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(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

The intersection of South and Delaware streets wasn’t exactly paradise … but it was paved and made into a parking lot. Several parking lots, in fact. Though the lots are used (mostly by Eli Lilly employees, I assume, and also for downtown events), their necessity has transformed the area’s architectural landscape. Quite literally, entire blocks have been leveled in order to make room for the modern day vehicle.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the area was one of industry. There were coal yards, tinsmiths, warehouses, liveries. I’m sure the area was full of commotion and noise and dust, too. Of course, with the number of cars that drive through this area during rush hour, commotion might still be prevalent. Generally, we think little of the past when making our way to work. We pay attention to the road and shake our fists at other drivers’ actions. We sip coffee or quickly inhale a napkin-wrapped bagel. We sing to the radio, laugh at Bob & Tom, or listen to NPR. We’re each in our own world in our own cars, and we don’t pause to think of the historical world that was demolished in order to create “the perfect parking spot.”

The 1887 Sanborn Map shows that 336 S. Delaware was neighbored by the Elderidge & Co. Lumberyard and the A.B. Meyer & Co. Coal Yard to the east and the Indianapolis Gaslight and Coke Company to the west.

The 1887 Sanborn Map shows that 336 S. Delaware was neighbored by the Elderidge & Co. Lumberyard and the A.B. Meyer & Co. Coal Yard to the east and the Indianapolis Gaslight and Coke Company to the west.

The southern part of the intersection, for the most part, comprised smaller businesses and shops. The northern part, however, had much larger operations. In the 1880s, both the E.H. Elderidge & Co. Lumberyard and the A.B. Meyer & Co. Coal Yard were housed between Delaware and Alabama streets. The Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Chicago Railroad Depot was just north of the yards. In later years, the depot expanded, encompassing more than one block. It was called the Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Chicago Railroad Depot, or the C.C.C. & St. L. R.R. It had two freight houses, and room for both in-bound and out-bound wares. The depot continued to be used for nearly a century, though, in later years, it was adapted for use by semi trailers. But, by the 1980s, the depot was gone; it was leveled, paved, and painted with straight yellow lines.

The 1898 Sanborn Map scales the large Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Chicago Railroad Depot against 336 S. Delaware. (One residential home, as well as the carriage house, have been demolished.) Furthermore, the Map labels the Indianapolis Gas Company with "Buildings All Vacant & In Bad Repair.")

The 1898 Sanborn Map (updated to 1915) scales the large Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Chicago Railroad Depot against 336 S. Delaware. (One residential home, as well as the carriage house, have been demolished.) Furthermore, the Map labels the Indianapolis Gas Company with “Buildings All Vacant & In Bad Repair.”

Across the street, between Delaware and Pennsylvania, was the Indianapolis Gaslight and Coke Company. According to “Hyman’s Handbook of Indianapolis” (a history of the city that was published by the Max R. Hyman Company in 1907), the Indianapolis Gaslight and Coke Company was started in 1851, and supplied natural gas to the city from 1888 to 1903. (Prior to 1888, artificial gas was used.) In 1902, the Indianapolis Gas Company (which had been incorporated in 1890 as a successor to the Indianapolis Gaslight and Coke Company and the Indianapolis National Gas Company) began erecting a new plant near Langsdale Avenue. The new plant eventually had a daily capacity of 7,000,000 cubic feet. As the handbook says, “The policy of the company is liberal and progressive, and it has had marked success in promoting the sales of gas for domestic and industrial uses. The company is giving excellent service and is using every endeavor to educate its consumers in the economical use of gas … The company now has over 30,000 consumers and over 300 miles of mains.”

The Indianapolis Gas Company had two gas holders and supplied more than 30,000 consumers. The plant eventually held a daily capacity of 7,000,000 cubic feet, according to a 1907 publication titled "Hyman’s Handbook of Indianapolis."

The Indianapolis Gas Company supplied more than 30,000 consumers by 1907. The plant, located near Langsdale Avenue, eventually held a daily capacity of 7,000,000 cubic feet, according to a publication titled “Hyman’s Handbook of Indianapolis.”

