What if there was a roundabout at West 79th and Lafayette Road?

As a resident at this intersection I am amazed at how inefficiently this intersection functions. Moore Road, 79th Street, and Lafayette Road all converge in this three-way mess of roads. One possible solution that I played with in my mind was a roundabout intersection. Of course I have no engineering background and I doubt if this is the proper design, but here’s a stab at what it might look like. I think this could dramatically improve the flow of traffic through the intersection if properly designed. It would probably not displace any property other than the difficult to use farm triangle in the northeast corner of Lafayette and Moore Road.
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Trader’s Point, continued from History of Indianapolis and Marion County – Pike Township – B.R. Sulgrove – 1884

Pleasant Hill Methodist Episcopal Church – The first meetings of the citizens in the northwestern part of the township for worship was at the residences of J.C. Hume and Orlos Babcock. Mr. Hume then lived on the south end of the farm now owned by Samuel Hornaday. The meetings were conducted generally by a Rev. Bramble, who was a local Methodist preacher. In 1828, Abraham Busenbarick donated one acre of land at the southeast corner of his farm (opposite the residence of David Delong) on which to build a school and meetinghouse. It was built and named Pleasant Hill, and the charge was then added to the Danville Circuit, and Joseph Tarkington was the first circuit preacher who preached in this township. The congregation continued to meet at the old building until 1853, when they built a new meetinghouse on the farm of Silas White, Sr., just south of his residence, on the west bank of Eagle Creek, and called it the Pleasant Hill Church. The first Sunday school was held in this part of the township in 1830, at the residence of James Duncan, on the Lafayette Road,(where Nelson McCurdy no lives) a quarter of a mile north of Trader’s Point. The school was conducted by James M. Ray, of Indianapolis. The first Sunday School was organized in the Old Pleasant Hill school, and meeting house, and John Alford, Sr. was Superintendent for a number of years.
The Pleasant Hill Church is still an organization but meets at Brooks’ Methodist Episcopal Chapel in Trader’s Point, the Old Pleasant Hill Church has been replaced by a new church at the Point, built in 1873, for the better accomodation of its members.
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Traders Point – History of Indianapolis and Marion County – Pike Township – B.R. Sulgrove – 1884

The village of Trader’s Point was laid out by John Jennings and Josiah Coughran in 1864. They erected a flour mill, with four run of burrs, three for wheat and one for corn. It was at first a water mill with a raceway nearly three quarters of a mile long, and cost, with water privilege, machinery, and construction, about thirty thousand dollars. The mill was run to its full capacity for several years as a grist and merchant mill. In 1868 or 1869, Mr. Jennings sold out his interest to his partner, Mr. Coughran, who continued to run the mill until the panic of 1873, when Mr. John Irick bought the mill at assignee’s sale, and afterwards sold it to James Skillen of Indianapolis, who ran the mill for a few years after which it fell back to the Irick Estate, and in 1881 John Jennings again became the owner. He remodeled it, put it in good repair, and sold it to Mr. Coffin, of Indianapolis, who sold it in the fall of 1883 to a Mr. Jennings of Kokomo, who is preparing to put it into operation.
The first store in Trader’s Point was opened by Clark Jennings who did a good business. He was followed by John Ray, who sold out to Lewis Wiley. Wiley to Harry Morris, le to James Kirlin (one of the oldest merchants in the county), and Kirlin to J.B. Gossett, who did a good business for a number of years, and finally sold out and went to Kansas.
The second store building was erected by John Jennings, Chesley Ray, and the Rural Lodge, I.O.O.F. in 1873. This store did a prosperous business, and in 1874, Ray bought Jennings’ interest in the store and now carries on the business. He is also the postmaster of Trader’s Point.
The first blacksmith at Trader’s Point was Presley Jennings. Lewis Gass is now running the shop started by Jennings. Another shop is carried on by James Wells. A cooper shop was started here by Alfred Parker, who followed the business for a number of years.
The first physician to locate here was a young man from Ohio named Howard. The present physician is Dr. Lewis O. Carson, who came in May, 1877. He is a graduate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Indianapolis, is also a graduate of the Medical College of Indiana, and of the medical department of Butler University. He has a lucrative practice, and is a successful physician and surgeon.
(Photo: the earliest known photo of commerce in Traders Point is of the Resler-Wilkens garage, from the 1920s. This garage was located at the northwest corner of Lafayette Road and Dandy Trail.)
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History of Indianapolis and Marion County – Pike Township – B.R. Sulgrove – 1884

