largest Civil War memorial.
The shaft of the monument was completed in 1892. In 1893, George Brewster won competitions for his bronze designs for the date band (or astragal) at the top; for the Navy astragal, based on the bow of USS Hartford; and for the crowning figure, Victory. Schmidt had originally conceived of "a winged victory" based on the mythological Nike figure for the top, but engineers were concerned about the wings in the wind. Workers installed Victory in 1893. German artisan Nicholas Geiger won another competition for the Army astragal installed in 1895.
Rudolf Schwarz completed the rest of the sculptural program by carving the mammoth War and Peace groupings on the east and west sides of the monument and the Dying Soldier and Return Home groups in front of each on the upper terrace. Schwarz also sculpted the freestanding soldiers representing various types of military service: Navy crewman, artillery crew, infantry, scout, cavalry. Schwarz would base a new career in Indiana on designing monuments and memorials for courthouse squares and cemeteries.
The War and Peace groupings are full of symbolism and detail, beginning with their placement – War facing east toward the beginning of the day and Peace facing the sunset at the end of the day. The Peace grouping provides some insight into the issues post-Civil War America faced. At the lower right, a slave raises his shattered chains and begins to rise. Next to him, a blacksmith with anvil rolls up his sleeves, as he looks to the south. The War grouping utilizes several traditional forms of sculpture including bas relief, high relief, and freestanding figures.
The monument was dedicated in 1902. In the 1980s and 90s, the State of Indiana restored the monument including cleaning the stonework and bronze pieces.
The State Soldiers and Sailors Monument is in the center of downtown on Monument Circle. The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum on the interior of the monument is open 10:00 am to 6:00pm Wednesday-Sunday. Call 317-232-7615 for more information. For a breathtaking view of downtown, take the elevator ride most of the way, and walk the last leg of the trip to the top of the monument. The monument has been recorded by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Indiana World War Memorial Plaza Historic District
The Indiana World War Memorial Plaza Historic District strongly defines the character of downtown Indianapolis. The plaza comprises six aligned square city blocks of monumental public architecture and landscape architecture, united into a cohesive whole. The district is a nationally significant commemorative tribute to Indiana’s war heroes and the national headquarters for the American Legion and its auxiliary and affiliated organizations, the largest organization of veterans and their relatives. It also is one of the best examples of City Beautiful planning in the United States.
The term “City Beautiful” originated with the title of Charles Mulford Robinson’s 1903 book, Modern Civic Art or the City Made Beautiful. Robinson, like many urban thinkers of his time, was concerned with making order of the chaos in American cities. The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago created national interest in civic planning. The exposition’s orderly courts of gleaming white Neo-Classical Revival buildings gave millions of Americans a glimpse of what could be achieved in their own towns. The City Beautiful movement continued until World War II.
The plaza was developed over decades. Architects Walker & Weeks combined the existing University Park and two extant buildings into their 1923 master plan; the Federal Building at the south end and the Public Library at the north end of the plaza.
The Federal Building set the trend of grand classicism and was constructed to house federal courts, offices, and the main city post office. Designed by architects John Hall Rankin and Thomas Moore Kellogg of Philadelphia, the building was completed in 1905 during the period when the Architect of the Treasury James Knox Taylor instituted a policy of using only Classical style architecture for federal post offices throughout the nation. The impressive main façade fills a city block. The Indiana limestone exterior features massive engaged Ionic columns, with projecting end pavilions framing free-standing columns. In 1935, local architects McGuire & Shook designed the addition on the north face of a monumental series of Doric pilasters and full classical entablature. On either side of this section, large round arch openings served the post office once located here. The spandrel panels of the arches have fanciful Deco-style relief carvings of hands sorting letters.
The site of University Park was set aside in Ralston’s 1821 plat for a state university that was never built, but it did become the site of the Marion County Seminary in 1832. All that remains of it is a small memorial plaque. The block was used as a drill grounds for Union troops during the Civil War and in 1876 became University Park. The state and city placed the first of a series of bronze sculptures in the park in 1887. In 1914, George Edward Kessler redesigned the park as part of his park and boulevard system plan. The central circle with radiating diagonal concrete walkways and heavy plantings at the corners of the park remain today. Kessler’s favorite light post for his Indianapolis projects, the acorn-globed “Washington, DC standard,” was used throughout the park.
University Park hosts a significant collection of figural sculpture by leading American and international artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Depew Fountain, the central fountain called for in Kessler’s plan, with its playful mythological figures, was initially designed by Viennese sculptor Karl Bitter. After his death, the design and figures were completed by A. Stirling Calder, father of the famed modern sculptor Alexander Calder. The figure of Schuyler Colfax, 1887, east of the fountain is the work of artist Laredo Taft. Benjamin Harrison in the south center part of the park was completed by Henry Bacon and Charles Niehaus. Lincoln Seated, 1934, in the southeast corner of the park is by Henry Hering. Wood Nymph is located directly behind Colfax on the east side of fountain, and Pan by artist Myra Reynolds Richards is west of the fountain.
The Indiana World War Memorial Building was conceived by its designers, Walker & Weeks, as the centerpiece of the plaza to align on axis with the federal building and public library. The architects based their winning design for the building on reconstruction renderings of the Tomb of King Mausolos, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The raised plinth nearly fills the square block of the site, and the main block of the memorial rises above it, crowned with rows of Ionic columns on each face and a stepped pyramid. Grand stairs rise to entrances on the north and south sides with the heroic scale bronze, Pro Patria, by Henry Hering centered on the south flight of steps. The magnificent interior includes rich marble paneling, refined metal fixtures and fittings, decorative plaster cornices, and marble floors. The raised base of the memorial building was designed to accommodate a large auditorium (peek inside if possible) and two large meeting rooms. On the upper floors, the grand Shrine Room is a breathtaking example of American classicism.
Obelisk Square with its 100’ high shaft of black granite is another strong axial element in the plaza’s overall design. Walker & Weeks envisioned it as a forecourt to the Memorial Building. The base of the memorial has a fountain basin of Georgia marble. Henry Hering designed the bronze relief panels on each face of the lower part of the obelisk. Work was complete on Obelisk Square in 1930. The rows of poles with flags of all states were installed along the north edge of the square for the Bicentennial in 1976.
The two American Legion buildings in the Sunken Garden define the east and west sides of the plaza at the north end. The American Legion has been a very important advocate for the welfare of its members and other veterans of military service. The organization’s selection of Indianapolis for its national headquarters in 1919, the year the American Legion was formed, was the driving force behind the construction of the World War Memorial Plaza. Walker & Weeks designed the two Neo-Classical Revival American Legion headquarters buildings, placing them lengthwise within a sunken lawn area to emphasize the long axis of the entire plaza. Their plain Doric pilasters and restrained ornament make them subordinate to the main buildings visible from this location, the memorial and the public library. Although both were designed by the architects along with the 1923 master plan, the west building was built in 1925 and the larger east building not until 1950, using the original exterior plans and elevations drawn in 1923.
A black granite cenotaph is located in the center of the sunken garden. Cenotaphs were built in ancient times to commemorate leaders or artists. In 1919, Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the first World War I memorial tomb in London, borrowing the ancient Greek term cenotaph or "empty tomb," to describe his classically influenced memorial. Remains of an unknown British soldier were placed in the tomb. The concept and the tomb were revered by the public and adopted by the American Legion for its headquarters. The Walker & Weeks design was completed in 1930 and features a raised black granite symbolic tomb with bronze cover but without any remains in the tomb. James Bethal Gresham, whose name is inscribed on the north face of the cenotaph, was the first member of the American Expeditionary Force to be killed in action. Four Art Deco-style black granite columns flank the tomb, topped by gold-leafed bronze eagles.
The Indianapolis—Marion County Public Library sits on the north end of the plaza. In 1913, the city library board, a division of the school board in charge of the library system, hired nationally-known architect Paul Phillipe Cret to design a new main library building for the system, which was completed in 1916. Cret’s design, executed in Indiana limestone, is noted for its restrained, ancient Greek-inspired flavor. The massive Greek Doric colonnade framed by blank end pavilions is a strong visual terminus of the plaza. The interior includes a grand central circulation room with Neo-Classical ceiling murals.
Indiana World War Memorial Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, is located in the near north downtown area bounded by St. Clair, Ohio, Meridian and Pennsylvania Sts. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file. The Federal Building at Ohio and Meridian Sts. is only open to court attendees. University Park, bounded by New York, Vermont, Meridian and Pennsylvania Sts., is open dawn to dusk. The World War Memorial Building at Michigan St. between Meridian and Pennsylvania is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Wednesday-Sunday. Call 317-232-7615 for information or group tours. The Shrine Room is one of Indiana’s most inspiring interiors. A museum on the lower levels portrays Hoosier involvement in every military conflict from revolutionary times to current Middle East actions. Grounds are open from dawn to dusk. Indianapolis—Marion County Public Library is located at St. Clair St. between Meridian and Pennsylvania. The new 6-story addition to the original building offers spectacular views of the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza. INDYGO bus line from downtown: an easy walk from Monument Circle.
The Indiana State Capitol, the Statehouse, has been the seat of Indiana’s government since 1887 and is perhaps the grandest 19th-century Neo-Classical Revival building in Indiana. Alexander Ralston balanced his plan for the city with two symmetrically placed sites on Market Street east and west of the circle. The west parcel, a terminal point of Market, is the site he chose for a state capitol building.
In 1878, a committee selected Indianapolis architect Edwin May to design the new capitol building after an earlier one on the site was demolished. His winning concept was an extended Greek cross plan with formal entrance pavilions on each face, capped by an Italian Renaissance style dome. May died in 1880, when only the cornerstone had been laid. The building was completed by his assistant, Adolph Scherrer, a Swiss born architect trained in Vienna before coming to Indianapolis. Scherrer changed many façade details and supervised construction. The General Assembly began meeting in the new Statehouse in 1887, one year before its formal completion.
The Washington Street elevation is an excellent place to begin a tour of the Statehouse. The entire building is veneered in Indiana limestone quarried in Lawrence, Owen, and Monroe Counties in southern Indiana. The north and south faces are similar, each with Corinthian porticoes flanked by pavilions with low domes. Scherrer’s bold, plastic design for the various façades included a rusticated base, pedimented window hoods, and pediments on each corner pavilion face, richly carved with foliate work. The south elevation fronted on the National Road and has more ornamentation. The sculptural program atop the portico is The Westward Journey. On the left side of the cornice ledge, Native Americans are forced west, while Euro-American pioneers enter from the east.
