Eagle Creek Park History

(narrative from 1983, Indianapolis Landscape Architecture book)
Eagle Creek is one of the nation’s largest city parks. Of its 4574 acres, over thirteen hundred make up the reservoir. The creation of this expansive city park was the combined effort of many public and private individuals over several years. Kennedy Brown Associates generated the Eagle Creek Park Master Plan that was officially adopted December 4, 1974 and amended October 20, 1976. The plan addressed issues such as flood control, recreational potential, site analysis of vegetation, soils and topography, transportation to and within the park, and future land uses in this primarily undeveloped area of Indianapolis. Also identified within the plan are excellent examples of the Beech-Maple Climax Forest that at time covered 80% of the state.
The interest in retaining the natural resources of the park land for the public’s enjoyment has directed subsequent development within Eagle Creek.
Recreational activities include picnicking, hiking, bicycling, cross country skiing, swimming, sailing, boating, fishing, horseback riding, and archery. No motorized boats are allowed on the reservoir. At the time of the purchase, the park land included several residences. Some have been removed, while others have been retained and renovated. One of these remaining homes is known as the Lilly Lodge. Originally a Lilly residence, this property now serves as a center for park programs and conventions. Another is the former residence of Edward Block which is now Eagle’s Crest. This facility is used for seminars and meetings and is available for public use. Also within the park one can find the 27-hole Eagle Creek Golf Course, and the Indian Museum (moved in 1989 to the Eitlejorg Museum in downtown Indianapolis, http://www.eiteljorg.org/) containing an extensive collection of original Indian artifacts. Ross Vogelgesang, landscape architect in the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development at the time the city purchased the land in 1968 says: “without landscape architects on its staff, Eagle Creek Park never would have materialized. It took approximately 11 years from the day we first suggested the park until there was water in the lake. I’m biased of course, but I really believe that landscape architects are the only professionals equipped to carry through a project of such scope from concept to construction.”

About Ross Reller

I am pleased you have expressed interest in learning more about the historic Traders Point area in Indianapolis, Indiana. From 1980 to 1982 I was employed in the PR department at Conner Prairie Museum in Hamilton County. There I learned about William Conner, an important figure in Indiana's pioneer days. A decade later I became interested in the history of the Traders Point area and was surprised to learn that William Conner had been the first land owner in the area. In 1823 he acquired, through the Federal land office in Brookville, a patent for an 80 acre tract carved by Eagle Creek and an Indian trail that was about to be named the first toll roadway through the township (Lafayette Road). Thirty years later a village took shape within this tract. A grain mill on the creek, houses, churches, stores, restaurants, and two gas stations would take shape here in the creek valley hamlet of Traders Point. By 1962 all improvements (except a farmer's co-op) had been removed by the Indianapolis Flood Control Board to make way for Interstate 65 and a new reservoir. This blog is dedicated to preserving evidence of this historic area but I will occasionally use it to discuss related topics. To activate this follow, simply click the confirm button below. If you don't want to follow, ignore this message and we'll never bother you again. I am also a member of the Old Pleasant Hill Cemetery, a non profit association still selling burial plots for those who would like to spend all eternity in Traders Point, and I am an officer in the Pike Township Historical Society and the Traders Point Association of Neighborhoods.
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8 Responses to Eagle Creek Park History

  1. Why do you need my name says:

    I’m interested in the history of Eagle Creek park. I was told much of it was owned by a black family and the city forced them to sell cheap and leave the land to make way for the park. What do you know of this? I hope you are not one of these people who think the City of Indy has never done anything less than above board and will share any truth you know with me. Thank you.

    • Ross Reller says:

      J.K. Lilly acquired much of the land that comprises ECP between 1920 and 1955. Prior to his death he donated the property to Purdue and they ultimately sold it to the city of Indianapolis to construct a reservoir needed by the water company to serve west Indianapolis. Many black share croppers and employees of Mr. Lilly lived within what is now the park (on Reed Rd north of 56th street). Many of them were members of Mt Pleasant church which was located at 6000 n. Reed Rd and was relocated by the city to its present site on W. 62nd St. Near Northwestway Park.

  2. Joe says:

    I’ve got a few questions.
    1: was eagle creek and the surrounding area of traders point a pretty big indian settlement? I’ve found several arrowheads close to the park and by my own research they say to be woodland and or Delaware Indian. I didn’t know if you could give me more insight if Indian life around the area.

    2: there’s an old settlement basically across from the eagle creeks boat dock that still have a few headstones and wells and such. None of which can be read very well. 18.. Is the date on one. Again, just looking on some insight on that as well

    • Ross Reller says:

      Joe, yes there is considerable evidence the Eagle Creek valley attracted the Delaware Indians. An indian artifact museum was once located within Eagle Creek Park. Its collections became the property of the Eitlejorg Museum at nwc of West and Washington Streets. Although their collections are not always on display, you may want to check with their archivist for more information about the Indians of the central Indiana area. The cemetery you reference would have been alongside Dandy Trail, a public road located west of the creek between West 56th St and the village of Traders Point (approx. 7500 north Lafayette Road). I have lived in area for over 25 years and have heard stories of arrowheads as well as French coins being discovered by gardeners. I have also been contacted by an area property owner that believes they have an Indian burial ground on their property. For obvious reasons i wont disclose the location.

  3. Judy Bennett Rust says:

    Ross, Our family moved to Green Braes Apple Orchard, off of Potters Pike by Eagle Creek, in 1958. We still own that home. All the history you have shared confirms what I have been told over these 55 years. I know of the Eagle Indian mound you refer to and the Trader’s Point Co-op, the Indian museum and Ed Block’s home. When we moved in the apple orchard was winding down. Do you have a source for information about the orchard? The house and barn as well as the center road through the apple trees have all disappeared. I am in the process of contacting the current residence to inquire if they have rouge, heirloom apple trees on their property. The originals have died out by this time but I’m hoping some farsighted birds may have planted the next generations. History of the original enterprise would add a needed dimension. Our house, build in 1938, is the oldest in the neighborhood if that date helps.
    Thank you.

  4. Pat Schafer says:

    Ross, I am curious as to whether you have any photographs of what Eagle Creek Reservoir looks like before it was a reservoir. I have heard that there is a road that goes down into the water next to the current bridge and that it was all farmland before it became a reservoir.

    • Ross Reller says:

      The Pike Township historical society located in the Pike high school has a large collection of photographs donated by a aerial photographer active at the time the reservoir was built. Diane Martenet is the archivist for the historical society’s collection.

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