The Indianapolis Gaslight & Coke Company fell to disrepair; the 1898 Sanborn Map (updated to 1915) labels the company as “not in operation, Oct. 12, 1909” and adds “BUILDINGS ALL VACANT & IN BAD REPAIR.” Creatively, however, one of the company’s gas holders was converted into a swimming pool—Indianapolis’ first, in fact. The swimming pool appears on both the 1915 Sanborn and the 1916 Baist maps, and was even photographed by the W. H. Bass Photo Company. The Indiana Historical Society guards the Aug. 8, 1912, photo of the city’s first swimming pool.

The 1916 Baist Map shows that the larger gas holder for the Indianapolis Gas Company was converted into a swimming pool, Indianapolis' first.

The larger of the Indianapolis Gaslight and Coke Company’s gas holders was converted to a swimming pool, as seen in the 1916 Baist Map.

Children swim and play in the first swimming pool in Indianapolis, located at Delaware and South Streets. The structure was originally a gas plant for the Indianapolis Gas Company. A group of boys are on a raised platform in the center. (Photo courtesy Indiana Historical Society, W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection, © 2004 Indiana Historical Society)

Children swim and play in the first swimming pool in Indianapolis, located at Delaware and South Streets. The structure was originally a gas plant for the Indianapolis Gaslight and Coke Company. A group of boys are on a raised platform in the center. 336 S. Delaware can be seen in the background, on the right. (Photo courtesy Indiana Historical Society, W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection, © 2004 Indiana Historical Society)

Nestled on the other half of that same block were several smaller establishments. The Pintch Gas Company had a few buildings just north of the swimming pool, and remained there for a few years. By 1920, it was known as the Citizens Gas Company, which became the Million Population Wrecking Company. The swimming pool became a parking lot.

With so many of its former neighbors flattened, I’m outright surprised as to how 336 S. Delaware has survived. The building is more than a century old, and has been practically everything—a livery, a garage for Harris Motor Transportation Company, a garage for Keeshin Motors Express Co., a warehouse for Tanner Brothers, and a home base for Martin’s Wrecker Service, among other things. Caudle Transfer Co. was another business that held fort in the area; an Indianapolis Star advertisement from Nov. 23, 1917, offers for sale two Ford trucks at Caudle’s South Delaware address. An even earlier advertisement—one that appeared in The Indianapolis Star on Nov. 21, 1912—was run by M. Gregory Co. and recalls the building’s use as a livery. “Horses are Cheaper,” the ad says. “We have a few useful business and draft horses that must be sold, regardless of cost.”

Caudle Transfer Co., located on South & Delaware, placed an ad in The Indianapolis Star on Nov. 23, 1917.

Caudle Transfer Co., located on South and Delaware streets, placed an ad in The Indianapolis Star on Nov. 23, 1917.

The 1887 Sanborn shows that 336 S. Delaware was surrounded by two residential homes and a large carriage house. But, within forty years, the carriage house and homes were erased from existence. The commercial buildings immediately south of the building, however, remained for many years. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the corner evolved; a sheet metal store was created, and a new warehouse (which still stands) was put up. By the 1980s—after being used for various carloading, distributing, and trucking companies—the buildings were vacant, and they were subsequently removed in 1993. And, until 2011, when construction for contemporary apartments started, the area changed little.

1972 satellite image of the intersection of South and Delaware streets (made available through MapIndy)

1972 satellite image of the intersection of South and Delaware streets (made available through MapIndy)

2011 satellite image of the intersection of South and Delaware streets (made available through MapIndy)

2011 satellite image of the intersection of South and Delaware streets (made available through MapIndy)

2012 satellite image of the intersection of South and Delaware streets (made available through MapIndy)

2012 satellite image of the intersection of South and Delaware streets (made available through MapIndy)

Perhaps this building is safe from the wrecking ball, but, given the parked cars that practically swallow it, I fear its demise. True, 336 S. Delaware isn’t a fancy hotel or the former residence of an Indianapolis celebrity. It’s a humble, more-than-one-hundred-year-old structure with an industrial history. A history that began with horses and carriages. A history that survived the construction of nearby railroad tracks and witnessed increasing dependency on the modern car. A history that shouldn’t have to end, not yet. Because, when it comes to South and Delaware, it is the only remaining original structure. Why pave this history and put up a parking lot?

