1912 Proposed Indianapolis Street Name Changes, Part 1

I have been covering Indianapolis street name changes for the past couple of days. It seems that almost every decade along the way had some major changes. I covered a major change with the annexation of the town Irvington and the Tuxedo neighborhood last Friday (Tarkington Street? Not so fast. ITH Blog, 18 December 2020). Today, I want to move into the 1910’s to see what I can find and share.

And it starts in 1912 with a very large proposed change. Most of these never made the maps of Indianapolis in an official way. Councilman Copeland introduced an ordinance that would make a ton of street name changes in the city. These were all submitted to the city council on 4 March 1912.

1905 map of the Arbor Avenue area on the
near westside of Indianapolis

The first one involved was was Shover Avenue on the near west side of the city. The recommendation was to turn Shover Avenue into an extension of Arbor Avenue. And it was. From Oliver to Gillette Street, Shover Avenue became Arbor Avenue. But somewhere along the way, the section from the north alley of Oliver Avenue to Henry Street was vacated for the Chevy plant. Arbor Avenue was moved to the east alley Coffey Street, and Division Street was removed completely. Today, Arbor north of Henry exists for a short distance, before being blocked off by a fence and a railroad spur that served the Chevy plant. Also, Division and Gillette Streets are on the private property side of that fence, no longer accessible be the general public.

In addition to Arbor Avenue, an Arbor Street was included in the ordinance along the same line as the Avenue. The new Arbor Street was to include Greeley Street from Washington Street to White River, Limestone Street from Owosso to Michigan, and Porter Street from North to Walnut. The only section of those three streets that still exist is that of Limestone Street, which now connects the end of the New York Street White River bridge to Michigan Street, where it turns into Eskenazi Avenue.

Another one that didn’t quite make it was the renaming of Mobile Street between Senate and Illinois, and Jackson Place, between Illinois and Meridian, to Bates Street. It is on the line of Bates Street east of East Street. No, the name of Jackson Place didn’t go away. It is still called that in front of Union Station.

Poplar Street, between Union and Chestnut Streets, and Bicking Street between Delaware and East Streets to be changed to Bradshaw Street. Not only did this change not happen, the streets in question are now missing from the landscape of Indianapolis. Both fell victim to Eli Lilly and Company.

Bedford Avenue between Raymond and Morris, and King Avenue between Vermont and Tenth Streets to Addison Street. Both King Avenue and Bedford Street are along the same line as Addison Street, but the change was never made.

Mulberry Street between McCarty and Frank Streets, and Union Street between LeGrande Avenue and first alley north of Schiller Street to Pennsylvania Street. I can tell you that at least the southern section, from LeGrande to the alley, did change its name to Pennsylvania. I used to live practically on the corner of both. The name of Chestnut Street would be removed from maps of Indianapolis, becoming an alley between Union and Talbott Streets from Morris to Adler Streets.

Paca Street between Indiana Avenue and Tenth Street was to become Bright Street. This Ransom Place street still maintains its name.

McCormick Place between Muskingum and Illinois Streets to become Anderson Street. This was the name of one of the downtown alleys. The city directory of 1913 states that McCormick is listed under W. Ohio Street.

Smith Lane, between Merrill Street and Stephan Place to Adelaide Street. Adelaide was the name of the alley between New Jersey and East Streets. This change didn’t happen. Today, it wouldn’t matter as Eli Lilly has mowed the entire neighborhood down.

1945 Polk Indianapolis City Directory S

The last one that I want to cover is one that actually did happen, eventually. On 20 June 2019, I covered the “The Indianapolis end of the Brookville (State) Road.” The original end of Brookville Road was at the National Road west of what is now Sherman Drive. The road that winds behind the shopping center at Sherman Drive and Washington Street was originally part of the Brookville Road. By 1900, the section west of Sherman Drive was called Brookville Avenue. In 1912, it was recommended that it be changed to Ewing Street. At some point, S. Brookville Avenue was changed to Brookville Boulevard, and Brookville Avenue east of Sherman Drive reverted to Brookville Road, the name it had originally. Maps and city directories into the 1940’s still show Brookville Avenue/Boulevard. It would be 1945 until the Polk City Directory would list the following entries: Brookville Avenue – Changed to N. Ewing. Brookville Boulevard – Changed to S. Ewing.