The interior was carefully restored in the late 1980s. The two courtyards with skylights north and south of the rotunda are lined with three story arcades of marble columns. Original oak doorways and marble paneling were cleaned as part of the restoration. The wall and ceiling stencil work was replicated as were the ornate brass chandeliers. Gold leaf was reapplied to surfaces long rendered dull by constant use. The rotunda is one of the city’s magnificent historic spaces.
The diverse collection of monuments on the lawn provides a social and political history of Indiana. The Christopher Columbus Monument on the south half, west lawn was sculpted by Enrico Vittori. The bronze bust of Christopher Columbus sits on a tall granite pedestal with inscriptions stating that Italian American communities in Indiana dedicated the monument in 1920. The Coal Miner Monument on the north half, west lawn was sculpted by John Szaton in 1966 and symbolizes the sacrifice of Indiana’s miners to the economy. Indiana’s western and southwestern regions have significant coal deposits that have been mined since the 19th century.
The National Road Monument on the central edge of the south lawn commemorates the role of the National Road in the settlement of Indiana. The Caroline Scott Harrison Chapter of the D.A.R. placed this scroll-pedimented tablet of Indiana limestone here in 1916, as part of Indiana’s centennial celebrations. The George Washington/Masonic Monument at the center of the south lawn was sculpted by Donald DeLue. George Washington, America’s best-known member of this fraternal organization, symbolizes the importance of Masonic lodges in Indiana history. Washington faces the National Road, for which he first saw the need.
Two monuments honor Indiana governors. The Governor Thomas Hendricks Monument at the southeast corner was sculpted by Richard Henry Park. Hendricks served in the Indiana General Assembly, U.S. Senate, and as Governor of Indiana and Vice-President of the United States under Grover Cleveland. The chapel-like pedestal has two allegorical figures, Justice and Enlightenment. The full height standing figure of Hendricks crowning the monument faces southeast to Shelbyville and Hanover, where he lived before moving to Indianapolis. The Governor Oliver Morton Monument at the east entrance was completed by Rudolf Schwarz in 1907 to commemorate Indiana’s Civil War governor. Its style and placement strongly tie it to the State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, pieces of which also were sculpted by Schwarz. The detail is remarkable, not only on Morton, but on the authentically equipped soldiers, the cavalry man with Spencer repeater, and the infantry man with bayonet-topped musket. The flanking granite railings with bronze relief panels show Morton comforting families of soldiers and rallying troops.
The Indiana State Capitol is located at the corner of West Washington St. at Capitol Ave. The Statehouse is open business hours on weekdays; go to the tour desk for a guided tour. View the manuscript original of the State Constitution in the impressive rotunda.
Indiana State Library and Historical Building
Indiana State Library and Historical Building is one of the most significant works of Pierre & Wright, an important architectural firm in Indianapolis during the second quarter of the 20th century. Its distinctive architecture combines Neo-Classical features with Art Deco detailing. This style of architecture, termed Stripped Classical Modernism, was popular for government building projects of the 1930s.
The Indiana State Library and Historical Building is the only other historic building on the state capitol campus. The General Assembly established a State Library in 1825. The institution was to aid legislators in researching various topics. Eventually, room was made for the library and staff in the Statehouse. By the 1920s, the need for a separate building was so great that materials were being stored in hallways of the capitol. In 1929, the Assembly raised a special tax to fund construction. The project became one of few underway in the city during the dark early years of the Great Depression, when construction began in 1932.
The Indiana limestone façade of the building is Classical in style, but with strong Art Deco influences. The exterior includes relief panels with different types of citizens: an explorer, soldier, pioneer, farmer, legislator, miner, builder, constructor, manufacturer, educator, and student. For the interior, Pierre & Wright specified sandstone from St. Meinrad, in southern Indiana, giving the walls a warm light tan color. The cascading stairs lead up to the two-story high circulation room. Murals, stencil work, stained glass, and rich oak make this room a tour de force of Deco Classicism. J. Scott Williams executed the stained glass and murals. Art Deco owl heads are hidden here and there in the main rooms.
Indiana State Library and Historical Building is located at the southwest corner of Ohio and Senate, downtown Indianapolis. The Indiana State Library is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm; Thursday 8:00 am to 7:00 pm and Saturday 8:30am to 4:00pm, unless closed for a state or federal holiday. Visit the impressive main circulation room and murals.
Old Indianapolis City Hall
With its Indiana limestone Classical façade, Old Indianapolis City Hall was intended to symbolize the stability and achievements of the city. Construction of the Federal Building in 1903–05 set the standard for new governmental buildings in downtown Indianapolis. City offices were housed in several different locations in 1906 when Mayor Charles Bookwalter called for consolidating them in a fitting building. Indianapolis architects Rubush & Hunter won the contract for the new building, completed in 1910.
Four-stories high, with a veneer of Indiana limestone, the new city hall reflected City Beautiful Classicism. Engaged 2-story high Roman Doric columns gave the exterior its monumental character. The interior has a grand rotunda with stained glass dome. Gently knock on the columns; some are real marble. Others are scagliola, a kind of imitation marble made on plaster with special painting techniques. The circular rotunda extends upward three levels.
For many years, the Indiana State Museum occupied this building, after city government moved to the 1962 City-County Building. Located across Alabama Street, the Indianapolis Fire Headquarters and Municipal Garage was built in 1913 with additions in 1925. The building was constructed to house fire and police headquarters and equipment. Upon completion city services were consolidated within a single block of downtown.
After the new Indiana State Museum opened in 2002, the Old Indiana City Hall was briefly vacant. The Indianapolis, Marion County Public Library system began work on a vast addition to the Central Library at that time. City officials turned old City Hall over to the library board to use as Interim Central Library until 2008. The building is vacant again and in need of a use.
Old Indianapolis City Hall is located downtown at 202 North Alabama St. Old Indianapolis City Hall has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Crown Hill Cemetery
Crown Hill is the city’s premier Victorian-era cemetery, and the final resting place of most of its leaders from the 1860s to the present. The cemetery is also important for its Romantic landscape design and architecturally significant buildings and structures.
Indianapolis had only cramped, traditional Greenlawn Cemetery downtown in its early history. In 1863, a private board formed and bought the site of Crown Hill. The group hired John Chislett, landscape architect and cemetery superintendent of Pittsburgh, to design the grounds. Using the Victorian Romantic landscape ethic, Chislett retained many natural geographic features and laid out meandering roads that complemented the site. Over the years, Crown Hill became the choice of nearly all who could afford private burial.
During the Civil War, old Greenlawn Cemetery filled rapidly with Union and captured Confederate dead. In 1866, federal authorities requested a portion of Crown Hill Cemetery to be set aside for Civil War internments. The government bought 1.4 acres and laid out an arc-shaped lot. Artillery pieces and a circular walk surrounding a flagpole commemorate the fallen soldiers. This portion of the cemetery has been listed separately in the National Register of Historic Places.
The gates to the main entrance of the cemetery are on Boulevard Street. Adolph Scherrer was still supervising the construction of the Indiana Statehouse in 1885, when the cemetery board hired him to design these fine Gothic Revival limestone portals and matching gate house. The Waiting Station, also designed by Scherrer in 1885, is the red brick Victorian Gothic building just inside the gates. The Waiting Station features contrasting brick, limestone Gothic piers, stone lintels and sills, and red terra cotta wall tiles. Before the advent of interurbans, trolleys, and autos, the Waiting Station provided a suitable place for family members to gather while waiting for others to arrive by carriage.
Further inside the grounds, Dietrich Bohlen designed a stone Gothic Revival chapel in 1875. The chapel is one of few buildings left in Indianapolis designed by the elder Bohlen, who is thought to be the first trained architect to live in Indianapolis. The interior has a true masonry pointed arch barrel vault.
Crown Hill’s tranquil landscape is replete with excellent funerary art and sculpture. Elaborate mausoleums in Romanesque Revival, Neo-Classical Revival, and Art Deco style can be found on the grounds. The roads through the cemetery wind informally through grassy meadows and clumps of various species of trees.
Crown Hill Cemetery is located on the near-northwest side, at 700 W. 38th St., main entrance at 4302 Boulevard Place, 34th and Boulevard Place. The cemetery is open 8:00am to 5:00pm daily offering tours and well-marked routes to points of interest. Call 317-920-2644 for more information. Follow the signs in the cemetery to Riley Memorial, which is located at the highest point of the cemetery, for a peaceful view of downtown. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #28 St. Vincent’s, disembark at 34th St.; walk west to Boulevard Place gates. Crown Hill Cemetery Office Building, Crown Hill Cemetery Gateway, and Crown Hill Cemetery Chapel and Vault have been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
James Allison Mansion
The Allison Mansion, with its outstanding craftsmanship, scale, and landscape architecture, is a prime example of an Art & Crafts Country Era estate. The estate was home to James Allison, one of Indy’s most important automobile entrepreneurs of the early 20th century. He co-founded the Prest-O-Lite Company, which produced the first efficient headlight for early automobiles, and helped develop the suburb of Speedway, designed for the people employed by Prest-O-Lite. Allison was a founding partner in Carl Fisher’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He also started Allison Engineering Company, which developed into an aircraft engine maker, known today as the Allison Division of Rolls-Royce. In the 1940s, the family donated the estate to Marian College, which began to use the house for art classes.
Allison and fellow auto industry leaders Carl Fisher, Frank Wheeler, and Henry Campbell all selected then-rural sites along Cold Spring Road for their new estates. The Allisons hired well-known local architect Herbert Bass to design their mansion. Bass and Allison came up with the idea of building a massive “barn” over the mansion site to protect it from the weather and to permit year-round construction. The Allisons called their new estate “Riverdale.”
Allison fired Bass before the interior was completed and hired William Price of Price & McLanahan, Philadelphia, to design the luxurious interior. Bass’s design is said to resemble a villa in Lombardy. Visitors will find that it also was inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement. For the grounds, the Allisons engaged renowned Prairie School landscape architect Jens Jensen. Close to the house, a player’s green for dramatic readings, semi-circular stone columned pergola, and brick walks remain intact. Below the bluff in the flood plain, Jensen laid out a series of ponds and a meadow, now used as ball fields.
The Allison Mansion is located on the near-northwest side of Indianapolis at 3200 Cold Spring Rd on the grounds of Marian College. The grounds are open to the public daily dawn to dusk. Interior tours depend on scheduling of rentals and events. Inquire at front desk during business hours or call 317-955-6120. For additional information, visit the Riverdale—James Allison Mansion website. Visit the Wheeler—Stokely Mansion, just to the south. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #15 Riverside, disembark at 30th and Cold Spring Rd.; walk north on Cold Spring Rd. The James Allison Mansion has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Aston Inn is located on the Michigan Road, which was the main north-south improved road to Indianapolis connecting the Ohio River and Lake Michigan. The inn was an important stopping place along the road. In 1852, when George W. Aston built this two-story, brick house, Michigan Road was a toll road that still served as a significant route. At this time, the house stood some ten miles from town. The Astons took in travelers on the road, including those arriving by stagecoach and drovers taking cattle to market downtown. The late 1850s saw the coming of the railroads north of Indianapolis, including one close to the Michigan Road, and a depot was constructed at New Augusta near the inn in 1860. Because of the coming of the railroad, the inn was only important for travelers for a short time.
