“Car and Bus Routings and Stops, Downtown”

All aboard the time machine again…let’s head back to Indianapolis of 1940 to look at how we were maneuvering to and from home and downtown. This map is from Dreher’s Simplex Street and House Number Guide of the City of Indianapolis. Now that most everyone has a gps or smartphone, booklets like this are far less prevalent, but what a great snapshot of 1939-40 Indianapolis this offers! Can you figure out where your bus stop would be on this map? Do tell!

Most people already know this, but the numbering system for houses and buildings allocate 100 numbers per block (or ‘square’ as they referred to them in 1940) with the baseline being Meridian for east and west and Washington for north and south. But there’s moret: “The rule for assigning numbers is based on lot frontage. A number is given for each twenty feet of frontage or fractional part thereof. Thus, when a lot is 25 feet or 33 feet or 40 feet wide, two numbers are assigned. When over 40 feet and up to 60 feet wide, three numbers are assigned. When property fronts on north or west side of streets, even numbers are assigned from each hundred, beginning with 2. When property fronts on the south or east side of the streets, odd numbers are assigned in the same manner, beginning with 1. Thus numbers are assigned in that hundred until all lots between the two number lines are numbered, then the next hundred begins. Indiana, Massachusetts, Virginia and Kentucky avenues are numbered as north and south streets, except Massachusetts avenue is numbered as an east and west street, northeast of Tenth street.”

Also note: address numbers were first assigned in a more haphazard manner, and were changed around 1898, and finally circa 1911, with that update remaining, for the most part, through the current day.

And check these listed population stats:

Indianapolis population:

  • 1880- 75,056
  • 1890- 105,436
  • 1900- 169,164
  • 1910- 233,650
  • 1920- 314,194
  • 1930-364,073
  • 1939 (including suburbs) 443,000

3 responses to “Public Transportation in 1940 Indianapolis”

  1. Tom Davis says:

    My grandfather drove a trackless trolley in the years of this map. Don’t know if he had a particular route or might have done any number of these from time to time. My Dad recently told me though that one of the reasons Grandpa left town in the mid 40s though was that he was getting in trouble for union activities. I had no idea of that.

  2. Donna Winsted says:

    Great story! I would have taken the W. Washington line – assuming that the line went all the way to the airport. We didn’t move to Indy until 1949 – and took advantage of the bus service to Ben Davis via the airport route.

    BTW – W Washington St is the north/south dividing line until you reach the intersection of Rockville Rd. From there to the western county line (Raceway Rd) Rockville Rd is the north/south dividing line.


  3. basil berchekas jr says:

    That’s interesting about Rockville Road; it does run-east west; W Washington west of Rockville Road’s intersection does run more southwest than west, so that makes sense…

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