The Arch at Crooked Creek School

Thanks to John Roberts – a long-dead one, not the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court – the school around the corner from my house has been there since 1837.

Not in its original building, of course.

John owned some land in what was then rural northwest Marion County, along the brand-new Michigan Road where it crossed Crooked Creek. He granted it to the Washington Township trustee with a stipulation: it must be used for education.

And so a log building was built there, and children from all over made their way to the school on Crooked Creek. I gather that other log and frame buildings housed the school before a small brick building was built in 1891. A larger brick building was built there in about 1916 as several smaller schools consolidated. Here’s that building in about 1927, after a first addition was built – everything to the right of the entrance arch. The main entrance faced the Michigan Road.

Crooked Creek School, 1927
Crooked Creek School, a.k.a. School No. 7, c. 1927

The building was expanded twice more to accommodate students through the eighth grade in a rapidly growing Washington Township. The first two additions were sympathetic to the original building’s style. But in 1964, an enormous, modern, single-story addition was ungracefully tacked on. By this time, Michigan Road was a very busy US highway, so for safety’s sake this latest addition included a new entrance with a long driveway onto Kessler Blvd., the street on the property’s southern border.

The older sections of the building were demolished in 1983, and the 1964 addition became the foundation for a new, sprawling, single-story, open-plan Crooked Creek School. It opened in 1985.

The 1916 entrance arch remains in about its original location. It’s easy to spot as you drive by on Michigan Road.

School arch
December 2013 photo

The arch has decayed noticeably in the past several years. I shot the photo below in 2008.

School No. 7 / Crooked Creek Elementary School
2008 photo

All of my children attended Crooked Creek School. I attended PTO meetings there for a few years, where I learned that thanks to families moving into new suburbs north of Indianapolis, enrollment in Washington Township’s schools had been in decline for a couple decades. As a result, a few of Washington Township’s elementary schools have closed over the years. Crooked Creek seems like a perfect target for closure, as it is the westernmost elementary school in the township, and it sits on an unusually large plot of land that I imagine would be very valuable for redevelopment. Yet Crooked Creek remains open. A Crooked Creek teacher told me that the school corporation explored closing the school and selling the land several years ago – but found that John Roberts’ conditions for the land meant that it would revert to Roberts’ heirs if it were no longer used for education. Score one for Roberts!

This school is on the opposite corner from where the new Wal-Mart is being built.


Comments

27 responses to “The Arch at Crooked Creek School”

  1. pesoto74 Avatar

    I wonder if after all this time if he has any heirs?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Good question.

  2. Nancy (Roe) Stewart Avatar
    Nancy (Roe) Stewart

    Jim – Just wanted to tell you that I realy enjoy any of your blogs pertaining to history. I have seen over the years, a couple other schools that have left the old doorways when building a new school. Just think of all the children that passed thru those doors all those years !! So glad the property won’t be used for development.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks so much Nancy. These posts don’t get many comments but I surely like writing them.

  3. Willard Burns Avatar
    Willard Burns

    I am a bearded old coot now, but I attended Crooked Creek back in the 60s, when Alonzo Nicodemus was the principal. I was shocked to see a blog by a Catherine Armbrewster that claimed that Mr. Nicodemus and teachers Mr. Brooks and Mr. Dunn were Russian spies tasked with corrupting American youth! She claimed that Mr. Dunn had a picture of a Russian composer on the wall of his classroom and Mr. Brooks carried a briefcase with the launch codes for missiles in silos under the paper drive bins which only left room for a half sandwich for his lunch! I have read that schoolboards and faculties – even the ones in Indiana – were riddled with reds back then. That arch you pictured does kind of have an onion dome shape incorporated in it, and where I used to live is now called the Crooked Creek Civic League – CCCL is close to CCCP. Come to think of it we never did have to do the “duck and cover” drill at Crooked Creek…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Brooks and Dunn? You had a country-music duo teaching in your school? How cool is that! Doesn’t sound very Communist to me.

      1. hutch.56gemini@juno.com Avatar
        hutch.56gemini@juno.com

        I personally do not believe there were any communist teachers at Crooked Creek. I have no idea where that blog came from. That Catherine Armbrewster must be one of those armchair patriots or something. There actually were teachers named Mr. Brooks and Mr. Dunn. The funny thing is that Mr. Dunn was the music teacher. I moved to Denver in 1969 while attending Westlane Jr. High. Westlane was a much better school than the one I wound up at in Denver, and my younger siblings that had also attended Crooked Creek told me that Crooked Creek was much better than their elementary school in Denver. I like it in Denver, but where I lived in Indianapolis was certainly a good place to be a kid that age at that time!IA WalMart on Michigan Road, what ever happened to the Food Giant and Food Dwarf? -Willard Burns

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I was joking about the communists of course.