The inn is built in the Greek Revival style and is rectangular in plan with an early one story addition that served as a summer kitchen. The large, double-decked porch or gallery was used for circulation. On the second level of the front facade, French doors opened onto the roofed portico. The building has an entry hall with a grand staircase with a winding return at the top, a living room, and great room on the first level of the main section. The simple yet substantial architecture of the house was once typical of prosperous middle-class urban and rural dwellings in central Indiana. Few examples remain today.
Aston Inn is located at 6620 North Michigan Rd. The inn is a private residence, not open to the public.
Cumberland Historic District
Cumberland Historic District on the Indianapolis far eastside straddles the historic National Road and is named for the city in Maryland where construction of the National Road began. The district retains a contiguous collection of buildings that illustrate Cumberland’s growth from 1880-1950. Cumberland was founded to support transportation. The district represents the impact that changing modes of transportation had on Central Indiana and includes buildings from the plank road, railroad, interurban, and auto eras.
In 1806, Thomas Jefferson authorized the Congressional act that called for federal construction of a National Road to connect Cumberland, Maryland with the Mississippi River. Within the plat of Indianapolis, the National Road was called Washington Street; later, the entire length of the road within Marion County was named Washington Street. By 1829, the route was complete through Warren Township in eastern Marion County. Samuel Fullen registered a plat for Cumberland in 1831. The village had a toll house, wagon makers, inns, and stores that catered to westward travelers on the National Road.
The Pennsylvania Railroad bypassed Cumberland on the south edge of town in the early 1850s. But the National Road once again became a significant transportation route when, in 1900, the Terre Haute, Indianapolis, and Eastern Traction Company began interurban service right in the center of the road. Interurbans were self-propelled, light electric train cars that connected cities. They made 9 stops per day in Cumberland, including several light freight runs. The advent of the National Road as a major federal highway for autos came in the 1920s. The National Road became U.S. 40. With increased use of the road, businesses gradually rebuilt their commercial enterprises on the route. Most buildings are not close to the curb like in urban centers, but are further away from the street, allowing first wagons, then later, cars and station wagons, to park in front.
The district contains historic commercial and residential buildings in a variety of styles such as Folk Victorian, Craftsman Bungalow, American Four Square, and simple vernacular frame houses date from the late 19th- to early 20th-centuries. The two-story brick former bank building at 11810 East Washington St. is probably the best example of commercial architecture in the district.
Cumberland Historic District is located on the far east side astride East Washington St. and is roughly bounded by Munsie, Welland, Heflin and Warehouse Sts. The district includes private residences and various businesses. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #8 East Washington, disembark at the end of the line.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the home of the Indianapolis 500, the best known auto race in the world, and the site of numerous automotive breakthroughs. In 1908, Indianapolis auto industrialists Carl Fisher, James Allison, Arthur Newby, and Frank Wheeler decided that American auto makers needed a proving ground for their new machines. They bought 320 acres of farmland, just across 16th Street from Fisher’s and Allison’s Prest-O-Lite auto headlight plant. The group also collaborated in platting out the Town of Speedway at this time. In 1909, they laid out the 2.5 mile oval track in its present configuration, but with a macadamized surface. Racing began that year.
By the next year, the owners decided to pave the track in sturdier paving bricks, now the trademark of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. One yard of exposed brick remains at the start-finish line; the millions of others are under asphalt that is periodically resurfaced. The basic course configuration with its two and one half mile curved track, grandstand and pit layouts, and garage arrangement is very similar to the way it was in 1909.
In May 1911, the original investors began offering an annual 500 mile sweepstakes race – the Indianapolis 500. Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 in his locally built Marmon Wasp racer. While many commentators have remarked on recent rookie Danica Patrick’s “weight factor” in Indy style races, Harroun was the first driver to openly use weight to his advantage at the very first Indy 500. He competed without the then obligatory mechanic on board to avoid extra weight.
Through decades of competition, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway served as a test bed for auto innovations. Everything from rearview mirrors to front wheel and all wheel drive were tested under race conditions at Indy. Overhead cams, lubricants and oils, turbochargers, tires, and other variations of auto products also have been proven here.
As the original owners died, experienced financial setbacks, or turned attention to other pursuits, those remaining decided to sell the now famous track. In 1927, World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker bought the Motor Speedway and owned it until 1946, when the current owners, the Hulmans, bought the track. Faced with a deteriorated facility that had remained closed during much of America’s involvement in World War II, the Hulmans began revitalizing the buildings and grounds through repair or replacement. The race itself was promoted and drew the attention of a new generation of racers. Race day on Memorial Day weekend draws well over 250,000 spectators.
Indy cars have changed drastically through 8 decades of auto racing. Visitors can experience this transformation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. From Harroun’s first winning car to the ‘50s front wheel drive roadsters, the ’60 rear engine models, and modern ground effects cars, it’s all here. Over 30 of the cars are historic vehicles that actually won the Indy 500.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a National Historic Landmark, is located on the west side, at 4790 W. 16th St. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file. The track and museum are open 9am to 5pm (EST) 364 days a year, closed Christmas Day. Extended hours are offered during the month of May. Museum phone is 317- 492-6784. Visitors can tour the track by van. Contact the museum for more information. During a set day each May, visitors can drive their own cars on the track or bring the family to a practice day, qualifications, or a race event at the Motor Speedway. Consult the Indianapolis Motor Speedway website for more information about races or other events. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #25 West 16th Street, disembark at Georgetown Rd.
Indianapolis Union Railroad Station
The Indianapolis Union Railroad Station, a massive and impressive Romanesque Revival building, is the single most important icon of the city’s railroad era. Today, the station houses a major hotel, restaurants, and a charter school. A branch office of the Mexican Embassy also is located in the building, a sign of Indy’s changing demographics, and a fitting place, because this was the gateway to Indianapolis for most of the city’s immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In 1847, the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad reached Indianapolis. Railroads connected the young state capital to the rest of the nation. Over the next decade, other major rail lines would reach town. Because the railroads crossed through at various locations, connections for freight and travelers were complicated. In August 1849, Union Railway Company formed to solve the problem. The company laid tracks to connect the railroads, then built a large brick train shed where all lines met – America’s first Union Station, which was located on this site.
As the city’s rail-based trade grew, rail, business, and civic leaders wanted a new station befitting the importance of railroads to Indianapolis. In 1886, the railroads hired Pittsburgh architect Thomas Rodd to plan a new “head house,” or main office/waiting hall. The rock-faced tapered stone walls and massive multi-coursed round brick arches of the current Union Station are characteristic of Romanesque Revival architecture. No doubt, Rodd had seen similar works by Henry Hobson Richardson, America’s master of Romanesque Revival. A massive clock tower, circular “rose” window, lofty slate roof, and bartizans at the corners reinforce the medieval character of the head house.
The interior of the head house has a grand hall with two block long sky lit barrel vault. Various railroad administrative offices were located along the perimeter of the hall, accessible by an iron-railed balcony. Passengers purchased tickets and waited below on the main floor.
Railroads rebuilt the train sheds behind the head house in the 1880s. With the increase in passenger trains, backed-up rail traffic blocked city streets in three directions many times a day, and passengers had to cross active tracks to board. In 1913, city, Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central leaders began an extensive program to modernize Union Station and end rail congestion. Engineers designed elevated rail crossings and a new train shed. Its exterior is plain, but on the interior, architects Price & McLanahan planned for extensive use of Arts & Crafts tile work. With special raised walkways, passengers could now board without crossing tracks. Travelers still board passenger trains at Union Station, and the local Greyhound Bus Depot is located just behind Union Station.
In the mid-1980s, local developer Robert Borns converted Union Station into a festival marketplace using the Federal investment tax credit program for historic structures. The project enjoyed success for about ten years before encountering financial troubles but should be credited with laying the foundation for a nearby Circle Center Mall. Today, the head house serves as a banquet hall and is owned by the City of Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Union Railroad Station is located downtown at 39 Jackson Place. Various restaurants and facilities are open to the public in Union Station, but the head house is open only for special events. Visitors also can tour the immediately adjacent Indianapolis Union Station—Wholesale Historic District. Union Station has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Indianapolis Union Station—Wholesale Historic District
The Indianapolis—Union Station Wholesale Historic District’s brick, stone, and terra cotta commercial blocks and hotels demonstrate the impact of railroad trade on the growth of Indianapolis. Meridian was lined with simple houses prior to Indy’s railroad era. In 1849, railroads selected a site just south of downtown as the gathering point for all rail lines. Union Station has remained on this site, with a later building replacing the original 1850s train shed.
The placement of Union Station destined this part of downtown to become commercial in use. By the 1860s, merchants had taken advantage of rail access to set up wholesale buying and selling operations in the district. Many buildings in the district feature cast-iron for storefronts or other architectural elements. Tall, narrow buildings had multiple upper stories to allow for vertical storage while using the least amount of valuable land.
The city’s largest collection of 19th and early 20th century commercial buildings is located in the district, including some that reflect significant innovations in commercial architecture. The Byram, Cornelius & Company block at 201 South Meridian has the city’s oldest remaining cast iron façade (1871-72). Next door at 207 South Meridian completed in 1888, architect John Stem cloaked an iron frame in Romanesque Revival brick and terra cotta work. Across the street at 202-204 South Meridian, the 1889 McKee Building features a rectilinear grid of cast iron, designed by local architects R. P. Daggett & Company. Glazed terra cotta became popular in the 1920s, and the Big Four Railroad Building at 105 South Meridian, by D. A. Bohlen & Son, is an excellent example.
Hotel keepers also found ready business on the doorstep of Union Station in the district. The Hotel Severin (now Omni Severin) at 43 West Georgia was built in 1913 to plans of local firm Vonnegut & Mueller. It was intended for wealthy visitors. Others were aimed at the business traveler, like the Warren Hotel at 123 South Illinois, now the Canterbury Hotel.
The Indianapolis—Wholesale Historic District is in the immediate south portion of downtown, in the 100 and 200 blocks of South Meridian and Pennsylvania Sts. and the 200 block of South Illinois, roughly bounded by Capitol Ave., Maryland, Delaware, and South Sts. Many restaurants and entertainment venues are located in the district, including live music.
