Author: Nathan Bilger

Allison and Wheeler Mansions

After their successes, three of the four founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Frank Wheeler, Carl Fisher, and James Allison, built mansions next to each other along Cold Springs Road. Wheeler and Allison built new homes, while Fisher modified and expanded an existing house. All three were located on what is now Marian University’s campus. Fisher’s mansion was partially destroyed by a fire in the 1950s, and while there are portions of the mansion and outbuildings that still stand, very well-preserved, they are hard to discern among the campus buildings (which is an elaborate way of saying that I...

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Train and Trolley Bear in Thousands: City Greets and Cares for Greatest Crowd of Visitors in Its History

[Transcript of an article from the Indianapolis News, 5/30/1911] City Greets and Cares for Greatest Crowd of Visitors in Its History. EXODUS EARLY TO TRACK Police Rise to Occasion and There Are Few Accidents—Hotels Packed, Many Walk Streets All Night. Never before in its history has the city of Indianapolis entertained a larger throng of strangers. Never has there been a more cosmopolitan crowd in the city coming as it did from nearly every state and territory in the United States, from Canada and from many parts of Europe to attend the five-hundred-mile motor classic at the speedway today. Coupled with the fact that the city had its largest crowd is the interesting fact that the city was prepared to entertain it; in fact, the city was prepared to take care of many more. It is true some people walked the streets all night, but this was either due to the fact they were not aware that the information bureau of the speedway management had hundreds of available rooms in private homes or that they did not care to go to private homes for the night. Moving the Crowds. After sheltering the crowd, a more difficult problem presented itself in getting the crowd to the speedway. Those who did not own automobiles, or who were unable to arrange to go in automobiles, were compelled to rely almost exclusively on...

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Preservation Denied: Emrichsville Bridge

An early postcard looking northeast from the west side of the White River, dating from soon after the bridge completion. Later editions of this postcard pasted automobiles on the bridge and street. Note the path on the right side of the image; it probably led to the mansion that still stands just south of 16th Street. After the great flood of 1904 (well, it was great until 1913’s flood), Marion County and Indianapolis, in cooperation with the Commercial Club, put out more than $800,000 for construction of four new bridges over the White River. The most impressive of these...

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Preservation Denied: Board of Trade Building

If you are a faithful reader of our site, you may recall our interview with Indiana Landmarks President, Marsh Davis, cited the Board of Trade building as one of the bigger losses to preservation in Indianapolis. The building was also seen in this morning’s “Then and Now” post. The Board of Trade building was finished in 1905 as the home of the Board of Trade business club. The eight-story building was constructed of a reinforced concrete frame with brick curtain walls, probably one of the first instances of such construction in the city. A postcard sent shortly after completion...

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Preservation Denied: Kentucky Ave

Alexander Ralston’s original plan for Indianapolis consisted of a regular gridwork of streets, overlaid with four avenues virtually intersecting on the center, now known as Monument Circle. Instead of converging, Indiana, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Kentucky Avenues stopped one block away from the circle. Original Ralston plan of 1821 That is, until the early 1970s. While Virginia Avenue has remained relatively intact, the opening of the new Indiana National Bank headquarters in 1970 closed the first block of Massachusetts Avenue, and Indiana Avenue was cut back in the late 70s by construction of the AUL Tower. However, Kentucky Avenue has...

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Preservation Denied: Union Trust Company

View of the Union Trust Company building (Hyman’s Handbook to Indianapolis, 1907) The Union Trust Company’s building was located at 116-126 East Market Street. The company was incorporated in 1893 and took over this building, previously known as the Wright Block. Notably, Benjamin Harrison’s law firm was located in the building from 1875 to his retirement in 1898. The structure stood proudly until around 1954, when it was demolished for the current modernist (if that is the correct style name) tower. A view of the building in 1953 (W.H. Bass Photo Company...

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Preservation Denied: West Washington Street Duesenberg Plant

Pre-demolition photo of the Washington Street entrance to the front offices of Plant Building #1 The Duesenberg brothers, Fred and August, moved from New Jersey to Indianapolis in May 1920 to build a new manufacturing plant for their automobiles and engines. They had already entered cars of their own designs in the Indianapolis 500 race in several years since 1912 and wanted to be close to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to use it as a test track. The chosen sixteen acre site was at the southwest corner of West Washington Street and Harding Street. The main structures, buildings 1...

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Sunday Prayer: 1800 Block of New Jersey

This home is one in a string of a few houses on north New Jersey Street that are in need of a restoration prayer… The 1915 city directory lists Frank T Lalley as the owner of this home. He and his brother William ran the Lalley Brothers Merchant Tailors, at the time located on the second floor of the Odd Fellows Building (1 N Pennsylvania Street). Previously, the business was in the English Block on Monument Circle. By the 1923 directory, the brothers’ business apparently was doing well enough to buy an advertisement in the directory, and to move...

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Sunday Ad: National Motor Vehicle

We will probably cover the National Motor Company in more detail in the future, but for today, we take a look at an advertisement for their products, from a 1903 issue of the “Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal” (yes, at the time bicycles and automobiles were still lumped together as forms of personal transportation). Arthur Newby, after his own experience in the bicycling industry, founded National in 1900. As indicated in the advertisment, the company began with electric automobiles, but expanded to internal combustion in 1903. The company lasted until 1924 when declining sales finally shut the doors. In...

