West Marion County and I-465

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The first part of the new beltway (almost) around Indianapolis started on the westside of Marion County. As mentioned in other articles, the original plan was to start Interstate 465 at Interstate 65 on the northwest side, with the replacement for State Road 100 (which I-465 officially was) heading south from there to circle around the county from there. Interchanges were planned at I-65, I-74/US 136, 10th Street, US 36 (Rockville Road), US 40 (Washington Street), Weir Cook Municipal Airport (Airport Expressway), Interstate 70, and SR 67 (Kentucky Avenue). According to USGS topo maps, like that included below, show that there was a stub ramp connecting I-465 to 62nd Street, although the ramp connecting to 62nd Street was listed as still proposed six years later.

1962 USGS topographic map showing the original interchange connection Interstate 65 and Interstate 465.

Construction started along the corridor in 1959. The Indianapolis News ran a series of pictures showing the plans set out by the State Highway Department. If you noticed the list of interchanges above, there were no plans for 56th Street or 38th Street to have ways to access 465. Bridges were to be built over 465 at 56th, 46th, 38th, 34th, and 21st Streets. (21st Street was a very special, and contentious, situation. I covered it in the article: “Building I-465 at West 21st Street. [8 May 2020]”)

Indianapolis News, 14 December 1959, showing the Indiana State Highway Department’s plans for the new Interstate 465 (also still called State Road 100 at the time) at the northern terminus of the highway.

The plans for Interstate 65 at that point were to continue to have it replace US 52 (Lafayette Road). The US 52 bypass at Lebanon was made part of the new I-65. The temporary plan was to connect I-65 just southeast of I-465 directly to US 52 until construction could continue. Then I-65 would also be US 52 from that point to northwest of Lebanon. I mention this only because the loop around Indianapolis was, apparently, easier to get approved than trying to run I-65 through town. (And since it would take another 16 years to complete, even to the point that an addition was planned to I-465 and completed before I-65 through Marion County says it all.)

It wouldn’t take long after the original plans for the interstate were laid down that changes were made. The non-planned 38th Street interchange was added to the deal. It was to be a partial cloverleaf interchange connecting to 38th Street at that point. Marion County had decided to build 38th Street from Lafayette Road east to the new White River bridge to be built by the city. At that point in history, 38th Street was a county road with nothing resembling the connections it has today as a major west side thoroughfare.

Indianapolis News, 11 December 1959, showing the future connection to 38th Street from I-465. This ramp would be built much later, when 38th Street was finally connected as a thoroughfare across Marion County.

The next interchange south of the “gonna be built someday” 38th Street was the connection to another interstate highway, Interstate 74. The plans shown in the Indianapolis News differ slightly from what was actually built. US 136 (Crawfordsville Road) is directly connected to the east end of the proposed interstate connection. This would change. It looks like the proposed interchange was moved slightly north, and Crawfordsville Road west of High School Road was turned north to connect to High School Road. This would be where US 136 would ultimately officially end.

Indianapolis News, 10 December 1959, showing the proposed connection between interstates 74 and 465. The original plan, and this was carried out, is that Interstate 74 would “travel over,” ISHD/INDOT term for multiplex, with I-465 from northwest to southeast Marion County.
1953 Topo map showing the intersection of West 10th Street and High School Road.

The next section did change, at least at one interchange, quite a bit. But before I describe that, let’s talk about the placement of I-465 from Vermont Street north to about where 16th Street would be, if it continued to High School/Girls School Road. The new interstate was planned, in that section, to be built directly over High School Road. This is not really a stretch, since High School Road, from Washington Street south to the Airport, was the original State Road 100. And I-465 was, for all intents and purposes, State Road 100 according to ISHD.

I have written a detailed history of SR 100 (SR 100: How did it come to be? [9 March 2019]) and an article about how, at one point, the connection between SR 100 on BOTH sides of Marion County were to have cloverleaf interchanges (“The Cloverleaf Interchanges at US 40 and SR 100” [20 November 2019]). If SR 100 had been completed on the west side, like it was on the north and east sides, I have no doubt that it would have followed High School Road north, probably, ultimately, to 86th Street, which was SR 100 along the northwest side.