Braden’s Block, J. F. Darmody Company Building, Elliott’s Block, House of Crane Building, Levey Brothers & Company Building, Levy Brothers & Company Building Annex, Louis G. Deschler Company Building, Malott Building, William B. Mumford Printing Company Factory, Reinhardt Building, Rost Jewelry Company Building, Schnull & Company Building (demolished), Union Station, and 122 South Meridian Street have been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Michigan Road Tollhouse
Early roads helped establish trade and governmental activities in Indianapolis. The Michigan Road Tollhouse is one of very few survivors of this early period in local history. The New Augusta Gravel Road Company built this small frame house to house the toll keeper and his family. A roadside marker placed in front of the house by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Indiana commemorates the “Toll House” “Operated by the Augusta Gravel Road Company circa 1866-1892” and Michigan Road as the “first major state road, built in the 1830’s from the Ohio River to Lake Michigan.”
Before Michigan Road was a toll road, it was a public road, built with state backing. The road was completed in 1834, connecting Madison, a major Ohio River port, with Lake Michigan at Michigan City, Indiana. After the advent of railroads, many of these early routes were turned over to private toll road companies. A common practice was to let private companies collect tolls on roads they had improved, as was the case for the New Augusta Gravel Road Company, which had put gravel on parts of the Michigan Road north of Indianapolis.
Samuel Howard was the toll keeper here for twenty-five years in the late 19th century. He and his wife served as toll collector, storekeeper, postmaster, and notary public for travelers and nearby farmers.
Michigan Road Tollhouse, 4702 North Michigan Rd., is a private residence not open to the public. It can be seen from Michigan Road.
New Augusta Historic District
New Augusta Historic District is an excellent and intact example of the type of railroad village that dotted the once-rural townships surrounding Indianapolis. With the completion of the Michigan Road, a small village called Augusta developed at the corner of present-day 71st and Michigan Road. With plenty of travelers using Michigan Road, the small village grew to have general stores, a post office, and other essentials.
In 1852, the Indianapolis & Lafayette Railroad opened its route, parallel to the Michigan Road about 1½ miles west of the original town of Augusta. Pike Township resident William Hornaday realized the opportunity and platted Hosbrook the same year. Later, the U.S. Post Office requested that Hosbrook be renamed to what became known as New Augusta, because another Hosbrook, Indiana, already existed. Merchants moved from Old Augusta and set up shop in the small downtown area on Dobson and Pollard Streets, complete with village pump. The c. 1890 Odd Fellows Hall at 7202-4 Dobson is the largest remaining commercial block. A concrete-block early 20th century Masonic Hall at 4705 Pollard has a stepped gable roofline.
The founding of the town itself and the New Augusta Depot on Purdy Street are directly related to transportation. This classic c. 1890 wooden depot is privately owned and remains in excellent condition.
The district also includes both typical vernacular and high style houses of the time. 7102 Dobson is a well-preserved “L” plan Queen Anne cottage. Local builders used variations of the “L” plan from the mid-19th century to the early 1900s. Several good examples of Italianate can be found in the district, including 7123 New Augusta Road. The Salem Lutheran Church has roots dating to 1836, but by 1876, the group needed a larger sanctuary. The church hired architect E. V. Enos & Son to design the current Romanesque Revival brick church, completed in 1880.
Visitors to New Augusta will find sheds, carriage houses, small barns, and even root cellars in back yards. Many residents kept farm animals for family use or may have tended farmland outside the village.
New Augusta Historic District is located on the suburban northwest side. The district in roughly bounded by West 71st St., West 74th St., Coffman Rd. and New Augusta Rd. Residences are private homes. Various commercial buildings allow interior access. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #34 Michigan Rd. disembark at 71st and Michigan.
Nickel Plate Locomotive No. 587
Nickel Plate Road Steam Locomotive No. 587 is a rare early 20th-century light Mikado steam locomotive developed by the United States Railroad Administration (USRA) during World War I rearmament. The locomotive is one of only a few of its class or type left in the United States. The light Mikado locomotive design was so successful that it was used in freight and passenger service and larger more powerful locomotives were based on its design during the last thirty years of steam locomotive construction in the United States. The Mikado design was effective because of the development and application of the two-wheel trailing truck. The truck made it possible to construct larger fireboxes and longer boilers that allowed for the enhancement of steaming capacity and power output.
The United States Railroad Administration assumed control of the American rail system under Congressional authority to prepare the United States for war. Baldwin Locomotive Works built No. 587 in September 1918. The specifications for light Mikado class locomotives came from the USRA, which assigned No. 587 to the Lake Erie & Western Railroad, later known as the Nickel Plate. The Mikado design has a 2-8-2 configuration of wheels; 2 pilot, 8 driving, 2 trailing, which was first used for an order of locomotives for the Japanese National Railway in the 1890s.
The USRA’s light Mikado was one of the first dual purpose modern steam locomotive designs, an engine that could be effectively used on heavy coal trains, fast merchandise freight trains, and passenger trains. Nickel Plate No. 587 hauled both freight and passenger trains. During its 37 years of use, it very often was based out of Frankfort, Indiana, serving a Chicago – Buffalo route, and occasionally the locomotive ran an Indianapolis – Michigan City line. The locomotive’s most distinguished service came in October of 1952, when it pulled the campaign train of then presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon from Lafayette to Frankfort, Indiana.
Nickel Plate Road Steam Locomotive No. 587 is currently under restoration and is housed at Forest Park, Noblesville, Indiana, a 45 minute drive from Indianapolis. The Indiana Transportation Museum is open April through October on Saturdays and Sundays. Consult Indiana Transportation Museum website for more information. When in service, the locomotive’s home is often the Beech Grove Rail Yards in Indianapolis.
Speedway Historic District
Speedway Historic District is an important early example of a planned residential community for an industrial complex and an illustration of the trend toward suburbanization. Indianapolis Motor Speedway founders Carl Fisher, James Allison, Frank Wheeler, and Arthur Newby established the suburb of Speedway City in 1912, close to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Both Fisher and Allison had industrial plants nearby; Fisher’s titanic Prest-O-Lite factory, which produced auto headlights and batteries, would need workers. The goal of the investors was to create a “horseless city” where residents would not only drive autos but be involved in furthering mechanized transportation. The district also is important because the Allison Engineering Company and its workers were significant for aircraft engine production. Speedway includes homes of workers, supervisors, merchants and their families; commercial buildings; and buildings where workers made auto or engine parts.
Main Street was the planned commercial center of the area. The east side of Main was the site of most of the original manufacturing buildings in Speedway. The founders named streets for automobile leaders or makes, such as Ford, Auburn, and Winton. Homes in Speedway are modest, vernacular, period revival houses typical of middle class suburbs in the U.S. from the 1920’s to the 1940’s. Simple Bungalows or American Four Square houses soon filled the streets of the original plat. Larger homes belonged to plant managers, salesmen for non-auto related firms, or those who owned businesses in Speedway.
Allison Plant One, 1200 Main Street, is the sole remaining manufacturing-related building. Though deeply interested in automotive development, Allison earned most recognition for his aircraft engines. This 1925 plant, which was acquired by General Motors after Allison died in 1928, played a role in the development of the Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled engine in the 1930’s. With improvements, the V-1710, produced at the plant, was installed in three major U.S. fighters of World War II, the P-38, P-40, and P-39. The Allison Division also produced two new revolutionary jet engines in the 1940’s, the J-33 and the J-35, used in the F-84 “Thunderjet,” which served in the Korean War. The building now serves a private race car company
Speedway Historic District is located on the west side. The district is roughly bounded by 16th., Main, 10th Sts., and Winton Ave. Most buildings are private homes or businesses. Some businesses allow access. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #25 West 16th St., disembark at Georgetown Rd., or use #10 West 10th St. and disembark at Winton Ave.
The Test Building is an innovative mixed use building designed to include one of the earliest parking garages in Indianapolis, ground floor commercial spaces, and offices. The building is noteworthy not only as an early mixed used building, but also for its refined Neo-Classical Revival architecture. Nine stories with a smooth dressed Indiana limestone façade, the Test Building occupies a prominent site on Monument Circle.
When the heirs of Charles Edward Test, former president of National Motor Vehicle Company, decided to construct a building with a 6-story parking garage and ground floor commercial spaces on such a prominent site, the public protested, but when another three stories and offices were added to the design the city issued the permit for construction. The Test family hired Bass, Knowlton & Company to draft plans for the building in 1923. Though its internal structure is a reinforced concrete frame, the architects called for a conservative, well-detailed Neo-Classical Revival exterior. A series of scroll-edged relief panels mark the third story. Each depicts different landmarks, for example, a domed governmental building similar to the Indiana Statehouse, or different modes of transportation. Biplanes, trucks, a dirigible, and a boat are included. Local artisan Alexander Sangernebo sculpted the panels.
In addition to the nostalgic stone panels, the Test Building also illustrates the early automobile age in Indianapolis in other ways. Along the north wall, visitors will find two overhead garage doors. The Tests planned for a significant portion of the building to serve as an auto garage. Their architects designed the building with the innovative “d’Humy” ramp system and parking between the lower commercial spaces and the offices above. It is believed, but not proven, that the Test Building was the first purpose-built structure of its kind in Indy when opened in 1925. The building could accommodate 200 automobiles and contained two-thirds of all parking spaces in the heart of downtown 20 years after it was built.
The Test Building is located downtown at 54 Monument Circle. Businesses allow public access for their patrons.
The Wheeler—Stokely Mansion was constructed during what is known as the Country House Era, a time when the wealthy built homes for their families outside the city. This trend is reflected in the string of mansions the wealthy built in the early 1900s along Cold Spring Road, which was known as “Millionaires Row.” The estate harks back to the early years of suburbanization in Indianapolis. Its first owner, Frank Wheeler, was closely associated with Indy’s significant automobile manufacturing industry. The house, designed by a master architect, is among the city’s best examples of Arts & Crafts architecture.
“Hawkeye” was the name Frank Wheeler gave his new mansion and estate overlooking Cold Spring Road, which was completed in 1911. Wheeler, a native of Iowa, earned his fortune in auto parts manufacturing in Indianapolis. He co-owned the Wheeler—Schebler Carburetor Company. The company made carburetors for more than 15 auto manufacturers including Ford, Dodge, Auburn, and Duesenberg. He was also a co-founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Later owners of the estate included G. Monty Williams, president of the Marmon Motor Company, and William Stokely, owner of Stokely-Van Camp Packing Company.
