19th Century view of the Blind Institute

The Indiana Institute for the Education of the Blind was founded in 1847. By 1853, a five-story permanent building had been constructed on the edge of town on North Street, between Meridian and Pennsylvania Streets. Originally occupying two city blocks, around 1900 the institute grounds had been cut back to only one block, and the block to the north became St. Clair Park.

Blind Institute, late 1800s
The Blind Institute, late 1800s

The school building changed little during its lifetime. As seen in these images, the primary structure maintained its appearance from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. However, in the early 20th-Century, the building’s age was becoming an issue, and after 1919, there was a push to develop the American Legion Park, which included the Blind School’s site. So in 1930, the school moved to its current location on North College, leaving the 1853 building to be razed.

Blind Institute, c. 1900
The Blind Institute around 1900 (Hyman’s Guidebook to Indianapolis, 1907)

Despite the loss of the intriguing 1850s building, the former school site is fortunately now part of the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza, a beautiful and well-maintained park and memorial in downtown that encompasses five city blocks.