HI Mailbag: Stone Bridge Over Pleasant Run

Written by on January 26, 2016 in Mailbag - 18 Comments
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Reader’s Question: 

There is a beautiful stone bridge over Pleasant Run Parkway near Colorado Avenue.  Would you have any idea when it was built?  Local historians have researched to no avail, but they believe it was early to mid-1800’s. Would appreciate any information you might have. ~ Lisa L., Indianapolis  

HI’s Answer: 

The stone structure that arches over Pleasant Run Parkway, Pleasant Run Creek, and Pleasant Run Trail did not always appear as it appears today.  Originally, there was a bridge that simply supported the train tracks as they crossed over the creek in its rural setting.  The farmland on either side of the railroad bed was not yet developed in the early years of the first bridge.  The boulevard was not created until more than three-quarters of a century later, and the greenway was not installed until well over a century later.

View of the Pleasant Run Parkway Bridge and Underpass taken from the southwest side   (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

View of the Pleasant Run Parkway railroad bridge and vehicle underpass, from the southwest side of the stone structure     (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

In the 1850s, two separate sets of railroad tracks came together just east of Pleasant Run Creek.  They continued west, parallel to one another, into the heart of Indianapolis.  At the time they were built, the rails were owned by the Indiana Central Railroad and the Junction Railroad.  The names of the railroads have changed many times over the years, but the location of the tracks has remained the same for more than 160 years.

The land north of the two sets of railroad tracks was owned by Civil War General Abel D. Streight (1828-1892) and his wife Lovina McCarthy Streight (1830-1910).  The farm was out in the country when the Streights built their home after the Civil War.  The property had approximately 1,000 feet of frontage on the south side of the National Road, between Sherman Drive and Emerson Avenue.  After the area was annexed to the City of Indianapolis, the Streight home was assigned the address of 4121 East Washington Street.

1889 map of Center Township shows the A. D. Streight farmland between the National Road and the railroad tracks  (map courtesy of Library of Congress archives)

1889 map of Center Township showed the Streight farm just south of the National Road and just north of the railroad tracks       (map courtesy of Library of Congress archives)               CLICK TO ENLARGE  

 

Newspaper image of Abel and Lavina McCarthy Streight home on the National Road between Indianapolis and Irvington    (courtesy of newspapers.com)

Newspaper image of Abel and Lovina Streight’s country home on the National Road between Indianapolis and Irvington (courtesy of newspapers.com)

In 1883, the City of Indianapolis sought to alleviate the flooding of Pogue’s Run by constructing a channel from Pogue’s Run to the spot where Pleasant Run and the two railroads intersected on the farm owned by the Streights.

December 12, 1883 Indianapolis News article mentioned Pleasant Run (courtesy of newspapers.com)

December 12, 1883 Indianapolis News article mentioned Pleasant Run    (courtesy of newspapers.com)

Abel Streight died in 1892.  His eccentric wife had the General buried in the front yard of their home on the National Road.  A decade later, she had his remains exhumed and reinterred at Crown Hill Cemetery.

1892 funeral notice of A. D. Streight  (courtesy of newspapers.com)

1892 funeral notice of General A. D. Streight appeared in The Indianapolis News      (courtesy of newspapers.com)

Following General Streight’s 1892 death, his widow and her sister continued to live on the property until Lovina’s death, eighteen years later.  There were no streets in the vicinity of the spot at which the railroad tracks crossed over Pleasant Run Creek during the years that the Streights owned the land adjacent to the bridge.

1898 Sanborn map showed the railroad tracks but did not indicate any streets in the area  (map courtesy of IUPUI Digitall Archives)

1898 Sanborn map showed the railroad tracks but did not indicate any parkway or other residential streets in the area yet  (map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)                   CLICK TO ENLARGE

Lovina Streight passed away in 1910.  It was well-known among friends, neighbors, and veterans that both she and her husband had wanted their old homestead to be used for some useful purpose that would benefit Civil War soldiers and their wives, after the couple died.  However, Lovina’s will was contested and eventually overturned, after testimony by dozens of witnesses convinced the judge that she had been of unsound mind.  The Streights’ only child, John, died in 1905 and he had no children, so the heirs to the Streights’ estate wound up being Mrs. Streight’s sister and her descendants.  In 1915, the heirs sold the property to a real estate developer.  You can read more about the Streights in a 2015 Historic Indianapolis article by Stephen J. Taylor by clicking here.