The change in interchanges happened at 10th Street. The original plan was for a full cloverleaf interchange at that intersection. This would have pushed the eastbound 10th Street to southbound 465 ramp back closer to Glen Arm Road, where High School Road was rerouted to miss the interchange. What was ultimately built was a jumbled three-quarter cloverleaf with a flyover from westbound 10th to southbound 465.

In the end, High School Road was basically built over by 465 from Vermont to 10th Streets. 10th Street is a survey correction line, so High School actually moves slightly to the east at that point, as shown in the topo map to the left. For more information about survey lines, check out “Survey Lines and County Roads. (29 March 2019)”

Indianapolis News, 9 December 1959, showing the Indiana State Highway Department plans for I-465 from just south of the New York Central railroad tracks to just north of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad tracks, including what was to originally be full cloverleaf interchanges at 10th Street and Rockville Road.
1953 USGS topo map of the area of Washington Street and High School Road. The area marked “Ben Davis” would be the location of the new cloverleaf interchange between US 40 and I-465.

From the looks of aerial photos in 1959 as shown in the Indianapolis News, the interchange at Washington Street was going to be very destructive. (Keep in mind that as of the writing of this article, MapIndy, my go to source for historic aerial photos of Marion County no longer offers that service. Maps are available, but the aerial photos are gone.) In addition to the shunting of Morris Street (a survey line and historic route of its own accord), most of where the interchange between US 40 and I-465 was basically what had been the town of Ben Davis.

Another thing would have to happen before this interchange would be built. It was determined, and reported, in July 1959 that an improvement of West Washington Street would have to occur before the interstate reached that point. US 40 was to be widened in the area. The work on Washington Street, however, would have to wait until sewer work in the area was completed…probably in 1961. Plans to widen Washington Street from 40 feet to 68 feet wide, with a four foot median and an eight parking lane on each side, were decided upon. Very little of that plan exists today…and if it does, it’s hard to find.

Indianapolis News, 8 December 1959, showing the proposed area of US 40 and Interstate 465.

The last area covered by the Indianapolis News in the series of articles (actually, it was the first since the editor staff decided to post them south to north, even though the interstate was built north to south!) shows the area of I-465 near Weir Cook Municipal Airport. The one change that I can see is what would become Airport Expressway (check out “Indianapolis’ Raymond Street Expressway” [4 February 2020] for the history of what started out as the Bradbury Expressway) was proposed to connect to the airport heading slightly north of due west, just above Southern Avenue. This section of the (now) Sam Jones Expressway is due east-west at the point it connects to Interstate 465. For a history of what is now Indianapolis International Airport, check out “Indianapolis Municipal Airport.” (20 August 2019)

Indianapolis News, 7 December 1959. This newspaper snippet shows the area of proposed I-465 near the (then) Weir Cook Municipal Airport (now Indianapolis International).

That covers the first of the construction of the State Road 100 replacement. I want to share this one last snippet from the Indianapolis News of 19 October 1960. It shows the construction of I-465/I-65/US 52 at 62nd Street…or the original northern end of Interstate 465.

Indianapolis News, 19 October 1960, showing the original northern end of Interstate 465.

1912 Proposed Indianapolis Street Name Changes, Part 2

Today, I want to continue the list of streets that were proposed to have name changes during the City Council meeting of 4 March 1912. The list was quite long. And most of them didn’t happen. Or if they did, they are long gone now. This is a follow-up to yesterday’s “1912 Proposed Indianapolis Street Name Changes, Part 1.”

The first one today never was completed, but also didn’t retain the name it had before the proposal. Cooper Avenue between Lafayette Road and the line that separates Wayne and Washington Townships (now 38th Street) was to become Concord Street. At the time, Cooper Avenue did end at Lafayette Road. But a relatively straight line due south would connect to Concord Street just north of 16th Street (between 17th and 18th, actually). By 1926, Concord Street would be completed from Lafayette Road to 16th Street (also still known as Crawfordsville Road by some). It would have a name change as well…but not to Cooper. Concord from 16th to Lafayette, and Cooper from Lafayette to 56th (Centennial Road), would be given the name Kessler Boulevard. It is still called Cooper Road between 56th Street (Centennial Road) and 62nd Street (Isenhour Road).

