A Room with a View – Municipal Gardens Park

Written by on February 26, 2013 in A Room with a View - 12 Comments
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This week’s A Room with a View is really more of an Area with a View, in two parts. After scoping out the Lohrmann House at 16th and White River that Sharon Butsch Freeland highlighted in a recent HI Mailbag article, I turned north and drove up a stretch of Lafayette Road I had never before traveled and came across the Municipal Gardens Family Center. Wanting to check out more of the Gardens, I tuned up Cold Springs Road to turn around and found myself even more intrigued by a random stone gate and a boulder, set on a pedestal, up away from the road. But more on what’s in the woods next week.

The Municipal Gardens is set upon what was once the location of the Indianapolis Canoe Club, a private country club catering to the city’s elite, specifically a playground for Carl Fisher and Indianapolis’ burgeoning automobile production bigwigs.

The Indianapolis Canoe Club

The Indianapolis Canoe Club 

After burning down in 1916, the Canoe Club rebuilt a nearly identical building the following year but only remained there for three more years. In 1920, the Canoe Club sold their property and it was revamped as the Casino Gardens Jazz Club, featurting cornet player Bix Beiderbecke and his band the Wolverine and local hero Hoagy Carmichael.

AdRainbowCasinoGardensIndStar7Jun1924

However, Bix and Hoagy’s time at the Casino Gardens was short and crowds were dwindling by the mid 1920’s. The city purchased it in 1927 and it was renamed the Municipal Gardens. Though it still functioned as a dance and music hall, it’s main focus was more and more on recreational sports. Throughout the years, the Municipal Gardens has housed several Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) champion basketball teams and helped develop former Indiana University standout Eric Gorden and former IUPUI great and current Indiana Pacer George Hill. Eli Lilly helped fund the construction of a new gym on the north side of the facility and the former dance hall turned gym became dance hall once again, restored and refurbished into a multipurpose gathering and rental space.

below - restoring the old basketball court into a multipurpose room (above)

below – restoring the old basketball court into a multipurpose room (above)

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About the Author

Ryan Hamlett, a Fine Arts graduate of Indiana University, turned a teenage fascination with exploring "haunted places" into a love of Urban Exploration or sneaking (not breaking) into abandoned buildings, armed with a camera and flashlight. That passion for photographing urban decay has led him to the Historic Preservation Graduate Program at Ball State University which he'll begin this fall.

12 Comments on "A Room with a View – Municipal Gardens Park"

  1. Kevin J. Brewer February 26, 2013 at 1:56 pm · Reply

    All I can say is thumbs up. It looks like a beautiful space.

    • Ryan Hamlett February 28, 2013 at 1:31 pm · Reply

      Thanks! Make sure to come back next week as well.

  2. basil berchekas jr February 26, 2013 at 2:11 pm · Reply

    Been to events at the Municipal Gardens before…a good time. I liked the architectural styling of Municipal Gardens since I was “little”…the architecture on up Colds Springs Road gets better and better, including the area above Lake Sullivan and the lower end of Crooked Creek. I remember J I Holcomb’s estate house at the north end of Cold Springs Road as well. Even the styling of the former VA hospital there. Can’t wait for next week!

    • Ryan Hamlett February 28, 2013 at 1:27 pm · Reply

      Thank you Sir! And I’m definitely interested in the VA hospital up the street. And I think we’ll be visiting Golden Hill soon as well.

  3. Courteny February 26, 2013 at 2:25 pm · Reply

    I grew up on Kessler not too far from the Municipal Gardens and just moved back to Indy from Maine last summer. My husband and I went up the path into the woods/trees (that I’ve never seen anyone use) this past fall and were pretty surprised ourselves. 😉 I can’t wait to see what you write about it next week.

    • Ryan Hamlett February 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm · Reply

      Welcome home Courteny! I bet you DO know what’s coming.

  4. Tom Davis February 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm · Reply

    Years ago I also ventured up the path while on a bike ride. I might have an idea of at least one of the things you’re going to mention and I have a feeling its not in very good shape if it’s even still recognizable. And while I’m not exactly sure of the exact spot, I believe the infamous “Cold Springs Murders” of the late 1860s would have taken place roughly in that same area, but down closer to the river.

    • Ryan Hamlett February 28, 2013 at 1:11 pm · Reply

      Many thanks for that tip Tom. Definitely wasn’t aware of that detail and will certainly work it into the piece.

  5. Norm Morford February 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm · Reply

    Thanks, Ryan. Lots of interesting tidbits in that write-up.

    • Ryan Hamlett February 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm · Reply

      Thank you sir!

  6. Ted Kolbus February 27, 2013 at 8:37 am · Reply

    Make sure to look into Coffin Golf Course. It used to be the home of Highland Country Club. Pretty sure that the building at 30th and Cold Spring that now houses the Iron Skillet used to be the club house. Lot’s of interesting history on how the city got the course. It has hosted some premier national golf events in it’s past. Sadly, it’s condition over the last 25+ years isn’t “up to par”. Someone needs to put some serious money into this course, raise the green fees, and have a real gem of a course, right downtown!

    • Ryan Hamlett February 28, 2013 at 1:14 pm · Reply

      I will definitely do so. I grew up in Irvington and the northeast side and am definitely trying to expand my knowledge of the west and south sides as I do these posts. Thanks for the comment!

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