1915 Indianapolis News article discussed the sale of Abel D. Streight's farm to a developer (courtesy of newspapers.com)

1915 Indianapolis News article discussed the sale of Abel D. Streight’s farm to an Irvington real estate developer  (courtesy of newspapers.com)                 CLICK TO ENLARGE 

1916 Sanborn map showed the Streight farm but still no streets in the area around the creek  (map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)

1916 Baist Atlas map still showed the Streight farm but no Pleasant Run Parkway or other nearby residential streets yet   (map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)                 CLICK TO ENLARGE

Late in 1916 or early in 1917, the Streight home and some smaller structures on their former land were demolished. City streets were then built south of East Washington Street, establishing a new neighborhood called the Haywood Boulevard Addition.

1916 Indianapolis News article announced new subdivision (courtesy of newspapers.com)

1916 Indianapolis News article announced a new housing addition on the Streight land   (courtesy of newspapers.com)              CLICK TO ENLARGE 

It was not until 1931 — fifteen years after the land was donated to the City — that plans were discussed to construct the one-and-a-half mile portion of Pleasant Run Parkway that now extends from about 5000 East Washington Street on the northeast end of the boulevard to about 3600 East English Avenue on the southwest end of it.

1931 Indianapolis Star article discussed plans for constructing Pleasant Run Boulevard  (now Parkway)  (courtesy newspapers.com)        CLICK TO ENLARGE

1931 Indianapolis Star article discussed plans for constructing Pleasant Run Boulevard  (courtesy of newspapers.com)               CLICK TO ENLARGE

In 1932, an agreement was reached between the City and representatives of the railroads to build a temporary underpass for vehicles to drive beneath the train bridge.

1932 Indianapolis News article indicated that city streets would be built beneath the underpass (courtesy of newspapers.com)

1932 Indianapolis News article indicated that city streets would be built beneath the underpass (courtesy of newspapers.com)

1932 Indianapolis Star article announced temporary underpass (ciurtesy of newespapers.com)

1932 Indianapolis Star article announced construction of temporary underpass  (courtesy of newspapers.com)

1937 Indianapolis Star article discussed the draining problems around the creek (courtesy of newspapers.com)

1937 Indianapolis Star article discussed the drainage problems around the creek (courtesy of newspapers.com)

A 1941 map indicated with dotted lines that a street leading to the underpass was proposed but not yet built, so the temporary underpass at the railroad tracks apparently was not completed until after 1941.

1941 Baist map shows Pleasant Run Parkway and intersecting residential streets  (map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)

1941 Baist Atlas map appears to show the proposed route of Pleasant Run Parkway with dotted lines to the railroad tracks     (courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)              CLICK TO ENLARGE

A 1945 newspaper photo of the railroad underpass resembles the shape of the stone structure that exists today.  By all reports, however, work on the underpass at that time was only a temporary fix that used the old bridge in its stopgap design.

1945 Indianapolis Star photo shows the flooding of the underpass (courtesy of newspapers.com)

1945 Indianapolis Star photo showed the flooding of the vehicle underpass by the waters of Pleasant Run Creek                 (courtesy of newspapers.com)               CLICK TO ENLARGE

View of the Pleasant Run Parkway railroad bridge and vehicle underpass, from the northeast side of the stone structure   (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

View of the Pleasant Run Parkway railroad bridge and vehicle underpass, from the northeast side of the stone structure  (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

The best clue as to when the present stone structure may have been built was contained in the caption of a November 27, 1958, Indianapolis Star news clipping that announced the reopening of the Pleasant Run underpass.  The caption stated that the new bridge, street, and concrete stream channel replaced a 75-year-old trestle that had been closed for two years.  If the previous structure was built in 1883 (1958 minus 75 equals 1883), then the previous bridge over the creek was erected when the Streight property was still undeveloped farmland.  There were no streets on the land at that time, nor were there any motorized vehicles in Indianapolis yet, so there would have been no need for an underpass in 1883.