Before the subject proposal, Brightwood’s Depot Street, from Massachusetts Avenue south to 21st Street, and (what looks like) Laycook Avenue (hard to read on most maps) from 21st south to 19th would be renamed Avondale Place. A street that connected Pratt to 16th Street would be built, and, with Avondale Place, would become Avondale Street. This never happened. Avondale Place still exists, and from what I can tell, what was supposed to be Avondale Street south of 16th Street became known as Kealing Street. Avondale Place south of 21st Street would be removed for industrial development. Avondale Place would be ripped in two by the construction of Interstate 70 in the early to mid 1970’s. (The interstate opened to traffic in 1976.)

The next street name change also never occurred. The new name for the many sections of streets would be Chase. It was to include the first alley west of Bloomington Street from Washington Street to White River, Inwood Street from White River to Michigan Street, Kane Street from Michigan to Walnut Street and Dexter Street from 18th to 22nd Streets. I am not sure about the alley, but I believe it went away when White River Parkway was bent to connect to Washington Street outside the new Indianapolis Zoo. Inwood and Kane Streets are long gone, buried under IUPUI concrete. Dexter Street still exists.

Another large number of segments that would be proposed to become one name was Blake Street. At the time, Blake Street existed from the White River end of Washington Avenue (the original path of the National Road and location of the National Road covered bridge over White River until 1904) north to Pratt Street northeast of Indiana Avenue. Dett Street at Southern Avenue, Brooks Street from 10th to 13th Street, Isabella Street from Myrtis to Udell, Fairview Terrace from Haughey Avenue and 44th Street, and Crown Street from 44th to 45th Street were all included in this change. Dett Street no longer exists…but did at the White River end of Southern Avenue west of Meridian Street. The original Blake Street still exists, in sections. It runs through the IUPUI campus today. Brooks Street still exists. Isabella Street would become Franklin Place. The last two sections are near Butler University. Fairview Place still exists to 43rd Street. Crown Street is between 43rd and 44th Street. I would bet that the street numbers were wrong in the proposal, and that 44th was meant to be 43rd, and 45th was meant to be 44th.

Thomas Street between Brookville Road and English Avenue, Mineral Street from 10th to 19th Streets and Brightwood’s Foundry Street would actually be changed…but not immediately due to this proposal. Those streets would be changed to the name that the street along that line had between Washington Street and 10th Street – Denny Street.

There are still more on the list. As the Indianapolis News mentioned in the last paragraph of the story: “These ordinances are a part of about five hundred contemplated changes in street names. It is Copeland’s plan to give a common name to several streets of different names on the same line. The plan has been approved by postoffice authorities.”

Marion County: Wall Street Pike

Today, I want to look at a road that most people wouldn’t know by the name. I will not share the name it has today until the end, so that I can keep my readers guessing throughout the article. But, suffice it to say, it is an important road on the westside of Marion County. It was also a toll road that led from the Crawfordsville Pike westward to the Hendricks County line. It would also keep the “Wall Street Pike” name until it was officially changed in 1968.

But I want to share a couple of stories about the road today.

Indianapolis Star, 7 July 1927. Wall Street Pike covered bridge over Eagle Creek burned to the ground.

In July 1927, a fire destroyed the Wall Street Pike covered bridge over Eagle Creek. The bridge according to the Indianapolis Star of 7 July 1927 was described thus: “After stubbornly fighting the onrush of civilization and modernity for more than sixty years, the covered bridge over Eagle Creek on the Wall street pike, about four and a half miles northwest of Indianapolis, was destroyed by fire yesterday afternoon.”

The Wall Street Pike Bridge was one of only four covered bridges left in Marion County at the time of the fire. The article goes on to locate the three remaining ones: White River near Southport, Indian Creek a short distance east of Fort Benjamin Harrison, and Williams Creek at 75th Street.

Arrival of the fire department, from Engine House #9 at 537 Belleview Place, was too late to save the structure. Before the first spray of water hit the bridge, it was was wavering on its foundation. It then fell into the creek. Hundreds of people watched as the bridge timbers sank into Eagle Creek. “The timbers seemed to recall the countless number of buggies, carriages, old farm wagons, oxen teams, pioneers on horseback, and others, that had passed over it since the day it was dedicated with speeches and music by the Indianapolis ‘town band.'”

The cost of the bridge, when it was built, was estimated at $15,000. It was estimated that it would cost three times that much to replace it in 1927 with the same materials. The structure had been built using black walnut and ash trees, often hewn by local farmers. Maintenance of the bridge, which mainly consisted of reflooring, had been done over time. The last time was about three weeks before the fire.

