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.


More History Than Transportation – South Indianapolis

1889 map of the section of Perry Township, Marion County, containing the “town” of South Indianapolis.

I decided to write a blog entry that skirts on the transportation history, but really ventures into the history of really two spots in Perry Township, Marion County. This is why it will not be part of the normal rotation of blog entries. It also is a bit of history that I encountered in person, although much after the fact.

In the summer of 1979, my family (my mother, my brother and I) moved to the southside of Indianapolis. The area that we moved to was tucked north of Hanna Avenue and east of State Street. The thing that always puzzled me at the time, being that my mind works at 1000 MPH on things like this, is why the children in the neighborhood, myself included, went to Perry Township schools, and not Indianapolis Public Schools. Now, the area is in Perry Township. But right around one half mile south of my house was (and still is) IPS School #65. It was literally within walking distance. Yet we rode the bus to Clinton Young Elementary, Keystone (now Southport) Middle School, and Southport High School.

I would later come to know that my neighborhood had never been taken into the City of Indianapolis. It was never annexed. But the area south of Hanna, and east of Shelby Street, had been. That area started life as the town of University Heights, being the community that served the Indiana Central College (later University, then University of Indianapolis).

For many years, the children of my area did have a school close by. It was originally Perry Township School Number 4, later to be called University Heights School. This would cause problems for other children later…but we will get to that.

Back to my neighborhood. Sometime after 1870, a new “town” was platted that would be accessed via the Shelbyville Pike (a toll road leading to, you guessed it, Shelbyville). It would be located one quarter mile north of the survey line that was located four miles south of downtown Indianapolis. It would stretch one quarter mile to the west, and one quarter mile south, being square in shape. There would be three streets north to south, and five streets east to west. And, it would be given the name of “South Indianapolis.” Earliest mention I can find for the “town” is when two lots, numbers 115 and 116, were sold by Elias C. Atkins to Henry H. Mason in May 1874. The “town” itself was originally recorded in Plat Record Number 6, page 186, in the Marion County Recorder’s Office.

The street along the north edge, which did connect to the Shelbyville Pike, would connect to a county road that was located 3.25 miles east of the Leavenworth Road (or Three Notch Pike). That road also connected to the Shelbyville Pike on the south to the Center-Perry Township line on the north.

South Indianapolis was never actually incorporated, either. I would assume it was the goal to build a community separate from the city, yet still connected to it by a good road…the toll road that was the Shelbyville Pike.

I have yet to find any actual plats of South Indianapolis available online. What I can tell you is that when I was growing up, my house was listed as being in, according to the official description from the Recorder’s Office, South Indianapolis lots 163 and 164. That property is no longer listed separately, as it was consolidated along the way into the property to the north. But, since the house burned down in my junior year of high school (1984-1985), I can see why that would happen to a lot with a garage and no house on it.

Now, I want to turn back to University Heights. The Church of the United Brethren in Christ wanted to start a college in Indianapolis, but were unable to find a location for it. Developer William Elder, who created several Perry Township neighborhoods, offered to change the name of his pending neighborhood Marion Heights to University Heights, with the hopes that the church would build the college just north of his new development. This was in 1902.

The new University Heights would have a north edge along the survey line that was four miles south of downtown. This would connect that road to the road that created the southern limits of South Indianapolis. With the creation of University Heights, the Perry Township School #4 would move from just south of what would eventually be built as Hanna Avenue on Madison Avenue to a location north of the new town. That would put the school on the grounds, or at least close to it, of the new Indiana Central College. And thus created a location for elementary education for the children of the new development, which would become a town in its own right.

And that would last until 1925. The people of University Heights decided that they wanted to be part of the City of Indianapolis. So annexation was in order. This created a small problem. The children of Indianapolis went to Indianapolis Public Schools. This put the University Heights school, still belonging to Perry Township, out of the district for the children of University Heights. This caused those children to have to be taken to the McClainsville School. McClainsville was at the northern edge of Perry Township at the Shelbyville Road. The school itself was in Center Township, across the street from the town itself…much like the school at University Heights.

The parents of University Heights were in a complete uproar. Because the annexation only included the town, and not the college campus, School #4 was still legally in Perry Township, and thus would remain part of that school district. And even then, the annexation was a very strange thing in itself. At the time, the City of Indianapolis ended at Southern Avenue. The city annexed straight down Shelby Street from Southern Avenue to the street that, by that time, had been named Hanna Avenue. It was originally called Kephart Avenue when it was created by Elder.

This annexation meant that the properties along Shelby Street were still in Perry Township, while the street itself, and the interurban line that ran along it, were in Indianapolis.

The University Heights School was part of a court case in 1933. The city tried to annex the property that contained the school. There were 179 students living in the University Heights neighborhood. So the parents of the area tried to get their very close school to be part of the Indianapolis schools. The court ruled that the city couldn’t annex that property, and the school would remain in Perry Township. Some of the students would have to use the interurban to get to school…either School 72 (formerly McClainsville) or School 35, located at Madison Avenue and Raymond Street.

The township finally sold the school to the Indianapolis Public Schools in 1961. This would cause the students living in the area known as South Indianapolis to be transported to other Perry Township schools. Ultimately, this would mean Clinton Young Elementary. But IPS found themselves unhappy with the University Heights School. Its size was too small to be of use. So work started on creating a new IPS school on South Asbury Street, later to be numbered 65. Both schools survived together for a short time. Finally, the old Perry Township School #4 was closed and sold to the Indiana Central University.

The names of the streets in the “town” of South Indianapolis today are (east-west) National Avenue, Atlantic Street, Pacific Street and Hanna Avenue. (Hanna was the name of a prominent land owner in the area, as shown on the map at the top of this page.) The north-south streets would be (from the east) Aurora, Randolph, Walcott, Asbury and State. Randolph, Walcott and State are most likely not original street names, as they are now named after streets in the old city of Indianapolis in the same general area.