p. 604: The first road that was surveyed and cut out through this township was the Lafayette Road. It was surveyed and cut out in 1831 and 1832 from Indianapolis to Lafayette. The next was the Michigan Road from Indianapolis to Michigan City; this was surveyed by George L. Conrad in 1832. Some of the citizens are still living who helped cut out these roads. The Lafayette Road runs in a northwesterly direction through the township, and in some places passed through the swampiest land in the township. In such places it was “corduroyed,” and in open, wet winters or in spring this road was impassable for teams and wagons, and in those days it was a great undertaking to go to Indianapolis, a distance of ten or twelve miles, and often required two days to make the round trip to mill or market with a small load. In 1859 to 1862 the Lafayette Road was graded and graveled by Aaron McCray, Issac Meyers, John Bowers, and Manning Voorhes, at a cost of twelve hundred dollars per mile; in these four years twelve miles of this road was graveled and it was made one of the best thoroughfares of the county. Since that time the Michigan Road, the Zionsville, and other roads in this township have been graveled and there are now about thirty five miles of gravel roads in the township, fully half of which are free roads. Quite an improvement has been made in the other roads of the township, all the wet and low places being graded and graveled. In the summer of 1877 the first iron bridge was built in this township across Big Eagle Creek, on the Lafayette Road at Trader’s Point, at a cost of twelve thousand dollars.
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Pike Township, Where Forest and Indian Trails once Weaved in and Abouts Cabins of Wilderness, Now Presents Maze of Paved Roads and Rich Farms

