I was wondering if you had any information on prominent families in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood, from the late 1800s to the 1940s? Can you provide any names and addresses? ~ Jerome J.
The near northeastside neighborhood that is known today as Martindale-Brightwood was originally two separate entities. Each area can trace its beginnings to the 1870s, and each settlement can be attributed to its proximity to a railroad. It wasn’t until the formation of the Martindale-Brightwood Community Development Corporation in 1992 that the two neighborhoods were linked together.
Brightwood, the further east of the two, was platted in 1872. It was incorporated as an independent municipality in 1876. The four partners chose a location to create a new town that was adjacent to a railroad, believing it would bring capital and labor together. Interestingly, though, none of the men credited with founding Brightwood ever resided in Brightwood. Clements A. Greenleaf and John L. Mothershead were manufacturers, and brothers William D. Wiles and Daniel H. Wiles were merchants. Their efforts were primarily business decisions.
In addition to the acreage that was incorporated as Brightwood in 1876, the founders’ names can also be seen on tracts of land surrounding the town. Those areas were later developed, as well.
Employees of the “Bee Line” (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railroad or CCC&IRR) were the first to settle in the Town of Brightwood. Businesses soon followed to serve the needs of the residents. A large percentage of Brightwood folks worked for the railroad, directly or indirectly. Although Brightwood was annexed to the City of Indianapolis in 1897, it continued to have the look and feel of a small town for several decades thereafter.
The area known as Martindale was west of Brightwood and closer in to the center of Indianapolis. It was just over a mile east of North Meridian Street. It was established in 1873 by Frederick Ruschaupt and Gustave Zschech, on land adjacent to today’s Monon Trail and near today’s Dr. Andrew J. Brown Avenue. Ruschaupt and Zschech established the Indianapolis Car Works, a railroad machine yard, which was later renamed Atlas Engine Works and later still, Lyons-Atlas Company. Like the founders of Brightwood, Ruschaupt and Zschech invested in the area for its proximity to the railroad, the Monon Route of the Chicago, Indianapolis, & Louisville Railroad. However, Ruschaupt and Zschech actually lived in the area. They built twin houses high on a hill in what would today be the 2000 block of Hillside Avenue.
Today’s Dr. Andrew J. Brown Avenue was briefly called Beeler Street in the 1800s. For more than a century, the street was called Martindale Avenue. The Martindale area was never an independent municipality. It did not have as many commercial properties as Brightwood did, but developed primarily as an industrial area. Modest homes were built nearby, and many of residents walked to work at one of the companies along the Monon Railroad. They included National Motor Vehicle Company, Atlas Engine Works, Eaglesfield Lumber, Indianapolis Gas Works, Indiana Veneer Company, and Thomas & Skinner Steel Products.
Early city directories did not list the addresses of persons residing in Brightwood or Martindale, so it is difficult to provide residents’ exact locations until the 20th century. By the 1910s, exact addresses of homes within the city limits were published. Pages from the 1915 R. L. Polk City Directory are provided below.
The first school in the Brightwood vicinity was Center Township School #12. It was located on the southwest corner of Willow Street and Brightwood Avenue (known today as E. 28th Street and N. Sherman Drive). The old Center Township school built in the 1860s was demolished after James Russell Lowell School 51 was built in 1900 in the irregularly shaped corner formed by Olney Street, Glen Drive, and Gale Street.
The relocation of railroad repair shops to Beech Grove and the construction of new rail yards in Avon contributed to the demise of the once vibrant Brightwood community. As the jobs and residents left, the merchants followed. Buildings were abandoned and burned down or were torn down. The former town remains an economically challenged area today.
The end of service on the Monon Railroad resulted in many buildings along its route in the Martindale area being abandoned or falling into disrepair between the 1970s and 2000s. However, in the last decade, the highly popular bicycle and pedestrian friendly Monon Trail has resulted in the renovation of many former industrial properties along the rail trail’s borders.