Autumn on Kessler Boulevard

George Kessler

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!

Another historic Indianapolis road is the Dandy Trail. Read about it here, here, and here.


20 responses to “Autumn on Kessler Boulevard”

  1. davidvanillav Avatar

    A beautiful Drive! Fall is definitely the time for it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes it is! Kessler’s lovely end to end, especially at autumn’s peak.

      1. Miles Avatar

        do you just Past by Rex Drive becuase i know a person Name Ms.Mines who lives on rex drive on Kessler. You know what i’m talking it was at 0:37 and plus Kessler does have Beautiful Churches such as St.Andrew Presbyterian church and the Purpose of Life.

        1. Nazz (Ed Edd n Eddy) Avatar

          oh really and i think Kessler Boulevard North Drive is very nice when it looks in Autumn time which is fall and i think i know what you are talking about. Hi i’m Nazz. for real.

          1. Jim Grey Avatar

            Buttered toast!

        2. Miles Robinson Avatar

          hi Jim can you Go Back to Kessler Blvd North Drive and get to the steet which was at 0:37 which it said rex drive and want you to turn on rex drive and see ms. mines house which has a basketball court in the drive and it’s also raised up high and that’s the house you will see with a basketball goal in her driveway and it’s a brick house please let me know when you will do it PLEASSEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i’m begging you do it for me.
          Request from Miles and it’s 2896 Rex, Indianapolis 46222 Too. if you can rememeber that address or have a GPS.

  2. Steve Miller Avatar
    Steve Miller

    An odd footnote to Mr Kessler’s story….

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wow, not a very flattering statement about Kessler!

      Kessler built his boulevard mostly over existing roads on the Westide and Northwestside. The west leg of Kessler is built on top of the former Cooper Road; north of 56th St., where Kessler turns east, if you drive straight north you transition onto a road still called Cooper. Eastbound, Kessler mostly follows former 56th St and Fox Hill Rd, but it looks like some new-terrain connector segments were built.

      East of Keystone I had no idea about the road’s history; it looks from your link that it all may have been new-terrain road.

      1. Steve Miller Avatar
        Steve Miller

        I refer to that as the intersection of Kessler, Kessler, Cooper, and 56th. Sorts sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Yeah. I’ve lived within spitting distance of that intersection for most of the last 20 years.

  3. imelly Avatar

    I too, love that stretch of roadway. Thank you for sharing the history and the beautiful video.


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! We’re fortunate to have it.

  4. versa kay Avatar

    Enjoyable drive.Exquisite post. The autumnal foliage is delectably-hued. With experience.
    Thanks to a visionary. The world needs more such,

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Kessler was a visionary, but as you learned, he wasn’t perfect!

  5. versa kay Avatar

    ps. I didn’t read the story of the lost cemetery when I wrote my previous comment.

  6. Tori Nelson Avatar

    Ah, lovely. Can’t beat the fall colors to brighten up a drive!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! Nice to see you here again.

  7. zorgor Avatar

    Great video! It’s beautiful!! What’s the music?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      heh. The music is one of the prize cues from The Price is Right. Believe it or not!

      1. zorgor Avatar

        Ha ha! Now that you mention it, I can see the new boat and color TV.

        It certainly is perfect for this beautiful drive though!

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