The Wholesale District
Indianapolis' first street railway opened in 1864 and the system expanded with the growth of the city over the next several decades. The early streetcars were drawn by mules or horses until the system was electrified between 1890 and 19894. The street railway provided convenient and affordable transportation throughout Indianapolis and fostered the growth of sububrs like Woodruff Place, Haughville, and Irvington. At the turn of the twentieth century, travel by an electric system was an essential part of life in Indianapolis. Street railway employees were an important sector of organized labor in early twentieth century Indiana and influenced State policy on workers' rights. A strike by street railway employees in 1913 prompted Governor Samuel Ralston and the Indiana General Assembly to pass the state's first laws setting a minimum wage, regular working hours, and workplace safety regulations. The last street railway system was shut down in 1953, succeeded by trackless trolleys (trolley buses) and gasoline powered buses.
Indianapolis' street railway system provided efficient, convenient and affordable transportation throughout the city and offered service to outlying suburbs. Mass transit connections fostered the growth of neighborhoods like Fountain Square and suburbs like Broad Ripple.
the state capital was moved from Corydon to Indianapolis in 1825, the streets of the new town were dirt or mud, depending on weather conditions.
Part of Washington Street was paved with Macadam gravel pavement in 1838, during the construction of the federally-funded National Road. In 1842 the City of Indianapolis adopted a plan for street improvements and began grading and graveling streets. Gas light street lamps were installed along Washington Street and adjacent streets between 1854 and 1860.
Cobblestones called "bowlders" were first tried on a stretch of Washington Street in 1859. Bowldering was extended in particularly high traffic areas through the 1870s with graded gravel and dirt used on other streets. Street railways were permitted to lay double or single sets of tracks down the center of any street under the condition that they provide granite pavers between the tracks and for two feet at either side. The remainder of each street was maintained by the city and could be dirt, gravel, granite pavers, wood block pavers, brick pavers or asphalt pavement.
Nicholson wood block pavement was first used in Indianapolis in 1870 and was noted for being much quieter than bowldering. Asphalt pavement was first used in Indianapolis in 1889. During the 1890s, brick pavers and asphalt pavement became the preferred material for city streets. Brick and granite pavers were the most durable of all the pavements. Sidewalks were paved and graveled at roughly twice the rate of streets during the 1860s, as most travel was on foot. Some side streets remained unpaved into the 1920s.
Indianapolis' streets were a mixture of graded dirt and gravel until the introduction of cobblestone "bowlders" in 1859. Sidwalks were a higher priority as most travel would have been on foot or by streetcar. This 1893 view of Meridian Street looking south from Maryland shows a dirt street with streetcar tracks.
Granite pavers, brick pavers, wood block pavement, and asphalt pavement gradually replaced bowlders and graded dirt and gravel streets throughout the downtown. granite and brick pavers are visible in this 1907 view of Pennsylvania Street looking north from near Georgia Street.
You are standing on some of the original granite and brick pavers that were used to pave streets in the Wholesale District during the nineteenth century.