Tarkington Street? Not so fast.

When running through newspapers looking for things to write about, some articles just stand out as both a historic fact and a fun story. Thus, today’s story from the Indianapolis News of 19 January 1903. The headline starts with a simple “Tarkington’s Name Too Long For Street.” That was enough to catch my interest. But this story also drips with a kind of irony that makes it worth it.

The lead paragraph, as is taught in Journalism class (I know from experience), gives a good idea of what is going on. “The fame of Booth Tarkington, author-politician, will not be impressed on future generations by having a street in classic Irvington named after him. They will have to remember him by his book and his reputation as a legislator.”

Yes. The idea was to rename a street in the college town of Irvington after the author of “The Magnificent Ambersons,” among others.

The topic of street name changes came up because the town of Irvington had just been annexed by the City of Indianapolis. Another neighborhood, Tuxedo, was also taken into the city around the same time. Tuxedo was located between the old city limits and Irvington. Or more precisely, between Sherman Drive and Emerson Avenue, from Washington Street to 10th Street. This required a large number of street names to be changed to avoid confusion between the two. I will include the list below.

But the subject name, Tarkington Street, is what I want to discuss first. The plan by the City Engineer’s office, was to change the name of Maple Avenue to Tarkington Street. Oh, but then the protest letters started pouring in. Tarkington was too long a name. Those on Maple Avenue wanted a name that was easier to pronounce. That was the argument. So, the city engineer decided to change the name of Maple Avenue to Bolton Avenue.

Another name change that brought the ire of Irvingtonians was that of Downey Avenue. Downey was the name of one of the original founders of the town. He was also the one that came up with the name “Irvington” for the community. The thought that it would be changed to Thompson Avenue did not go over well in the newly annexed town. Another reason involved a church. The “Downey Avenue Church” would have to change its name, as well. As it turned out, the reason they wanted to change the name is to avoid confusion with Downey Avenue in the city. It, however, did not have a sentimental connection to the neighborhood. It was changed to Orange Street.

The street names changed in Irvington and Tuxedo were as follows:
Central, Irving and College Avenues, from Brookville Avenue to Lowell Avenue: Audubon Road.
Detroit Street, from Huron to English: Mozart Avenue (later changed to Bosart).
East Street, from Washington to PRR: Sheridan Avenue.
Parkman Avenue, Ivanhoe Street south: Catherwood Avenue.
Warren Street, Washington south to PRR: Catherwood Avenue.
Orchard Street, Washington south to PRR: Webster Avenue.
Parkman Avenue, Oak north to PRR: Webster Avenue.
Prescott Avenue, B&O tracks north: Webster Avenue.
South Avenue, between the B&O and University Avenue: Good Avenue.
Perry Avenue, Julian Ave. to PRR: Berry Avenue.
Maple Avenue, PRR to Lowell Avenue: Bolton Avenue.
Pleasant Avenue, Lowell to Chambers: Bolton Avenue.
Maxwell Avenue, Lowell to Chambers: Hursh Avenue.
Green Avenue, Lowell to Chambers: Lesley Avenue.
Pleasant Street (first west of Emerson): Bancroft Avenue.

I will just include the newspaper article list of names that were changed in the city to avoid confusion. There were also a collection of streets that were finally given a name in this batch of street name changes.

The name change of Quincy Street to McKim Street ended up being pointless, although still understandable. The Quincy Street that remained would be in the Tuxedo neighborhood, west of Emerson Avenue. Depending on where you are, it is either two west of Emerson (on Washington Street) or three west of Emerson (New York Street north). Later, it would be changed to DeQuincy Street.

I hope that you find this as interesting as I did.


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