1930’s Indianapolis Street Name Changes

Street name changes in Indianapolis have been a constant thing. Major renamings have occurred several times. But minor changes were made throughout the history of the city. Today, I want to look at some of the minor changes that happened, or would have happened, in the 1930’s. There is no particular reason I chose the 1930’s, other than the fact that was the time period that I was researching for something that didn’t pan out.

In June 2019, I wrote an article called “Why Do Indianapolis Street Numbers Start at 9?” Originally, it was planned that 10th would be the first numbered street. But right before Christmas 1931, the City Council decided that the new lowest street number would be Nine. Pratt Street, a historic name in the city, would be changed to Ninth Street. The street had been named after Julius Pratt, a prominent citizen in the early days of the area. “Somebody conceived the idea that the name was not sufficiently dignified and, naturally, it was not difficult to get an array of signatures on a petition to change it.’ (Indianapolis Star, 23 December 1931, pp 8)

A street extension, mostly by the city, but would be taken over by the state later, called for a street name change. Daisy Avenue, a street that connected Raymond Street just east of the White River to Bluff Road was changed to West Street. This was in preparation for the city to complete West Street from 16th Street to Bluff Road. The ordinance making the street name change was passed by the City Council on 15 October 1934. Eventually, the entire section of West Street mentioned (from Bluff Road to 16th Street) would find itself part of the state highway system. South of Washington Street, it became SR 37, replacing Bluff Avenue (Road) and Meridian Street. (SR 37 ended in downtown Indianapolis at the time.)

In April 1937, a “discussion” between the City of Indianapolis and residents of Irvington were started, and finished, about the changing of street names in the neighborhood. The biggest fear was that Julian Avenue, named after one of the founders of the town, would be changed to Maryland Street in an effort to keep street names consistent through the city. The City Council announced that very few changes would be recommended…and there would be public meetings about them as they were announced.

There was a post in one of the newsgroups on Facebook to which I subscribe. The poster was asking about a relative that lived on Manlove Street. What happened to Manlove Street? May 1939, a series of 11 name changes were urged on the northside. These name changes would be between 42nd and 52nd Streets. The names were to be changed to the names of roughly the same streets north of 59th Street.

These name changes were: Arsenal to Indianola; Sheldon to Rosslyn; Hovey to Primrose; Ralston Avenue to Ralston Drive; Schofield to Buckingham Avenue; Sangster to Norwaldo; Manlove to Crittenden; Baltimore to Evanston; Caroline to Burlington; Hillside to Cambridge and Brouse to Allenby. Not all of these proposed changes were actually done.

There weren’t many. Street name changes are not taken lightly due to all of the things that go along with it: new street signs; address changes with the post office; property records; etc. But I plan to cover more as time goes on.

Subway Street, Beech Grove

When the Big Four Railway started to build their new yards in what would become the city of Beech Grove, they realized very quickly that train traffic was going to be, at best, horrifying for those that were trying to get to the town from the north and east. The main road from the north was the line separating Center from Warren, and Perry from Franklin townships. This would be called First Avenue in the new town of Beech Grove, and Emerson Avenue in the rest of Marion County.

1905 Map of the Beech Grove area, before construction of the town. Center of the map is where the four townships (Center, Franklin, Perry and Warren) meet, now the intersection of Emerson and Albany Street (Troy Avenue).

This road, before Beech Grove was built, stretched from a point in Washington Township, near Millersville, to the Johnson-Marion County line east of Greenwood. Part of this was considered to be part of the Churchman Free Gravel Road extension when the Big Four started buying the property. What became Albany Street (Troy Avenue in the rest of Marion County) extended from the Bottoms Road (now Harding Street) to what is now Kitley Road near the Hancock-Marion County line.

With the construction of the new railroad shops, and the new town, at Beech Grove, the railroad knew that it wouldn’t be long before it came up that two major roads in the county were being clogged by rail traffic. The elevation movement had already been in full swing in Marion County, although there were no such facilities completed to that point. Arguments were still being had about who was supposed to pay for all the bridges necessary to accomplish the plan. It was here that the planners decided to make sure that both carriage (and later car) traffic was unimpeded by the mass amounts of train traffic.

