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PPA research

I was selected to join the 2021 Department of Metropolitan Development's (DMD) People's Planning Academy (PPA). The academy was formed to spread the information from the DMD on how cities are developed. The sessions included historic research, factors in development (such as racism and redlining housing districts), affordable housing, and the history of transportation and waterways in Indianapolis.

Homework assignments
In session two, we were assigned homework of starting with a photo and researching it. The PPA session materials included many available research aids, including one I had never heard of, the Common Council minutes (Note: this site is very slow to load). The Common Council was the precursor to the City-County Council of Indianapolis. The old meeting books contain the records of the city of Indianapolis for things such as new laws, and important to my research, annexations and street names changes. The books cover the period from 1864 through 1969 and include indexes!

I started with a photo from a neighbor's (Olvie Meyers) photo album of a young girl standing on the running board of the Broad Ripple Department Store delivery truck.

Image courtesy of Olvie Meyers collection

I searched and found an ad for the Broad Ripple Department Store from 1928 that listed the current owner as F.T. Schmitt and the address as 924-928. In 2021, The Bungalow is at 924 Westfield Boulevard. The parking lot for the Bungalow would have been 928. I then remembered a photo my grandmother (Helen Dawson Hague) took of the Broad Ripple Department Store and it showed the store being twice the width of the present day building. Her photo listed the owner as Kassebaum.

I searched for Kassebaum on and found an article from when the Kassebaum Building opened in 1928. This is the L-shaped brick building (see center image in below ad) that runs east and south from the SE corner of Guilford and Westfield. Over the years it has been home to Handy Hardware, Corner Wine Bar / Wellington Pub, Ambrosia, and Artifacts.

Kassebaum Building opening photo from newspaper

Image courtesy of Indianapolis Star, Oct 21, 1928

A member of the celebration committee for the opening of the building was George Armantrout. Searching for him revealed that in 1925 he was the president of the Broad Ripple Merchants Association, a precursor of the Broad Ripple Village Association. The 1925 article was announcing the opening of the new Broad Ripple Post Office, but gave NO address, only showing a picture of it which I recognized as a portion of Old Pro's Table on Broad Ripple Avenue.

The photo of the new post office in the 1925 newspaper

Image courtesy of Indianapolis Star, Jul 19, 1925

Old Pro's Table building with same shape as post office photo above

Cross-referencing in the Polk Directories
I looked up the Broad Ripple Post Office in the 1926 Polk City Directory alphabetical business listing and found the address as 817 E. 63rd Street (to add to the confusion, in the Polk section sorted by address, the same 1926 volume lists the post office address as 815). I knew that 63rd Street was renamed Broad Ripple Avenue. I was confused by the address though, as OPT's address is 827. Could there have at one time been a similar building half a block to the west?

from the 1926 Polk City Directory

Image courtesy of 1926 Polk City Directory

I then found another newspaper ad for Broad Ripple businesses welcoming the new post office and it lists the address as 815 E. 63rd Street. Here you can see the issues that arise in historic research. This one business now has two different addresses listed for it, neither of which is correct today (the addresses were eventually renumbered years later with 815 or 817 becoming 827).

The photo of the new post office in the 1925 newspaper

Image courtesy of Indianapolis Star, Jul 19, 1925

PPA instructor recommends Sanborn Maps
From the PPA list of historic research links I went to the Baist Fire Insurance maps. Our PPA instructor said sometimes old addresses that have changed over the years are listed on the maps. I went to the 1941 Baist map, and indeed, there were hand-written addresses added to the map showing the Post Office / Hoster-Roberts Ford (a Ford dealer where my uncle Glen Hague working while in high school in the 40s)/ OPT building with an address of 819 (currently it is 827), therefore the 815/817 address would have been correct as listed in the old directory. This means that Broad Ripple Avenue has been renumbered at some point (for me to determine in my future research).

from the 1941 Baist map. Red arrow points to current OPT building at 827 BR Ave, map shows that as 819. Map says Ford Service because in the 40s it was Hoster-Roberts Ford

Image courtesy of 1941 Baist Fire Insurance map

I learned another piece of history in the Post Office newspaper article of July 19, 1925. It said "The movement for obtaining the new post office began about two years ago, the Broad Ripple Chamber of Commerce being principally responsible. John Dawson, ex-president of the chamber, who died about two months ago, was one of the pioneers in the move to obtain a new post office. He was president of the chamber last year."

