Indianapolis Then and Now: Fletcher Triangle Park Brookside and Arsenal Avenues

Written by on March 8, 2012 in Then & Now - 13 Comments
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Placemaking” is a popular word among planning types these days. The word originated in the 1960s and refers to the philosophy and process of creating places where people will want to gather. As expressed in 2001 by Bernard Hunt, a London architect:
We have theories, specialisms, regulations, exhortations, demonstration projects. We have planners. We have highway engineers. We have mixed use, mixed tenure, architecture, community architecture, urban design, neighbourhood strategy. But what seems to have happened is that we have simply lost the art of placemaking; or, put another way, we have lost the simple art of placemaking. We are good at putting up buildings but we are bad at making places.
But back in the day before the term was even coined, Fletcher Triangle Park was a natural gathering spot for residents of the neighborhood now known as Windsor Park.

Fletcher Triangle, variously known as Fletcher Place or Triangle Park, was a small, city-owned park northeast of downtown (two blocks north of the US Arsenal grounds). Settler Calvin Fletcher had farmed this area in the 1840s-60s and his sons platted the land after his death in 1866. In 1868 they had offered to donate 30 nearby acres to the city for a park, but the city was suspicious of this offer since it would have increased the value of the adjacent Fletcher-owned property, so they refused the offer. According to Indy Parks staff, this triangle became a park in the 1870s and was sold sometime in the mid-1900s. (Indiana Album: Photograph loaned by Alan Hague)

By 1909 park was lined with wood-framed cottages. Here, Alan Hague’s grandmother and her friends pose next to the rustic-looking stone fountain. Newspapers of the era explained that the lush flower beds were planted by the Indianapolis Parks Department. In 1914 over 100,000 plants were started in the Garfield Park greenhouse and transplanted to 14 parks and street medians before Memorial Day. (Indiana Album: Photograph loaned by Alan Hague)

The neighborhood drastically changed in the 1930s and ‘40s when Schwitzer-Cummins Company expanded and demolished dozens of houses. The old Schwitzer building is now known as the Circle City Industrial Complex. Today, the fountain is gone and all that remains are cracked sidewalks, large Sycamore trees, and granite curbs. (Photo by Joan Hostetler, June 2011)

Last year a nearby non-profit adopted the area and planted flowers in the park. The Windsor Park Neighborhood Association  hopes to acquire the land and return it to the charming park that it once was. (Photo by Joan Hostetler, June 2011)

[Would you like to see your old photographs featured in this Then and Now column? If so, send a high resolution scan and any details about the building to thenandnow@historicindianapolis.com.]

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About the Author

Joan Hostetler and John Harris own Heritage Photo & Research Services. The company specializes in house and building research and historic photograph preservation, interpretation, archiving, and digitization. Since they see so many cool photographs tucked away in attics and basements, they recently created "The Indiana Album" to borrow, scan, and share hidden Indiana images with the public. Like them on facebook or send them an email to share your photographs.

13 Comments on "Indianapolis Then and Now: Fletcher Triangle Park Brookside and Arsenal Avenues"

  1. Jim March 8, 2012 at 7:29 am · Reply

    The after photos surprised me a little — how sad the modern scene looks.

  2. Esther March 8, 2012 at 11:01 am · Reply

    Wow, what a charming park it used to be. Good luck to the Windsor Park Neighborhood Association!

  3. basil berchekas jr March 8, 2012 at 11:59 am · Reply

    Remember this little park using Brookside Avenue taking the number 21 bus going downtown “over the years”and the older houses that adjoined the park across from Schwitzer-Cummins before they were torn down for more parking for the now closed company. The park and the houses provided a “sense of place” that you spoke of that unfortunately has been lessened across the city in a number of locations. Windsor Park was a comfortable middle income neighborhood augmented by Spades Park like the area further east along Brookside Park, along 16th. Grew up, as it were, in Brookside Park.

  4. David Hedrick March 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm · Reply

    Its a beautiful little park even now and we really want to make it something special again. As you walk it most of the original sidewalks are intact. In fact there are plaques embedded in them from the original company that laid them.

  5. Julia Rutland March 9, 2012 at 5:42 pm · Reply

    I was so excited when I found this! I have my office in the Circle City Industrial Complex and I’ve come to love the Windsor Park Neighborhood. I had no idea there was a park there and how beautiful it was. How great would it be to return it to such grandeur?! I will have to do more exploring around the area :)

  6. basil berchekas jr March 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm · Reply

    I may be incorrect, but I attribute a number of these former well-maintained parks and spaces (like the Garfield Park sunken gardens) to German-American craftsmanship in the latter part of the 19th century and earlier part of the 20th…the same with Scottish love of landscaped areas, as well as English love of same…not discount other nationalities (like my Greek background); nevertheless, areas with these groups across the country have witnessed similar well-developed parks and public spaces during that era, like Saint Louis, Kansas City, Columbus Ohio, and so forth. Just my take on this.

  7. Kathy Siner March 10, 2012 at 7:22 am · Reply

    Thanks for putting the spot light on this park! As can vividly be seen from these ‘before & afters’, ‘placemaking’ can transform urban blight to urban haven. Windsor Park hopes to rebuild its identity through its unique triangle pocket parks, and these images make evident what can be gained through a bit of long term planning, work, and generousity by those who share this vision.

  8. Martha Latta February 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm · Reply

    I thought everyone would like to know that progress is being made in Windsor Park Neighborhood with the restoration of Fletcher Park. This year (2013) Windsor Park is obtaining the property as well as beginning re-design of the park thanks to a Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Project GreenSpace grant. If you would like to know more about what is going on you can view a post on our website and view the proposed design details. http://windsorparkindy.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/plans-for-fletcher-park-move-forward/

  9. Joan Hostetler July 30, 2013 at 11:00 pm · Reply

    Windsor Park neighbors continue with their plans to revitalize Fletcher Park. On August 2, 2013 they will host “First Friday in Fletcher Park” featuring artists, music, wine, food, and other booths. http://www.indystar.com/article/20130730/THINGSTODO03/307300025/East-side-neighborhood-has-big-plans-small-park?nclick_check=1

  10. James Maple August 5, 2013 at 4:27 pm · Reply

    So glad to see someone taking an interest in this little park . I spent my child hood playing in this park in the 1940 throuh 1947 & was born in 1936. We lived at 1428 Brookside ave. My siblings and I walked up 11th street to school 33. Spent the first 5 years of school there. We had to move because Swizers and Cummings bought all the houses and tore them down. We always had a warm spot in our heart for our little playground. We will be watching for the day it will resume its right place in the area for a new generation of children to play there. Good luck with this project.

    • Joan Hostetler August 5, 2013 at 6:47 pm · Reply

      Thanks for replying, James! I have lots of questions for you. Did the park have a name then? Do you remember a dentist or doctor who held out and the Schwitzer plant had to build around him? Do you have any photographs of the area? I have a few photographs of houses on the west side of Brookside Avenue but would like to find more. Also, do you remember the Feast of Lanterns in Spades Park?

    • basil berchekas jr August 5, 2013 at 7:29 pm · Reply

      I remember when Switzer bought the houses across the street and tore them down…what a waste of housing stock…just to park cars! (used to drive downtown this way and took the number 21 bus this way too)

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