Film Photography, Road Trips

The Meridian Street bridge over the White River in Indianapolis

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google Maps.

In Indianapolis, Meridian Street is aptly named as it divides the Westside from the Eastside. For many years, it served as US 31 on the Northside. And what a lovely drive it is, lined all the way with luxurious and often historic homes.

Meridian Street and US 31 have an interesting history on Indianapolis’s Northside, as this street didn’t extend north of the Central Canal and Westfield Boulevard, about a mile to the south, when the US highway system was instituted in 1926. That year, a bridge was built over the canal and Meridian Street was presumably extended. But the bridge over the White River wouldn’t come until 1933, and so US 31 followed Westfield Boulevard until then.

In the map excerpt, Meridian Street curves sharply north of Kessler Boulevard on its way to the White River. But notice the street that extends straight where Meridian starts to curve. That’s Meridian Street West Drive, which sure looks to me like Meridian Street’s original alignment until the bridge was built.

Meridian St. bridge over White River

I shot the above photo in 2007; this is the bridge’s southeast end. This bridge was in sorry shape then. In 2012, it underwent a much needed renovation. Here’s a photo I made of the bridge that year while hiking through nearby Holliday Park. The work was well underway; notice the condition of the arches and the new railing.


Recently I explored around and under this bridge on its north end, my Pentax KM and a 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M lens along for the ride. I was shooting Kodak Tri-X that day.

Meridian St. Bridge

This seven-span concrete-arch bridge is about 784 feet long. The White River is under only its threecentral spans. Its southmost span covers Riverview Drive, and the span immediately north of it goes over a levee. The northmost span covers a trail that links to Holliday Park. The arch to the south of it simply spans earth.

Meridian St. Bridge

I explored the bridge from its north end this day. It still looks good after its 2012 renovation.

Meridian St. Bridge

I just love being under a concrete bridge’s arch to see the slats from the original formwork in the concrete.

Meridian St. Bridge

And of course it takes no time at all for graffiti to find its way onto a bridge’s nether regions. I wish I’d thought to photograph it just after it reopened, when it was still perfectly clean. But I also rather like finding graffiti under a bridge. It feels to me like a kind of communication among souls who find something compelling about such a place. I can’t imagine ever personally marking a bridge, but because I’m at home under a bridge I feel a certain kinship with people who would wield a rattle can here.

Meridian St. Bridge

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11 thoughts on “The Meridian Street bridge over the White River in Indianapolis

  1. Interesting – I had no idea that Meridian Street changed alignment so late. But comparing the architecture (and the road itself) north and south of the river should have given me a clue.

    • Surprising, actually, given that it’s often more cost effective for the city to let a bridge deteriorate past repair so they can get Federal funds for its replacement.

  2. Marcia Rhees Slatter says:

    Very interesting article. I can visually see and remember how Avon has grown since my family moved there in 1950, but I forget how Indianapolis was still making such big spurts of growth as late as 1933. We moved there in 1940 and the biggest change I remember is the 38th Street bridge over White River. That hill on 38th with sharp turn just before the river was a scary ride for a little girl, especially in the winter.

    • I’ve lived here only since 1994 so the 38th St. bridge has always been a thing for me. But I’ve watched Pike Township go from mostly farmland to mostly vinyl villages.

  3. Doug Thompson says:

    — I believe there used to be a two lane bridge over White River and Meridian ran on up Springmill to the town of Westfield. The support pilings were still there when I was a kid, and may still be …. the new four lane bridge was built when government funds became available for US31N bypass of Broad Ripple.

    • I know there used to be a White River bridge that connected Spring Mill and Illinois Street. You can still see a hump where the road used to be, just west of Illinois St. south of the current bridge. One day I’m going to go over there on foot and explore to see if I can find any evidence of the old bridge – piers or abutments.

  4. Pingback: US 31 in Hamilton and Marion Counties – Indiana Transportation History

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