Wall Street Pike was closed for several weeks while a new $20,000 concrete bridge was built in the place of the old covered bridge. County commissioners would be asked to fund the new bridge…and the appropriation would be brought up at the next meeting.

“Until erection of the concrete bridge the open space between the banks of the stream where the old bridge once stood will reflect its memory and if creeks could talk, the waters would mourn the loss of a good, true and lasting friend.” (Source: Indianapolis Star, 7 July 1927)

The other story I wanted to share is that of the Pugh homestead. Jacob Pugh came to Marion County from Randolph County, North Carolina, in 1821, shortly after the creation of the county itself. He purchased hundreds of acres on the north side of the survey line that would become Wall Street Pike. A son-in-law purchased even more land to the northwest of Jacob Pugh. That land would later become Camp Dellwood.

Indianapolis Star, 20 December 1931.

The pictured house above was built by one of Jacob’s sons, Jesse, in 1846. It had been built from tulip wood. In the 1920’s, the house was sold to the Ashby family.

To tie this back to Indiana Transportation history, the beginning of the article in the Indianapolis Star. “Wall Street pike branches west from Crawfordsville road at the old toll gate which is still standing about six miles from the center of town. West from Eagle creek on this pike, which was one of the first gravel roads in this vicinity, stretches a double row of maple trees, forming a green avenue for about half a mile.”

Now comes the time I bring the Wall Street Pike into the present. From the public announcements in the Indianapolis Star of 9 March 1968 comes the following snippets:

“Pursuant to Section 20 of Chapter 283 of the Acts of the Indiana General Assembly for 1955, as amended by Chapter 380 of the Acts of the Indiana General Assembly for 1959, the Metropolitan Plan Commission of Marion County, Indiana, proposes the following Resolutions Establishing, Reestablishing or Changing The Names of Certain Streets in Marion County, Indiana:”

“68-ST-R-2 – That the name of the street presently known as WALL STREET PIKE from Cunningham Road continuing west to W. County Line Road, is hereby changed to, established as and will hereafter be designated as W. 21ST STREET.”

I-465 and I-70, Marion County East Side, A Pictorial History

Today, I want to take a look at the interchange between Interstates 70 and 465 on the east side of Marion County…in pictorial form. This history will cover from 1962 to 1993, with what aerial photographs are available from MapIndy, the official mapping application of Indianapolis/Marion County. It will also cover the interchange between Interstate 70 and Shadeland Avenue, which was SR 100 before, and for some time after, the building of its replacement, I-465.

1962
1972
1978
1979
1986
1993

Two of the constrictions at the location of this interchange were both 21st Street and Franklin Road. Franklin Road had been in place since it was created as the Noblesville-Franklin State Road early in the state’s history. As you can tell from the photos, the routing of Franklin Road was changed between 21st Street and around 25th Street. The original routing of the road is still in place, but contains two dead end sections at the interstate.

21st Street has been around for a whole lot of years, as well. Maps show that it was added to the county sometime between 1870 and 1889. In 1889, there was a toll house for the Pleasant Run Pike on the northwest corner of 21st Street and Shadeland Avenue. From what I can tell, the only part of the road that was a toll road was from Arlington Avenue to Mitthoeffer Road. Today, 21st Street can be followed from Massachusetts Avenue at the Bee Line (Big Four – Conrail – CSX) Railroad to a point just northwest of Charlottesville.

The ramp from I-70 West to I-465 South was under construction in 1978, and would be completed in 1979. Prior to this, that traffic movement was handled by a loop ramp, as the interchange was originally built as a 3/4 cloverleaf. By 1993, the current collector/distributor system connecting Shadeland Avenue to both I-70 and I-465 was completed.

The ramps to Shadeland Avenue have always been a very tight fit into the area allowed.

Toll Roads In Marion County

Toll Roads. In Indiana, they were a way of life for over half a century. The reason they started was very simple. The counties, after having the state build a road for them, found themselves in a bind when it came to maintaining those roads. So the solution became to sell the roads to private companies, and let them do the work of maintaining the road.

