HI Mailbag: The Meadows

Written by on November 24, 2015 in Mailbag - 16 Comments
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Reader’s Question:

I grew up in Ft. Wayne in the 1950s and 1960s, but I often spent weekends and holidays in Indianapolis with my grandparents.  I have fond memories of visiting their apartment in The Meadows, as well as walking to the nearby Meadows Shopping Center.  Can you tell me when the area was built?  ~ Cyndi T., Ft. Wayne, Indiana   

HI’s Answer:

The area on the northeast side that has generically been called “The Meadows” since the mid-1900s actually consisted of a number of different adjacent developments that were built over a period of more than 20 years. These separate projects included the Meadowbrook Apartments, the Meadows Apartments, the Meadows Shopping Center, the Avondale Theatre In the Meadows, the Meadows Motor Hotel, and the Meadows Executive Plaza.

The various entities with the word “Meadows” in their names were built on land purchased from the Roberts family. William Henry Roberts (1860-1922) founded a dairy with a home delivery service in 1877.  Several generations of the family were involved in the operation.  Roberts Dairy served the Indianapolis area for 110 years, closing in 1987.   In the 1940s, the Roberts family retained the acreage surrounding their home and their business and sold the remaining 153 acres to the developers who created the Meadows community.

The 1931 Wagner map shows the acreage that would become The Meadows area (map courtesy of Indiana State Library Map Collection)

The 1931 Wagner map shows the Washington Township Roberts family acreage that became The Meadows area in the 1940s     (map courtesy of Indiana State Library Map Collection)               CLICK TO ENLARGE

The former Roberts Dairy plant, as well as the Roberts family’s residence, are still standing today near the intersection of East 42nd Street and Millersville Road.  The statue of a cow that once stood in front of the business is no longer there. Reportedly, it was acquired by another dairy and now graces that facility.

Roberts Dairy plant at 4201 Millersville Road (image courtesy of newspapers.com)

Roberts Dairy plant at 4201 Millersville Road as it appeared in a 1987 Indianapolis Star article       (image courtesy of newspapers.com)

The first buildings to be constructed in the Meadows area were the Meadowbrook Apartments.  They were so named because a brook flowed through the meadow when the unimproved property was still owned by the Roberts family.  Work began in January of 1947 on 37 two-story brick buildings containing 620 rental units.  The Meadowbrook was the largest apartment complex ever attempted in the State of Indiana to that date.

1946.10.27.Indpls.Star_Apt.City.masthead

(1946 Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1946 Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)

The Meadowbrook Apartments were clustered around courtyards on winding, tree-lined streets immediately north of East 38th Street, between Keystone Avenue and Sherman Drive.  The addresses of the Meadowbrook Apartments were on Parker Court, LaSalle Court, Adams Court, and 38th Street North Drive.  The first residents moved in to the Meadowbrook Apartments late in 1947.

1950 Sanborn map shows the courtyard-like arrangement of the buildings (map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)

1950 Sanborn fire map shows the courtyard-like arrangement of the buildings in the Meadowbrook Apartments layout       (map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)           CLICK TO ENLARGE   

1962.01.14.Indpls.Star_Meadowbrook.rents

In 1953, construction began on the Meadows Apartments, which were located north of the Meadowbrook Apartments.  The Meadows Apartments consisted of 56 buildings with 616 apartment units.  The addresses of the Meadows Apartments were on Meadows Court and Meadows Drive.  The first occupants moved in to the Meadows Apartments in 1954.

1953.11.01.Indpls.Star_Meadows.ad

(Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)

(Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)

In the summer of 1956, construction began on the Meadows Shopping Center, which was located to the west of the two apartment complexes, extending from 38th Street on the south to 42nd Street on the north.  Initially, thirty stores were planned, but more stores were added in subsequent years, including a popular bowling alley.

