In the Good Old Winter Time at Riverside, Indianapolis, Indiana
Image courtesy of Tom Keesling, Hoosier Recollections.

January 2014 will go on record as one of the coldest months in Indianapolis’ history. Pipes burst, the Central Canal froze over, car engines wouldn’t start, and ice formed on the White River. In the early 1900s, Riverside Park was a well known summer destination for Indianapolis residents. However, as this week’s penny post depicts, the frozen waters of the White River drew skaters to Riverside Park in the winter months too.

In 1907, one article noted that hundreds of skaters were also  enjoying “Broad Cut,” from 16th Street to the aqueduct–not far from this ice skating location.

Postmarked: Indianapolis, IND. FEB. 15, 1910, 1-PM


Image courtesy of Tom Keesling, Hoosier Recollections.

Indpls. Ind. 2-15

Rec’d pretty card.
Does this view interest you? Looks pretty breezy I imagine. A fine place for skating too. The bathing beach just east is lake about 1 1/2 miles wide and is also fine for those who enjoy skating on ice. I rather prefer roolers.
Very cold weather.
Call again
Most sincerely yours,
1636 Martindale Ave

Addressed to:
Miss CVC Moody
Oakland, California
5785 Broadway


The postcard’s “view” is likely looking south down the White River. This 1916 Baist Atlas shows the Cleveland Cincinnati Chicago and St. Louis Railway line that ran through Riverside Park, near the 30th Street Bridge.
(Baist Atlas map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Library)

A penny for your thoughts … If Josephine had waited two days to write her postcard, it is likely that she would have included news about the record setting storm that swept through the city February 16 – 17, 1910. According to records from the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office, the city received 16.1″ of snow during the two days after this penny post was postmarked. The February 1910 storm still holds the record for the maximum snowfall during a single storm.

To learn more about the history of Riverside Park, visit our HI Mailbag: Indy Parks and Rec and Indianapolis Collected: The Bridges of Marion County articles.

3 responses to “Penny Post: In the Good Old Winter Time”

  1. Tom says:

    Thanks for sharing this and for mentioning the 1910 storm, Ashley.

    I wonder if any meteorologists or hydrologists can explain why the river froze a century ago, but hasn’t frozen this winter. What’s different? What has changed? Maybe someone from Friends of White River will have some insight.

  2. Dan Ripley says:

    Oh, it has frozen this year. What is hard to imagine is the river freezing at a consistent water level. The constant changes in elevation usually cause a series of ice flows that create ice jams and a rough tundra-like surface.

  3. Tom says:

    Yes, Ashley, that was the C. C. C. C. & St. L. (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis), or Big Four, Railroad Bridge, but it had probably been abandoned by the time this postcard was produced.

    After the turn of the century, as automobile traffic was increasing rapidly in Indianapolis, the city began negotiating with the railroads to undertake “grade separation” at some of the busiest and most dangerous crossings. One of the crossings the city insisted on including in this program was at West 30th Street just a few hundred feet southeast of the bridge in this postcard scene. However, in this case, the railroad company decided to abandon the line and this bridge in favor of a route west of the city.

    From the Indianapolis Star, January 1, 1909. “The Indianapolis Star noted on the January 1, 1909 that nothing had yet been done at the Big Four crossing on West 30th Street, but went on to say the crossing was “comparatively safe” because the “tracks have been practically abandoned.”

    One online source suggested this bridge was destroyed by the Great Flood of 1913. However, I could find no mention of this bridge in the accounting of the flood damage. I think this bridge had been removed prior to that flood event. It’s even possible the bridge was already gone by the time this postcard was mailed in 1910.

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