By the 1880’s, the non-existent love affair with the toll road companies was becoming just flat out hatred. Citizens, mainly farmers, were tired of paying to get to the city. This led to just ignoring the toll houses, or finding another way to get to town. This led to the toll companies to lose money. Both sides were arguing for legislation to eliminate toll roads. Residents to make travel cheaper. Businessmen in town to eliminate what they saw as a tax on people to use their businesses. And toll road companies to throwing money at the roads. This led to the counties purchasing these old toll roads back, which I covered in the article “Toll Roads, And State Takeover.”

At one point, Marion County had over 200 miles of toll roads. The county started buying the roads back one at a time. The last road to be purchased, as reported in the Indianapolis Journal of 13 August 1896, was the Pleasant Run Toll Road. The entire four mile length of the road was purchased for $100 a mile. The Pleasant Run Toll Road purchased started at what is now 21st Street and Arlington Avenue, going east for those four miles to end at the Mitthoefer Free Gravel Road. Bet you can’t guess what that road is called today.

The National Road east of Indianapolis started on the way to free road status in September, 1889. The Indianapolis News of 19 September 1889 reported that the “the owners of the Cumberland Gravel Road turned the road between this city and Irvington over to the county this morning and it is now a part of the free gravel road system.” Another benefit of the turnover, at least to Irvington, is that the next day, the Citizen’s Street Railway Company would be granted permission to build a street car line along Washington Street/National Road to Irvington. The plan at the time was to build the street car tracks along the south edge of the road, leaving a 16 foot wide path on the north side of the road for drivers.

In the very same issue of the Indianapolis News, it was reported that “there has been a turnpike war on the Three-notch or Leavenworth road, leading south from Indianapolis to Johnson County.” Residents were claiming that the road was in disrepair, raising money to fight the owner of the turnpike. Many people were running the gates along the road, as there was an agreement to not pay tolls. “At the second gate from the city the pole was cut down by the ‘opposition,’ and there has been trouble all along the line.” A court case in Franklin, the day before, saw the toll road company winning, and the people paying tolls again.

An editorial in the Indianapolis News of 22 June 1892, calls for the remaining toll roads to be taken over by the county. It goes on to talk about the “shun pikes,” local roads built to avoid paying to use the toll roads. The first such “shun pike” in Marion County was English Avenue. It was improved by locals as a way to Irvington without using the Cumberland Toll Road. The next one was Prospect Street, from Fountain Square east.

One toll road that came in from the north became so valueless that the owner of the road tried to give to the county free of charge. Apparently, this wasn’t jumped on by the county commissioners. So the owner went to Noblesville, and had the deed for the toll road transferred, legally, to Marion County. It took twelve months after the deed was registered for the county commissioners to realize that the transfer had even taken place.

The Indianapolis News was the newspaper that was arguing, per an editorial of 22 January 1883, against the county buying the toll roads back. “Why should any county purchase a toll road and make it free? Those who never use it ought not to be taxed to make it free to to (sic) those who benefit by it. While it is a toll road, those who use it pay for it, as they ought.” My, how things can change in less than a decade.

It shouldn’t be lost on people that as the toll roads were being eliminated, the “Good Roads Movement” was starting. While this movement was started by both the post office and riders of bicycles, it would lead directly to what would be known as the Auto Trail era.

Toll roads reached in all directions from the city. In the end, most of the major roads that we use today have been in place for almost two centuries…and had spent time as a toll road. I recommend checking out the following map, which shows the improved roads as of 1895 (Palmer’s Official Road Map of Marion County, Indiana).

Building I-465 at West 21st Street

When the interstate system worked its way to Indiana, the plan for a bypass around Indianapolis was on the books as part of the project. Even before the route numbers were nailed down, the destinations and relative locations were in place. What would become I-465 would take almost a decade to build – more if you count the section from I-65 to I-865 on the northwest side of Marion County. (For more information about that statement, see “The Beginning of I-465,” published on 16 May 2019.) But I-465 was contentious…and not entirely for the reasons one would think.

Indianapolis Star, 11 August 1961.

The first real bone of contention (other than the coming destruction of entire sections of Marion County) was the area where I-465 and 21st Street meet on the west side. The section of the current interstate from Crawfordsville Road south to almost 10th Street runs very close to Big Eagle Creek. The town of Speedway at the time suffered from flooding on a regular basis. The state planned for 21st Street to cross over the interstate. Local residents, and county government, wanted the opposite…the interstate to cross over 21st Street. Part of the argument was that the state had already planned to elevate sections of the road on both sides of 21st Street. Why not keep the elevation for the 21st Street section.

