Indianapolis’ Roosevelt Avenue

I want to start this post with the asking for thoughts for the crew of USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71). On its current Western Pacific deployment, it finds itself in port in Guam due to the discovery of crew members with Covid-19. I served three years about that noble vessel. The idea of being stuck on the ship due to an outbreak of disease was always present, but never thought about. I am not saying that they are going through anything any different than other people are at this time of troubles. But keep in mind that there are over 5,500 people on that ship. And, no matter what you think, an aircraft carrier really becomes just a big boat after spending sometime on it.

In 1902, an ordinance introduced by Councilman Negley asked “that the name of all the streets leading from the Massachusetts avenue depot northeast to Brightwood, along the line of Massachusetts avenue, be changed to Roosevelt avenue.” (Indianapolis Journal, 18 February 1902) The Big Four Massachusetts Avenue depot was near what is now 10th and Interstates 65 & 70. It would connect 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.” It was described in the above mentioned Journal article as: “The change will take in a section of Lewis street, all of Malott avenue, section of Columbia avenue, all of Hill avenue, south end of Hillside avenue, section of Valley avenue, all of Beech street, all of Lawrence street, east end of Bloyd avenue and east end of Glen drive.” Councilman Negley didn’t stop there. “The ordinance also provides that Nevada street, from Sheldon street to Hillside avenue, be changed to Eighteenth street; that Holloway street be changed to Ingram street, and that Parker avenue be changed to Winter avenue.”

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.

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