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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This county maintenance garage was built after Traders Point was demolished. I think it stands about where Resler’s Garage did.
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.
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.
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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Last updated on 8 April 2020 by Jim Grey