When you stand on the Michigan Road in downtown Wanamaker, you’d never guess you’re really in Indianapolis. When Indianapolis merged with Marion County in 1970, most of the little towns that dotted the county merged along with it. Officially, they ceased to exist. Poof! But while Wanamaker may have lost its legal identity, it never lost its soul.

MR Northbound

Wanamaker feels like typical small-town Indiana. It is a microcosm of everything that is wonderful about traveling the Michigan Road.

Allied Appliances Co.

Wanamaker is in Franklin Township, which is in the southeastern corner of the city. The Franklin Township Chamber of Commerce Economic Development District (say that three times fast!) meets at Wheatley’s once a month for breakfast. This organization has been one of the Historic Michigan Road Association’s best friends. They reached out to us when we were a fledgling, grass-roots group, to encourage and advise us. After we won byway status for the road and began the project to sign the route, not only did they put us in contact with the right players in the city to help us move our initiative along, they also donated funds for almost all of the signs in Marion County. So I visit this group’s morning meeting about once a year to give an update, and share breakfast with them. I recommend the biscuits and gravy.


The FTCoCEDD bought a handful of signs to share with businesses in the Wanamaker area. One of them went up on the side of the New Bethel Ordinary, a restaurant just up the street from Wheatley’s. I hear that their pizza is out of this world. I wouldn’t know; I went gluten free a few years ago. Pizza and biscuits and gravy are but a distant memory for me now.

Privately owned MR sign at New Bethel Ordinary

I’m impressed with how determined and resourceful the people of Wanamaker are. They pressed hard for some infrastructure improvements to the Michigan Road through their town, and got them. I was told that drainage was poor on the road here, and that heavy rains would run right off into some of the town’s storefronts. The curbing and parallel parking you see in these photos was completed last year. Here’s what the road through Wanamaker looked like in 2008: no curbs with angle parking.

Wanamaker in 2008

The changes give Wanamaker a much more “finished” feel. And I’m sure the shopkeepers are thrilled not to have to deal with minor flooding after it rains.

Wheatley’s in 2008

Wanamaker is proud of its history, and many of its buildings have been reasonably well preserved. This porcelain-coated steel building was once a service station with gas pumps out front. Cars are still repaired here today. Buildings like this used to be enormously common, but few are left, at least in condition this good.

Porcelain steel service station

Cemeteries on both sides of the road on the south end of town. This is Founder’s Cemetery.

Founders Cemetery

The New Bethel Baptist Church is across the street. You see occasional references to New Bethel throughout Wanamaker, as that was the town’s original name.

New Bethel Baptist Church

Heading south from here, the Michigan Road takes on a rural feel. It keeps it up for but a few miles, as shortly the road merges with I-74 for several miles. I consider that one of the most unfortunate things to happen to this historic road.

MR southbound leaving Wanamaker

Fortunately, the Michigan Road emerges again just inside Shelby County and can be driven all the way to its end on the Ohio River.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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11 responses to “Welcome to Wanamaker”

  1. Dennis Wagoner Avatar

    The pizza at the Ordinary is extra-ordinary. When I was working at the Ford plant on English Avenue, we occasionally brought in their pizza for our group meetings. We never had a problem with anything less than 100% attendance on those days.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You echo other comments I’ve heard about their pizza. Mmmmmm!

  2. dmswriter Avatar

    This is really good, Jim. I especially like the combination of photos and historical background.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks so much for saying so!

  3. Carole Grey Avatar
    Carole Grey

    Story well told. Looks like a sweet place to live.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s a nice little community. It really does feel like a small town. You forget you’re really in Indianapolis.

  4. pesoto74 Avatar

    That gas station brings back memories. That was pretty much the state of the art for gas stations when I was a kid. It is interesting how some capable individuals can make a big difference in an area. I have seen that in small towns around here that do well. Almost all of them have a core of people who care about the town and are able to get things done.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Stations like these were still plentiful even when I was a boy. They started going out in the 80s, at least where I lived.

      1. pesoto74 Avatar

        I think it happened faster around here. By the mid-70’s it seemed like most had been replaced by the convenient store gas model. And when self-service was allowed that was the final straw. .

  5. Josh Avatar

    Is Michigan ave really southeastern ave?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, the Michigan Road follows Southeastern Ave. in southeastern Marion County.

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