A Stroll Through Time: Discovering The Rich Histories of Indianapolis’ Beloved Neighborhoods

Bob Eggert |

Indianapolis, affectionately known as Indy, is the crossroads of America. But for those who reside here, it’s much more than that; it has deep roots and vibrant communities. Today, we’ll venture through time to explore the tapestry of histories woven into three of its most cherished neighborhoods – Irvington, Fountain Square, and Broad Ripple Village.

1. Irvington – A Page from the Past

Let’s begin our journey in the charming neighborhood of Irvington, located on Indy’s East Side. Founded in 1870 by Sylvester Johnson and Jacob Julian, Irvington was named after the famous writer Washington Irving. This picturesque neighborhood, with its winding streets shaded by a canopy of trees, captures the essence of the past. From the storied, gothic halls of Butler University (which was located in Irvington until 1928) to the whispers of ghost tales in the Irving Theater, history feels alive in Irvington. Every October, residents celebrate the “Irvington Halloween Festival,” which is not just about spooky stories but is also a testament to the area’s close-knit community.

2. Fountain Square – The Spirit of Art and Revival

Next, we move on to Fountain Square, sitting just southeast of downtown Indianapolis. This area, with its iconic fountain at the intersection of Virginia Avenue, Shelby, and Prospect Streets, has undergone a tremendous transformation over the years. Originally a vibrant commercial district in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Fountain Square faced a decline mid-century due to suburbanization. However, the spirit of this neighborhood never waned. In recent years, Fountain Square has resurfaced as a hub for artists, musicians, and foodies. The historic Fountain Square Theatre, built in 1928, now serves as an anchor for culture, hosting swing dances, concerts, and performances. Fountain Square breathes new life, but still carries its past proudly through its restored buildings and active arts scene.

3. Broad Ripple Village – A Mélange of Cultures

Our final destination, Broad Ripple Village, lies to the north along the White River. Its history began in 1837 as a separate town but was annexed by Indianapolis in 1922. Broad Ripple Village is often described as where the heart of Indy’s culture beats. In its early days, it was a retreat for those seeking respite from the city’s bustle. Today, it’s a convergence of diverse cultures, ideologies, and art forms. Broad Ripple’s historical canal and the Monon Trail present the perfect interplay of nature and history. The Broad Ripple Park Carousel, now housed in the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, was an amusement treasure of the early 20th century and is now a National Historic Landmark.

Our sojourn through Irvington, Fountain Square, and Broad Ripple Village scratches the surface of the historical tapestry woven through the streets of Indianapolis. The stories these neighborhoods tell are an integral part of what makes Indy a city with not just a past, but a living, breathing history that continues to shape its future. As a local or a visitor, taking the time to listen to these stories is an enriching experience that connects us to the very soul of Indianapolis.

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