Indianapolis: Sand Street

Northeast of where Kentucky Avenue crosses the White River, there is a short, and barricaded, street that connects south southeast to McCarty Street. It is used as access to a parking lot for Lucas Oil Stadium today. Looking at it closely, one can see the remnants of the old stone paving. It is called Sand Street. And where it is today isn’t always where it was. But throughout the history of the city of Indianapolis, it has been really close to where it is today.

Google Earth image of the stone paving of Sand Street, Indianapolis. This image was captured on 27 September, 2020. The Google Image was taken in August 2018.
1875 map of Sand Street in Indianapolis.

The general location of today’s Sand Street was, at one point, actually in the White River. In 1875, the original Sand Street formed the end of Kentucky Avenue at the time. It was crossed by a branch from the Indianapolis & Vincennes Railroad that extended south to Pogues Run, located at the corner of what is now S. Dakota Street and Terrace Avenue (if it weren’t private property). Looking at the 1875 map to the left, one would notice that the intersection of McCarty and Sand Streets doesn’t exist, as it would be in the river.

1889 Sand Street area.

Due to its “insignificant” nature, Sand Street found itself on and off maps for many years. The 1889 Atlas of Marion County shows that the White River channel had been moved, but that Sand Street was not included on the map. The location of the street, however, is, as shown by the lonely little line connecting to Kentucky Avenue and the Indianapolis & Vincennes Railroad. Notice that crossing the White River was done at River Avenue, which connected the intersection of River and Oliver Avenues to a bridge that connected south of Greenlawn Cemetery. This bridge had been in place for many years, and would be for years to come.

1894 Sand Street area.
1898 Sand Street area.

Sand Street would again appear on maps in 1894 and 1898. It would be shown as running along the original path, not a straight line between Kentucky Avenue and McCarty Street, which still didn’t connect past one block west of West Street. It should be noted that a second crossing of White River was completed in the years between 1894 and 1898, as the Kentucky Avenue bridge was built.

1926 Sand Street area.

The earliest map reference that I have seen that shows Sand Street in its present location is this 1926 snippet. The previous map that I have found, 1914, doesn’t show Sand Street at all. It should be noted that the two crossings of White River are still River and Kentucky Avenues, although the River Avenue crossing is labelled as Oliver Avenue on this map. Within a decade, the river crossing situation would change.

The first aerial photograph of the area that I have found comes from 1937, and is included below. It shows the new Oliver Avenue bridge across White River, connecting to Kentucky Avenue just south of the intersection of Sand and Kentucky. At this time, the entire area is very industrial in nature, and two branches from the Panhandle (formerly Vandalia, and before that, Indianapolis & Vincennes) curve across Kentucky Avenue on either side of Sand Street. The one on the east side of Sand still heads south towards industrial areas along Dakota Street (have to be careful, it is just Dakota Street…the fact that it runs north and south can create confusion!).

1937 MapIndy aerial photograph of the area of Sand Street, Kentucky Avenue, McCarty Street, et al.

With the exceptions of widenings of Kentucky and Oliver Avenues, and the curving of the Oliver Avenue bridge (between 1956 and 1962) on the east end to connect to the intersection of Kentucky Avenue and McCarty Street, not much changed in the area of Sand Street for many years. Yes, the plants along the street became abandoned and in poor shape, and the railroad connections that cross on either side of the street were removed, the street itself continued in place, and in use.

In 2009, the industrial buildings on either side of Sand Street were demolished, leaving the street itself as an abandoned reminder of what was. 2010 saw it fenced off from the McCarty Street end for the first time. The Google image below shows the Kentucky Avenue end as it appeared in 2009.

Google image of Sand Street, August 2009. If you look carefully, you can see the stone paving that is still in place today.

As mentioned above, Sand Street is still accessible…on days where parking downtown is needed. It is a privately owned street now, and has the consistency of an alley anywhere else in the city. Since it was basically vacated by the City of Indianapolis, maintenance is taken care of by the owners.

As an aside, the Indianapolis News, on 16 September 1979, ran a story called “Paving the Way to Yesteryear,” which included two photos of the granite paving of Sand Street. I will share those here.

The Indianapolis News, 16 September 1979.

