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Indiana Av

Indiana Avenue is a historic area in downtown and is one of seven designated cultural districts in Indianapolis, Indiana. Indiana Avenue was, during its glory days, an African American cultural center of the area.[2] The Indiana Avenue Historic District within the area was designated a United States national historic district in 1987. (SOURCE Wikepedia).  Indiana Avenues thrived in the 1930’s to the 70’s and went by many names. The Yellow Brick road, Funky Broadway and the Grand Ol’ Street. But the most common was the simplest name, the Avenue.

The area was predominately populated by a mixture of Irish and German immigrants.  Black Americans made up a relatively small segment of the community.  In fact only 974 Americans of African descent considered Indiana Ave their home when it became a thriving neighborhood.  By the early 1900’s the number of blacks living in the area increased with black entrepreneurs opening and operating businesses every corner of Indiana Ave.

established in 1836, the famous Bethel AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church, the oldest African American congregation in Indianapolis. Grocery stores, cobblers soon arose to cater to the growing interests and needs of the African American population.  The Indianapolis Leader, the first black owned newspaper in Indianapolis.  Indiana Ave began to become an economic mecca on the par of the Harlem in NY.  The area became famous as a Black Entertainment destination due to the large concentration of black-oriented clubs, businesses and entertainment venues.

• Historical figures got their start during this time.  Well known people like Madam C.J. Walker, jazz greats including Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Coe, Noble Sissle, Erroll “Groundhog” Grandy and Wes Montgomery. Mary Ellen Cable made the area famous.

In the golden decades, the Avenue attracted crowds with jazz music spilling from more than 30 clubs, cabarets and burlesque shows. The Avenue was also home to shops, restaurants, doctor’s offices, show shining stands and was the center of Black life in Indianapolis during segregation.  

Urban renewal projects and the construction of Interstate 65 marked the beginning of the end of the Avenue.  1970- 80’s the city began bulldozing its historic buildings to raise skyscrapers, despite grassroots activism from the Black community opposing demolition. As the buildings fell, residents had no choice but to leave.  The famed Walker building was preserved after a coalition saved it and is now recognized as a vital piece of Black heritage in Indianapolis and one of the last buildings of the Avenue still standing.



Photo Provided By Indiana Historical Society From The O. James Fox