The Lafayette State Road In Downtown Indianapolis

The Indianapolis-Lafayette State Road. It is quite obvious through most of Marion County where the road (more or less) is. It is called Lafayette Road from 16th Street to the county line in northwest Marion County. The original Lafayette Road was created in the 1820s. But in downtown? It doesn’t go downtown.

Keeping in mind that the town of Indianapolis was platted in 1821, there weren’t a lot of years between the time the town and the road were created. At that time, the town of Indianapolis was one mile square (because Alexander Ralston, designer of the town, said that it would never get any bigger, so why use the four square miles provided for the capitol city?). As a general rule, the “state roads” did not enter the termini towns. They were built to the border of the town…because that meant the town was connected to the road. The “state roads” at the time were mostly rural affairs.

1831 Map of the town of Indianapolis, showing the northwest corner of the original Mile Square. This shows the Lafayette State Road as a continuation of Indiana Avenue.

As such, the state roads would, in the late 1820s and early 1830s, start at North, South, East and West Streets. The map at the left shows the northwest corner of the original Mile Square of Indianapolis. By this time, Indianapolis had expanded beyond that Mile Square (oops, Alexander Ralston!). At the corner of North Street, West Street and Indiana Avenue, and branching away from the town, are both the Michigan Road and the Lafayette Road. At least according to this map. A map of 1855 shows the same thing…Lafayette Road starts at the six point intersection at North, West and Indiana. An 1870 map shows Indiana Avenue extended to Fall Creek (aka, the city limits at the time). One thing that is important to remember here is that Fall Creek didn’t turn west at what is now 10th Street. It continued more southerly. Historically, this plays into the location of the town of Indianapolis, as it dumped into White River just north of the National Road bridge. (The town of Indianapolis was platted to be one mile east of the mouth of Fall Creek. Being almost at the location of the old Washington Street bridge, that explains why the Mile Square is where it is.)

1855 Map of Indianapolis showing the mouth of Fall Creek.
1855 Map of Indianapolis showing the end of the Lafayette Road.

At some point after 1870, the “Lafayette Road” would be called its other state road given name: Crawfordsville Road. Both roads, following the same route at this point, would start at the six point intersection, travel northwest to the banks of Fall Creek (now at 10th Street and Indiana). The old road crossed Fall Creek in a straight line connecting Waterway Boulevard north of the creek to Indiana Avenue south of it, as shown in the next map. Waterway Boulevard is the fourth name of this section of Indianapolis city streets. Obviously, it was Lafayette Road. Then it became Crawfordsville Road, Speedway Avenue then Waterway Boulevard.

Google Map, sampled on 15 June 2019, showing the area of Indiana Avenue, 10th Street and Fall Creek. The orange line shows the path of the original Lafayette/Crawfordsville Road.
1870 map of Indianapolis, showing the Indianapolis end of the Lafayette Road. Notice the “toll gate” at the foot of the bridge. Also, this is the area of the City Hospital. This would later become Wishard Hospital.

The crossing of the White River occurred at the Emrichsville Bridge, which crossed the river at a right angle near 16th Street. The bridge’s landing point on the west bank of the White River was right where the current bridge makes landfall, with the bridge running more northeast than the current one. On the west bank of the river, the two state roads split, with the Crawfordsville Road heading due west along a half-section line (currently 16th Street), and the Lafayette Road turning to the north-north-west, then northwest.

1898 Polk Indianapolis City Directory Map of Lafayette and Crawfordsville Roads.

There are also some maps showing the Lafayette Road not crossing the river, ending at what is now 10th Street about two blocks west of White River. These maps show Lafayette Road ending under what is now Kindred Hospital Indianapolis, west of the Belt Railway. By the turn of the 20th Century, maps show the name “Lafayette Road” had disappeared again below Crawfordsville Road (16th Street).

From there, the Lafayette Road followed what is currently Lafayette Road most of the way. There are places where curves in the road were removed. Those are beyond the scope of this post.

9 thoughts on “The Lafayette State Road In Downtown Indianapolis

  1. Hi, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam comments? If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or anything you can suggest? I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so any help is very much appreciated.

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    1. Oh, the irony. I didn’t see your message until just now, because it was in my spam filter. I don’t get a lot of spam messages at this point, hence I didn’t see it. I really do apologize.

      My spam messages over the past five months of this blog average about two a month. As you can tell, I have been lax in reading them. Even then , I haven’t had one, other that yours (and I don’t know why yours would end up there) in over a month. I don’t know how to really prevent it…but haven’t had to. I know that’s not really a good answer. But, unfortunately, I don’t have a better one.

      And, again, I apologize for not seeing this earlier.

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  2. I found it fascinating when I figured out that Waterway Blvd. used to be the Lafayette Road. I don’t remember how I came to know it but when I did it was a real lightbulb moment for me. How crazy that the Lafayette Road began at the Michigan Road!

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    1. If I could get the Facebook group back far enough without it resetting, I can find exactly when you found out. You had made a comment that you didn’t know anything about that until I posted the same 1831 snippet I posted this morning. But, again, I can’t get back far enough to find it. I would LOVE for there to be a way to download the entire group…

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