The Indianapolis News, September 13, 1930, By Mabel Wheeler.
Community along Lafayette Road blessed with wealth of forest trees, rolling land, streams, and properous farmland. Modern schools, churches, store and oil stations show trend of progress. Several homes, built more than 100 years ago, still stand with original interiors. Artificial lake at Lakeside is recent development where wooded banks make cool home sites.As motorists speed along the smooth pavement of the Lafayette Road with airplanes circling overhead and radios sending out broadcasts from various farmhouses and with filling stations and while farmers on tractors are busy at work, it is hard to realize as one crosses the stone bridge over Big Eagle Creek in Pike Township that 100 years ago Indians still roamed about the woods; that wolves howled around the cabins of settlers at night, and that the pavement was only a narrow forest trail, over which traveled ox-carts and covered wagons.
Today the township is a maze of up-to-date fine roads, both pavement and crushed stone. Even the smallest and most unimportant of roads is improved, so that those in rural districts may motor into town for a movie or other entertainment any evening, winter or summer. This is in contrast to the days of 1832 when it required two days to make the round trip to Indianapolis, some ten or twelve miles away, owing to the impassability of the roads.
The Lafayette Road, when it was first laid out in 1832, ran through the swampiest land in the township and certain spots had to be corduroyed–a great help in wet weather, farmers then thought. The road was not graded until about 1860, when the cost of such improvement was $1,200 a mile, according to record.
In Pike Township there are three small towns. Old Augusta is the veteran town, situated in the eastern part of the township near the Washington township line. The first settlements at Augusta were made by George Coble, Sr. and Jonathan Ingo back in 1829. The town however was not laid out until 1832.
New Augusta, originally termed Hosbrook, grew up about 1852. It was laid out by William Hornaday and the laying of the railroad tracks and the establishment of the railway station caused the village to be built up rapidly. A post office also was placed in the town, but both station and office bore the name Augusta, although the town was termed Hosbrook. Many still call it that. In 1878 the name was legally changed to New Augusta.
Traders Point is the third town and is a similar settlement, mainly along the Lafayette Road, just across Big Eagle Creek west of Augusta and New Augusta. It was laid out in 1864 by John Jennings and Josiah Coughran, who erected a flour mill with four run of burr, three for wheat and one for corn, which gave the town its name no doubt, as much trading in grain was done there. A crossroad, where an abandoned blacksmith shop stands, together with a store, is termed Boot Jack, but it is hardly classed as a town.
The township is unusually picturesque, with rolling land, a wealth of forest trees, a number of streams, with Eagle Creek and Crooked Creek perhaps the best known. The farms are prosperous looking and the ground is fertile. The highways have been built on it until it appears that in a few more years Indianapolis will reach through the township. Modern brick school buildings and churches of practically all denominations and busy general stores, restaurants and numerous gasoline stations show the trend of progress.
One of the most enlightening accounts of the pioneer days in Pike Township is included in a clipping cut from an Indianapolis newspaper of 1885 that gives an interview with Mrs. Anna Wilson, then eighty years old, whose grandson, Ad Wilson, lives on a large farm west of Traders Point. It gives a vivid picture of the early settlements in the townships as follows:
“We left Ohio for Pike Township where my father had bought two tracts of land in November 1825. Our party included my husband, our two infant children, my sister and her husband, and myself. We came in two wagons and brought with us a team of horses, three cows, and 100 head of sheep. It took us eight days to reach this county from Preble County, Ohio. We carried a tent in which we slept every night until we reached Indianapolis. We stopped in Indianapolis overnight. Indianapolis at that time had only about 100 houses, nearly all log cabins and a few stores.
“Our party crossed White River in a flatboat at McCormick’s Ferry, forded Big Eagle Creek and between the creek and Bush’s Run was our future home. We pitched our tent near the bank of the creek and enjoyed a good night’s rest, happy in the thought that we were ‘home’. The next morning the men went to work building a cabin of buckeye logs, which was completed in about ten days. It consisted of one big room.
“During that winter my husband made enough rails to do away with the old bush fence which was a nuisance in more ways than one. It was, for instance, a harbor for many snakes. When we burned the brush we saw the reptiles leaving their nests, going in every direction, some making their new homes under our cabin.
“There were nightly visitors that killed a good many of our sheep — the wolves. We finally had to sell our flock to save them all from being killed by wolves. The howling of the wolves kept us awake at night and some times we could hear them right at the cabin door.
“I was very much afraid of the Indians, for there was a small settlement in our neighborhood. The men and squaws would frequently come in our door with articles for sale, but they gave us no trouble. Sometimes, however the braves would have sham battles along the creek, and we could hear their yells for miles.”
Mrs. Wilson, in her narrative, spoke of her husband starting a sawmill, of the ‘flourishing business’ he had, and of her youngest son, then only seven, hauling logs to town with a team of small oxen.
“At one time,” she relates, “three of the children had gone to town with a load of hogs and they came very near drowning, Big Eagle Creek having risen while they were in town. The oldest boy had to swim part of the way at the head of the oxen while the other two boys had to hold on to the wagon to keep from being swept down the stream.”
Mrs. Wilson gained a reputation as a doctor and midwife and told of some thrilling experiences she had in getting to cases in the night when the creeks were swollen. At one time, carrying her youngest baby, she crossed the creek on driftwood, with a man going ahead carrying a torch and another man assisting her. At other times she rode horseback and the horse swam the streams.
The old farm southwest of Traders Point, of Grandmother Wilson and her husband, is a rich farm now and the old spring from which they drank still bubbles clear and cold, but none of the original buildings is left.
Grandma Wilson has been dead for many years, but as she was the mother of seventeen children, many of her descendants live in the community. Her son David, was deputy clerk of the county at one time.
An early settler of Old Augusta who still is alert and interested in life is Mrs. Melissa Mericle Darling, who lives in a home that is 110 years old and bought by her father from old Riley Hogshire, who operated the first grocery after the town was planned in 1832. Her husband, John R. Darling, now dead, who served three years in the Civil War, enlisted from Augusta. The house is just as it was when it was built with a quaint lean-to room across the back and a sloping roof. Her daughter, Mrs. Frank Smelser, and her husband, live with Mrs. Darling.
Another old home at Augusta that claims more than 100 years of existence, is a large red brick colonial house. The house has been kept in excellent condition and is an attractive landmark in the community. The walls inside are two feet thick, and quaint corner cupboards, built-in wardrobes, and wide board floors of ash are interesting details. It is now owned by John Trester, who lives in it.
One of the old “timers” at New Augusta is Jonathan S. Pollard, who was born and reared on the outskirts of town.
“I well remember what excitement there was when the first train came into New Augusta or Hosbrook as we called it most of the time,” said Pollard, his keen gray eyes twinkling. Farmers drove in for miles around and although I was just a little boy, my dad brought me in to see it, and that was one exciting day for me. One fellow who came in, saw it come roaring and steaming with the fire flying and was so scared that he turned and ran as fast as he could away from it.
“Why, what if the danged thing had blown up,” he said when he was reminded about it afterward by my father.”
Mrs. Elizabeth Klingensmith, age ninety-three, is one of the oldest persons living at New Augusta. She is an aunt of Dr. George A. Coble, of New Augusta, and was born and reared in the township. She lives with her nephew who is eighty years old. Mrs. Klingensmith remembers the days of more primitive living when bridges, railroads, and improved roads were unknown in the community and of her young days when she rode horseback on her neighbor’s horse to go to church.
The general store now owned by M.J. Wagle, operated by his father before him, is a quaint old building. The front of it was once the old Lutheran church and was situated across the railroad track. The north side of the building shows the old church windows now boarded up. According to Pollard, it is older than the town, being probably ninety years old or more. A large grain elevator is a prosperous industry in the town.
At Traders Point, one of the best informed men on the history of the town and township is A.W. Voorhis, whose father and mother lived in the vicinity of Traders Point before he was born, but who left in 1852 and came back in 1855 with their infant son, who has lived there ever since.
“I came here in a covered wagon,” said Voorhis as he reminisced of the history of the community. “I don’t remember much about it as I was only about two years old. Things have changed around here since then. I was here when Traders Point was laid out in 1864. The church over in the trees there on the Lafayette Road, just above the bridge, that is now called the Church of Christ, was once a flour mill and had four stories and it stood nearer the creek and a mill race ran along back of it. The race has been plowed in but you can see a hint of it at some places in the fields.”
One of the old buildings of the town is the general store owned by C.W. Conarroe. It was established about 1873, only about nine years after the platting of the town, and has been operating ever since. The front porch is a meeting place for the men of tthe community, who sit on cracker and bread boxes or the old bench.
Some interesting details concerning the early history of the township are found in Sulgrove’s Marion County History. The first township schools were taught in cabins of early settlers it says.
The first school was taught in the cabin of David McCurdy on land on the west bank of Eagle Creek with George Canard as teacher. A description of the modern new school buildings erected in the township to succeed the cabin schools reads as follows:
“Several schoolhouses, 10 x 20, high enough for the large scholars to stand erect in, were built. The doors were hung outside, holes were cut in the walls and greased paper pasted over them and called windows. The furniture consisted of split poles with legs in them for scholars, and they were called seats. The teachers were paid from $6 to $10 a month and had to board themselves.
The consolidated brick schoolhouses and their efficient motor school hacks and teaching staffs of today are a long call from those crude log cabins that could not be operated in the winter. Children could not get to school owing to the impassibility of roads, as many walked two or three or more miles to school.
A beauty spot that has been developed in the last few years in Pike Township, just east of Lafayette Road near Traders Point is Lakeside, where an artifial lake has been built. Bathing, fishing, and boating are popular and the wooded banks make cool home sites.
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What’s in a Name? Boot Jack, Traders Point and Lickskillet are Good Examples