The Wheelers hired William Price of Price & McLanahan, a Philadelphia firm, to design the mansion. The house is 2½–stories with walls of tan face brick, capped by a green terra cotta tile roof. The bands of geometrical glazed tiles at corners and along upper walls were a trademark of Price & McLanahan’s Arts & Crafts style. They are Mercer tile made by the famous Moravian Pottery and Tile Works of Pennsylvania. A porte-cochere accommodated the Wheelers’ automobiles.
The grounds, believed to have been designed by local landscape architect A.W. Brayton, included a large reflecting pool with tower. While the pool and tower are gone, a long pergola and Japanese gardens with tea house and gardener’s cottage remain.
The Wheeler—Stokely Mansion is located on the northwest side, at 3200 Cold Spring Rd. The estate is now part of Marian College. Only the grounds are open and are accessible dawn to dusk. Be sure to visit the Allison Mansion and grounds close by at the same time. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #15 Riverside, disembark at 30th and Cold Spring Rd.
Wheeler—Schebler Carburetor Company Building
The Wheeler—Schebler Carburetor Company was one of the city’s most important auto parts makers of the early 20th century. From 1911-1951, workers in this factory produced carburetors for over 15 makes of autos nationally. Frank Wheeler and George Schebler formed a partnership to manufacture George’s carburetor, patented in 1902. Wheeler was the financial expert, while Schebler had the engineering skills. The two business partners sponsored the Wheeler—Schebler Trophy, a Tiffany-designed silver urn for Indy 500 winners and a precursor to the present Borg-Warner Trophy.
The plant housed both manufacturing processes and administrative offices. Local architects, D.H. Bohlen & Son in collaboration with Herbert Bass, designed the north portion of the factory in 1911-12. Additions continued extension of the plant to the south in 1919 and 1928. The 1928 section has the typical saw tooth roofline of many early industrial plants.
The Wheeler—Schebler Plant is one of the last automobile parts factories in Indianapolis to survive from the first decades of the twentieth century, when the city played such an important role in the manufacture of automobiles and automobile parts. In 2001-2002, Southeast Neighborhood Development Corporation rehabilitated the complex using the federal historic preservation tax credits. The innovative use combined loft apartments aimed at artists with exhibit and performance gallery spaces, while preserving many key elements of the buildings.
Wheeler—Schebler Carburetor Company, now Wheeler Arts Community, is located on the near southside at 1035 East Sanders St. The exterior is visible from the street; the interior is open for shows and exhibit openings. Consult Wheeler Arts Community for information on events. Visit nearby Fountain Square Historic District. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #14 Prospect, disembark at Prospect.
Fall Creek Parkway Bridges
A new generation of masonry bridges was an important part of the overall vision held by the city’s planners at the turn of the century. Starting with Joseph Earnshaw and John C. Olmsted, who were instrumental early in the development of the city’s park system, the idea of an improved Fall Creek Parkway with stately bridges took hold. Park Superintendent J. Clyde Power and the Marion County Commissioners oversaw the construction of the three oldest existing concrete arch bridges across Fall Creek along the parkway.
The Central Avenue Bridge was constructed first in 1899, designed by engineers Gansburg, Rowey & Haywood. This triple-arched bridge is faced with massive rock-faced limestone blocks and features semi-circular refuge bay lookouts at the intermediate piers.
The Melan Arch Construction Company of New York laid out the Illinois Street Bridge in 1901. Its three broad concrete arches are faced with limestone and stone basketweave-laid blocks form the balustrade.
College Avenue Bridge followed in 1905; H.C. Adams was the stone mason. The College Avenue Bridge suffered damage in the 1913 flood. The city soon repaired and rebuilt it, much as it was. Both College Avenue and Illinois Street carried interurban and trolley lines into the new northern suburbs.
During his years as a consultant to the Indianapolis Board of Park Commissioners, George Edward Kessler continued earlier schemes to replace iron bridges with masonry spans. He designed two major bridges to complete the Fall Creek corridor. Kessler and associated engineers on the projects used the Melan arch, but Kessler’s distinctive “City Beautiful” classicism cloaks the concrete structures in Indiana limestone.
The Capitol Avenue Bridge is more restrained, with paneled spandrels and piers and a simple oval cutout stone railing. In 1901, the city funded construction of a concrete arch bridge on this site, but the 1913 flood heavily damaged the bridge. The park board and city chose to build a new bridge in 1915.
Kessler planned an especially decorative treatment for the Meridian Street Bridge, fitting with the street’s status as Indy’s main north-south residential artery. Channeled ashlar stone, cartouches, and swags ornament the piers. The railing is a Classical balustrade. Recently, the city installed replica 1920s light standards on the bridge as part of its ongoing maintenance and restoration. In the 1980s, the City County Council rededicated the bridge as a memorial to community leader Joseph W. Summers.
All of these bridges used a variant of the Melan arch system. Viennese engineer Joseph Melan patented his design for combining iron or steel ribs with concrete, creating one of the early techniques of making reinforced concrete. The arch-shaped I-beam ribs had the great tensile strength inherent in wrought metals, while the dead weight of concrete encased and protected the iron members. Because of the steel ribs, the concrete could be comparatively thin at the center of each span. The stone veneering was decorative, intended to lend monumental character.
The following bridges, part of the Indianapolis Park and Boulevard System, are located in order from east to west on Fall Creek Parkway between Capitol Ave. and College Ave. spanning Fall Creek:
College Avenue Bridge, 1905
Central Avenue Bridge, 1899
Meridian Street Bridge, 1917
Illinois Street Bridge, 1901
Capitol Avenue Bridge, 1915
The bridges are along Fall Creek Parkway, part of the Indy greenway system open to the public from dawn to dusk, and can be visited on a short driving tour. Avoid early evening and morning commute times. From downtown Monument Circle, College Ave. is one way to the bridges and Capitol Ave. is one way back to town, making a good circuit for auto, bicycle, or bus. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #17 College, disembark near 25th St.
Pack a picnic lunch for Garfield Park, don’t forget the kids, and be prepared to do some walking! A group of local businessmen purchased the original tract of 98 acres for the park in 1874. Hoping to establish a horse racing track, the group began development. After only a few years, the track failed, and the county sheriff was forced to seize the land due to failure to pay taxes. The City of Indianapolis bought the site shortly thereafter, making this park the first major land purchase in the local public parks movement. First named Southern Park, the park was renamed following the assassination of President Garfield in 1881.
In the first decade of the 1900s, the newly constituted Board of Park Commissioners began to add acreage and permanent improvements to the park. Most notably, workers added a series of winding drives planned in the Victorian Romantic fashion. Two of the park’s graceful filled-spandrel concrete arch bridges date from 1907-08 and were part of this effort. Observation towers were a common feature of parks of the era. In 1903, the park board built the three-tiered pagoda for sightseers and picnickers. The structure is distinctive for its glacial bolder construction and flared roofline and still offers good views of downtown Indianapolis, some two miles due north.
In 1912, George Edward Kessler prepared a master plan for Garfield Park, one of few local parks for which he created a full plan. Kessler hoped to retain most of the improvements made to that point. His main addition to the park was the sunken gardens. This highly formal, axial space contrasted with the naturalistic surroundings of Garfield Park and provided an additional focal point to the park and Kessler’s system. Restored in the 1990s, the sunken gardens feature spray fountains lit by colored lights and tan brick walks lining the planting beds. The lighting scheme was in place soon after construction of the fountains and provided night time entertainment for nearby residents for many years, as the lights do once again.
The northwest corner of the park is a silent tribute to Marion County’s fallen World War I soldiers. Completed in 1920, the Memorial Grove, with its majestic trees, provides space for personal reflection.
Garfield Park is located at 2450 S. Shelby St. on the south side of Indianapolis. Office phone is 317- 327-7221. As with all Indy parks, Garfield is open dawn to dusk. Facility hours vary seasonally. Activities available at Garfield Park include: bicycling, picnic shelters, walking/jogging paths, swimming, playgrounds, tennis, basketball (indoor). Seasonal activities at Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens include the Poinsettia Show in mid-November to mid-December and a Spring Bulb Show in early April. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #22 Shelby, disembark at Shelby Street Branch Library adjacent to park.
Bring a flying disc and your walking shoes to rustic Brookside Park/Spades Place Park. New visitors to these public lands often find it hard to believe that they are only minutes from the heart of the city. Kessler’s park and boulevard plan called for a lengthy park that straddled Pogue’s Run, one of many tributary creeks to White River. By the time Kessler left city employment, Brookside Park, Spades Place Park, and Brookside Parkway were in use.
Brookside Parkway winds its way along the north and south boundaries of the park, providing scenic views to motorists along either bank of Pogue’s Run. Mature trees planted along the parkway drives fulfill Kessler’s vision, making a journey along the parkway enjoyable. Internal drives meander through the wooded park. Spades Place Park includes a significant 1903 filled-spandrel concrete arch bridge designed by Daniel Luten on Nowland Avenue, now an internal drive of the park. Other early concrete bridges span Pogue’s Run within Brookside Park.
Set immediately adjacent to Pogue’s Run, Brookside Park has retained its natural rolling hills on the north banks of the creek. Most open ball field areas were installed on the south parcel, where level terrain favored more intensive uses. While Kessler called for a community center building in this park, he did not provide specific designs. The Board of Park Commissioners hired architects Harrison & Turnock to design the Brookside Park Community Center in 1927, completing the park’s facilities. A cascading staircase with broad landings ties the north side of the community center into its naturalistic surroundings. The simple classicism of this building would have pleased Kessler. Today, this park retains many of its historic assets as well as new ones, like a large pool with spray area and a water slide.
Brookside Parkway North and South Drives are within Brookside Park/Spades Place Park, which is located at 3500 Brookside Parkway South Dr. on the east side. Reach park personnel at 317- 327-7179 (office) or 317- 327-7331 (pool/seasonal). The park is open to the public dawn to dusk; seasonal activities vary. Drive along Brookside Parkway to experience one of the best preserved sections of Kessler designed drives. Parking is available at the community center. Visitors to this park can enjoy a disc golf course, walking/jogging trails, swimming, horseshoes, tennis, baseball, basketball, soccer, football, and picnic shelters. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #11 East 16th St, disembark at Brookside Park stop.
Arsenal Technical High School
Arsenal Technical High School, once the United States Arsenal, includes a Civil War armory complex and 20th-century buildings on its campus. As the oldest military installation in central Indiana and the oldest high school in the city, the campus has dual significance.
Tech, as Indianapolis residents call it, did not begin as a school but as a Civil War arsenal. In 1862, Congress passed an act to create a permanent U.S. Army arsenal in Indianapolis. Army planners chose this site in 1863 at present-day 1500 East Michigan Street, because it had close access to downtown Indianapolis but also afforded security and would not disrupt any neighborhoods. The first soldiers arrived in 1865, and the U.S. Government maintained the arsenal here until 1903, using it to store heavy artillery, lighter arms, and some munitions. After the Spanish American War, facilities like this were dubbed obsolete for military needs, and by this time, the city had fully encroached on the site.
