Roosevelt Avenue, Indianapolis

Earlier this month, I made a post about the town of Brightwood, a suburb of Indianapolis that came to be to support the Bee Line railroad, which eventually became part of the Big Four. On the Facebook side of things, someone made a comment about Roosevelt Avenue, a curvy boulevard that led to Brightwood. The comment was about why the city couldn’t buy the land to make it a straighter road.

And here, we will discuss that.

Around 1900, the city of Indianapolis decided to create a winding boulevard connecting the Big Four Massachusetts Avenue depot, near what is now 10th and Interstates 65 & 70, to the Big Four depot in Brightwood. What became Roosevelt Avenue wasn’t one street from end to end. It was a collection of streets and avenues that were combined to make the ultimate product.

1899 Atlas of Indianapolis and Marion County, with the route of what would become Roosevelt Avenue from 11th and Lewis to Rural Street highlighted.

The Polk 1904 Indianapolis City Directory street guide describes it as follows: (keep in mind this is a direct transcription, including capitalization) “ROOSEVELT AV – (Formerly Malott av, Hill av, parts of Hillside av, Valley av, Beech, Lawrence, Bloyd av and Glen Drive) From cor Eleventh and Lewis n e.”

Starting at 11th and Lewis, or the Monon and Nickel Plate, whichever you prefer, the city renamed Malott Avenue to Columbia (Street) Avenue. There is a break in the new avenue at this point, even though I highlighted part of Columbia Avenue. Continuing northeast, Hill Avenue, from Columbia to (what is mismarked as Hill) Hillside Avenue, then became part of the new boulevard. (For information, the 1885 Polk Indianapolis City Directory lists Hillside Avenue as extending from the corner of Sixth and Hill ave, northeasterly to city limits. That would be the curve turning from Hill to Hillside near Ludlow and/or Clarke.)

Only a few blocks of Hillside Avenue was taken for Roosevelt Avenue. A curve to the right, and now you are on what was once Beech Avenue. While the description in the city directory lists “part of Beech” as part of the avenue, I can’t see where, from the included map, there was any part of Beech that WASN’T made part of the road. Beech connected to Lawrence, which then would take the mantle of Roosevelt. It would carry it to Rural Street.

1899 Atlas of Indianapolis and Marion County, with the route of what would become Roosevelt Avenue from Rural Street to Sherman Drive (then called Brightwood Street) highlighted.

At Rural, Roosevelt Avenue replaced what was Bloyd Avenue. This corner is still shown, although not with Indianapolis’s standard oversized street signs at signaled intersections, as Bloyd to the west, Roosevelt to the east. Roosevelt was rerouted, removing a traffic intersection on both sides of the Bee Line tracks. I can tell you, from what I remember going to school at IPS #37, there was ALWAYS traffic snarls at those two intersections!

Roosevelt’s take over of Bloyd would last until it reached the old Shade Street, now known as Olney Avenue. There, the Glen Drive (now Glenn Drive) portion would start. That would take it to Brightwood Street. That portion of Roosevelt Avenue does still exist, creating a situation just like that at Rural Street at Sherman Drive. The major difference is the sheer difference in altitude of the rail crossings at both Rural and Sherman. Sherman Drive’s is relatively flat. This stems partially from the fact this was also where the Indianapolis Belt Railway’s north leg and east leg come to meet the Bee Line. Rural Street’s intersection with Massachusetts Avenue is quite a bit lower than the railroad track next to it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Roosevelt Avenue, being over 100 years old, was named after President Theodore Roosevelt. That would make it “Rose-a-velt” Avenue, not “Ruse-a-velt.” And, as I mentioned in response to the Facebook comment that led to this entry, Theodore Roosevelt is very near and dear to my heart. I am a Navy veteran that served onboard USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71), for three years, once upon a time.

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