Part of the argument was flooding…or the potential for such. People in the town of Speedway were under the impression that running 21st Street under the interstate would form a valve to keep flooding to a minimum. As the Indianapolis Star pointed out in an editorial piece on 24 August 1961, “nothing could be further from the truth.” The interstate was graded far above the maximum flood level at Eagle Creek. The building of an underpass for 21st Street, it is pointed out, would require a complete new system of levees to be built to control the flooding of 21st Street. The problem for Speedway and flooding was not an interstate overpass, but major work needed on Eagle Creek.

It was pointed out in another article that the plans for I-465 included, in the embankment for the bridges, four channels for water to flow through the area not actually in Eagle Creek. The Indianapolis Star of 9 July 1961 reported that Joseph I. Perrey, chief engineer for the Indiana Flood Control and Water Resources Commission, stated that no matter what was built at I-465 and 21st Street, the problem with Speedway flooding was more controlled by the 21st Street bridge over Eagle Creek. “The construction of 21st Street either under or over Interstate 465 will have no affect in stopping flooding.” Mr. Perrey continued “but a new county bridge could alleviate the situation somewhat.”

Progress was made towards changing the state’s mind about the 21st Street overpass. Summer of 1961 saw a flurry of activity. The state agreed to change the project, if the county put up a $50,000 bond to cover any cost overruns due to the change. The deadline for the county agreeing to that provision, and thus the contract to change the plans, was 21 August 1961. County Commissioners agreed to sign the deal that day, if they could include a provision to delay the posting of the bond. By law, the county said, it would take five days to make the money available.

But the State Highway Commission was also in a bind at this point. Construction had reached a point where concrete was ready to pour. Any delay in that poring could have resulted in the contractor suing the state. In addition to the changing of 21st Street from an overpass to an underpass, the county was asking that 21st Street be built four lanes wide, instead of two, to “avoid a greater expenditure if 21st must be widened later.” (Source: Indianapolis News, 21 August 1961)

The whole thing was made worse when the county questioned the state about the current status of the contract. (Source: Indianapolis Star, 8 September 1961) “The State Highway Commission yesterday refused the ‘bait’ offered by the Marion County Board of Commissioners to cancel the contract obligating the county commissioners to pay for the time the state suspended operations on Interstate 465.” The state was expected to send the county a bill for the six day shutdown of construction on the interstate due to the county trying to raise the bond money. The county, for its part, wanted the contract to be declared cancelled…which the state wasn’t having.

Add to this, the county stating that they weren’t paying anything until a full accounting was relayed to them. They expected it to be, roughly, $1,000 a day, not the $25,000 the State Highway Commission expected.

Meanwhile, the whole decision to build a 21st Street bridge over I-465 was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Public Roads. That investigation started when three local residents accused the Highway Commissioner of conflict of interest, and hinted that his three sons would benefit from the building of an overpass. Indications were that libel suits would start flying from the Commissioner’s sons once cleared by the Federal investigation.

“The controversy over the intersection of I-465 and 21st Street was started by Jules T. Gradison who owns the land around the intersection. He demanded that 21st Street pass under I-465 and the state agreed to the change when the county commissioners offered to pay the extra cost, estimated at from $150,000 to $200,000.” Mr. Gradison also pointed out that he would have given any extra acreage needed to change the plan free of charge.

21st Street crosses over I-465 to this day. The overpass is also, to this day, only two lanes wide. With the many reconstructions of I-465 through that area, the 21st Street overpass has allowed for the widening of 465 needed over the years.

Bicycling Marion County, 1900, Part 1

Today, we sort of return to a series that I worked on for quite a while – Bicycling Thursday. But the difference between those articles and this two part mini-series is that I will be covering Marion County in its entirety, not just each path. This won’t have the details as published in the Indianapolis News in the Spring of 1896. It will basically cover the routes shown on a map of 1900 – one that is available online from the Indiana State Library.

1900 Road Map of Marion County showing bicycle routes
available in a larger version at http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/5247/rec/2

If I have happened to cover a specific route in the previous “Bicycling Thursday” series entries, I will make sure to link it here.