November 27, 1958 clipping from The Indianapolis Star   (courtesy of newspapers.com)

November 27, 1958 clipping from The Indianapolis Star announced the opening of the new Pleasant Run underpass (courtesy of newspapers.com)                   CLICK TO ENLARGE

Because the stone structure that survives today appears to be quite old, it certainly suggests that the structure at Pleasant Run Parkway and Colorado Avenue could date to the 1800s.  In addition to its venerable appearance, the bridge stands out among the other railroad trestles in the area that are less attractive, more utilitarian, and made of heavy metal.  Perhaps materials were salvaged from the 75-year-old bridge and reused in the new bridge.  Nonetheless, all indications are that the present bridge was built in 1958, which made it 57 years old in November of 2015.  It is apparently at least the third bridge to cross Pleasant Run at that location, since the railroad tracks were laid in the 1850s.

If any readers have information pertaining to the history of the Pleasant Run Parkway railroad bridge and vehicle underpass, Historic Indianapolis would appreciate hearing from you.  Please leave a comment below this article.

View of the bridge / underpass looking up from inside the structure   (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland

View of the Pleasant Run Parkway railroad bridge and vehicle underpass, looking up from inside the arched stone structure     (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

 

 

If you have a question about Indianapolis history, please e-mail it to historicindianapolis(at)yahoo(dot)com, with “HI Mailbag” in the subject line.  We will do our best to answer it.  Sponsors and Subscribers are given preference for extensive research on specific properties or families featured in HI Mailbag articles.  ~ Sharon

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About the Author

Sharon Butsch Freeland is a freelance researcher, writer, proofreader, and editor. She's a proud alumna of Shortridge High School and MacMurray College and over the years has also taken courses at Herron School of Art and Design, Indiana University, University of Colorado, Colorado Academy of Art, and the Indianapolis Art Center. She's been the executive director of a nonprofit association, a newspaper columnist, a residential real estate broker, and a political campaign staff member. Fascinated by Indianapolis history from an early age, Sharon's passion for bygone eras became even more compelling when she discovered that her ancestors had settled in Indiana in 1828. Since learning that she's a seventh generation Hoosier, many details about both the State of Indiana and the City of Indianapolis have taken on new meaning for her. Sharon enjoys helping others get excited about the history of Indianapolis, as well as the histories of their own families.

18 Comments on "HI Mailbag: Stone Bridge Over Pleasant Run"

  1. Sharon Koepper January 26, 2016 at 10:07 am · Reply

    Frank Tout is the Thomas Carr Howe High School Alumni Association Board Advisor. I believe he was teaching English about/in 1958, when Pleasant Run was reopened. He later became a TCHHS administrator. He quite possibly may be able to fill in missing pieces.

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland January 26, 2016 at 11:01 am · Reply

      Thank you, Sharon. I will get in touch with him.

  2. George Starkey January 26, 2016 at 1:05 pm · Reply

    Maybe I overlooked it in the articles, but what became of the General’s burial site? Was it relocated, or did they just plow over it when they did the demolition of the estate?

    Thanks for a great (as usual!) submission!

    -George

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland January 26, 2016 at 2:26 pm · Reply

      The General’s remains were dug up in 1902 and buried at Crown Hill Cemetery. Son John was buried there in 1905, and wife Lovina followed in 1910. Here’s a link to the Find A Grave site: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7421899

      • George Starkey January 27, 2016 at 8:19 am · Reply

        Thank you – now I have a new “destination” while exploring Crown Hill.

        • Tom Davis January 29, 2016 at 8:10 am · Reply

          George, Abel Streight is buried along the road on the north side of Section 29, which is the section just south of the Gothic Chapel. The National Cemetery and Governor Oliver Perry Morton are across the road from him. There is a book that is probably still in the library about General Streight’s Civil War experiences with the Lightning Mule Brigade, his capture and subsequent escape from Libby Prison in Richmond, VA.

          • Sharon Butsch Freeland January 29, 2016 at 9:43 am ·

            Tom, Thanks for providing the location of the Streights’ burial sites. Besides Abel, wife Lovina and their son John are there too.

