History, Road trips

Whatever happened to Traders Point?

It’s been gone for a half century, but there used to be a village right here on the Lafayette Road in what is now northwest Indianapolis. All that’s left  is an abandoned farm co-op building and a county maintenance garage. Yet if you’ve ever spent any time here — encountering the two churches, the giant shopping center, and maybe even the rural historic district that all bear the village’s name — you’ve certainly heard of Traders Point. It was needlessly demolished.

Traders Point, Indiana

This land was part of the Miami Indian Confederacy upon Indiana’s 1816 founding, but was surrendered in an 1818 treaty. Settlers started to trickle into the area in the 1820s, and the first land patent in this area was issued in 1822 (to William Conner, who went on to settle in Hamilton County; his farm there is now an interactive history park). Conner believed that Indians and fur traders transacted business here, and this is probably how the area came to be called Traders Point.

TradersPointMap

Imagery and map data © 2016 Google.

The Lafayette Road was built through the area in 1831; it is said to have been a corduroy road here. A church was founded near here in 1834; it later moved to the village and became Traders Point Christian Church. It split into two in about 1895, creating Traders Point Church of Christ. Both still operate today, just farther north on Lafayette Road.

Settlers kept arriving, but it wasn’t until 1864 that a village was platted here and officially named Traders Point. Over time, it became a typical Indiana small town with a general store and a grist mill. In the 20th century, two automobile service stations opened here. Homes lined Lafayette Road on both sides. Population never crested 100.

Courtesy of Traders Point historian Ross Reller, check out these historic photographs of the village of Traders Point.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You may have noticed two photos showing Traders Point underwater. Eagle Creek frequently overflowed its banks. Floods in 1913 and 1956-57 were especially heavy and destructive. Check out this remarkable film footage of the 1956 flood, also courtesy Ross Reller. It shows a soaked Traders Point, but more interestingly also shows the homes and churches and businesses nestled here, in color.

To control the flooding, the county purchased 2,286 acres along Eagle Creek southwest of Traders Point and built a dam.

EagleCreekReservoir

Imagery and map data © 2016 Google.

The project lasted four years, from 1966 to 1970. It created Eagle Creek Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to most of northwest Indianapolis and is a popular fishing and boating spot. Much of the surrounding land was converted into Eagle Creek Park, lovely and wooded, one of the largest city parks in the United States.

I’ve lived within five miles of this park for more than 20 years and have hiked and biked and fished here many times. It’s a great park! And a side note for my longtime readers: the reservoir disrupted the Dandy Trail, an 88-mile pleasure drive around the county that I wrote about here and here.

But the people of Traders Point were hopping mad about it when it came, because the Indianapolis Flood Control Board invoked eminent domain, purchased all but one of the village’s buildings, and forced everybody out. It was apparently thought that the reservoir would permanently flood Traders Point and close the Lafayette Road here.

With the exception of the farm co-op building, Traders Point was razed. But then this land never flooded again — because as part of the flood-control project, a levee was built along Eagle Creek’s west bank. The demolition of Traders Point was wholly unnecessary.

Here’s the co-op building. The co-op remained in business until 2011; the building still stands. There were glimpses of it in the 1956 film.

Traders Point, Indiana

I took this photograph standing maybe 100 feet south of the co-op, looking north. 50 years ago, the other side of the road was lined with homes and churches.

Traders Point, Indiana

This county maintenance garage was built after Traders Point was demolished. I think it stands about where Resler’s Garage did.

Traders Point, Indiana

This little structure just south of the green shed is one of Indianapolis’s “tox drop” sites. On one Saturday morning each month, residents line up in their cars to drop off used motor oil, paint, solvents, and other toxic items that shouldn’t be left in regular trash or washed down a drain.

Traders Point, Indiana

And finally, here’s the levee that stands behind where the homes and churches used to stand on the east side of Lafayette Road. There’s a place to pull off the road and park here, and people fish off the levee all the time.

Traders Point, Indiana

And so that is what happened to Traders Point. It’s the story of a town that didn’t have to be demolished.

Many thanks to Ross Reller not only for granting permission to use his photos and video, but also for all the research into Traders Point’s history he’s done over the years, which I used extensively to write this post. His Historic Traders Point blog hasn’t been updated in a while, but it is full of great information at https://historictraderspoint.org/.

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22 thoughts on “Whatever happened to Traders Point?

    • Sad that it had to go. But I wonder what would be left of it now if it had not been demolished. Could the businesses there have survived and thrived, or would this have become just another crumbling Indiana small town?