1956 Indianapolis Star article announces the Meadows Shopping Center (courtesy of newspapers.com)

1956 Indianapolis Star article announced the Meadows Shopping Center           (courtesy of newspapers.com)

The retail stores in the Meadows Shopping Center began opening in December of 1956, including the largest Kroger Supermarket in Indianapolis.  The completed shopping center’s grand opening was in August of 1957.

1956 Indianapolis Star article announced the opening of a new Kroger in the Meadows Shopping Center (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)

1956 Indianapolis Star article announced the opening of a Kroger in the Meadows    (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)            CLICK TO ENLARGE

1957.06.09.Indpls.Star_Kay.Bradfield

1957.08.22.Indpls.Star_ads

In 1957, the Avondale Playhouse found a new home in the Meadows.  Established in 1954 as the Town and Country Playhouse, the summer stock theatre had been performing in a field near 56th and Millersville Road in its first three years, which was very wet and muddy whenever it rained.  The Meadows location provided the group with less soggy terrain on which to pitch its red and white candy-striped tent each June, plus the Meadows site was adjacent to a paved parking lot.  The original name of the theatre was changed to Avondale Playhouse in its second and third years and to Avondale Theatre In the Meadows in its fourth year.

Frances Farmer appeared in several productions at the Avondale Playhouse (clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

Frances Farmer appeared in several productions at the Avondale Theatre   (Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

In 1959, the Meadows Motor Hotel was completed.  It was so popular that more rooms were added to the motel only six months after it opened.

(1958 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1958 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1960 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1960 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

CLICK TO ENLARGE

CLICK TO ENLARGE

(Indianapolis Star ad courtesy of newspapers.com)

(Indianapolis Star ad courtesy of newspapers.com)  CLICK TO ENLARGE

Beginning in 1965, the first of five office buildings was erected in the Meadows Executive Plaza.

(1965 Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1965 Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)        CLICK TO ENLARGE

By 1967, the third building in the Meadows Executive Plaza was completed (Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)

By 1967, the third building of five planned for the Meadows Executive Plaza was completed         (Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)              CLICK TO ENLARGE 

There is much more history of the Meadows area after the years that were covered above.  Since the Mailbox question asked only about when the area was originally built, this reply discussed the development up to the time the Meadows Executive Plaza was built.  It does not discuss the changes that occurred in the Meadows area in later decades or the redevelopment that’s currently happening in the Meadows area.

Readers who have memories of the Meadows area’s early years are invited to share them in the comments section below this article.

 

If you have a question about Indianapolis history, please send 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.

16 Comments on "HI Mailbag: The Meadows"

  1. Amy Morrison Perry November 24, 2015 at 12:23 pm · Reply

    Thanks for this article. In the 50s and 60s, my husband and I knew Jack Kane, whose father had a jewelry shop at the Meadows. Also I had a really good friend who lived on Adams St. I sent a link to the article to her.

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland November 24, 2015 at 12:51 pm · Reply

      Amy,
      .
      Thank you for taking the time to post a comment and send the link to a friend. I remember Matt Kane, the jeweler.
      .
      Sharon

      • Joe Hinshaw February 14, 2017 at 6:40 pm · Reply

        I grew up in this area and almost lived in the Meadows. I played Little League at Meadows Little League for six years until it was bulldozed for office buildings. Matt Kane was more of a knickknack shop although there was some jewelry there. There was another Jewelry shop adjacent to it though but I don’t know if they were related. I remember one summer that Matt Kanes was bombed and blew all the windows out by someone. I was there at the Meadows Toyland store just down from it when it happened. If you have any pictures of the Meadows outside of the article please contact me.

  2. Dave Robbins November 24, 2015 at 7:32 pm · Reply

    When was the name of Brightwood Park renamed Washington Park?

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland November 25, 2015 at 12:21 am · Reply

      The City of Indianapolis acquired the 128 acres in 1923. It was unofficially called “Brightwood Park” by the City and “Dearborn Park” by residents of surrounding streets. However, the property was never officially named nor properly developed as a park until the residents of the Brightwood area began to pressure the City to do so. Late in 1932, the City made the decision to name the tract of land “George Washington Park” to honor the 200th birthday of our country’s first President.

