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.

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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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On the Water

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.

History, Photography

Captured: On the water

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Road Trips

Demolished

It’s gone.

Week Four

The only vestiges of the old bridge are the places where its arches once touched down. Rebar sticks out like coarse, unruly hair.

Week Four

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.

Week Four

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.

Week Four

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.

ReadMore See the rest of this bridge’s demolition! See the deck removed, the north half of the bridge gone, and the entire bridge removed.

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Road Trips

Half gone

The old bridge on Lafayette Road (old US 52) is now half gone.

Week Three

Bridge bits are piling up everywhere! Check out all that twisted rebar.

Week Three

I wish so many bridge bits didn’t have to end up in Eagle Creek.

Week Three

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.

Week Three

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!

Week Three

I stepped out onto the west railing for a closer look.

Week Three

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!

ReadMore See the rest of this bridge’s demolition! See the intact bridge, the deck removed, and the entire bridge removed.

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Road Trips

Deckless

I went back to the old US 52 bridge this morning to check progress. First of all, by popular demand, here’s a map of the area. It shows enough context that if you’re familiar with Indianapolis, you should be able to find the bridge.

52bridge

The demolition crew has begun to remove the bridge’s deck, revealing some of the structure below. This is the top of an arch on the 1930s side of the bridge.

Old US 52 bridge demolition, week 2

Over on the 1920s side of the bridge, reinforced concrete beams were laid down to support the deck; the arches lay below. It’s interesting to me that the 1930s side of the bridge did not use beams like these.

Old US 52 bridge demolition, week 2

The most interesting sight today was a segment where the entire deck is gone. The 1920s bridge’s original outer wall has been revealed.

Old US 52 bridge demolition, week 2

Stepping back a bit, it’s clear that the 1920s bridge was pretty narrow. My experience is that this is typical of Indiana bridges built around the same time. Check out the photos in this post about a bridge in southern Indiana built around the same time.

Old US 52 bridge demolition, week 2

Schedule permitting, I’ll keep checking back on this old girl as she is dismantled.

ReadMore See the rest of this bridge’s demolition! See the intact bridge, the north half of the bridge gone, and the entire bridge removed.

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Road Trips

Worn out

The bridge was once part of US 52, one of the original 1927 US highways. At first, that highway led only from northwest of tiny Fowler, Indiana to Bluefield, WV. But by the 1950s it stretched from Portal, ND to Charleston, SC, crossing the Mississippi River three times along the way.

In the days before county was city, US 52 entered northwest Marion County along Lafayette Road as it headed toward downtown Indianapolis. Three miles later, it reached the village of Traders Point and crossed Eagle Creek. Traders Point isn’t there anymore, and after Indiana built its interstates in the 1960s, neither was US 52; it was rerouted to follow I-65 and I-465. The old highway became a city street. The bridge over Eagle Creek, which was built in the 1920s and widened to four lanes in the 1930s, likely stayed fresh while state highway funds flowed its way. But city budgets being what they are, little or nothing has been done to maintain the bridge for the last 40 years or so. The results are predictable.

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

That’s the 1920s side of the bridge. The only clue drivers have of the bridge’s condition is the crumbling railing – if they even notice it as they whiz by at 55 miles per hour. I’ve driven over this bridge hundreds of times and never noticed the gaps and exposed, rusting rebar until I stopped to photograph the bridge. (That’s I-65 over there.)

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

The 1930s side of the bridge is in even worse shape, its rebar latticework visible as the concrete face has crumbled away.

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

The clues that the bridge was once widened are visible only from places drivers can’t see. This arch shows a seam right of which is the original 1920s structure. I always think it’s cool to see the ridges in an old bridge’s arch, the ghost of the formwork that held it while its concrete cured.

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

Indiana built a lot of concrete arch bridges on its highways between the 1910s and the 1930s. Those that remain, like this one, tend to be on bypassed highways. Those that have been maintained or restored will carry traffic for the next hundred years. This will not be one of those bridges. The city of Indianapolis has closed Lafayette Road for the next few months while it demolishes this worn out old girl and builds a new bridge in its place. It’s why I was able to stand in the middle of the bridge on a Saturday morning for a rare sight: an empty Lafayette Road.

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

The soft spot in my heart for an old bridge doesn’t extend to this neglected old girl. She’s done her bit. Let a new bridge rise in her place.

ReadMore See the rest of this bridge’s demolition! See the deck removed, the north half of the bridge gone, and the entire bridge removed.

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