Emerson Avenue would be cut off just north of the Big Four railroad tracks north of the new town. This would put the cutoff just shy of 1/2 mile north of Albany, or 1/2 mile south of what would become Raymond Street. A new street would be built just north of the northern right-of-way of the railroad tracks, where it would connect 1/2mile east of Emerson, becoming the continuation of Troy Avenue. About 2/10’s of a mile east of Emerson, a new road would be built at a 90 degree angle to the railroad tracks, going under said railroad tracks, connecting to the new Second Avenue and the street running along the southern railroad right-of-way (to become Bethel Avenue) in Beech Grove.

1956 MapIndy aerial photograph of the Subway Street/Connection Street/Emerson Avenue/Bethel Avenue area near Beech Grove. west of the spur tracks leading into the Beech Grove Shops is a stub end of Emerson Avenue starting at Subway Street. It would connect to essentially a long driveway and a house west of Emerson and south of the railroad tracks.

The first street mentioned would be given the name “Connection Street.” The road that would go under the railroad tracks would be called “Subway Street.” The name subway actually has a historical context in Marion County. When traffic at Indianapolis Union Station got beyond horrible, the city of Indianapolis decided to build an underpass along Illinois Street, under the railroad tracks at the station. This was, for years, called the Illinois Street Subway, although it was more a bridge, even a tunnel, than a subway.

This wasn’t to say that Emerson Avenue disappeared completely between the two sides of the railroad tracks. A small section of Emerson Avenue existed from Subway Street north to a road, and house, 1/4 mile north of Albany Street. It existed this way for years. Until the early 1970’s, as a matter of fact.

Indianapolis Star, 15 April 1971. The photograph shows a four lane bridge in the middle of nowhere, over the tracks of what was, at the time, the Penn Central Railroad at Beech Grove. That bridge would be connected to the surrounding area, and would carry Emerson Avenue into Beech Grove from the north.

The new Emerson Avenue bridge over the Penn Central tracks, as they were called then, was completed in Spring 1971, although the connections to the new bridge weren’t complete. The road that connected to the house in the 1956 photo above would become the new Subway Street, which was turned to intersect and cross Emerson Avenue north of the old connection point.

1956 MapIndy aerial photograph with a 2020 overlay of then current conditions. This shows the driveway and the house, that would be removed when Subway Street was relocated with the building of the Emerson Avenue bridge north of Beech Grove.

The new ending of Subway Street would be at Fifth Avenue, instead of Second. Sections of the old Subway Street, from the new turn to Second Avenue, still exist to this day, almost 50 years later. And looking at the Google Map, or even MapIndy, will show that the property lines of the old Subway Street are still valid.

The railroad that created the town of Beech Grove is long gone. The Big Four became part of the New York Central, officially in 1930. The New York Central gave way, in 1968, to the Penn Central, which found the NYC merging with its long time rival the Pennsylvania. Soon after the creation of the National Passenger Rail Corporation, called Amtrak, there was a move to have Amtrak purchase the Beech Grove shops from Penn Central. This would happen in 1975.

A quick glance at the MapIndy property records leads to some confusing things, however. The property that the Amtrak shops is on does actually belong to the National Passenger Rail Corp. But it has to cross property that is still legally owned by the Penn Central Transportation Company. Now, I realize that the tangled web of property ownership and changing railroads can cause such things. But the property right next to it is owned by New York Central Lines LLC c/o CSX Transportation. As does most of the property north of the Amtrak Shops and south of the railroad mainline. The property records lead to a lot of fun reading. There are four different railroad companies legally listed as owners in that area: National Passenger Rail Corp.; CSX Transportation; New York Central Lines LLC (CSX); and Penn Central Corp (c/o C E Parker General Tax Agent Penn Central Trans Co, Chicago, Illinois). What’s strange is that all the property owned by the Penn Central is exempt from property tax.