The Indianapolis Times, Sunday December 31, 1961 by John Peters.
People are champs at naming things. We can’t pass a stray pup, step across a rain-fed stream, or explore a bend in the road without giving it a name.
Wheather we draw names from fact or fantasy, rational or irrational, nothing stretches the imagination like the naming of towns.
How many people know the origin of Boot Jack, Traders Point, or Lickskillet? These three can be found in Marion County’s Pike Township, which is as good a place as any to look at our forerunner’s knack for naming their lands.
Boot Jack, now barely more than faint echoes of a blacksmith’s hammering, still labels the spot where 65th Street runs into old U.S. 52 (Lafayette Road).
Pike Township old-timers remember Boot Jack as a pinpoint of early activity centering around the smithy and carriage shop of German-born Louis Gass, the home of Dr. Geremiah Reade, and a toll-house manned by James Eudaly.
What is now old U.S. 52 was then a toll road known by some as the Lafayette Road, and by others as Jackson Highway.
The name Boot Jack could have several explanations. It might have been derived from the blacksmith trade that dominated the community.
The most likely explanation stems from the name’s definition. A boot jack is a device used for pulling boots off tired feet.
It consists of a board carved with a simple V-shaped notch that holds any size heel while the weary boot wearer pulls out his foot.
The corner of 65th and the toll road, one lifelong resident of the area pointed out, probably looked like the boot jack’s notch to some quick-witted settler.
Traders Point, nestled in a valley where old U.S. 52 crosses Eagle Creek, is possibly the oldest settlement in Pike Township. It dates back to the first half of the 19th century as a commercial center featuring a gristmill, stockyard, cooper shop, wagon shop, and three stores. Its population bobbed up and down around the two-dozen mark, and now numbers around 50. Traders Point may have gotten its name as a favorite place for dealings among the Indians, but a more likely explanation stems from the known function as a kind of pioneer shopping center.
Early Pike Township people seem to have preferred trading stock, grain, and produce for supplies at Traders Point, rather than travel the long road into Indianapolis. Hence the name.
Little more than the name is left at Lickskillet, a corner community at old U.S. 52 and Moore Road which in its heyday boasted four cabins clustered near School No. 12.
A name like Lickskillet could have countless origins, but among the most reasonable is an explanation offered by Mrs. Mamie Glidewell, Traders Point, who taught at the Lickskillet school before the turn of the century.
The people there were poor people, Mrs. Glidewell said, and made use of everything that had any food value at all.
A homespun jest about poverty or even a sarcastic comment from a traveler could have given the corner a permanent label.
Prominent neighbors of Boot Jack, Traders Point, and Lickskillet are Augusta and New Augusta. Augusta was laid out in 1832 by Daniel Boardman as a stopover town along the Michigan Road, which was mapped from Madison to Michigan City in the same year and comepleted within the decade.
Augusta was known in some quarters as Eck, apparently because the post office established there was named, for reasons unknown, the Eck Post Office.
It seems fairly certain that Augusta got its name from the road that brought it into being. The Michigan Road was engineered by the Augusta Gravel Road Company.
New Augusta sprouted up in the cornfields as Augusta Station, built to link Augusta with the Indianapolis and Lafayette Railroad that was put through in 1852, about 1 1/2 miles west of the Michigan Road.
Shortly after the Augusta Station was built, the land around it on both sides of the tracks, owned by Christopher Hornaday, was marked off in town lots.
The newly platted town picked up the name Hosbrook, from a member of the commission that marked off the town area, Perry Hosbrook.
The land carried two names until the town of New Augusta was officially founded in 1878, but traces of Hosbrook are still in evidence.
Buildings bear the name Hosbrook. Deeds require the Hosbrook location. A Prohibition-era bootlegger once got off free because he had been arrested on a warrant that listed him as a resident of New Augusta when it should’ve said Hosbrook.
Pike Township is not uncommon. Like other townships scattered across the country, some of its towns’ names are colorful, and some simple, but all have a story that’s hard to find and waiting to be told.
For instance, north of the Bob Shank Airport (Pike Plaza Parkway was constructed over the airport runway), there’s a place called Snacks. Who can explain that one? (I received a copy of this article from the late Maxine Stevens who worked for years for the Pike Township School District. Mrs. Stevens was instrumental in having an elementary school at the southwest corner of 56th Street and Moller Road named for Snacks. The photo of the Boot Jack livery is in the archives of the Pike Township Historical Society, located in New Augusta.)
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Traders Point could have developed much differently