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

19 responses to “Sunday Prayers: Paving Over The Past”

  1. Norm Morford says:

    Dawn — amazing research. Any idea about the “Sanborn” name on a map?

    The summer of 1956 after graduation from DePauw U., I worked for Sanborn Electric Co. — at that time it was an electrical contracting company, as well as a whosesaler of York Airconditioners, Hunter Fans, Sunbeam products, and a bunch more things I have forgotten.

    It was a great place to be for that summer before heading off to SMU in Dallas for seminary.

  2. Louis Mahern says:

    I have long admired the building at 336 S. Delaware. Every time I pass it, I’m grateful that it stills stands. The amount of land given over to the automobile is nothing short of criminal. We have made it so easy to drive a car in Indianapolis, I’m afraid that any real mass transit system is doomed.

  3. dana hubbard says:

    Note that the three-dormer building in the right background of the pool photo is the 336 S. Delaware building. Good story. -dh

  4. Dawn Olsen says:

    Dana, thank you! I, sadly, did not notice at first. I have since added your observation to the caption.

  5. basil berchekas jr says:

    if I remember right, the first “depot house” of the Jeffersonville, Madison, and Indianapolis Railroad was located at Delaware and South Streets prior to the forward-looking concept of a “Union Depot” was implemented in the early 1850s.Pogues Run was used as the approximate route for the J M and I RR when it reached Indianapolis from the south, and the future founder of Merchants National Bank, Otto Frenzel, was the locomotive engineer who drove the first train into Indianapolis in 1847. He later founded the bank because established ones didn’t make much of an effort to help the expanding number of railroad employees to obtain home loans and so forth. That’s what I understand…

  6. Dawn Olsen says:

    Thanks for reading, Norm! To my understanding, the Sanborn Map Company was founded by Daniel Alfred Sanborn, a surveyor from Somerville, Massachusetts. The Company sent out numerous surveyors to record building footprints in the country’s urban areas. I believe they were headquartered in New York, but they had offices in California, Atlanta, and Chicago as well. The first maps (which are drawn at a scale of 50 feet to one inch) were made in 1867. Even though their original intent was for estimating fire insurance liabilities, they have become a symbol of preservation and historical architecture. As to why the Sanborn Maps share a name with the Sanborn Electric Co., I do not know. That’s certainly something to look into! After a quick search, though, I did learn that the Sanborn Electric Co. was in business in Indianapolis from 1892 to 1986, and that they were “engaged extensively in electrical contracting,” as you mentioned. The Drawings and Documents Archive at Ball State University Library actually has a collection of 260 Sanborn Electric Co. projects. The collection consists of blueprints and diazo prints of electrical working drawings. Unfortunately, the documents are unavailable for research at this time.

  7. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    You have written about properties that play a role in my family tree research. Maybe you (or a reader) can help me solve a mystery.
    .
    In the city directories of the 1850s and 1860s, Valentine Butsch’s coal, lime, and cement business was listed as being on the north side of South Street, between Pennsylvania and Delaware Streets and opposite the Madison Depot. No exact street address was ever given in any of the directories, so I don’t know if his property was closer to Pennsylvania Street or closer to Delaware Street.
    .
    Since the railroad tracks run more or less down the middle of the 100 block of E. South Street, Valentine Butsch’s property had to be either west of the railroad tracks or east of the railroad tracks. If his business was west of the tracks, that was the location of the Indianapolis Gaslight & Coal Company on the 1887 Sanborn Map. If his business was east of the tracks, that was the location of the parking lot and brick livery at 336 S. Delaware Street about which you’ve written.
    .
    It’s my guess that Valentine Butsch’s coal, lime, and cement business was west of the tracks, that is, closer to Pennsylvania Street. If his business was indeed there, am I to conclude that Valentine Butsch at some point sold his property to the City of Indianapolis? I’m confused by the fact that the Indianapolis Gaslight & Coal Company was founded in 1851, since Valentine Butsch’s business was in that location after 1851. Was the gas company in some other location in its early years? Could the Indianapolis Gas & Coal Company and Valentine Butsch have operated from the same location? Any thoughts?

  8. Kevin J. Brewer says:

    What, if anything, is in this building currently?