Winona Technical College bought the site at auction in 1904, but lasted only until 1910. At the time, the Indianapolis Public School system was in great need of a third high school. In 1912, Principal Milo Stuart opened Arsenal Technical High School on the grounds. The school still remains today. Many of the buildings are original to the U.S. Army’s use of the site, while others were added to accommodate the school’s functions.
The iron gate and brick Italianate guard house on Michigan Street date to the 1870s. Soldiers arriving late from a night on the town were detained in basement cells in the guard house. The Arsenal Building was completed in 1867. Its central tower originally served as an elevator. Wagons could pull up under the tower and be hoisted up by a platform. Once in place, rifles, cannon, or other materiel was unloaded at the appropriate floor. The internal floor system was replaced by a pan joist system in 1932. The massive, monumental three-story building with full basement with its soft red-brick exterior and Vernon, Indiana, limestone trim looks very much as it did in the 1860s.
The 1867 barracks is one of the earliest remaining buildings on campus. It once housed the detachment of fifty soldiers that staffed the arsenal, but now is used for educational activities. The West Residence, 1870, accommodated officers. A massive Shop Building and Stuart Hall were added to the campus in the 1920s and 30s.
Arsenal Technical High School is located on the near-east side of town, at 1500 East Michigan St. and is open to visitors. Visitors must register at the main desk and are encouraged to contact the school for access, 317-693-5300. Attend a high school football game in the classic Deco stadium. Consult the school’s web page for game schedules. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #3 Michigan (Eastbound), disembark at Oriental, walk up Oriental to Michigan. The U.S. Arsenal, Arsenal Building has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Butler Fieldhouse is a prime example of an early 20th century sports arena, one of only a small number of its kind left in the nation. Through the years, championship games and special events have enhanced the fieldhouse’s reputation as a historic venue. Few places in Indiana embody the state’s passion for basketball more than Butler Fieldhouse. The interior of the fieldhouse figures prominently in the classic movie Hoosiers, where the actual title game depicted in the movie was held.
Basketball is a Hoosier obsession that spans over ninety years. Colleges gathered players from the highly competitive Indiana high school scene. In 1911, the Indiana High School Athletic Association sponsored the first statewide championship tournament. Any school could compete and win the championship.
Butler University coach Tony Hinkle had been building the Butler Bulldogs into a nationally respected team for years when the school constructed Butler Fieldhouse on its new campus in 1928. The fieldhouse brought statewide and national attention to Butler University and to Indiana basketball and became the home of the state championship game until the 1990s. In 1928, at this building, Hinkle’s Bulldogs won their inaugural game against top-ranked Notre Dame. They went on to take the national championship. Hinkle coached at Butler for fifty years and won over 1,000 games during his career. The fieldhouse remains one of the best-preserved early basketball venues in the United States.
Basketball required little more than a proper ball and an apple basket at first. When the game was forced indoors by the weather, a building resembling a wooden barn would suffice. As educators accepted the odd game into their physical education courses, something more permanent and fireproof was needed. Iron and steel provided the clear spans that architects needed, while brick walls provided fireproofing. The architecture of the Butler Fieldhouse reflects these innovations in technology and design, which would shape gym design for decades to come. Its seating capacity of over 15,000 was unprecedented. Fermor Spencer Cannon, the architect of the fieldhouse, was a successful Indianapolis architect in the early 20th century and a founding member of the Indiana Society of Architects.
Butler Fieldhouse (Hinkle Fieldhouse), a National Historic Landmark, is located on the north side of town, at 49th and Boulevard Place. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file. The facility is generally open business hours and for special events. Recommended: Take in a Butler Bulldogs game in this classic basketball palace. Consult Butler University for information on game dates and times. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #28 St. Vincent’s (outbound), disembark at Illinois and 49th Street, walk west on 49th to Boulevard Place.
City Market has the singular importance of serving as the main public market for Indianapolis for over 120 years. Its brick architecture reflects the German training of architect D. A. Bohlen.
Alexander Ralston set aside this site for a market in his 1821 plan. The city built several simple market stall buildings here early on. In 1886, architects D.A. Bohlen & Son drafted plans to replace the aging market sheds. This is the building that survives today, with alterations. The brick exterior walls have stone sills and details. The Market Street side is the original main front. Here, Bohlen used twin flanking towers, simple pilasters, and stilted round arches. Similar to the Romanesque Revival style, but coming from German sources, historians call this style Rundbogenstil or Round-arched style. D.A. Bohlen was trained in Germany at the height of influence of this bold, utilitarian style. The architects also planned for a clerestory to infuse additional light to the interior.
For the interior, the Bohlens made use of cast and wrought iron columns and trusses to support the large free span needed for the market stalls. Hetherington & Berner iron works of Indianapolis provided the iron work for the interior. In 1972-77, the city completed a massive revitalization of City Market. Over the years, the Bohlen firm had designed additional bays to expand the building. These were removed, and the firm of James & Associates designed modern wings. A mezzanine was added to the interior of the 1886 building.
The plaza to the west of City Market once housed Tomlinson Hall, a large red brick building similar in style to City Market, also designed by D.A. Bohlen & Son in the 1880s. A fire damaged Tomlinson Hall, and it was demolished in 1958. The remnant arch of Tomlinson Hall was discovered during the 1970s rehabilitation of City Market. Recently, City Market has undergone another major renovation and development project.
City Market is located downtown at 222 East Market Street. The market is open business hours plus Saturday mornings. The Indianapolis City Market website has more information. Recommended: Breakfast and lunch stands have everything from Irish (stuffed potatoes) to Italian, Middle Eastern/Greek, and American cuisine. Gourmet foodstuffs are for sale as well. Also, the adjoining plaza often has live entertainment in season. Farmers Market is held each Wednesday, May-September. City Market is a must-see.
Fort Benjamin Harrison Historic District
Fort Harrison was the city’s major military facility before its closing in the 1990s. Beginning in 1902, the fort served in a training capacity for two World Wars, the Cold War, Vietnam War, and other U.S. actions. For many central Indiana men, the fort was a point of induction into or release from military service. It remains an excellent example of military facility planning from the early 20th-century and includes many of its original 1902-10 era buildings.
In the wake of the Spanish American War, Congress established a series of regimental infantry posts to accommodate a vastly enlarged U.S. Army. In 1902, Congress established Fort Benjamin Harrison, and the Army began land acquisition in then rural Lawrence Township, northeast of downtown Indianapolis.
The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps used standardized building plans for the officers' housing, barracks, barns, and service buildings of the fort. Construction began in 1906, with most buildings finished by 1910. Other portions of the fort, extending to the north, saw construction of barracks in the interwar period. Sergeant’s Row, a series of doubles facing 56th Street, was added in 1931.
The land-use planning of the fort is practical, and perhaps unexpectedly, very aesthetically pleasing. Lawton Loop, a naturalistic, roughly U-shaped drive, is lined with brick and stone-trimmed officers’ quarters, now converted to private housing. Former barracks buildings were sited along the east side of the drill grounds. The street pattern changes to a more utilitarian grid in the service areas to the east.
In the 1990s, Fort Harrison was decommissioned. Private development has been allowed to use excess parts of the fort, adding new neighborhoods. Former officer housing and barracks have been rehabilitated for private use. The military still maintains a small portion of the site and the 1950s finance center across 56th Street. Much of the grounds were kept in a natural state during the Army’s stewardship of the base. The State of Indiana acquired this portion, along with the former Officer’s Club. Fort Harrison State Park is open to the public and includes hiking and horseback trails, golf, and dining facilities at the former Officers' Club.
Fort Benjamin Harrison Historic District is located in suburban Lawrence Township, on the northeast side of town. The district includes Lawton Loop, Shafter Rd., Aultman Ave., and Glenn Rd. (roughly, the area north of the 8700 block of East 56th Street). The former officers' quarters are now private homes and offices. Restaurants and other convenience businesses have regular hours. Recommended: Park the car and bring out the bicycle for a pleasant tour. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #4 Ft. Harrison (outbound), disembark at Finance Center stop.
Indiana Theatre is the largest and most ornamented historic movie palace left in Indianapolis, a fine example of the great movie palaces of the flamboyant 1920s. The building also has one of the finest glazed terra cotta facades, and certainly the most ornamental, in town.
The Indiana Theatre began its days as a movie palace but has served as the home of the Indiana Repertory Theatre since 1980. In 1927, the owners of the Circle Theater on Monument Circle hoped to capitalize on the success of that theater by opening a larger movie house. With an original capacity of 3,200, a ballroom, bowling alley, lunch counter, barber shop, and more, the Indiana Theatre exceeded expectations.
Part of the sense of total immersion into another world began with the façade of the theatre itself. Architects Rubush & Hunter, themselves investors in the project, planned a fantastic Spanish Baroque exterior of pure white glazed terra cotta. The intricate weaving of morphed classical forms recalls the works of late 17th and 18th century Spanish architect Jose de Churriguera, whose works gave the name to the Churrigueresque style. Sculptor Alexander Sangernebo created the terra cotta molds that the F.E. Gates Marble and Tile Company used to make the terra cotta.
The ornate interior matches the splendor of the Washington Street exterior front façade and contains a blend of exotic features. The Spanish theme is carried through to all major spaces, including main lobby, upper lobby, theater interior, and Indiana Roof Ballroom.
Indiana Theatre is downtown at 140 W. Washington St. Except for the lobby, the building is only open for performances sponsored by the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Consult Indiana Repertory Theatre for more information. See a performance in the historic theatre; performances vary from contemporary to Shakespeare. The Indiana Theatre has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
The Majestic was Indiana’s first entirely steel framed skyscraper building. Rising to ten stories high, the building has brick walls and Indiana limestone veneer. The Indiana Gas Company constructed the building in 1895–96 to serve as a new business headquarters.
Oscar Bohlen of D.A. Bohlen & Son was the architect. Though it was intended as the main office of the gas company, other businesses located here too. The New York Central and Big Four Railroads maintained Indianapolis offices in the Majestic at various times in the early 20th century, for example.
Bohlen’s exterior design for the Majestic uses the strength of the Romanesque Revival style. The large entrance arches are intricately decorated with foliate and acanthus carvings. The center grouping of three massive arches in the center of the upper stories, flanked by bookends of triple windows, gives the building its monumental character.
Majestic Building is located at 47 S. Pennsylvania Street. The building houses several businesses that are open various hours.
