Indianapolis history

Design Competitions and Monument Circle

Ben Ross :: Monday, April 18th, 2011

Design competitions offer an opportunity for gathering a range of ideas and concepts for a particular program or project. The recent Monument Circle Idea Competition serves as a reminder that design competitions have generated many ideas that have shaped the built environment of Indianapolis. The greatest of these was certainly the 1887-88 international design competition for a state monument to Hoosier veterans of the Civil War. 

E. Boyden & Son, competition entry, 1887

E. Boyden & Son, competition entry, 1887

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Monday, April 18th, 2011 Historic Preservation, Urban Design 2 Comments

Indianapolis in 1916

Ben Ross :: Monday, April 11th, 2011

 

The two videos linked below were produced by the Ford Motor Company and give a rare glimpse into life in Indianapolis in 1916. These show a bustling, modern, mass-transit-dependent city, with tall buildings, urban neighborhoods with manicured lawns and well-maintained houses, monumental public buildings, City Beautiful bridges, and extensive parks.  A time-lapse segment shows Washington Street sidewalks overwhelmed by pedestrians (historic photographs indicate that this was normal, daily traffic).  

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Winter in the City: a tangent

Ben Ross :: Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
Vermont Street east from Meridian, 1910 (IHS)

Vermont Street east from Meridian, 1910 (IHS)

This snowy 1910 view shows Vermont Street, looking east from Meridian Street across the north side of University Park. Rows of fashionable mansions of the 1860s-1870s line the street and the spire of the Second Presbyterian Church is visible at the northwest corner of Vermont and Pennsylvania.

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Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 Historic Preservation, Urban Design No Comments

Traces of early Indianapolis: the Aetna Building

Ben Ross :: Monday, January 17th, 2011

While much of early Indianapolis has disappeared, bits and pieces can be found, often hidden in plain sight. This late-1850s view of N. Pennsylvania shows an entire cityscape that has vanished:

Pennsylvania Street looking north from Court Street, late-1850s (IHS).

Pennsylvania Street looking north from Court Street, late-1850s (IHS).

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Monday, January 17th, 2011 Historic Preservation No Comments

Bicycles, Flying Cars, and the Speedway

Ben Ross :: Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Carl G. Fisher, later to become famous as the founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Miami Beach, Florida (among his many other activities), first gained fame as a bicycle dealer in Indianapolis. Fisher, an avid competitive cyclist, met two of his future Speedway partners, James A. Allison and Arthur C. Newby, at at the Zig-Zag Cycling Club and the Flat Tire Club. Newby financed the construction of the Newby Oval, a velodrome with a grandstand seating 20,000 spectators. Designed by architect Herbert W. Foltz, the Newby Oval opened in 1898 near 30th Street and Central Avenue. This would serve as a precedent for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that Fisher, Allison, Newby, and Frank Wheeler would build in 1909.

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Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 Historic Preservation No Comments

Indianapolis Discovers the Bicycle

Ben Ross :: Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
Young man in competitive cycling clothing, c.1900 (IHS)

Young man in competitive cycling clothing, c.1900 (IHS)

In the United States, the 1890s was marked by what is often called the “Bicycle Craze.” The commercial introduction of the modern safety bicycle in the 1880s sparked a massive increase in cycling as a form of recreation and practical transportation. The bicycle provided an affordable and reliable form of transportation both in urban areas and in smaller communities. Cities generally had larger areas of paved or graveled streets, but unpaved roads did not keep rural residents from taking advantage of this transportation revolution. Bicycles were often referred to as “wheels” and cycling was frequently called “wheeling.”

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Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 Historic Preservation, Sustainable Design 1 Comment

South and West of CityWay (North of South)

Ben Ross :: Monday, December 13th, 2010

The area around the CityWay (formerly called “North of South”) development also contains a number of forgotten stories.  Here are just a few:

 

 

The first St. Vincent's Hospital (1889), southeast corner of South and Delaware Streets.

The first St. Vincent's Hospital (1889), southeast corner of South and Delaware Streets.

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Monday, December 13th, 2010 Historic Preservation No Comments

The Past Life of CityWay (North of South)

Ben Ross :: Thursday, December 9th, 2010

The CityWay (formerly “North of South”) development promises to bring renewed life and density to a vast stretch of vacant land just south of Downtown. The site’s recent existence as a vast asphalt-paved parking lot belies its long and varied history. The creek known as Pogue’s Run flows along its northern border; the railroad corridor lies along the north bank of Pogue’s Run. If you visit the area today, you will not see the creek, as it has been turned into an underground culvert. Pogue’s Run is the brook of Brookside Park, flowing through the campus of Arsenal Technical High School, before disappearing underground at New York Street near Highland Park. The creek was named for George Pogue, an early settler who lived on its banks before he disappeared in 1821.

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Thursday, December 9th, 2010 Historic Preservation No Comments

Light Rail in Indiana, Part II

Ben Ross :: Friday, August 20th, 2010
Diagram of Indiana as an steam and interurban light rail center, 1907

Diagram of Indiana as an steam and interurban light rail center, 1907

Indiana’s interurban electric light rail system experienced peak ridership in the mid-1920s with over 50 million passengers per year.  The state’s population was just 3 million at that time, equaling about 16 trips per capita per year.  Interurban service in Indiana was almost entirely shut down during the 10 years between 1930 and 1940, with only the South Shore line remaining in service after 1940.  This comprehensive system of electric transit was replaced by much slower travel in private automobiles over roads which required ever-larger sums of public money to build and maintain.  In his 1961 book The City in History, the prescient historian Lewis Mumford noted:

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Friday, August 20th, 2010 Sustainable Design, Urban Planning No Comments

Light Rail in Indiana, Part I

Ben Ross :: Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Map of interurban lines in Indiana, 1910

Indiana's interurban light rail lines, 1910 (IHS)

Across the state, one finds fragments and ruins of what was the most comprehensive statewide interurban electric light rail transit system ever built in the United States.  Every city in Indiana with a population over 5,000 except for Bloomington, Madison and Evansville was connected by the interurban system (Evansville was connected to a regional network).

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