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