Outside the city limits of Indianapolis, in Perry Township, several neighborhoods were being added to the Marion County landscape starting in the second decade of the twentieth century. I want to some time to discuss those. To give them an Indiana Transportation History connection, the most important thing mentioned in the advertisements for these new additions was how to get there – the Greenwood line of the interurban.
I have covered the Greenwood line several times over the past nearly two years. But here is the 30,000 foot view for those that have not read my other ramblings. The interurban, or electric traction, line to Greenwood began operation in 1900. Ultimately, it would take passengers from Indianapolis to Louisville, and all points in between. It travelled through Indianapolis along Virginia Avenue and Shelby Street, connecting to the old Madison Road (also known as the Indianapolis-Southport [Toll] [Free Gravel] Road). This would later become known as Madison Avenue. At the time, the traction line would go “cross country” from Stop 4, at Hanna Avenue, to the Madison Road. This “cross country” trip wouldn’t last long, as Shelby Street would be extended to Madison Avenue shortly after the line was built. Stop 5 was listed as 5.3 miles away from the Traction Terminal, placing it roughly at the south edge of what would become University Heights, or what is now Lawrence Avenue.
I have mentioned this elsewhere, but it does beg repeating: Stop 1 on the Greenwood Line, officially called the Interstate Public Service Company, was at Perry Street. This is just south of Troy Avenue, which separates Center and Perry Townships. The city streetcar line ended at Perry Street, and had a turnaround at that point for its return trip to downtown Indianapolis. Legally, the interurban companies did not enter the city. Or, did not enter as themselves. The electric traction companies would enter the city using the street car lines. The Greenwood interurban used the tracks of the Shelby Street line. This was the route that was approved by the city.
Stop 2 was 4.5 miles from the Indianapolis Traction Terminal, the world’s largest such facility. That would put it at roughly the corner of Sumner and Shelby. Stop 3 was 0.2 miles later, at what is now National and Shelby…the northern edge of the University of Indianapolis. Stop 4, when it was constructed, was 5 miles from the terminal (which would be built four years after the starting of operations on the Greenwood line), at what is now Hanna Avenue.
In my last entry of “More History Than Transportation,” I mentioned the Indianapolis suburb of University Heights. That town was designed by William Elder in 1902. It was located at Stop 4 on the Greenwood Line.
In the mid-1910’s, two subdivisions sprung up along the Greenwood line at Stop 6. Both of them straddled what is now Thompson Road as far as what is now State Street, basically one quarter mile east of the Madison Road. The addition north of Stop 6, designed by Edwin E. Thompson, would be called “Longacre.” The lots were not laid out like a normal subdivision. According to an advertisement in the Indianapolis News of 23 September 1916, Thompson was willing to sell lots of “5 acres in one tract.” However, “lots near stop, 80 x 400 feet, $700 to $900.”
South of the road that would mark Stop 6 was Ellerslee. This subdivision was located east of the Pennsylvania Railroad on what is now Mathews Avenue and State Street. In the same newspaper, Ellerslee was advertised as “half0acre lots sold on terms of $5.00 down and then $5.00 per month. Car fare 5c to city limits.” Lots in Ellerslee cost $300 and up.
Next down the line, and built four years earlier, was another development created by the same William Elder that created University Heights. This addition was advertised as being at Stop 7 of the Greenwood line, now Epler Avenue. The original scope of the development stretched from Shelby Street back to Madison Avenue east to west, and from Stop 7 to Stop 8 north to south. This addition would be called “Edgewood.” As mentioned before, Stop 7 is now Epler Avenue, explaining why the Perry Township School District’s elementary building on the north side of Epler Avenue was called the Edgewood School. The south end of Edgewood would be known by several names. It was called Center Church Road, Stop 8 Road, and (currently) Edgewood Avenue.
One half mile south of Edgewood, plans had begun for a new community to sprout up north of Southport at Stop 9 on the Greenwood line. This new addition was advertised as early as Spring of 1925. This new development, which would later become a town in its own right, was called Homecroft. Stop 9 would later become Banta Road.
At this point, I think it would be important to explain one thing that puzzled me for years…and probably just puzzled my readers that haven’t studied the interurban. Up to now, the traction stops have been basically half a mile apart. Stop 6 at Thompson Road, Stop 7 at Epler Avenue, Stop 8 at (now) Edgewood, and Stop 9 at Banta Road. But Stop 10 Road, named after the traction stop at that location, is one mile south of Stop 9. And what about Southport?
Well, in the day that the Greenwood line was built, towns like Southport would not have a number. It was simply called Southport. Numbers were assigned to stops outside towns. Since the line ended at Greenwood, originally, Greenwood as well would be given a name. The stops in Greenwood were Stop 14 (Frye Road), Stop 15 (around half-mile south) and Greenwood. As the line expanded south towards Franklin, the next stop added south of Greenwood, at what is now Smith Valley Road, would be numbered 17. Southport’s stop started as a purposely skipped number to show its importance. Five years later, it looked like a mistake. By the time the line expanded, it was too late to fix the counting.