Merchants National Bank Building
Merchants National Bank Building is Indy’s prime example of Chicago School office design. Merchants had existed in Indianapolis since 1865. During the 19th century, the bank was a commercial lending institution and served major Indianapolis firms such as Eli Lilly & Company, Stokley-Van Camp, and famed department store L.S. Ayres & Company. Later, individual accounts were accepted.
In 1905, the Board of Directors elected to build a new headquarters at the most important intersection in Indianapolis, Meridian and Washington. Meridian Street is the east-west divider, while Washington Street – the National Road – divided north from south. The board hired D.H. Burnham & Company of Chicago as architects. Daniel Burnham, principal of the firm, was the leading force behind the architectural and engineering success of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Burnham and his fellow Chicago architects, especially Louis Sullivan, had developed the new skyscraper into an art form. Sullivan’s formula of base-shaft-capital, to organize high-rise buildings into a coherent form, is much in evidence in the Merchants Bank design in Indianapolis.
Construction was completed in two phases, with initial occupancy in 1908. Upper stories were finished by 1912. Rather than Sullivan’s trademark organic ornament, Burnham chose the language of Classicism to cloak the exterior of the Merchants tower. The “base” including first floor and mezzanine are of Indiana limestone, in the form of Classical piers. The attic floors are profuse with Classical moldings, executed in glazed architectural terra cotta.
Merchants National Bank is located downtown at 11 South Meridian, where Washington and Meridian Sts. meet. A bank occupies part of the ground floor and mezzanine. The original banking room fills the other half of the first floor and mezzanine and can be viewed through a screen. Other parts of the building are private offices. The building is best appreciated from Monument Circle due to its height.
Old Pathology Building
Old Pathology Building provides a rare glimpse into 19th-century medical technology. The building houses an original surgical amphitheater and laboratory rooms with original equipment. The facility illustrates 19th-century medical thought, which finally embraced scientific process. Visitors can explore the world of 19th-century medical history at this remarkably well-preserved facility.
The Old Pathology Building is on the grounds of the former Indiana Central State Hospital, an asylum for the mentally ill. The State of Indiana bought the acreage in the 1850s. In the 1870s, all buildings were replaced and a massive Second Empire style hospital complex was built in the “Kirkbride” plan. Kirkbride buildings were roughly U-shaped, with successive wings stepping back to allow wards to be sealed off from one another.
The state funded construction of the building in 1895, in the wake of breakthrough discoveries in medical and biological science. Through the use of deceased patients from Central State, the medical community could better understand disease and its effects. The information would then be disseminated nationally.
State officials hired Adolph Scherrer as architect for the project. Scherrer had familiarity with state projects; he had taken over the Statehouse commission when his employer, architect Edwin May, died unexpectedly. Scherrer also drafted plans for other buildings at Central State during the 1890s. His functional Victorian Romanesque exterior for the Old Pathology Building combined dark brick walls with crisp dressed-stone lintels and beltcourses.
The interior of the building has changed very little from its initial years of use. Equipment and furnishings remain intact. The surgical amphitheater is in place. Dissections performed here were intended to educate young interns studying at the nearby Indiana University School of Medicine.
Central State fell into decline in the 1960s. The main Kirkbride style wards were demolished. In the 1990s, the state closed Central State Hospital. The Old Pathology Building is one of few reminders of the state’s activities on the site.
Old Pathology Building is located at 3000 West Washington St., but the entrance is off of Vermont St.; follow the green marker signs around the fenced grounds to the museum lot entrance. Tours of the interior are available. Hours are 10:00am-4:00pm Thursday-Saturday for drop-in visitors. Wednesdays are by appointment only. Call 317-635-7329 for more information. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #8 Washington (westbound), disembark at Tibbs Ave.; walk north on Tibbs to north entrance off of Vermont St.
Oldfields is located in a small corner of Indianapolis that was a highly exclusive enclave of wealthy estates in the early 1900s and is the only intact holding left in the development. The estate is one of the best surviving examples of a Country Place Era estate in the United States. Its highly significant landscape was designed by the nationally recognized Olmsted Brothers firm. Oldfields was home to some of the most influential business leaders in the city including the Lilly family, operators of the international Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company.
In 1909, Hugh and Suzette Landon bought the large tract of farmland here and hired Lewis Ketcham Davis, Mrs. Landon’s brother, as architect for the main house. Landon was president of the Indianapolis Water Company. The Landons were concerned about fire safety, and Davis assuaged them by coming up with a reinforced concrete-frame, hollow-tile house veneered in brick. Hugh, Suzette, and their three daughters moved in upon its completion in 1913. The house was grand but lacked any distinctive setting.
Suzette Landon died in 1918, and in 1920, Hugh married Jesse Spaulding of Chicago. The two found the ideal environment for their mansion when visiting the Lamont estate in North Haven, Maine, which had been designed by Percival Gallagher of Olmsted Brothers, the second generation of the firm founded by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. After seeing his work, Jesse wrote to Gallagher requesting his services at the family’s rural Indianapolis home.
Between 1920 and 1925, Gallagher designed and created a landscape that survives incredibly intact today. Six principal spacial components were in Gallagher’s plan—entry sequence, grand allee with a tree-lined vista, border gardens, ravine garden, formal garden, and hillside ramble. Secondary spaces included an orchard, cutting garden and greenhouse area, service area, and pasture. Gallagher’s original intent is evident in the many original drawings found for the project.
Tragedy struck the Landon household again in 1930 when Jesse died. Hugh sold his estate to Josiah Kirby Lilly, Jr. J. K. Lilly and his wife Ruth would stay for many years, but not until he had hired local architect Frederick Wallick to alter the interior and exterior of the house. One of the additions was a portico added to the main front. The landscape remained much as Gallagher intended. J. K. was the son of Eli Lilly, founder of the well-known pharmaceutical company. He oversaw a period of great expansion and innovation at Eli Lilly & Company, one that transformed the firm into an international company, and served both as its president and chairman of the board of directors. He also excelled as a collector, philanthropist, and humanitarian.
In the early 1970s, the Indianapolis Museum of Art moved from its founding site at Herron Institute of Art to this location. The modern museum building is situated immediately adjacent to the Landon/Lilly Estate. Oldfields is part of IMA’s museum experience, where visitors get a glimpse into a now-lost way of life. The museum has fully restored the rugged ravine garden with its manmade water run lined by glacial boulders, using originally specified plant materials where needed. Main components of the Gallagher plan – the estate wall, entrance gate, estate drives, formal garden, ravine garden, allee, border gardens, hillside rambles, orchard, and greenhouse – remain for visitors to enjoy and experience a Country Era estate.
Oldfields, a National Historic Landmark, is located on the northwest side at 1200 W. 38th St. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file. Oldfields is on the grounds of Indianapolis Museum of Art. Grounds and museum are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm; Thursday, 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days. Admission charged. Grounds open free of charge dawn-dusk. Contact 317-923-1331 or Indianapolis Museum of Art for more information. The ravine garden is at its height in spring. While visiting this landmark, tour the world-class galleries in the main art museum building. One highlight is the impressive collection of Hoosier School art. INDYGO bus line from downtown: #34 Michigan Rd.; disembark at 38th Street; museum is across Michigan Rd.
Roberts Park Methodist Episcopal Church
Roberts Park Methodist Episcopal Church is an important early example of Romanesque Revival architecture and one of the oldest churches remaining downtown. Its congregation has its roots in one of the first Methodist groups in the city that began meeting in Indianapolis in 1821. By the 1840s, two congregations had formed from this first group, and one of them built Roberts Chapel at Market and Pennsylvania Streets. The Roberts congregation decided to move out of the downtown, such as it was, just after the Civil War. The congregation bought the present site and began construction in 1869. Financial constraints meant that the church was not totally finished until 1876.
D. A. Bohlen was the architect of the church. Bohlen came to Indianapolis with architect Francis Costigan in the 1850s. A German immigrant, Bohlen is often credited with being the first trained architect in town. Costigan, though skilled, had never studied architecture. Bohlen’s Romanesque-inspired church predates Henry Hobson Richardson’s essays on the style by years. At the time of Bohlen’s training in Germany, the Rundbogenstil, or Round-arched style, was popular. Its proponents blended classically influenced styles into a monumental new style that resembled buildings of the Romanesque period. Roberts Park Church reflects this style.
The church is constructed of limestone from Emmitsville, Indiana, and is rectangular in plan with a bell tower. The corner tower was originally intended to have a tall spire, which was never executed. The interior of the church has well-crafted woodwork and a fine, large sanctuary with seating for 1200 people. A pair of elaborate black walnut staircases lead to galleries supported by cast iron posts, that wrap around three sides of the interior of the sanctuary.
Roberts Park Methodist Episcopal Church (now Roberts Park UMC) is located at 401 North Delaware St. The church is open for Sunday services.
St. Mary's Catholic Church
The history of St. Mary’s Catholic Church is strongly associated with the German American community that quickly developed in Indianapolis during the mid-19th century, when many Germans immigrated to the midwest. The church with its dominating octagonal towers and exterior stone details is a fine example of German Gothic Revival architecture.
Formed as a national parish for the German speaking, the congregation first had a brick church in the 100 block of East Maryland Street. By the end of the century, this area had long been dominated by expanding railroad-related wholesale firms. The parish elected to build closer to the area identified as strongly German.
Church officials bought the present site in 1910 and began construction of the present church. The building was completed in 1912. Its limestone exterior is said by many to closely resemble Cologne Cathedral. Experienced travelers would probably quibble with this. However, St. Mary’s is German Gothic in inspiration, and generally, recalls the lines of the great cathedral. Hermann Gaul, a native of Cologne, was the architect of St. Mary’s and an admirer of the Cologne Cathedral.
For many years, mass was held in German at St. Mary’s but that practice was discontinued decades ago. The church’s role in ethnic history is far from over, however. As Indianapolis experienced a dramatic increase in Hispanic population in the 1990s and 2000s, St. Mary’s parish found a new role. Mass is now regularly held in Spanish on Sundays.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church at 317 North New Jersey St. is open for Saturday evening and Sunday mass. Mass in Spanish is on Sundays. Combine with a tour of adjacent Lockerbie Square Historic District.
St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church
St. John's was the first Catholic parish in Indianapolis and played an important role in the growth and development of Catholicism in the city. The present St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church is a brick and stone Gothic Revival design, an important example of the work of prominent architect D. A. Bohlen. The church remains intact from its completion in the 1860s.