      • Joe Hinshaw February 14, 2017 at 6:50 pm · Reply

        The Park also included the original Indy Zoo

  3. Molly Head November 25, 2015 at 12:20 am · Reply

    Yes, I think Nelson told me his family’s dentist was located in the Meadows in 1950-60s Indianapolis. Kind of a middle-class, mixed use, residential and commercial development place. The Meadows was also the scene of a 1958 murder scandal. Wealthy married Lilly executive Forrest Teel was found with three bullet holes in his body in his Cadillac parked near the Meadows Shopping Center. His killer was his jilted mistress Connie Nicolas, who had been dumped for a “younger” friend of Teel’s who lived at the Meadows. http://archive.indystar.com/article/99999999/NEWS06/307310028/1958-case-scorned-mistress-ends-murder Connie Nicolas showed no remorse; apparently had been stalking Forrest Teel. Well, all’s fair in love and war!

  4. Tom Davis November 25, 2015 at 7:25 am · Reply

    The grave of Forrest Teel is one of the stops on the Skeletons II Tour at Crown Hill. Though he strayed in life, he now lies faithfully beside his wife in Section 212. Coincidentally, the judge in Connie’s murder trial, Judge Faulconer, is buried in the same section.

    • Sharon Butsch Freeland November 25, 2015 at 9:39 am · Reply

      My brother Ed played with Forrest and Betty’s son, Tommy, when the boys were young. Cowboys were heroes to youngsters in the ’40s and ’50s, so my mother (who did a lot of sewing in those days) made cowboy outfits for Tommy and Ed. I have photos of the boys in their western attire. This was several years before the murder of Tommy’s father.
      .
      After the murder, Mary Teel did not want to live in the house that Forrest and she had built together. My aunt and uncle bought the Teels’ home. They owned it for almost 40 years. Their daughter, my cousin, inherited the property from her parents, and she and her family lived in it for over 15 years. After more than half-a-century of living in the Teels’ former home, my cousin has recently retired to a condo.

  5. Darrell Street March 16, 2016 at 7:31 pm · Reply

    My family was one of the very first black families in the area. Can you tell me why the name is now Avondale-Meadows and not just the Meadows?

    • Dennis Weber July 30, 2016 at 7:05 am · Reply

      Darrell, I wanna say that I remember you from school #1. We were one of the last white families. I lived at 3513 Adams St from 1955 to 1968. This area played a big political role in integration back then. Richard Lugar became very popular during this time. I wish I remembered the name of the book I read. I remember us white kids and black kids getting along well but white adults were very concerned about property values. And communism. My wife is Russian.

    • Dennis Weber July 30, 2016 at 7:34 am · Reply

      There was a theater in the Meadows shopping center named Avondale.

  6. shannon Harding September 5, 2016 at 2:36 pm · Reply

    Just wanted to say the information about the Meadows is great. My Grandparents own Toyland in the Meadows.

    • Joe Hinshaw February 14, 2017 at 7:24 pm · Reply

      I knew your parents as a kid. Your mother knew I read the Hardy Boys and would always tell me when a new one would come out as soon as I came in. We raced slots there and I visited every time I went to the shopping center. I collected a whole bunch of Matchbox cars from there and entered their contests for building model cars. I was pretty bad at building them so I never one. I always liked your parents and respected them. It was clear they loved the kids that came in there!

  7. Joe Hinshaw April 17, 2017 at 9:16 pm · Reply

    Do you have any historical stories or pictures of The Meadows Little League or Meadows Bowl?

    • Tiffany Benedict Browne April 21, 2017 at 9:20 am · Reply

      If we did, it probably would have been in the article. Or maybe sometime in the future if we come across one, it may end up as a new article. Check back periodically. Cheers.

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