Indianapolis Street Car Saturday – New Lines, 1866-1870

Today’s “Indianapolis Street Car Saturday” focuses on

1866. The East Washington Street line commences service. The original length of the line only connected Illinois Street to Liberty Street (now Park Avenue). Service along this line was truncated to Liberty Street until 1883, when it was extended one block to Noble Street (College Avenue). Five years later, East Washington Street became one of the longest mule car lines in the city when it was extended to the new suburb of Irvington, going all the way out to Audubon Avenue, turning south to a turntable near the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks that run through the town. Until this time, access to Irvington via street car was via the English Avenue line, which didn’t originally open until 1875.

The extension to Irvington of East Washington Street was due to its residents wanting a more direct route to downtown Indianapolis. I will get to the English route probably next week, describing the route that Irvington wanted to replace. The line was electrified in 1891. Two more extensions were added to the East Washington Line: in 1900, to west of Arlington Avenue; and in 1920, a purchase from the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Company Richmond line extended Indianapolis Street Railways to Sheridan Avenue, where a “Y” turned cars around.

The last tracked street car to run along East Washington Street did so on 11 August 1950. This started a combination service using both trackless trolleys and busses.

In 1867, a new line was extended to the then new cemetery at Crown Hill, called the Northwestern Line. The line followed Illinois Street to 12th (21st) Street, crossed over to Northwestern Avenue, followed Northwestern to a spot where 34th Street would be later built. This line was a mule car line for its entire life, because it was completely removed in 1879.

Another 1867 line that commenced service was the Central Line. The start of this line is intertwined with the College Line, as it would for its entire life. In the beginning, it merely followed New Jersey Street from Washington Street to Fort Wayne Avenue. In 1888, the line was extended along Fort Wayne Avenue, then Central Avenue from Christian Avenue (11th Street) to a turn table at 11th (20th) Street. A short detour along Tenth (19th) Street to New Jersey would allow street cars to visit a barn facility located on New Jersey Street.

The line was rerouted in 1889, when it used Alabama Street from Fort Wayne to Home Avenue (13th Street), following Home to Central Avenue. Three years later, the Central line was again rerouted. This time, it would follow the College Line to 16th (24th) Street, turning west to Central Avenue, then north on Central to 26th (34th) Street. This was in 1892, the same year that the line was electrified. A loop was built in the line in 1894. The line was rerouted at the time, moving over to Central from College along the then Tenth (20th) Street to connected to the 1892 line at 16th (24th) Street. The loop then went west on 17th (25th) Street to New Jersey, and back to Central on 16th (24th) Street.

The last electric railed street car would run along this line on 20 March 1937.

1905 Indianapolis. Map showing the River
and Kentucky Avenue bridges.

Street cars would be added to Kentucky Avenue in 1868. The line was short: from the Louisiana Street barn to Tennessee Street (Capitol Avenue), then along Kentucky Avenue to Illinois and Washington Streets. The line was turned around, heading southwest from Tennessee Street in 1890. The line would end at River Avenue, which at that time was at the south end of Greenlawn Cemetery. This was located half way opposite of a point between what is now Merrill Street and Henry Street on Kentucky Avenue. The following year, the line was electrified. The last documented extension that I can find was in 1903, when the line crossed the White River on the River Avenue bridge (there was no bridge at Oliver Street), following River Avenue to Morris Street. I can find no more information on this line. It is entirely possible that it was extended, in 1914, to connect to the Indianapolis suburb of Mars Hill. But another line that started in 1881 might be the successor to this line. More research is needed.

The last line today is the Pennsylvania line. Started in 1870, the mule cars would run along Pennsylvania Street from Ohio to St. Joseph Street, where it turn west to Illinois Street for its trip downtown. 1873 saw the Illinois/St. Joseph turn removed, and the line wet north to Seventh (16th) Street where it turned east to Alabama. In 1891, the route turned north on Talbot from Seventh (16th) to a turn table at Tenth (19th) Street. 1894 saw the line electrified and extended to 14th (22nd) Street. The last car to use the rails would run on 18 July 1934.