John Dawson was my great-great grandfather (father of Helen Dawson Hague), whose house I currently own, and he died on May 22, 1925, about two months before the post office opened. I had no idea he has been president of the chamber and was part of moving the post office to a new location.

PPA suggested Common Council minute books
My research then moved to the Common Council minutes.

I started by looking for the annexation of the Town of Broad Ripple by the City of Indianapolis in the 1922 minutes book. I discovered that there was no reference to Broad Ripple in the minutes. Seemed odd. I searched to find articles on the annexation. There was an article that placed the date exactly - "Mayor Lew Shank, returning to his office today after a week's absence from the city, said he would sign the ordinance passed by the city council last Monday night annexing Broad Ripple to the city, and thereby adding #3,000,000 in property valuation to the city tax duplicate."

The article was in the June 26, 1922 Indianapolis News. The Monday before would have been June 19, 1922. I went back to the Common Council minutes and looked up the June 19 meeting.

At that meeting:

  • "Mr. Bramblett called for Special Ordinance No. 2, 1922, for second reading. It was read a second time."
  • "Mr. Bramblett moved that Special Ordinance No. 2, 1922, be ordered engrossed, read a third time and placed upon its passage."
  • "Mr. Buchanan moved that the motion of Mr. Bramblett, that Special Ordinance No. 2, 1922, be ordered engrossed, read a third time and placed upon its passage, be Jaid upon the table. Which motion failed to carry."
  • "The motion that Special Ordinance No. 2, 1922, be ordered engrossed, read a third time and placed upon its passage carried by the following vote:"
  • "Ayes, 6, viz. : Messrs. Bramblett, Clauer, Claycombe, Ray, Wise and President Theodore J. Bernd."
  • "Noes, 3, viz. : Messrs. Buchanan, King and Thompson."
  • "Special Ordinance No. 2, 1922, was read a third time and passed by the following vote :
  • Ayes, 5, viz. : Messrs. Bramblett, Clauer, Claycombe, Ray, and Wise."
  • "Noes, 4, viz.: Messrs. Buchanan, King, Thompson and President Theodore J. Bernd."
I didn't really understand these entries, or why they seem to be duplicated with different votes, but I went back to the 1922 index and found Special Ordinance No. 2, 1922 as part of the March 6 meeting. In this index I saw that it was listed as Broad Ripple, but were I have previously searched, the ordinance only refers to the annexation area as "certain territory".

Mapping out the annexation areas
I then used the section/township/range finder to find the area the ordinance mentions. I printed that map so I could outline the area of annexation. Using Google maps I zoomed into the same area. Starting at beginning point described in Section 2 of the ordinance linked to above, I used the "measure distance ruler" in Google maps to follow the ordinance descriptions, marking the boundaries as I progressed on my paper map. I soon had the original annexation area mapped out (see example below).

Now that I had found the index in each Common Council book, I read every index and found more annexations in the Broad Ripple Area.

I was puzzled when I found another Broad Ripple area annexation, since all of Broad Ripple had already been added to the City of Indianapolis. I used the Google Maps marking technique described above to reveal the exact area. It turned out to be the outline of Broad Ripple Park. This area had been left out of the 1922 annexation.

I also found annexation ordinances in 1906 and 1914.

The 1906 attempt failed.

The 1914 annexation was passed by the Common Council.

Mayor Bell wrote a long letter to the Council accompanying his veto of the 1914 annexation ordinance. He said the city could not take on the cost of maintaining the infrastructure of the area, as the roads, for example, are currently paid for by the County Commissioner.

Preserving history for the future
As I compile the results of my research, the PPA allowed me to see that my work in consolidating all of the pieces of Broad Ripple history into one place is more than just interesting to me, but can also be a useful tool for others to help plan the future of the City of Indianapolis. Understanding history helps shape the future.