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  1. Andy Umbo says:

    Quite interesting…I literally drive by this area at least once a week, getting bored with my usual travel so I go west on 86th until I hit Lafayette, and then take Lafayette back to 56th. I’m not from here, and only moved here a few years ago, but when I ask people who’ve lived in the area all their lives, about these types of things, they are clueless; that’s why your blog is so interesting!

    One DOES wonder about what would have happened if they hadn’t knocked down the town. It might have ended up another crumbling town, but more likely the heating up of the Zionsville, Whitestown land grab could have meant that this might have been a popular little town if it could have held on!

    Now do me a favor and find out all about the prairie-style house on 52nd and Michigan! I’ve been driving by that place since I moved here, can never find anything about it on the internet, and have never seen anyone out in the yard I can talk to! I’m quite interested in it’s history, who was the architect, etc. My sister own a similar house in Wisconsin, with the difference being that they take their prairie architecture very seriously and it’s easy to find about twenty internet listings for almost everything in the state! Love to find out more about this place and wondering if you know. If not, you seem like the man that can do it!

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      • Andy Umbo says:

        Hi Jim,

        It’s on the southwest corner of 51st and Michigan Rd. When you’re driving down Michigan, the east side of the intersection says Grandview Dr, and the west side says 51st street. It’s on the southwest corner across the street from the Phillips 66 station, and set back from the curb (it’s a pretty big property) sits the house, white stucco and reddish (I think) trim, and usually behind a lot of foliage during the summer months. My sisters house is similar construction, but a little longer and lower, and was built in the 20’s. This one looks like it might have been in the neighborhood first, when that area was mostly un-built, like an “art-type” built a place out away from the city. My sisters house was a “Russell Barr Williamson”, who legend has it was an architect as well as a site manager for Frank Lloyd Wright. The one on Michigan was so distinctive, I noticed it right away, but can’t find info!

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  2. Jim, you have done a marvelous job of condensing the most relevant history of the area. There is a short color movie that follows the flood movie that deserves some explanation. George Wilkins, the gentleman who gave me the movie, said that the second movie depicts an explosion that occurred in the gas stations restroom when a customer through a cigarette into it. Ross

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  3. Bruce Jennings says:

    A very interesting read. I was born out here in Pike in 59 and lived here since. My mother was the first Pike Township Judge and my dad was the first Constable. When I was born we lived at 8403 N. Michigan Rd. There is a paint store there now. Our house was the only house on the east side of Michigan road from 86th street south until you crested the little hill that now goes into Bent tree apartments. The only building at the time at 86th Street and Michigan Road was an old Dinosaur at the Dino-Sinclair gas station. Amazing how Pike has changed over the years.

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  4. Dan Daupert says:

    Thank you Jim. I have lived in the area since birth in ’47. These pictures are a great reminder of my childhood. My father belonged to the Odd Fellows Lodge shown in one of the pictures. Lafayette Road, at one time, was the only way to get to Indianapolis from Chicago. On 500 race day, my brother and his friends would ride their bicycles to Wilkins’ Garage to watch all the traffic going to the track.

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  5. Kathy Bewsey says:

    I grew up in traders point on the corner of 79th and Moore road. The handful of us who lived in that area were all related somehow…..grandparents, cousins, 2nd cousins. My memories growing up in traders point were idyllic.
    It was very quiet out there then …. So quiet i could hear the clicking of the pasteurizing machine down the street as it collected milk. Tumble weeds, the size of small trash cans would blow thru our yards. We had a gravel pit that was our own fishing/ ice skating pond that at one time was the gravel used for Road 52 (Lafayette red).
    My grandmother owned a restaurant on Lafayette road called Burdens Restaurant. i believe it was located where the toxic dump is now. I have a picture of my mom and dad standing outside the rest., and dad is in his navy uniform.
    My father grew up in one of those houses that were torn down for the levey. I can remember those homes sitting vacant for a number of yrs before they got around to demolishing them. I also remember that vagrants would live in those abandoned houses during the summer.

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  6. David Brattain says:

    What great recollections! There are a lot interesting stories that have come from that area and stretch of road between old and new Traders Point. Thanks Ross.

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  7. Grace Colette says:

    I’ve lived in Pike for 20 years and am building a house in the original Lakeside. Bought a house built in 1930 and empty lot on 71st street just East of Lafayette road. We’re restoring the old brick house building our retirement home on the lot. Both are on Traders Point Lake which was created by Bush Run when they built the dam in 1926. It feeds into the Reservoir. This is great history of the area which continues to change.

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