  3. Paula Schmidt January 26, 2016 at 2:23 pm · Reply

    There are comments on this post, as it was shared by the Irvington Historical Society. There appears to be a date in the stone on the south side of this bridge ….1904? Just to muddy the information waters more!

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland January 26, 2016 at 2:33 pm · Reply

      Thank you for this information, Paula. I chuckled at your double entendre about muddying the waters. When I went there on Saturday afternoon to take photos of the stone bridge, a U-Haul moving van was stuck in the underpass. I guess the driver didn’t read the signs that say 8′ 5″ clearance. A huge tow truck was on site, and several motorists had abandoned their vehicles on either side of the underpass to help in extricating the U-Haul. Knowing that it was going to take them a while, I didn’t stay around. I returned on Sunday afternoon to take my photos, at which time I realized the snow on the ground would seriously limit my ability to explore the structure and its surroundings. I felt lucky to get a few images, while standing in the middle of the street. Cars came barreling down the parkway at much faster speeds than I think are advisable in such a tight space. Based on your heads up, I will return after the snow is gone and do some more looking around for dates or other clues. Sharon

  4. Jack L. Boeldt January 27, 2016 at 11:40 am · Reply

    I became a freshman at Howe in 1952. Some of the older boys had driver’s licenses, and on rainy days we drove to the stone RR bridge to see if there were any auto tops sticking above the creek water. There usually was. We could check them out via Pleasant Run Parkway from the north or from the south via Christian Park. I recall biking, on dry days, under the one-lane bridge before the sidewalks were incorporated into the new bridge. I often use that bridge when passing through Irvington.
    .
    I was in Frank Tout’s English 7 class in 1955. I think he came to Howe in 1953. I worked for him in the summers of 1956, ’58, and ’59. I have had occasions to see him and exchange mail with him very recently. He is the Howe Alumni Board Sponsor.

  5. jeffery hansell January 27, 2016 at 1:35 pm · Reply

    Thanks for your work, Ms. Freeland! Do you know if this is the same bridge that’s depicted in T. C. Steele’s 1887 painting “Pleasant Run”?

    http://www.wikiart.org/en/t-c-steele/pleasant-run-1887

    Thanks again.

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland January 27, 2016 at 4:03 pm · Reply

      Wow! What a great find. I don’t know if this is the same bridge, but it certainly could be. According to one of the the newspaper clippings included in the article, the new bridge in 1958 replaced a bridge that dated to 1883. I will look into this. Maybe some T. C. Steele buffs can help.

  6. Richard Simpson January 27, 2016 at 3:43 pm · Reply

    Great article. Only one minor point I would bring up. The railroads over the Pleasant Run were built by the Junction and the Indiana Central Railway. The IC consolidated several times into the Columbus, Chicago and Indiana Central.
    .
    The “Panhandle” didn’t come into existence until during the Civil War (and that is an interesting story concerning the B&O – which ended up with the Junction – and the government of the Commonwealth of Virginia)…and the CC&IC didn’t fall into its grasp until a lease was created in 1871….18 years after the original Pleasant Run bridge was built.
    .
    Today, only the “Junction” exists on the bridge…as the Panhandle/Pennsylvania was abandoned in the Conrail era.

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland January 27, 2016 at 4:25 pm · Reply

      I knew a train buff would let me know if I got my facts wrong. 🙂 It was difficult trying to follow the many name changes of the railroads. Some were subtle, with the addition or deletion of a city’s name, while others were completely new names. I used a variety of sources and tried my best to figure out what the names would have been when the tracks were laid over Pleasant Run. Thanks for your help.

      • Richard Simpson January 28, 2016 at 3:27 am · Reply

        That one little point does not take away from the great history in the article. I am a little embarrassed that I had made natural assumptions about that bridge that were not entirely accurate…and never did the research to find out. Something a local historian…especially a local transportation historian (such as myself)…shouldn’t do. I appreciate the information.

  7. Joseph Fuller January 27, 2016 at 4:29 pm · Reply

    These would be the same railroad tracks that President Lincoln’s funeral train passed over in 1865?

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland January 27, 2016 at 4:40 pm · Reply

      Yes!

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