Friday, July 18, 2008

Photos: Old Stone Curb

You can still find old stone curbs in various areas around the central city of Indianapolis. In particular, there are many streets in Chatham Arch lined with stone and Ransom Place is quite proud of what remains of their historical curbs on the 800 and 900 blocks of California St.

Just south of Ransom Place, in the parking lot immediately north of the Walker Theater, there's a parking lot entrance with curb made of stone. This driveway lines up pretty closely with Walnut St. and it could very well have been designated as such at some point in the past. These are the kinds of things you notice when you walk or bike around the city instead of drive. Humans aren't designed to take in the details of the world at 55mph!

Here's the curb right as you turn in from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St.:
A little ways up the driveway, another piece of the curb pokes out:
At a distance, you can see the relationship of the two segments:How many layers of asphalt must have been laid next to that old curb for it to barely protrude at this point?! How many more pieces of this curb may be completely covered?


bhorg said...

I love this along with the old bricks and interurban rails peaking out.

thundermutt said...

A lot of alleys and minor streets north of downtown, including a few around Methodist Hospital, have similar remnants. Many are still present on the Old Northside and in Herron Morton Place. One interesting feature is that the straight curb segments were limestone slabs but the curved corners were something else, which appears to be granite.

There are significant stretches of "minor" streets in Meridian-Kessler (often the numbered cross-streets and the non-arterials such as Delaware, New Jersey, Park, Broadway, Carrollton, Guilford, and Winthrop) where the original brick pavers and stone curbs form the gutter today. It's part of the charm of the neighborhood, and part of the drudgery as it's necessary to keep the weeds pulled or sprayed.

The remnant stone/brick guttering on Central Avenue wasn't entirely removed until the mid-80's.

During the recent street resurfacing of Emerson Ave., the contractor milled down to the original brick pavers just north of Washington St., leaving a big patch of exposed orange in the middle of the old concrete and asphalt surfaces.

Yep, a lot of history is buried, even in a "new" city like Indianapolis.

John M said...

I have the stone curbs, just southeast of 10th and Emerson. What's odd is that the side street has no curbs at all. The straight line portion of the curb is concrete, but the curved corner piece is stone, quite similar to those shown in your pictures.

Then again, my whole little corner of Irvington is a bit of a mystery to me. My house was built in 1941, and in our nine block area just southeast of 10th and Emerson, I can't think of any houses that appear to predate 1920. A significant number of the houses in that nine block patch, including mine, are Justus homes with the telltale half-porch, seemingly from the 1930s and early 1940s, but certainly not earlier than the late 1920s, I don't think.

Yet, the map seen here (, a bike map from 1899, shows my little corner of Irvington platted as "Euclid Place." Of the five streets shown, only Leland is known as that today (Ray = Butler; Euclid = Hawthorne; Dora = St. Joseph; Frank = 9th). It's a mystery to me. Nothing on the map indicates that the streets were planned rather than existing. Was there some really shoddy construction there that was all replaced by "new" houses? Was it really platted a quarter of a century before any significant home-building occurred?

I also was intrigued by the recent Emerson resurfacing mentioned by Thundermutt. The brick surface goes back a few feet into both 9th and St. Joseph streets. Was Emerson wider? Were these little paved aprons into the dirt streets? Is the crumbling asphalt on St. Joseph covering beautiful brick pavement? Mystery abounds.

John M said...

I'll try again on the link to the map: 1899 Indianapolis map

CorrND said...

Cool info guys, thanks for sharing.

John, that's a great map you linked. I don't think I've ever seen it. I've seen conceptual drawings of the old interurban system, but it's especially cool that you can see all the streetcar/interurban lines right on the streets. And I like that the legend of the maps says "Bicycle and Driving Map of Indianapolis."

Kevin said...

I scanned a version of that map years ago at work. There must be more than one copy as I'm not sure how it ended up on that site.

Anonymous said...


The eastside street my house is on appears on this map but my house was not built until 1941.

I think it was common for an area to build out much more slowly, as there weren't production builders. Sometimes people would buy a lot and then save money to build the house; my grandparents did that and never had a mortgage.

Sounds unimaginable today.

John M said...

I hear what you are saying about development patterns, Thundermutt. I agree that it's much more common in older neighborhoods to have houses with a wider age range than in a modern subdivision. Still, my problem is that I can't think of a single house in that nine block stretch older than 1920, which was 20 years after this map. I may have to spend some time looking at property records to satisfy my curiosity.

Anonymous said...

In the case of my neighborhood, I'm in between two houses that appear to date from the 1870's, and my street was "re-subdivided" after its initial plat. I think some suburban lots may have originally been much bigger, like today's "D-A" land for truck gardening down in Perry Twp.

I guess even a century ago people wanted to live on a large lot at the edge of town.

CorrND said...

I can't stop looking at that map. A couple interesting things I've noticed:

1. Fall Creek Place was once called Lincoln Park.

2. There was a neighborhood at 38th and Riverside Park called Brooklyn Heights that, as far as I can tell, doesn't exist at all anymore. Looking at the google overhead shots, some of that area was redone in a modern suburban style, but some of it looks undeveloped.

3. There was a park called Greenlawn Park bounded by Kentucky, West and the river. That's all industrial these days. Looks like the notion of sucking up park land for development has precedence in this town!

4. My guess that the curbs in this post were once Walnut isn't true. It must have been alley access.

John M said...

The more I look at it, the more I think some of the streets must be "aspirational." Cooper Street on the map became Kessler Blvd, of course. It would be interesting to know if the Kessler Plan resulted in a change of direction for Brooklyn Heights. It looks a bit odd and pie-in-the-sky anyway: a subdivision in the middle of nowhere with several streets that go over a creek for no apparent reason?

Anonymous said...

The eastern half of "Brooklyn Heights" is the site of Cold Spring School (formerly Tudor Hall School, and before that it was the Stuart Estate) as well as the northern portion of the Marian College property. That's Crooked Creek running through the site.

The current suburban district on the western half of the land includes two churches and some winding suburban lanes that bear no resemblance to the Brooklyn Heights plat.

I agree that plat was aspirational. There is no evidence that it was ever built (I've walked those woods along Crooked Creek.)

Anonymous said...

Greenlawn Park was Greenlawn Cemetery. The old city cemetery. It was moved over years from 1920 to the '30's. The reason was the already industrial nature of the site made it a nasty place to spend time including nearby rail yards, Kingans Slaughterhouse and several nasty paper mills. Stories say you could see animal parts floating down the river from where they were dumped. An old plan for Kingans shows a blood pipe that dumped into the river. I guess they dumped blood into the river at one time.

Also the river was cutting into the cemetery exposing graves so there may have been human remains in the river as well.

Anonymous said...

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.

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