  9. Dawn Olsen says:

    From what I could see, the building itself is not currently used. (However, there was an event at the Fieldhouse when I visited the area, so the parking lots surrounding the building were full.) Someone on Facebook also commented, and said that they had heard the building was supposed to be renovated.

  10. Dawn Olsen says:

    Hi, Sharon! I had no idea you had family history in this exact intersection! Your generations-long connections to the city are always interesting. As you mentioned, I had a few mild frustrations myself–there was often no address for this building. However, I’m assuming the address didn’t appear in the city directories because, more often than not, it was just a small part of a larger business (one that encompassed other buildings/property).

    Regarding the Indianapolis Gaslight & Coal Company–I found in an Indiana Senate journal from 1871 a reference to House Bill 138. The bill supposedly amended two sections of a former act, one entitled “An act to incorporate the Indianapolis Gaslight and Coke Company.” That particular act was approved in February 1851. I also found an 1884 book titled “History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana, Part 1.” It says that the Indianapolis Gaslight and Coke Company bought “a small tract of half swampy creek bottom on the east side of Pennsylvania Street” in July 1851. (It wasn’t until January 1852, however, that the first gas was furnished for regular use.) The book also mentions the gas-holder on Delaware Street (the one that was later turned into a swimming pool). Assuming this information is true, I would guess that the Indianapolis Gaslight and Coke Company made its first home on Pennsylvania and South.

    When I looked back at the Sanborn maps, I tried to make any logical conclusion as to where your ancestor could’ve set up shop. Since most of the commercial buildings are left unlabeled, I can only speculate. It is possible that Valentine Butsch hosted his business on the west side of the tracks, though, especially since the first buildings for the gas company were primitive (or, as the book describes, “small” and cheap”).

  11. basil berchekas jr says:

    Sounds like the “swampy land” on South Pennsylvania was adjacent to Pogues Run when the railroad(s) paralleled Pogues Run long before it was storm sewered in 1914-15…

  12. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    The founder and president (while he was alive) of the Sanborn Electric Company was named Gerry Melbourne Sanborn (1872-1944). He was born in Indianapolis and during his lifetime lived in the Old Northside, Woodruff Place, Mapleton-Fall Creek, and Highwoods. Gerry, his wife Amanda, and his parents Ashley and Amelia are all buried together in the same plot at Crown Hill Cemetery. If Gerry was somehow related to Daniel Alfred Sanborn (1827-1883) of Somerville, Massachusetts, it doesn’t appear that the Sanborn Electric Company and the Sanborn Map Company were in any way connected. Gerry Sanborn would have been only 10 or 11 years old when Daniel Sanborn died, and the Sanborn Electric Company wasn’t founded until nearly a decade after Daniel Sanborn’s death.

  13. Kevin J. Brewer says:

    Basil, you said that Pogues Run “storm sewered” in 1914-15. Was that due to the 1913 flooding?

  14. moochie says:

    I am the current manager of this property and have information I cannot divulge online about the recent attempted renovations. I have access to the interior of the property of course.

  15. moochie says:

    Oddly, the door on the South side of the building you have pictured is fake. It appears to be a large door, but there is only brick behind it, and the door itself is fake – only plywood and cheap vertical siding, and cannot open. There aren’t even hinges. I’ve been confused for awhile what its purpose was.

  16. basil berchekas jr says:

    As I understand it, there were plans to storm sewer it years before, but the 1913 flood “sped up” the decision making process.

  17. TYLER says:

    is there anyway we can encourage the cityway developers to save this building? i believe they currently own it and it’s in rough shape. also the last piece of any history in that area. Indianapolis doesn’t keep enough of it’s older buildings around and then they wonder why people call this “indiana no place”

  18. Tiffany Benedict Browne says:

    We’ve heard through the grapevine that they are trying to figure out how to do just that. Stay tuned!

  19. Tom says:

    Looks like the historic former horse stable building will be used for some future purpose in the CityWay II portion of the development occurring on the west side of S. Delaware Street. It has been moved about 100 – 150 feet north of where it had previously been located. New apartments and commercial / retail uses will be going into the new buildings being constructed along the west side of S. Delaware. It appears this historic building will be stabilized and then some type of new use will be going into it. Not sure what that might be — but it might make a very interesting little pub / restaurant or something along those lines.

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