Originally, the city’s first Catholics chose a site at West and Washington Streets. In 1846, the parish bought the current site and built a second church. This proved too small by the 1860s, and the parish hired Dietrich Bohlen to serve as architect for a new sanctuary in 1867. The grandeur of St. John’s stems from the idea that this newer church would soon become the Cathedral of Indianapolis, a plan that never materialized. Instead, the city’s many Catholic nationalities decided to build their own houses of worship – Irish, near Fountain Square; Germans, at St. Mary’s near Lockerbie Square; Italians, just north of Fountain Square. St. John’s nonetheless continued to serve many Catholic families. It had a private school at this site early on. The red brick, two story rectory dating from 1863-1867 was also planned by Dietrich Bohlen.
St. John’s is among the earliest churches left in the city and one of the best examples of Gothic Revival architecture. Unlike English-inspired Gothic Revival, Bohlen’s Germanic design is highly symmetrical. The use of soft red brick with contrasting limestone underscores the balanced composition. The rose window is composed of plate tracery in limestone pierced by Gothic lobed openings, instead of Late Gothic style lacey work. Lofty plaster simulated quadripartite vaulting encloses the beautifully maintained interior. Rich Victorian colors highlight the sanctuary. Though the church was largely complete by the 1870s, the spires were designed by Oscar Bohlen of D. A. Bohlen & Son and added in 1893.
St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church is located downtown at 121 South Capitol Ave. The sanctuary is often open daytime hours for contemplation and for Saturday and Sunday mass. Combine a visit to the church with a tour of the Indianapolis Union Station—Wholesale Historic District.
By clicking on these links, you can go directly to particular sections:
Indianapolis History, Tourism, and Preservation Websites
Websites of Places Featured in Itinerary
Selected Bibliography for Indianapolis
Indianapolis History, Tourism, and Preservation Websites
Cultural Districts in Indianapolis
This site includes the city’s official cultural districts, some of which are in the National Register of Historic Places. Includes dining, accommodation, and entertainment options.
Heritage Documentation Programs in the American Memory: Built in America
Heritage Documentation Programs, National Park Service, administers HABS (Historic American Buildings Survey), the Federal Government’s oldest operating preservation program, and companion programs, HAER (Historic American Engineering Record), HALS (Historic American Landscapes Survey), and CRGIS (Cultural Resources Geographic Information Systems). Drawings, maps, photographs, and historical reports produced through the programs and archived at the Library of Congress constitute the nation’s largest collection of historical architectural, engineering, and landscape documentation.
Historic Hotels of America
A feature of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Heritage Traveler program that provides information on historic hotels and package tours in the vicinity of this itinerary.
Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana
Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana is a nonprofit group that assists grassroots preservation efforts, advocates preservation, creates statewide initiatives, owns historic properties, and partners with the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology in preservation activities.
Indianapolis Downtown, Inc.
Indianapolis Downtown is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting travel and tourism in Indianapolis.
Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology
Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology (DHPA), part of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, is the State Historic Preservation Office for Indiana. The DHPA processes all National Register nominations, coordinates identification of historic places, helps protect historic properties as part of the planning of government-funded projects, and awards matching grants for preservation projects.
Indiana Historical Bureau
Indiana Historical Bureau manages the state’s marker program and helps foster educational programs in history.
Indiana Historical Society
Indiana Historical Society is a nonprofit but state-chartered organization that collects and interprets historical images, papers, and artifacts.
Indiana Office of Tourism Development
Indiana Office of Tourism Development offers information on travel, festivals, and special promotions.
Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association
Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association provides information on hotels, activities, cultural districts, and other amenities for travelers.
Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission
Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission administers many of the districts in this itinerary, by creating preservation plans and issuing permits for alterations to exteriors. Local designation is through the City of Indianapolis.
INDYGO (Indianapolis bus system)
INDYGO’s site includes routes, timetables, and fare information for Indianapolis and Marion County travelers.
National Park Service
The main National Park Service website is the gateway to national parks, information on preserving America’s history and culture in parks and communities, and a vast amount of other useful information. Visit the National Parks located in Indiana: George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.
National Park Service Office of Tourism
National Parks have been interwoven with tourism from their earliest days. This website highlights the ways in which the National Park Service promotes and supports sustainable, responsible, informed and, managed visitor use through cooperation and coordination with the tourism industry.
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official inventory of historic places worthy of preservation. Districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture are included in the National Register, which is expanded and maintained by the National Park Service. The National Register website is the gateway to information on authentic registered historic places, the benefits of recognition, and how to become involved in identifying, nominating to the National Register, and protecting these irreplaceable reminders of our heritage.
National Historic Landmarks
National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior, because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. They all are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
National Trust for Historic Preservation
National Trust for Historic Preservation is a U.S. Congress-chartered nonprofit group that preserves historic places, publishes information about preservation, and operates preservation initiatives. Learn about the programs and membership in the oldest national nonprofit preservation organization.
Teaching with Historic Places
Teaching with Historic Places is a program of the National Park Service that offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places and other resources to help teachers and students use historic places in the classroom.
National Scenic Byways Program
This website, maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, includes information on state and nationally designated byway routes throughout America based on their archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. Visit the America’s Byways Historic National Road - Indiana website for more ideas.
Links to Websites of Places Featured in This Itinerary
Christ Church Cathedral
Circle Theater (Hilbert Circle Theatre, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra)
Cottage Home Historic District
Crown Hill Cemetery
Das Deutsche Haus (The Athenaeum)
President Benjamin Harrison House (in Northside Historic District)
Harrison Center (in Northside Historic District)
Herron—Morton Historic District
Indiana State Library
Indiana Theatre (Indiana Repertory Theatre)
Indiana World War Memorial Commission
Indianapolis Motor Speedway National Historic Landmark
Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation
Madame C.J. Walker Building National Historic Landmark
Morris—Butler House (in Northside Historic District)
Nickle Plate Locomotive No.587 (at Indiana Transportation Museum)
Old Pathology Building (Indiana Medical History Museum)
Oldfields National Historic Landmark (Indianapolis Museum of Art)
Wheeler—Schebler Carburetor Company
David Bodenhamer and Robert Barrows, editors. Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Indianapolis: IU Press, 1994.
Diebold, Paul. Greater Irvington, Architecture, People and Places on the Eastside of Indianapolis. Indianapolis: Irvington Historical Society, 1997.
Diebold, Paul. The History and Architecture of Meridian-Kessler. Indianapolis: Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood Association, 2005.
Mary Ellen Gadski, editor. Indianapolis Architecture, Transformations since 1975. Indianapolis: Indiana Architectural Foundation, 1993.
Geib, George W. Indianapolis: Hoosier’s Circle City. Tulsa: Continental Heritage Press, 1981.
Gibbs, Wilma. Indiana’s African-American Heritage. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1993.
Indianapolis Architecture. Indianapolis: Indiana Architectural Foundation, 1975.
Maloney, Michael and Kenneth J. Remenschneider. Indianapolis Landscape Architecture. Washington, DC: Landscape Architecture Foundation, 1983.
Marlette, Jerry. Indianapolis Railways. Terra Alta, WV: Pioneer Press of West Virginia, 2002.
Peat, Wilbur. Indiana Houses of the Nineteenth Century. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1962.
Phillips, Clifton J. Indiana in Transition. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau and Indiana Historical Society, 1968.
Taylor, Robert, et al. Indiana: A New Historical Guide. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1989.
Taylor, Robert and Connie A. McBirney. Peopling Indiana: The Ethnic Experience. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1996.
Thornbrough, Emma Lou. Indiana’s Blacks in the Twentieth Century. Indianapolis: I.U. Press, 2000.
Bundles, A’Lelia. Madam C.J. Walker. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1991.
Johnson, Howard. A Home in the Woods, Pioneer Life in Indiana, Oliver Johnson's Reminiscences of Early Marion County. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1978.
Mallett, Ann. A Child’s History of Indianapolis: The Beginning Years. Indianapolis: Indianapolis Marion County Historical Society, 1985.
Schleifer, Jay. Indy, The Great American Race. Parsippany, NJ: Crestwood House; Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, c. 1995
The Indianapolis Discover Our Shared Heritage travel itinerary was produced by the National Park Service's Heritage Education Services and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology in partnership with the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers. The Indianapolis travel itinerary is based primarily on registration information on historic places in the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks collections. These archives are kept at 1201 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC and are open to the public.
The itinerary was conceptualized, written, and most photographs were taken by Paul Diebold, Senior Architectural Historian, Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology and edited and managed by Carol Shull, Chief, Heritage Education Services, National Park Service with the assistance of Beth Boland, Heritage Education Services. Hyejung Kwon, a graduate student completing her Masters of Tourism Administration (MTA) at George Washington University’s School of Business, Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, designed the computer template and programmed the online itinerary as the practicum for her MTA. Michelle Farley, graduate student in Historic Preservation at the University of Maryland, College Park, did the final corrections and programming with the assistance of Cynthia Jarrin, graduate student in Public History at American University.
The itinerary was produced with the support of Jon Smith, Assistant Associate Director for Heritage Preservation Services; Bryan Mitchell, Chief, Heritage Preservation Services; Paul Loether, Chief, National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks; and Richard O’Connor, Chief, Historical Documentation Programs. Shannon Davis, National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers contractor, assigned to the NPS Battlefield Protection Program under Paul Hawke, and Jeff Joeckel of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks staff provided advice and assistance in the development of the itinerary. Diedre McCarthy of NPS's Cultural Resources Geographic Information Systems, Historical Documentation Programs under John Knoerl provided training, advice, and access to Geographic Information System maps used in the itinerary.
Thank you to the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana; Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission; Indianapolis Downtown, Inc.; Indiana Historical Society; Indianapolis Public Schools; April Wood and Suzie Elliott at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; and the Irvington Historical Society for their contributions and assistance. M. Teresa Baer, Paula Corpuz, and Rachel Popma of the Indiana Historical Society proofread the itinerary and suggested editorial revisions. Steve Kennedy, Amy Walker, Jeannie Regan-Dinius and the staff of the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology provided support and editing advice. Thanks also to the people of Indianapolis for sharing their historic places.
Photos for homepage and menu banners, all courtesy of the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, unless otherwise noted. Homepage, in order of appearance: James Allison Mansion; Indiana World War Memorial Plaza Monument Historic District; a house in Oliver Johnson's Woods Historic District; main gate of Crown Hill Cemetery; street scene in Massachusetts Ave. Historic District; houses in Ransom Place Historic District; Indiana Statehouse; Jeff Ward, 2001 Indianapolis 500; Garfield Park; and a bridge in Meridian Park. Essay pages menu, left to right: a house in the North Meridian Street Historic District; the Governor Oliver Morton Monument at the Indiana Statehouse; the Murat Shrine Building in the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District. Individual sites pages menu, left to right: the Benton House in the Irvington Historic District; Indiana World War Memorial in University Park; the interior of City Market.