I am fascinated by land use and the role public and private property owners play in land-use entitlements. There is a delicate balance between private property rights and the interests of the larger community. Zoning plays an important role in preserving and protecting private property values. Zoning can also result in disappointments for neighborhoods. Often political and economic development forces act like an invisible hand to subvert the interests of neighborhoods and even the Planning Department in land use. We will soon learn for example wheather the Ropkey property owned by Kite will be redeveloped in a manner which complements our community or alters it negatively.
These photos compare the way the area has developed to the way it could have developed if fate had played its cards differently.
After the Woodstock Country Club fire in the 1914, the board briefly considered a site on Moore Road for rebuilding, according to the late Madeline Fortune Elder. That site today is the Elder’s Traders Point Farm. (Members led by J.K. Lilly and Benjamin Harrison selected a site on Crawfordsville Road that is now the Country Club of Indianapolis.) When J.K. Lilly donated his 3500 acre Eagle’s Crest estate to Purdue University in the 1950s, they briefly proposed it as a site for a particle accelerator that went to Illinois and is now known as the Fermi Lab. When a gravel pit at West 86th and I-465 came on the market in the 1980s, it was briefly considered by Sunshine Promotions as a site for an outdoor amphitheater. This venue is now located in Hamilton County and is known as the Verizon Music Center. When Pike Township Public Schools considered purchasing a site at the northwest corner of West 86th Street and Moore Road for a middle school in 2005, Sheila Fortune stepped in and acquired the site for organic farming. When the Colts came to town in the 1980s they needed a site for a training facility and the city proposed a park-owned site south of West 56th Street. The Parks Department stepped in and insisted any transfer of city-owned parks land be swapped with other city-owned land. A site between West 79th Street and Interstate 65 was identified and the city terminated the mineral rights agreement with Allied Aggregates enabling the parcel to become a nature preserve. The Traders Point Creamery farmland was designated in the 1970s as a site for a neighborhood park. A 35 acre parcel at West 79th Street and Marsh Road was briefly considered by Traders Point Christian Church in 2003. After a zoning defeat on that site the church acquired 100 acres on Indianapolis Road in Boone County. Obviously things could have been much different.

