19th-century granite pavers on Sand Street in Indianapolis

A couple years ago, the late Richard Simpson wrote about what was once a street in Downtown Indianapolis that was, as far as anyone knows, the last place in the city that still shows the granite pavers that were common in the city in the late 19th century. Read its story on Richard’s blog here.

Indianapolis: Sand Street
Southbound Sand Street toward McCarty Street

This is Sand Street. You’ll find it in the southwest corner of Downtown Indianapolis, right by the White River, connecting McCarty Street to Kentucky Avenue. See it on Google Maps here. Since 2009 this street has been private property and is gated closed on either end.

I trespassed — something I almost never do. But when I saw how little of this granite paving remained on Sand Street, I decided that it was important that I document it before it all disappeared. I moved quickly and left no trace that I had been there.

The Indianapolis Star shared a photograph of Sand Street as it was in 1979. If you have a subscription to newspapers.com, you can read the article here. But here’s the relevant photo. In 1979, industrial buildings lined Sand Street — but the pavers were still intact. Notice the fan pattern in which they were laid.

These pavers were laid after 1887, as the 1887 Sanborn fire map shows Sand Street following an earlier alignment slightly to the east. The 1898 Sanborn map shows Sand Street on its current alignment. (You can find both of these maps at the MapIndy site, here.) It seems clear to me that the city laid these pavers when they realigned Sand Street. (The maps also show that the city changed the names of a number of streets in this area between those years. I’d love to know why.)

Since then, the street has been almost entirely covered in gravel. I assume the old pavers deteriorated to rough condition, and adding a layer of gravel smoothed the road. I found only three small remaining patches of the granite pavers.

Indianapolis: Sand Street
Indianapolis: Sand Street
Indianapolis: Sand Street

Clearing away the gravel might reveal much more of this granite pavement. I might have been able to dig down with my foot to find more granite pavers, but like I said earlier, I moved quickly and left no trace that I’d been there.

Today, this property is used for paid parking when nearby Lucas Oil Stadium has an event. Sand Street provides entry and exit to the parking.

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16 responses to “19th-century granite pavers on Sand Street in Indianapolis”

  1. J P Avatar

    I had no idea about any of this, but I could geek out about this all day!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I am very curious to find more historic photographs showing this kind of pavement in use in Indy!

  2. Greg Clawson Avatar
    Greg Clawson

    Jim, I have never seen a pattern like that on a street, it’s beautiful. All I have ever seen is the running bond pattern with red brick pavers.
    Thank you for all the work you do on this blog, the morning is not complete without a daily dose of Down the Road. 😊

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      In Indianapolis we have one true cobblestone street left. It’s the only street I’ve come upon in my travels paved in something other than concrete or asphalt that wasn’t just running-bond brick. It’s Lockerbie St. downtown. I thought I had a photo of it but I can’t find it right off. But Google Street View has it.

  3. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

    Cool! There are probably places like this in Ohio in out-of-the-way spots but I think pretty rare. My aunt told me there’s a law that official highways need to have asphalt so small towns might be a patchwork of modern and brick that was laid a century ago.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I see that in small towns – the highway running through is modern asphalt, but some side streets branching off are brick. My hometown of South Bend paved a lot of its core streets in brick back in the day, and a lot of the original brick still remains.

  4. Suzassippi Avatar

    I love the streets of brick one still sees here and there–Greenwood, Mississippi still has many of theirs and in good condition. The pavers look unique.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve never seen pavers like them before, nor have I seen pavers arranged in a pattern like this before. I’m happy that these little patches of these pavers still remain, so that I could document them.

  5. Steve Bryan Avatar

    Interesting story about an area of Indianapolis that I know little about. Also, thank you for sharing the link to the story by Richard Simpson on his blog. I always enjoyed reading his blog.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Agreed – I do miss his work. He really dug deep and found some exciting information.

  6. Timothy Aksamit Avatar
    Timothy Aksamit

    I worked on the Market St. renovation in 1981, witnessed truckloads on the original road bed { Granite Pavers } go to the landfill. A friend and I were lucky enough to salvage about 3500 of them.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wow! I had no idea that those pavers were under Market Street. What did you do with the pavers you saved?

  7. Timothy Aksamit Avatar
    Timothy Aksamit

    Well Jim at the time I was living at 1822 Lexington Ave. and I built a short retaing wall across the front of the lot. I think it’s still there. I have used some for a chimney, hearth, and backwall for a woodstove in a cabin I live in Tn. I currently have plans to use some more for another backwall and hearth in a room addition I’m adding to the cabin. After that , I estimate I will have about 3-4 hundred left. What was funny about that Market St. project, was that at the time they made a big deal about restoring Market St. to the original splendor, and you could buy or “sponsor” a BRICK with your name on it. By working on that project, I got to live the history, and continue to live with the history every day!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I looked up your old house on Street View and see your wall! How cool. I’ll bet nobody passing by has any idea of those blocks’ history!

  8. Timothy Aksamit Avatar
    Timothy Aksamit

    I have lots of memories from that job. One I have remained curious about. There were about 70 large black granite blocks from the planters outside the City County building. We almost got our hands on them, but at the last minute we were told they were spoken for. When they were all hauled away, we found one under a pile of debris. My friend and I naturally sawed it in two, so we would each have a piece, but I always wondered what happened to the rest. Even back then, that much would have been very valuable.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      They’re probably someone’s patio today, or something like that!

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