          I’ve lived here 20 years and there’s never been a Food Giant or Food Dwarf!

          My kids all had good experiences in Washington Township schools, too.

          1. hutch.56gemini@juno.com Avatar
            hutch.56gemini@juno.com

            There was a Food Giant supermarket and a smaller store called Food Dwarf about a block or so apart on the east side of Michigan Road just north of Crooked Creek school. They were both gone the last time I was there, in 1993. It would of course be surprising for almost any business from 45 years ago to still be around. BTW, is North Central still the high school for the area? As I remember it was about 12 miles away from where I lived (Hidden Orchard Lane off of W. 44th Street). That always seemed like quite a distance. I am guessing we were near the southern boundary of Washington Township and North Central was near the northern boundary. Since I was only 13 years old when I moved from there I only have a rudimentary knowledge of the geography of Indianapolis. Willard Burns

        2. Jim Grey Avatar

          Yes, North Central is still the high school. My oldest graduated from there and it was an hour bus ride each way — we lived behind Broadmoor Country Club.

    2. Gunner Casselman Avatar
      Gunner Casselman

      You’re “Sonny” Burns.

  4. Monica Sutton Avatar
    Monica Sutton

    Are you aware of any vintage photos of the playground of the school? I have one, but can’t put an exact date on it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I am not, unfortunately. When my sons were students at the school, there was a photo montage of vintage photos on a bulletin board near the cafeteria. So I’m wondering if the school has a cache of old photos and perhaps the playground is among them.

  5. Monica Sutton Avatar
    Monica Sutton

    I think the photo I have is when my father attended back in the early 20’s

  6. Robert Brown Avatar

    I attended Crooked Creek from 1969 – 1975. Mr. Nicodemus, Mr. Brooks and Mr. Dunn were all there during my time and I can’t believe any of them had any intentions of corrupting our youth. Of all of them, Mr. Dunn had the biggest impact on me. I was a member of the Crickets (school choir) and I remember spending one complete Saturday morning in the gym recording an album as a fundraiser. The highlight of the morning was that Mr. Dunn provided us all with soda when were finished. All of my memories of the school are wonderful. It was a great place!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      All three of my sons attended, from the 90s through the 2000s, and I concur: it was a wonderful place.

  7. Margaret Moore Avatar
    Margaret Moore

    Hi.
    I’m Margaret. I attached crooked Creek too. I was in the choir. Is there anyway to get a copy of the album we recorded? I lost mine while moving. Mr Dunn was Awesome! Great memories at Crooked Creek. Email me if you have any info.
    Merry Christmas 🎄

    Thank you.

    Margaret Moore
    mooremarg14@gmail.com

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hi Margaret, thanks for stopping by. I’m afraid I don’t know anything about the album and can’t help you there. But Crooked Creek was a great school for all of my children!

  8. Lindsey Dunn Avatar
    Lindsey Dunn

    Mr. Jim Grey, are you on the FB page for the Crooked Creek Crickets reunion? My dad is Michael Dunn, and there is a reunion scheduled for all choir members on November 12th. If anyone wants info about the reunion, please email me at zeethelibrarian@gmail.com

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I am not! But also, I didn’t actually attend Crooked Creek. All of my children did, however.

  9. Hal Parker Avatar
    Hal Parker

    I attended Crooked Creek in the late 50’s early 60’s before moving to Arizona. I have fond memories especially I think my second or third grade teacher Miss Moss. Does anyone remember her

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Here’s hoping someone who finds this page does remember your teacher.

  10. Hal Parker Avatar

    I attended Crooked Creek in the 50’s early 60’s before moving to Arizona. Does anyone remember Miss Moss

  11. Chris Avatar
    Chris

    I have fond memories of Crooked Creek School. But here is my question, was the school demolished due to asbestos insulation in all of the large heating pipes. They were in the basement area where the cafeteria was.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Here’s hoping someone with actual knowledge of the situation chimes in!

  12. David P Bowen Avatar
    David P Bowen

    I’ve enjoyed reading the comments. I attended Crooked Creek in the early 60s. My favorite teacher was Ms. McKenna for third grade. Mr. Nicodemus was the principal and going to the Fall Frolic was always fun. We used to go to the food giant to shop and Walrods Drugs as well for bubble gum and baseball cards. Sad that things have to change. I lived on Ayrshire just north of Wynndale. Now I’m in Tampa, and really miss the Fall weather! But it’s nice being able to barbeque in January!

    P.S. One time I remember Mr. Dunn take his chalk contraption that he used with five pieces of chalk to draw music bars and throw it across the room. He must have been mad about something .lol

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you for sharing your memories!

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