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Fermilab could have been in Traders Point? !

From the previous post about R.B.Stewart’s leadership at Purdue we learned that Purdue University and the State of Indiana proposed a federal nuclear atomic research program and particle accelerator project (now known as the Fermilab) for the J.K. Lilly land now known as Eagle Creek Park. Since I have never been to Batavia, Illinois, the site chosen for the facility, I thought it might be interesting to post some photos of that facility. As a reminder, from my research on this blog we have learned that the West 86th Street residential subdivision was originally proposed to be the site for an outdoor entertainment venue that eventually located between Fishers and Noblesville and is now known as Verizon Music Center. From our blog research we also learned that the Eagle Creek Nature Preserve (south of West 79th Street) was going to be a massive gravel mining operation, that was halted by the city’s negotiations to swap parkland on West 56th Street for a Colts Training Facility. And now we have the amazing news that our crown jewel, Eagle Creek Park, could have been the site of a particle accelerator. Any one of these projects would have altered the neighborhood we live in enormously. It’s easy to overlook the potential impact any one of these would have on our area. The parks department’s leadership and their emphasis on protecting parkland played a large role in converting the city land destined for mineral excavation to a pristine nature preserve. Neighborhood activism played a role in the outdoor amphitheatre opposition, and politics in Illinois trumped Indiana’s efforts to secure the particle accelerator. In hindsight it does seem that sometimes the deal you don’t get is the best deal.

For the “winning” farmers in Illinois, their history is fascinating and has been well-chronicled on the Fermi website. “In 1967 the state of Illinois began to acquire the farms of the 6,800-acre National Accelerator Laboratory site. Fifty-five farm families had to move from their homesteads. The map shown above shows the locations of the farms around the site. Many parcels of land were held by lending institutions. The roads are somewhat different now, from the early days when this map was drawn, but the general features of the site remain unchanged.

Further information on the role of Purdue and Indiana in trying to locate a particle accelerator near Traders Point can be found in the archives of MURA, at the University of Minnesota.