Celebrating The “Greenwood Line” For Johnson County’s 150th

1 January 1900. The first electric traction car runs into Indianapolis. More importantly, however, according to the Daily Journal of 6 March 1973, it ran into Greenwood. “Townsfolk cheered and applauded as the orange-colored passenger car screeched to a halt at the end of the line.” Thus was the beginning of the interurban era in Central Indiana. “At that proud moment, none of the overjoyed citizens had the slightest idea that the flashy monster called interurban would die some 40 years later – only a few miles down the track.”

Daily Journal photo, 6 March 1973

Greenwood, when it was created, found itself astride two important forms of transportation at the time: the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad and the Madison State Road, later the Madison Toll Road. Both of these facilities connected the little village, called Greenfield starting in 1825, to the state capital directly. The railroad ended at South Street, between Pennsylvania and Delaware Streets. The Madison State Road ended at the end of Meridian Street at South Street.

The idea started in 1894 when $150,000 was invested to construct a 12-mile line from Indianapolis to Greenwood. In 1895, the plan was laid out by Henry L. Smith to create an electric traction company to connect Greenwood to both Indianapolis and Franklin. The route would follow the Madison State Road (then known by the names of either the Madison Free Gravel Road or the Indianapolis-Southport Road depending on where you were). From Greenwood, it would run along the east side of the Madison Road right of way, switching over to the west side of the road just south of Union Street (now Southport Road) in Southport. The route would turn north on Shelby Street when it connected to Madison…connecting to the Indianapolis Street Railways just south of Troy Avenue.

While riding the new electric traction in the rural areas of Marion County, between Greenwood and Southport, “a passenger, Charles Coffin took out his pocket watch to check the interurban’s speed. In that brief stretch the motors of the car had propelled it nearly 38 miles per hour.” That was extremely fast for the time. Interurban stops were 1/2 mile apart at the time. Stops 13 and 14, numbered from Indianapolis, allowed passengers to partake of a popular picnic grounds on the north end of Greenwood – Greenwood Park. Rural stops 10, 11 and 12 were mainly for rural residents to go shopping in downtown Indianapolis. Southport did not have a stop number. Towns and/or housing additions were later built at stops north of Southport: Stop 9 (Homecroft – Banta Road); Stop 7 (Edgewood – Epler Avenue); Stop 6 (Longacre – Thompson Road); and Stop 4 (University Heights – Hanna Avenue).

By June 1900, with the financial success of the Greenwood line, the electric traction route had been extended to Franklin. And that success kept growing, for by September 1902 the interurban crossed all of Johnson County as it headed off to its end at Columbus. By 1910, the interurban had become part of the lives of thousands of people across Indiana. And that is when the wheels started coming off.

Between Bluffton and Fort Wayne, on 21 September 1910, the “worst wreck in the history of traction operations” occurred. More than 40 people were killed in the crash. On 2 February 1924, another tragic accident, caused by two interurban cars meeting head-on, killed 21 people. But nothing would hurt the interurban more than the car and the bus.

The interurban had teetered on the brink of financial failure for years. Then the Great Depression occurred. Many of the Indianapolis-centric traction routes would be consolidated. But 1933 came, and that consolidation was taken out of the hands of its owners, and placed in receivership. Many of the lines were closed at that point – either outright, or replaced with the very busses that helped seal their downfall.

But the Greenwood line soldiered on. For almost another decade. The first line into Indianapolis was also the last when a crash occurred south of Columbus. 8 September 1941 spelled the end of the interurbans along the Greenwood line. “In the end the interurban system had one weary passenger car remaining out of a mighty army of 700 as the hearts and minds of the public turned to other marvels.”

Daily Journal photo, 6 March 1973

The article in the Daily Journal is actually two parts. The top of the page covers the Greenwood line, in parts. The bottom talks about the electric street cars in Indiana, and the birth, life and death of the interurban. The best quote in that part of the story is this: “Before the interurban craze was over – and it hit like a meteor and died a painful death – there were about 200 operating companies; 250 with incorporation papers filed; and another 250 companies which tried to start. Just like canal companies and steam railroad companies, they went big in Hoosierdom.” They sure did. But in Central Indiana, it started with rumbling its way to a point south of the Hoosier Capital.