Allisonville Pike: Originally built as part of the Indianapolis-Fort Wayne State Road. The town of Allisonville was located at what is now the corner of 82nd Street and Allisonville Road, which is the current name of the Pike.

Brookville Pike: Covering the original Brookville State Road, it entered Marion County at Julietta, following what is now Brookville Road from Julietta to Sherman Drive. The original Brookville Road didn’t end there, however, as covered in the ITH entry “The Indianapolis end of the Brookville (State) Road.” This bicycle route started about one block west of Sherman Drive.

Crawfordsville Pike: As the name explains, this was the Indianapolis-Crawfordsville Road. The route is today Crawfordsville Road (mostly, there have been a couple of changes in the route), Cunningham Road, 16th Street, Waterway Boulevard, and Indiana Avenue.

Darnell Road (Reveal Road): What can be followed today is known as Dandy Trail. Most of the route, however, now sits under quite a bit of water – as in Eagle Creek Reservoir.

Michigan Road (north) and (south): One of the most important state roads in Indiana history, connecting the Ohio River at Madison to Lake Michigan at Michigan City. Inside the Indianapolis city limits, the two sections became known as Northwestern Avenue and Southeastern Avenue. The name Southeastern was extended all the way into Shelby County. Northwestern Avenue would be changed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, but only to the old city limits. At the city limits (38th Street), the old road kept its original name. It was also given the name “Augusta Pike” by the toll road company that owned it for around half a century.

Spring Valley Pike: This road name was applied to what would become Mann Road from the old Mooresville Road, then known as the Mars Hill Pike, south to the county line.

Valley Mills Pike: This road started at the point where the original Mooresville Road changed from being the Mars Hill Pike to the West Newton Pike. Basically, it would follow what is now Thompson Road to Mendenhall Road (an intersection that no longer exists). From there, it would travel south along Mendenhall Road to what is now Camby Road. Here, a branch of the pike would continue south into West Newton, where it would end at the West Newton Pike. The main route followed what is not Camby and Floyd Roads to the county line.

Wall Street Pike: This is the old road name for what would become 21st Street west from the old Crawfordsville Pike, now Cunningham Road.

Webb Road: Crossing Marion County from the Spring Valley Pike to what is now Sherman Drive, this road had many names. Its most familiar name was “Southport Free Gravel Road,” shortened to Southport Road.

West Newton Pike: This road, that connected Mars Hill and Valley Mills to West Newton, and beyond that, Mooresville. It was built, originally, as part of the Indianapolis-Mooresville State Road. Today, the route is still called Mooresville Road.

White River & Big Eagle Creek Pike (Lafayette Road): The long name for this road was given to it when Marion County sold the road to a toll road company in the 1840’s. The original name for it, when it was built by the state, was the Indianapolis-Lafayette State Road. With very little exceptions, what is now Lafayette Road still follows the same route.

Zionsville Road: Starting at what is now 52nd Street just east of Lafayette Road, the old Zionsville State Road follows what is today Moller Road, 62nd Street, and Zionsville Road to it namesake town.

Indianapolis and Its Decoration Day Race

If there is one thing that Indianapolis is known for, it is racing. Oh, yes. Almost anyone in the WORLD would respond “Indianapolis 500” if you mention the city. Memorial Day weekend has become a time when the population of the city doubles and triples, with all of the visitors coming to watch “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” But the subject of this post isn’t something related to a farm field with a large rectangle with curved corners in Speedway. As a matter of fact, the subject article of this post dates from the Indianapolis News of 23 May 1896, some 13 years before that other race started.

Before it became known as Memorial Day, 30 May of each year was known as Decoration Day. The holiday floated depending on the location of 30 May on the calendar. It was declared a Federal Holiday in 1868. In Indianapolis, the end of May signified, among other things, the end of the “rainy season,” otherwise known in the rest of the world as Spring. The weather starts getting drier and hotter right after Decoration Day. So it made almost perfect sense to use that holiday as a day to get together to watch a race.

Indianapolis News, 23 May 1896. This map shows the route of the annual Decoration Day Bicycle Road Race of 1896.