State Highway Department Construction Plans for 1963-1965

On 14 November 1961, the Indiana State Highway Department announced its plans for the construction projects for the two year period between 1 July 1963 and 30 June 1965. The two year project between 1961 and 1963 was planned to cost $268.3 million. The 1963-1965 plans would cost slightly less, at $235.2 million. The projected construction would build 408.06 miles of roads across the state.

Of that 408 miles, almost 154 miles of that would be for the interstate highway system. Put on the books to be built in that time was most of Interstate 69 in Indiana. Nearly 103 miles of that road, from Pendleton to the Indiana Toll Road, were to be placed under contract and built starting in July 1963. It would focus on two sections: Pendleton to southwest of Fort Wayne; and US 6 to the Toll Road.

Another interstate project, accounting for 17.7 miles of road, included Interstate 74 from Lizton to Crawfordsville. This was a continuation of the interstate from its then end at Lizton, which would be opened in the fall of 1961 from I-465’s west leg to Lizton.

Another interstate project included in the plan was that of Interstate 65 in Lake County from the county line to the toll road. This project included 22.7 miles of new interstate highway.

David Cohen, State Highway Commission chairman, stated that the construction of connections with I-65 and I-69 would help the “financially-ailing toll road.” In addition to the new interstate connections, the Toll Road Commission would be helped by their own lobbying. The Highway Commission had been put under pressure to slow construction on the Tri-State Highway, a toll free alternative to the turnpike. No projects involving the Tri-State were listed in the 1963-1965 plans.

Marion County would have its share of projects in the Construction Program. Interstate 465 would be the biggest recipient. Construction of the highway from Raymond Street to 56th Street was the largest part of the plan. Also, if the design and location of the east and north legs (from 56th Street to I-65 near Whitestown) was approved by federal officials, preliminary engineering and right of way acquisition would be conducted as part of this program.

At this point, the rest of I-465 (west and south legs) was opened, under construction, or in the 1961-1963 program. The plans for the east leg included 21 road and railroad grade separations and a bridge over Pendleton Pike (US 36/SR 67).

Three preliminary engineering projects involving the Marion County interstates were also included in the 1963-1965 program: I-65 north and west from 16th Street west of Methodist Hospital; I-69 from Pendleton to the north leg of I-465; and I-70 from I-465 west leg to West Street. Cohen mentioned no time table for the beginning of construction of the interstates in Indianapolis, but said that a section of I-65 from 38th Street north and west could be part of the 1965-1967 program.

There was a lot of other projects on the 1963-1965 program. SR 67 from Martinsville to Mooresville was to be expanded into a divided highway, and some of the kinks were to be eliminated. The new SR 37 from the south leg of I-465 to 38th Street, and divided highway treatment for 38th Street from Northwestern Avenue/Michigan Road to Capitol Avenue were also included. The SR 37 project was never completed.

A new SR 431 was also planned, starting at the north leg of SR 100 (86th Street) to US 31 at the north end of Carmel. This project would tie the new SR 431 to US 31 near the junction with the then current SR 431. At the time, SR 431 was Range Line Road/Westfield Blvd. The new SR 431 would become known as Keystone Avenue…now Keystone Parkway through Carmel.

Indianapolis News, 14 November 1961. This map shows the extent of the 1963-1965 State Highway Department Construction Program. Solid black lines show the 1963-1965 plans. Dotted lines show the 1961-1963 plan.

Madison Avenue Expressway

In the early 1950’s, much had been done to help with traffic issues throughout the city of Indianapolis. With the exception, as pointed out by the Indianapolis News Editorial Staff on 21 June 1954, of the south side. But things were going to be changing soon. The Indiana State Highway Commission decided that there will be another upgrade to US 31 in the state. This time, in the city of Indianapolis on the south side. But many things not only had to come together to do this project, many controversies were unleashed with the project, as well.

First mention of the project, at least in the newspapers, came in August 1953. The Indianapolis News of 6 August 1953 covered the project on page 23. The $3 million project would lower the roadway of Madison Avenue, at the time US 31, some 20 feet to allow for the road to pass under the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Louisville line and the Indianapolis Belt Railway. A large chunk of the money for the project was to be paid out for the acquisition of properties in the 15 block project area. However, most of the coverage in that day’s News was the fact that the State Highway Commission was creating a “District of Dead Ends.” Apparently, the original plan was to start at Morris/Prospect Streets, working south. It was later decided that the work would begin at Terrace Avenue, leaving that street connected to Madison Avenue at the north end of the project.