Before Indianapolis Union Depot

In the 1850’s, the owners of the railroad companies that converged on Indianapolis decided to create a first of its kind Union Depot, a place where all passengers could catch any train in or out of the city in a central location. But exactly brought on this grand plan? What was catching a train in Indianapolis like before the consolidation of passenger depots? I am going to explain the difficulty of getting from one train to another using an 1852 map of the city.

1852 location of the Union or General Passenger Depot

Let’s start with the location of the “Union or General Passenger Depot,” later to be replaced with Union Station. The Depot is between Illinois and Meridian Streets, on the south side of Louisiana Street. From what I can tell, there were two reasons for picking this location. One is the central location. It’s not a stretch to believe that all of the railroad companies could connect to this area, with several roads already within site of the destination. The second, when looking at the map, tends to stick out like a sore thumb. The waterway running from the south, turning east north east, is Pogue’s Run. That stream had, to this point, been a thorn in the side of the growing city. The fact that the first three years of the town of Indianapolis had major malaria outbreaks due to the swamps surrounding this stream come to mind. It was less used, and hence cheaper, land to use for this purpose.

1852 location of the TH&I Depot

TERRE HAUTE & INDIANAPOLIS

Just west of the Union Depot, between Mississippi Street (after 1894, Senate Avenue) and Tennessee Street (after 1894, Capitol Avenue) on the south side of Louisiana Street is the Terre Haute Depot. It’s location puts it four blocks south and two blocks west of the Circle.

1852 location of the L&I Depot

LAFAYETTE & INDIANAPOLIS

North of the original mile square, the Lafayette & Indianapolis depot was located on land surrounded by Mississippi, North, Missouri and St. Clair Streets. This put the station six blocks north and three blocks west of the circle. The connection rail to the new Union Depot would run along the canal, through what is now the state office complex.


1852 location of the Bee Line Depot

BELLEFONTAINE

Located in the middle of Broadway Street, between Arch and Vine (now Ninth) Streets, the Bellefontaine ended its Indianapolis run here. This location is eight blocks north and six blocks east of the circle. This was also one of the few stub end depots that were present when the Union Depot came into being.


1852 location of the P&I Depot


PERU & INDIANAPOLIS

This depot is located on land that wasn’t part of the original Indianapolis design done by Alexander Ralston. The diagonal just to the north of the depot is the location of the original North Carolina Street. New Jersey Street would have ended at that point, and restarted at the diagonal line south of the depot, which would have been South Carolina Street, had either of the Carolina Streets been built. The first street north of the depot is Maryland Street. This puts the depot four blocks east and two blocks south of the circle.

As an aside, the original connection rail to the new Union Depot for the Bellefontaine ran a separate route from the Peru line. Later, both would be moved next to each other two blocks east of the location shown on the map.

1852 locations of the Union Depot, Madison Depot and Cincinnati Depot

INDIANAPOLIS & CINCINNATI

Two blocks east of the new Union Depot, located in the middle of what would have been South Carolina Street, was the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad Depot. This, too, was in an area that wasn’t originally laid out in the plat of Indianapolis. The depot was two blocks east and four blocks south of the circle.

MADISON & INDIANAPOLIS and the
JEFFERSONVILLE

The first depot in Indianapolis was located just outside of the mile square, between Pennsylvania and Delaware Streets, south of South Street. That would make it one block east and five blocks south of the circle. The Jeffersonville Railroad would have also used this depot, as they had trackage rights, or soon would, over the Madison & Indianapolis.

The only railroad at the time that didn’t have a depot in place was the Indiana Central that went east to Richmond. Since it was completed about the same time as the Union Depot, one would assume that the company decided to “move in with the furniture.”

Just looking at the locations of the different depots through the city, one could get an idea of what it must have been like to go from one point to another in the state when having to go through Indianapolis. Imagine trying to go from, say, Pendleton to Columbus. That would have required offloading on the north side of the city, finding transport to the south side, and boarding another train.

The creation of the Union Depot made traveling a lot easier when coming into Indianapolis. The Madison, Terre Haute, Cincinnati and Peru Depots wouldn’t just disappear when all was said and done. Those stations would be used as the freight depots for those railroads for years to follow.