The photograph below shows the Indianapolis Brewing Company’s parade wagon pulled by a six-horse hitch on East Georgia Street. The wagon is decorated with what looks like wheat and hops, wooden beer barrels, and a sign for Mausner’s Lager Beer. Although this photograph is dated 1933, my guess is it was probably a little later since The Indianapolis Brewing Company made Mausner Lager as a post-Prohibition beer with the slogan “Like the Old Days” This beer was named for Casper Maus, one of the brewery’s owners. Note the streetcar tracks in the center of the street (see another photograph here of a trolley on this same track just a little east of this spot during the 1913 streetcar strike).
In the background is the John W. Murphy building, better known today as the Harness Factory Lofts, 30 East Georgia Street. Architect Samuel M. Brubaker designed this seven-story brick building in 1910 for the family of John Wells Murphy, who named it in his honor after his death. The Murphys had financial support from Harold Hibben and Louis Hollweg who, along with Murphy, were prominent businessmen in the Wholesale District. Hibben and Hollweg were active in wholesale and jobbing enterprises, while Murphy had been involved in the iron trade. According to the Wholesale District Preservation Area Plan, the Murphy Building is unique because it was the first fireproof building in the district and it remains as one of the city’s oldest reinforced concrete buildings. Despite people’s natural assumption that the building was constructed as a harness factory, its original use was “an innovative plan for housing small wholesale and manufacturing operations in office suites.” In the 1910s, occupants included the Peerless Garment Company, International News Service, engraver John A. Dyer, Stegman Skirt Company, Compac Tent Company, Schulling Rupture Instruments, and Parsons Nut Bowl Company. (W. H. Bass Photo Co. Collection, Indiana Historical Society)
After seven decades of use, part of that time known as the Ruddell Building, the structure was converted into apartments in 1986 by Ratio Architects. Today the first floor houses a pizza shop, convenience store, and The Pub of Indianapolis. Approximately 95 apartments are on the upper floors, many with a loft-like feeling with 14’ ceilings and exposed beams. A Buckingham Companies employee shared that she thought it was named for an adjacent harness factory, now the site of a parking lot. (Photo by Joan Hostetler, September 14, 2011)
Boosted by the winning 2012 Super Bowl bid, downtown’s three remaining blocks of Georgia Street between the Convention Center and Conseco Fieldhouse are under construction for a new, pedestrian-friendly civic space. (Photo by Joan Hostetler, September 14, 2011)
Georgia Street will serve as Super Bowl Village during the February 2012 event, and continue to attract locals and visitors for future events. Where the trolley tracks once ran, a wide wooden boardwalk will guide visitors down the center of the street. This median will have an overhead shade system, kiosks, plants, and street furniture. The area will remain a street with narrow vehicle lanes running on each side between the boardwalk (with adjacent parking spaces) and the wide sidewalks for café tables. However, the street will have the flexibility to be closed off to traffic for activities such as concerts, outdoor movies, markets, or street fairs. The innovative design, created by Ratio Architects, includes sustainable features such as storm water infiltration below the boardwalk. The projected and overhead lights help define the area. Another interesting feature is the texture of pathway. The streets have no curbs, so the varying depths of the checkerboard pavers and tactile sidewalks will help keep vehicles off of the sidewalks. (Original concept rendering by Ratio Architects, City of Indianapolis)
No project is without controversy, and this one revolves around the “rebranding” of the street. Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. (IDI, a non-profit organization) is petitioning the city to rename this historic street that dates back to Alexander Ralston’s 1821 plat of Indianapolis. Planners feel that the name Georgia is too closely associated with the State of Georgia and not authentic and unique to Indianapolis. Mayor Ballard requested broader public input than the renaming code mandates, so IDI conducted a survey asking only for new names. They received 3,000 responses with names such as Whitcomb Street, General Timothy Maude (killed at Pentagon on 9/11), Victory Street, Liberty Street, and Peyton Place. Rumored committee favorites are Champion’s Way and Hospitality Way. IDI will next present 3-5 alternate names to the Georgia Street property owners for their input, followed by a presentation to the Metropolitan Development Commission (tentatively set for October 19). The MDC will make a recommendation to Mayor Ballard who makes the final decision in late October or November.
From media comment boards, it appears that the majority of residents object to renaming a 190-year old street. Many have suggested names such as “Boondoggle Boulevard” to express their frustration about the cost of the project. To provide a resource for people wanting to protest the change, I started a “KEEP GEORGIA STREET” Facebook page. that has grown to 635 followers. Join this group to lend your support. If you agree, at the very least send your opinion to Mayor Greg Ballard.
Surely there are enough serious issues in this city that we do not have to waste time on shortsighted proposals like this. Planners want a unique identity, so brand the area as “The Boardwalk,” or “____Plaza” (or square, or piazza, or row, or whatever) and continue to use the name Georgia Street.
If the city truly makes this an attractive and vibrant destination, people will go there regardless of the name.
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If you would like to Keep Georgia Street, please sign the online petition (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/keepgeorgiast/) and print and distribute the paper petition: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/9620518/Keep%20Georgia%20Street%20Petition.pdf
About the renaming of Georgia Street, If the current name was good enough when the street intersected with such prominent projects as the Hoosier Dome,Pan-Am Plaza and Conseco Fieldhouse, it is good enough for its own makeover. If it is not broke, don’t fix it.