Around the corner from the Recorder’s headquarters is a quaint little neighborhood full of residents, service agencies, businesses and commuting workers diligently involved with the task of creating a renaissance of one of Indianapolis’ most historic areas. This neighborhood, the merging of two formerly individual areas, is known as Martindale-Brightwood. There are gifts, treasures and promise in this part of the federally designated Promise Zone that are not yet known to the Indianapolis community, even as 8,000-plus Indianapolis residents pass through the area daily by way of Interstate 70.
This new column for the Recorder is set aside to give an inside look into this community and point out its cut and uncut diamonds. We hope the end result will be to celebrate the triumphs of all Indianapolis neighborhoods, including Martindale-Brightwood, and come to appreciate the hard work people put into maintaining their homes, even though their stories may be different than our own.
It has been said that in order to know where we’re going, we need to know where we’ve come from. The following is a historic look at Martindale-Brightwood. Read and absorb the grandeur and pride that the residents of this area feel as they work to bring the area back into its promise, while making contribution to the larger Indianapolis community. The theme for the community in 2016 has been “United we stand, divided we fall.” These excerpts from the history, written by the Polis Center, will allow you to make a choice to stand united as part of the history of Indianapolis.
Martindale-Brightwood, situated on the near-northeast side of Indianapolis, is bounded by 30th Street, Massachusetts Avenue, 21st Street, Sherman Drive and the Northfolk Southern Railroad tracks, and encompasses two previously independent settlements. Brightwood, the eastern section, was first platted in 1872 and amended in 1874. Railroad workers on the “Bee Line” first settled the Brightwood suburb, which soon became the railroad center of Indianapolis. The Town of Brightwood incorporated in 1876 and remained autonomous until 1897, when it was annexed by Indianapolis. Martindale settled in 1874, also by railroad workers, who found employment in machine shops and manufacturing. Industrial growth in Martindale was supported by the nearby railroad lines, and the area quickly became a working-class suburb.
The blue-collar population of Martindale-Brightwood before the turn of the century was a mix of African-Americans and a growing proportion of foreign-born or first-generation European Americans. African-Americans began to settle in residential areas around Beeler Street (later Martindale Avenue and still later Dr. Andrew J. Brown Avenue), the industrial center of Martindale, in which residents began building their own churches along the avenue. In contrast, Brightwood continued to attract white residents who were skilled and unskilled workers. The 1880 census reports about 40 percent of adult men were foreign-born or first-generation, predominantly German, Irish and British ancestry.
Brightwood developed as a small town before its annexation by Indianapolis. The town provided its residents a high school in northeast Brightwood, private water works installed in 1894 and two volunteer fire departments: “Wide-a-Wakes” and “Alerts.” Station Street, in the southeastern section of Brightwood, became the town center. Station Street developed as the business district and the commercial center of the neighborhood until the 1960s. In 1899, Brightwood was described as a “. . . thriving town of nearly 4,900 people, it is a model city of cottages resembling a park. The fact that so many men living in the town work together in the great engine and car shops makes the seem like one big family.” The same-year extension of streetcar service connected Brightwood with Indianapolis.
Having read this snippet of history, are you ready to celebrate with the residents of the area? Great! Join us at the annual Harvest Celebration on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 11a.m. The parade starts on historic Station and 25th streets, traveling west to Dr. Andrew J. Brown Avenue for a Trunk or Treat for neighborhood students. We invite all supporters and partners to join and participate in the annual celebration. Contact Gina Fears, Neighborhood Engagement Coordinator, at (317) 637-3776 for more details and to pledge participation and support.
One Voice Martindale-Brightwood is an organization created by neighborhood residents to engage the community in improving and celebrating life in Martindale-Brightwood.