However, from Terrace to the Indianapolis Belt Railway, no less than six streets were going to be cut in two. Palmer, which actually connected to Madison Avenue at the Pennsylvania Railroad crossing was sure to be removed. Lincoln would be cut off at the Pennsylvania Railroad. Both Minnesota and Iowa would be truncated, as they both crossed Madison in a straight line. Caven did a stutter step type crossing of the state highway. Adler ended at Madison, just north of the Belt. South of the Belt, LeGrande Avenue stutter stepped its way across Madison Avenue, as well.

While the expressway was the major part of the project, that wasn’t the entire scope. From Southern Avenue, one half mile south of Raymond Street, to where Madison Avenue becomes Delaware Street near what was Wilkins Street (now the I-70 overpass), the road would be widened to a six lane facility. Right-of-way would be purchased on opposite sides of the road, with the section from Southern to Pleasant Run Parkway, and from the Pennsylvania Railroad north to Delaware Street being taken from the east side of the street. Between Pleasant Run Parkway and the PRR, the west side would be taken for the project.

A look at a satellite image of the area today shows exactly how much property was taken in each section. The new Madison Avenue is actually west of Old Madison Avenue. (Old Madison Avenue is one of the very few roads in Marion County that includes a hint that it used to be an important facility. And even then, this only occurred when the new street signs started showing up around the year 2000, because prior to that, the street was officially called “Madison Avenue.”) The old road, which sits along the top of the hill that was created with the new road, is in two sections, the the old Belt Railway crossing removed, connecting where Iowa Street was to Raymond Street. All of the property from the old road to the alley between Delaware Street and Madison Avenue was taken for the new canyon expressway.

As an Indianapolis history aside right here, one of the most famous restaurants on Indianapolis’ south side, the Key West Shrimp House, existed in this section of Madison Avenue. It was half way between LeGrande Avenue and Raymond Street (2138 Madison Avenue). By 1955, due to pending construction, it had moved to its more famous location, 2861 Madison Avenue. Almost anyone, of sufficient age, can tell you about the pink building on Madison Avenue that once housed the Key West. Now, they still have a location…at the other end of the road – in Madison, Indiana.

Not only was the road going to be part of the project, in October 1953, it was announced that the ISHC was going to take a “pedestrian census” to see whether a pedestrian bridge would have to be built somewhere in the project area. Plans were to have pedestrian crossings at both Terrace and LeGrande Avenues. However, the project removed the LeGrande Avenue crossing when the construction was completed. The only true pedestrian specific accommodation made in the project area would be a walking bridge crossing at Palmer Street.

Contracts for the first phases of construction of the new Madison Avenue were announced in May 1954. And while the south side of Indianapolis had always been hampered by narrow roads and railroad crossings, causing it to lag behind the rest of the city, it wasn’t long until newspaper editorial staffs began to realize what was about to become a real problem. The Indianapolis News Editorial of 21 June 1954 spelled it out quite succinctly: this is gonna get bad. “Of course, the Madison Avenue expressway is coming – but there will be a crisis for the south side motorists before the expressway is completed.” With the pending closure of Madison Avenue during construction, something that could last up to two years, an already strained city traffic system would be stretched to the limit. And most of that traffic, according to the thoughts of the Indianapolis News, through Fountain Square. “Cars pile up along Shelby, Virginia and Prospect trying to get through the area. This goes on morning, noon and night.” “One improvement has been made. Woodlawn has been straightened and widened between Virginia and Shelby. But the project primarily has provided more parking space and does not help move traffic.”