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Preservation Affirmed: Yard of Bricks

The Yard of Bricks, May 2011 (IMS) While tradition abounds at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, very little still remains visible of the original 1911 race track. This makes sense, as racing has changed in the past 100 years, and the track has constantly been a leader in racing technology. Grandstands and towers have been demolished and new ones built, and even the infield is not the same as in the earliest days. One feature has been preserved though: the famed Yard of Bricks. In 1909, 3.2 million paving bricks were laid around the track in order to provide a...

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Allison Coupon Company

Allison Coupon Company’s 69 (121) W. Georgia Street location (Hyman’s Handbook to Indianapolis, 1897) James A. Allison is best known as one of the founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he got his start in business in the now little-known company, Allison Coupon Company. According to the 1897 Hyman’s Handbook to Indianapolis, the Allison Coupon Company was founded in 1888 by James’ father, Noah S. Allison; however, the company was apparently already operating prior to that since James quit school at age 12 in 1884 to join the business. The company had begun by printing coupon books for...

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Biking Indianapolis, 1899

Since today is National Bike-to-Work day (this week has also been Bike-to-Work week), and since this upcoming week will be spent discussing the Indianapolis 500, whose founders got started in the bicycle industry, here we look at biking around Indianapolis at the turn of the 20th Century. Here are some interesting excerpts from an 1899 map from the IUPUI Historic Map Collection titled “Bicycle and Driving Map of Indianapolis” (see the whole map here). This shows the area from 30th Street to 38th and includes the “Bicycle Toll Path to Broad Ripple”. Yes, in 1899 there was a toll...

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Preservation Denied: Blind Institute

19th Century view of the Blind Institute The Indiana Institute for the Education of the Blind was founded in 1847. By 1853, a five-story permanent building had been constructed on the edge of town on North Street, between Meridian and Pennsylvania Streets. Originally occupying two city blocks, around 1900 the institute grounds had been cut back to only one block, and the block to the north became St. Clair Park. The Blind Institute, late 1800s The school building changed little during its lifetime. As seen in these images, the primary structure maintained its appearance from the mid-1800s to the...

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Preservation Affirmed: White Castle No. 3

One of the oldest standing White Castle buildings is this little place, located at the corner of Ft Wayne, Walnut and Delaware. Though no longer a restaurant, the building looks nearly identical to when it was built in 1927. According to the recent National Register Nomination submitted in March 2011, this building is the third oldest White Castle building still standing in the country, and the two older ones are not as architecturally well preserved. It is one of the few still standing built in white enameled brick, used before the switch to porcelain steel as the exterior material....

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Preservation Denied: Marion County Jail

Places of law and order were among the first buildings constructed in new towns in Indiana, be they courthouses, sheriff’s homes, and jails. Indianapolis was no different, with the first Marion County jail completed in 1824. Located on the northwest corner of Delaware and Market Streets, the jail was comprised of heavy hewn logs and cost $312 (plus $59 to clear the wooded site). This lasted until 1833, when the jail burned down in an escape attempt. A two-story brick structure was then built as the second county jail, this time located at the southwest corner of Alabama and...

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History of Indianapolis Union Station, Part Two

Continuing the story from part one… The New Union Station The 1870s were a period of rapid growth for Indianapolis and for the railroads serving the city. As a way to cope with the increasing number of trains blocking downtown streets, a tunnel in the middle of Illinois Street was built in 1872 under the station tracks. While it was designed only big enough for the small mule cars of the time, it became a route for others wanting to avoid delays and daring enough to go into the dank dark underpass. Another major railroad first also occurred in...

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Preservation Denied: Indianapolis Traction Terminal

View of the Indianapolis Traction Terminal shortly after construction (Journal Handbook of Indianapolis, 1907) We’ve featured the Indianapolis Traction Terminal before (check out the full-length article), but since it is a popular building, we post it again as a Preservation Denied. The D.H. Burnham-designed Traction Terminal located at Market and Illinois was built in 1904 as a union station for the growing number of interurban routes coming into Indianapolis. It combined a train shed sheltering waiting passengers with an office building containing the ticket offices, stores, and a variety of corporate and professional offices. After serving the interurbans for...

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Room with a View: Stouffer’s Inn

This week’s room with a view is on the top floor of the former Stouffer’s Inn at 2820 North Meridian Street. The inn was built in 1966 and operated until the late 1980s. After being home to a Christian ministry for many years, Ivy Tech purchased the building in December, 2010, and has intentions of renovating it for classrooms, training, meetings, and conferences. Seen in the photo above, from left, are the Marott Apartments (formerly Marott Hotel), Parkview Apartments, downtown, and Ivy Tech (originally, American Central Insurance, later American United Life). Of note: The Stouffer’s Inn was the lodging...

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Preservation Denied: Crown Hill Cemetery West Entrance

Newly constructed Crown Hill West Gate from the 1902 Hyman’s Journal Handbook of Indianapolis. While the preserved main gate and gatehouse to Crown Hill Cemetery is a well-known landmark along Boulevard Place, and was even the one-time home of the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, there once was another, younger, western gatehouse that has now been lost. This was the west entrance to Crown Hill, located off of Northwestern Avenue (aka Michigan Road/MLK Jr Street) at 32nd Street. Actually, there was an older entrance onto the street farther north, but this one replaced that one in April 1901. Herbert...

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Sunday Prayer: West New York Street

This boarded up house is located on West New York Street. It is unique in the neighborhood since it appears that nearly all of the windows, doors, and siding are original. The porches and brackets that were likely there are gone, but it really doesn’t need a lot of extra materials to restore the house to as built appearance. Some work has obviously been done to the home in recent years, and we hope and pray that the owner is able to keep it going....

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