Along what was the Dandy Trail in what is now Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, you will find an abandoned bridge. It’s hard to reach on foot. Jayson Rigsby recently contacted me to say he made photographs of it on a recent kayaking trip along Eagle Creek.
The Dandy Trail was a 1920s pleasure-drive loop in what was then the country surrounding Indianapolis. I’ve written many times about the Dandy Trail and have driven about half of it; read all about it here. Since the Dandy Trail’s heyday, Indianapolis expanded greatly, and now most of the land around the old Dandy Trail has been heavily developed.
Eagle Creek cuts across northwest Indianapolis and intersects the Dandy Trail near where the town of Traders Point used to be. Read Traders Point’s story here. In short, frequent flooding of Eagle Creek in this area led to a flood-control project in 1967 that created Eagle Creek Reservoir, which led to the creation of an enormous city park surrounding it. It also led to the demolition of almost every building in Traders Point, as it was thought the flood-control work would permanently flood the town. That didn’t happen and Traders Point was destroyed in vain.
Here’s an aerial image of Eagle Creek Park. I’ve pointed out the bridge’s location, and have roughly drawn in the now lost portion of the Dandy Trail. The lost road’s north end empties out into what was Traders Point.
Zooming in for a closer look, you can clearly see the bridge. It’s at about the vertical center, and a little left of horizontal center.
It’s interesting to me that no trace remains of the Dandy Trail as it led to and away from this bridge. Here’s an aerial image from 1956 that shows the bridge and the road.
Jayson first made this image of the bridge from the air, from just west of the bridge.
Then he got into his kayak and rowed in for a closer look. This is the north end and west side of the bridge. This bridge appears to have a pony girder truss design. The Central States Bridge Company of Indianapolis specialized in those, so this bridge might be one of theirs.
Here’s a closer look at the north end of the bridge.
This is the west side of the bridge.
I have heard that at some times of the year this bridge is submerged. I’m happy Jayson kayaked out to this bridge and gave me permission to share his photos.
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/.
Eagle Creek Reservoir may be one of Indianapolis’s premier recreation destinations, but it was built as a flood-control project. Big Eagle Creek kept overflowing its banks. More than once it flooded the little town of Traders Point, which used to nestle nearby where Lafayette Road (then US 52) intersected the creek. The flood control project was meant to end that – but it was also thought that the reservoir would partially submerge poor Traders Point. So in 1968, the town was razed. And then the site wasn’t submerged after all, and the demolition of poor Traders Point turned out to be unnecessary.
I doubt that many who fish, boat, or otherwise enjoy the reservoir (as these three fellows appear to be doing) have any idea about Traders Point and its fate. Just what are these guys doing, anyway? Surfing? I had an 80-200mm zoom lens on my Pentax ME this day, and used it to get a closer look. I still couldn’t figure it out.
The only vestiges of the old bridge are the places where its arches once touched down. Rebar sticks out like coarse, unruly hair.
Most of the bridge’s pieces must have been carted away, but some piles of concrete chunks remain. This photo looks up at the south approach.
A staggering amount of rebar is left in the rubble. I stepped carefully to protect against ripping my jeans or, worse, my skin on the jagged ends.
It took a month to demolish this bridge, and it will take the rest of the year to build the new one here. I was surprised at first by how fast this bridge went down. But then I considered how easy it is to destroy anything compared to the work required to restore or rebuild something.
The old bridge on Lafayette Road (old US 52) is now half gone.
Bridge bits are piling up everywhere! Check out all that twisted rebar.
I wish so many bridge bits didn’t have to end up in Eagle Creek.
Calling my smarts into question, I climbed up an unstable and shifting pile of debris to get a better perspective for this photo. I can’t get enough of seeing the tops of the bridge’s arches, but I’ll bet that when I return next week, they’ll be gone.
Workers have built a ramp of earth on the north shore that lets them move their equipment in and out. I wonder if the two horizontal surfaces that jut out from the earth on the left are former driving surfaces. If so, the road used to be a lot lower than it is now!
I stepped out onto the west railing for a closer look.
While I was there on Saturday, not only did the man near the center of the shot above come out for a look, but so did a man with two children who couldn’t have been older than six or seven. Guess it’s not every day you get to see a bridge half torn out!