It would be in December 1954 that the state announced a change in the construction plans. The original idea was that Prospect and Morris Streets would connect to Madison Avenue as they always had, as shown in this snippet from a 1915 map of Indianapolis. Morris crossed straight over Madison Avenue, with Prospect being almost one block north. It is important to note that both these streets are important arteries in Indianapolis traffic. And, they are survey roads, meaning that their location is along a survey line. (That line is Morris Street west of Shelby Street, and Prospect west of it. Shelby Street is a survey correction line, so every street corrects to the north at or near Shelby Street on the south side.) It was announced that the state would create an underpass for Morris Street, with connecting facilities to allow traffic access to Morris and Prospect Streets. As it turned out, east bound Prospect Street became a very long ramp to allow northbound Madison Avenue traffic access to west bound Morris Street. In the same vein, a slightly moved westbound Morris Street became the eastbound Morris to northbound Madison ramp.

This change, along with the grade separation at Raymond Street that had been announced the previous August, were recommended by the United States Bureau of Public Roads, which provided half of the funding for the project. These two changes added over $1 million to the entire project. Construction on the Madison Avenue expressway was “probably” going to start in 1955. But plans for the new changes hadn’t even been worked out as of the announcement, so no one was quite sure of that.

June 1955 saw the start of getting rid of “the old Shrimp House, 18 homes, and an undisclosed number of garages near Raymond and Madison.” The state would be auctioning off the properties on 28 June 1955. Those properties would have have to be moved within 30 days of the auction. The same day that the auction was announced, it was also mentioned that construction was expect to begin that summer. As it turned out, November 1955 came news that the construction would begin in 1956, as contracts had just been awarded for the project.

That didn’t apply to other locations along the project area. It was announced that the new Madison Avenue bridge over Pleasant Run would be opened to traffic on 29 July 1955. The plan was to open four lanes of the six lane span that day. Since Madison Avenue had been closed, at this point, for almost a year, traffic had been slowed to a crawl anyway.

Indianapolis News, 25 September 1956, showing construction of the Madison Avenue expressway at the Indianapolis Belt Railway.

Another sticking point with the local news media, especially the Indianapolis News, was the lack of security when it came to all the old buildings that were being removed in the construction area. This was especially apparent when it came to the fact that there were three schools in or near the construction zone: School 31 on Lincoln Street east of Madison; School 35 at Madison and Raymond; and Manual High School at Pleasant Run and Madison. There were a bunch of buildings that looked like tornado damage, and more than fair share of basements that were just open to the public without any protection whatsoever.

The article to the left, which was published on 22 March 1956, shows the opinion of the Indianapolis News, and the parents of students in the area. Especially at School 35.

Indianapolis News, 25 September 1956, showing the construction area on Madison Avenue, and expressing the Indianapolis News’ concern about the safety of children in the area. An exact location of this photograph has not been determined, but not for lack of trying.

All wasn’t roses on the ISHC end, either. I will cover it in a later post, but irregularities were exposed in 1957 when it came to property acquirement for the Madison Avenue Expressway project. These irregularities were exposed in April 1957, and found itself in court the following October. It involved someone making a ton of money from real estate purchases and sales in 1954 and 1955. Part of the problem was that these types of shenanigans caused the delay of construction, and hence, an extension of the traffic nightmare on the south side of the city. It was, in June 1957, projected that construction would be completed by September 1958.

That construction projection would be close to true, as the 1959 Indiana Official Highway Map cover shows. The new Madison Avenue Expressway was shown in its brand new, completed, status. But even with the completion of the project, the controversy remained. Stanley T. Siegel, Indianapolis traffic engineer, stated, according to the Indianapolis Star, that the project is a “beautiful road that starts nowhere and leads to noplace.” Mr. Seigel took a lot of criticism for that opinion. The problem is, on the surface, he is absolutely right. What he didn’t take into his consideration is the removal of a narrow, overcrowded street (now Old Madison Avenue), and the constrictions placed on it by two busy railroad crossings (which, at the time, they were very busy), and made a better connection with a very busy United States highway running through south central Marion County.

The Expressway would be completely opened to traffic officially on 23 September 1958. It would still be technically closed for another week for curbing and other details, and the interchange at Morris/Prospect Streets would not be ready for several more weeks after that (for railroad elevation just west of the interchange). The project would cost almost $8 million, more than twice the original estimate. It was also announced that the State Highway Department had plans to extend the expressway another 10 miles. This extension would be along State Road 431, also known as Madison Avenue, in the non-bypassed sections of the old road.