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If you’ve lived in Indianapolis for any measurable amount of time, you’ve likely heard that 38th Street used to be Maple Road, but did you know Maple Road used to be 38th Street?

Huh?

Yep, you read that right.

And: due to the numerous changes to street names and numbering, the same thoroughfare was reportedly 30th at one time, and also 34th. I’ve yet to find a map to confirm the claims about it being 34th street, so perhaps it’s a rusty memory, or, then again, with as often as names seem to change around here, maybe it’s true.

Switching the road’s moniker from a number to a name didn’t come about until March 1911, when the Board of Park Commissioners adopted a resolution changing 38th Street to Maple Road, a.k.a. Maple Road Boulevard. (pick one, already–and stick to it!)  Within a  month of the approved name change, plans were confirmed to improve the new “Maple Road” from Northwestern to Capitol. A  macadam makeover was imminent, with curbs, gutters and cement sidewalks–all at the expense of abutting property owners. (And how exactly did THAT work?) Only one year later the Park board gave the o.k. to widen 38th street from Capitol to the fairgrounds– to make it at least 100 feet wide–and at a cost of approximately $100,000. The assessment district was between Senate and Fall Creek and 38th to 42nd.

1908 Baist Map. Under the (horizontal) names “Miller” and “Hubbard,” the vertical word “church” where the first church of Sugar Grove, later Mapleton, stood.

By some accounts the name “Maple Road” was inspired by the rows of Maple trees that once lined the street, but Lawrence Sheridan, a former metropolitan planner asserted that the genesis of the name was due to the tiny suburb of Mapleton, through which the street flowed, centered at 38th and Illinois. Mapleton first appears in the newspaper, and was reportedly formed, circa 1871. Prior to that, the same area was called Sugar Grove, so named for the “maple sugar camp,” that existed south of Maple road and east of Crown Hill Cemetery. So, in the end, all non-numbered road names lead back to maples.

The first church, fronting 38th street, was Sugar Grove Mission, later renamed Mapleton church and was an area landmark from the time it was built in 1855. Below is a view of the original wood frame building and under that, the 1899 expanded version, after the church had to be moved northward to accommodate another widening of 38th Street.

Architectural sketch by Charles H. Hopson of New Methodist Episcopal Church, 3808 North Meridian

Preparations to build the church that still stands on northwest corner of Meridian and 38th began in 1925 and was designed by Charles H. Hopson, an Atlanta architect. It was at this time the church merged with North church and was renamed North Methodist Episcopal Church, the name it still carries today.

Sanborn map, dated 1941 showing the new North M. E. Church, and the Mapleton M. E. Church still standing between Illinois and Salem.

In Mapleton’s early days, it was noteworthy that approximately four miles north of the city’s epicenter there were amenities like a post office and general store– managed by Theodore F. Harrison. His home and commercial property stood on the northeast corner of Illinois and 38th.

Another long-remembered landmark was the blacksmith shop of Paul Reiss at 3749 North Illinois. Mr. Reiss started his blacksmith shop in the late 1880s. His son, Frank followed in his father’s re-hoofing steps, as did his grandson, Paul Reiss. To this day, a sign outside the building says “Reiss Welding.”

For almost 50 years, starting in 1928, there were “Old Mapleton” reunions, and the blacksmith shop featured repeatedly in the reminisces of former residents from those early days.

Mr. Paul Reiss, longtime Mapletonian, circa 1930s.

The one map showing Mapleton is from the 1876 Indiana atlas, and is labeled slightly west of where articles assert the village existed. All citations I’ve found say the epicenter of Mapleton was at Illinois and 38th streets. Note another difference with 2018: Crown Hill continues north of 38th Street– where the Mapleton label of 1876 appears.

So which do you prefer? 38th Street? Or Maple Road?

And does anyone recognize the intersection on 38th/ Maple Road the top post card image features?

7 responses to “Changing Street Names: 38th and Maple”

  1. Lee Little says:

    Great article!
    The Methodists merged with the Evangelical United Brethren denomination in the 1960s to create the United Methodist denomination. The Episcopalian denomination is officially known as the Protestant Episcopal Church – it gets a little confusing.
    I wish they would have preserved the Old Mapleton Church – it’s so charming!

  2. Anonymous says:

    5

  3. Bob Palma says:

    Immediately north of, and sharing a property line with, Reiss Welding, was Snider Auto Service, one of three major Studebaker automobile dealerships in Indianapolis as late as 1966. The used car lot was on the south side of Snider Auto Service. Reiss Welding was south of the Snider used car lot.

    As a Life Member of The Studebaker Drivers Club, I spent many hours at Snider Auto Service in 1962-1966 as a teen-ager. One of my cousins still owns a 1964 Studebaker he bought new at Snider Auto Service; it is like new and has fewer than 15,000 actual miles on it.

    Sadly, the Snider Auto Service building and used car lot were demolished shortly after Studebaker went out of the automobile business. The dealership footprint is now the parking lot for the McDonald’s restaurant located at west 38th and Illinois streets.

  4. Richard Simpson says:

    Ask, and ye shall find. The attached link will take you to the Polk Indianapolis City Directory from 1897, and the page showing Thirty-eighth St. 1897 was the year when all the old numbered streets (with First St. becoming Tenth St.) were renumbered. The following year, all the addresses would change, as well, making 38th St. 3800 North as opposed to roughly 1900 or 2000 north as it was before 1898.

    Here is the link: https://archive.org/stream/polksindianapoli1897unse#page/98/mode/2up

  5. Steve Miller says:

    The Maple Road postcard would appear to be reversed, since the cars appear to be driving on the “wrong” side of the road!

  6. Robert Hearden says:

    I remember when 38th Street was completely reconstructed from College Avenue to the fairgrounds in the early 1950’s when I was about age 5 living on Carrollton just north of 38th Street. I cannot find any documentation of this reconstruction. Bob Hearden rhearden@aol.com

  7. J says:

    Is there anything you can you tell me about The Ritz apartment building located between Washington Blvd and New Jersey? Any old photos?

    Thanks

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