The Indianapolis Cycle Club and the Cycle Board of Trade put together the annual Decoration Day Road Race through the streets of Indianapolis. At the time of the source article, thirty men were in the list of racers. Those racers, unlike previous years, weren’t all from Indianapolis. Entries would be taken until 26 May, the following Tuesday. It was estimated that seventy-five to one hundred riders would be at the starting line when the race kicked off. Batches of racers would be set off on the 13.625 mile course at intervals of one minute.

Prizes for the race, due to its amateur status, could not include money. But there were 38 prizes to be given to the riders. The rules state that each rider is only allowed to win one prize. Prizes include four different bicycles, tires, suits, caps, hats, electric lantern, a Kodak, fishing rods, shoes, lamps, golf hoses, sweaters, luggage and a speed indicator. These prizes came from merchants across the city. Carl G. Fisher, future creator of the Lincoln and Dixie Highways, and his bicycle store donated two sweaters, a pair of shoes, and a “speed indicator.”

The course was chosen due to the relative good condition of the route. “It is probable that not another road race will be run on Decoration Day throughout the entire country on a finer course than the one which will be used here.” There are a few bad spots along the way, but they are few and far between.

The race started at the corner of Meridian and 14th (now 21st) Streets , heading north to 30th (now 38th) Street. Here it turned west one block to follow Illinois Street, which since it was outside the city limits at the time, was called the Indianapolis and Westfield Road (which is now Illinois Street and Westfield Boulevard to Broad Ripple). From there, it followed what is now Broad Ripple Avenue to the Fall Creek and White River Gravel Road (now called Keystone Avenue). South along the Fall Creek Road, the course then turned southwest onto the Allisonville Pike (now Fall Creek Boulevard). The Allisonville Pike went as far as what is now 38th Street, with the Allisonville name being used across that numbered street. The route then turned south on Meridian Street at 30th, going back to the starting point at 14th.

A three block stretch of asphalt starts, and finishes, the course. Two bad street car track crossings, one at 26th (34nd) Street and the other at 28th (36th) Street, are encountered. From the Fall Creek bridge to 30th (38th) Street is “one of the worst spots along the whole course.” Potholes and loose gravel make this section a rough going. Turning at 30th (38th) Street gets interesting, with a wooden culvert to be crossed, with boards at one end being lose. Three-eighths of a mile after turning onto Illinois Street riders will encounter a small rise. Further along Illinois Street requires crossing a wooden culvert, a small wooden bridge and climbing a 200 yard long, fairly stiff hill. “This hill stops just beyond the carriage entrance for Fairview Park (now the location of Butler University).” This entrance would be at what is now 46th Street. From here, for the next one-half mile, is a gradual down grade. At the canal, the route drops along a steep grade for about 100 yards.

“Some riders may seek to cross the canal and take advantage of the cycle path, but this will not be allowed.” The first quarter mile along what is now Westfield Boulevard is reported in excellent condition. Then comes 300 yards of horrible conditions, including potholes on both sides of the road. After that, fresh gravel with wheel tracks already in place on each side of center.

At Broad Ripple, the course encounters the Monon tracks and follows the street car tracks along what is Broad Ripple Avenue (previously 62nd Street). The Broad Ripple section is reported as being the worst section of the entire course. One of the best parts of the route is along the Fall Creek and White River Road. “Men who are still in the hunt will be able to come down this road at a lightning clip.” This road runs along the west border of Malott Park (at what is now 52nd Street), and just south of the village is the crossing of the Lake Erie & Western Railroad (Nickle Plate). (As an aside, the street that runs along the railroad tracks is now called Erie due to the name of the railroad company. This is common throughout Indianapolis.)

A turn onto Allisonville Pike (Fall Creek Boulevard), the LE&W tracks are crossed again near 38th Street. Then the course, still following the old Allisonville Pike turns west along 38th Street until Meridian Street, while the Allisonville Road turned south on what is now Central Avenue. The Monon tracks are crossed again on the west side of the Fairgrounds. At Meridian Street, the repeat of the conditions encountered on the way out happens. To avoid having racers cutting across the course, checkers were located at each cross street. “If the race is at all close, there will be a great sprint from Fall Creek to the tape.”

Racing, it seems, has been a part of Indianapolis’s Memorial Day for much longer than the creation of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which included a partner that provided prizes for this race.

** edited 06/03/2021 by Paula Trefun Simpson to note that the ‘canal’ mentioned was the Central Canal