George Kessler (1862-1923) was a pioneer city planner who believed that cities could be beautiful – lush and green, with limited pollution. Many American cities hired him to design their park and boulevard systems, including all three Indiana cities in which I have lived – South Bend, Terre Haute, and Indianapolis. Someday I need to write a series of posts about Kessler’s work in all three cities, because his work has shaped my very notion of what a city is.
Yet when I moved to Indianapolis almost 20 years ago, I didn’t know Kessler’s name or anything about him. But I was very drawn to the sprawling early-suburban neighborhoods along a wide, tree-lined road that bears his name. I’ve owned two houses within spitting distance of the beautiful boulevard he designed in 1922.
The boulevard skirted the city limits when it was built, but today it forms a west/north inner beltway. It begins on the west side, just east of the speedway at 16th Street, and heads north four miles to 56th Street. Then it heads east across town a bit more than seven miles, almost to Fort Benjamin Harrison on the Northeastside. Kessler was hired in 1923 to oversee the boulevard’s construction, but he passed away before much work was done. This is why the boulevard is named for him.
Kessler Boulevard is lovely end to end, but my favorite segment is on the Westside between 30th St. and about I-65. Homes were built along it in the 1950s, all of them ranches set well back from the road. It creates a wide-open feeling that captures that 1950s feeling of prosperity and modernity. Trees line the boulevard, and when autumn comes the colors can be spectacular. I recently filmed a drive along this stretch, northbound from 30th St.
I drive this stretch all the time and I enjoy it at all times of year. Thanks, George Kessler!