Site Selection was controversial and eventually President Johnson altered the site selection procedures and supported the Illinois site.
As a result of the disappointment in the Midwest with President Johnson’s decision not to support the MURA proposal, and of continuing disagreements between the LRL management and its Advisory Committee on the extent to which the management of the new accelerator should have a national character, both the site and management questions were reopened.

The AEC then invited all states to submit site proposals for the accelerator and a total of 125 proposals were received from all but two states. During 1965 the Atomic Energy Commission reduced the number of qualified sites to 85 and passed these on to a panel of the National Academy of Sciences chaired by Emanuel Piore. Originally the panel was to select a single site, but at the urging of the joint Committee on Atomic Energy, the panel was asked to recommend the six best sites with the final choice to be made by the Atomic Energy Commission. In March of 1966, the Piore panel announced their selection of six possible sites in California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin.

A group of architectural-engineering firms that came together in 1968 under the acronym of DUSAF to assist Robert R. Wilson with the design of the laboratory site evaluated the existing properties on the site and numbered them. These site numbers are maintained at Fermilab for practical reasons and have become a part of each site’s identity. Each farm has at least one site number to identify its early location on the old DUSAF maps.”

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Traders Point, Purdue University, J.K. Lilly & Herman Krannert detailed

Friend of this blog Nick Harby, of West Lafayette, has tipped me off to a fascinating account of Purdue University’s role in two high-profile former area property owners; J.K. Lilly and Herman Krannert. Nick writes:

“Years ago I found a book that I think you would like to know about as you are interested in the history of real estate in the Pike Township area. Maybe you already have seen it. It is “R.B. Stewart and Purdue University” by Ruth Freehafer. It tells the story of how Josiah K. Lilly gifted 3500 acres of land along Eagle Creek to Purdue. The land ended up as I-65 and Eagle Creek Park. When I found your blog I figured you’d be interested in this book but I hadn’t found it in the library again until now. The book also talks a little about Normandy Farms, Purdue had something to do with that too apparently. Here are some of the parts of the book dealing with land in Pike Township.” (Thanks Nick, good stuff!)

R.B. Stewart and Purdue University,
By Ruth W. Freehafer

Chapter “Expansion in the Fifties”

p. 172

Herman C. Krannert of Inland Container Corporation…..had made his first contact with Purdue when he called on the Department of Animal Sciences for help in treating some cattle on his Normandy Farm northwest of Indianapolis

p. 173

Normandy Farms, the Krannert farm where the agriculture school people had done much work, was leased to the (Purdue Research) foundation, with all livestock, equipment and machinery included, for $16,000 a year. The foundation operated it for research in dairy farming and animal husbandry. Most of the people involved always believed that the farm was to go to the university but it was retained in the Krannert Charitable Trust and later developed into an area of fine homes.

p. 177

Lilly Land

Another large tract was given—“with no strings attached”—to the university by Josiah K. Lilly, Jr., of Indianapolis. His father, a Purdue trustee from 1927 to 1938, had made many gifts to the university, beginning with the replica of a pharmacy store in the former Pharmacy building and with one of the two gifts that founded Purdue Research Foundation. In 1958, through William A. Hanley, president of the board of trustees, Lilly sought a meeting with President Hovde and R.B. to discuss the gift of a tract of his land northwest of Indianapolis. Over the years he had acquired about 3,500 acres along Eagle Creek, bordering on Lafayette Road (U.S. 52). Calling it Eagle Crest Farms, Lilly had planted trees on the acreage; it was entered as a forest preserve on the property tax rolls. Under Indiana law such land was taxed at ten cents an acre. He owned almost all of the entire area except for a few parcels where homes had been built many years
before. His own summer house and those of some family members were on the property as were twenty-five to thirty other individual houses. About 1,500 acres was farmed. Lilly’s offer to the university officers was to make a gift of the entire property and its buildings with no stipulations whatsoever.

The land, he said, had been appraised for tax purposes at $5 million and each January for five years he planned to give acreage equivalent to $1 million to the university. In the meantime, he wanted the university to assume management of the entire tract immediately. Purdue officials had no immediate plans to develop that property, but they felt that it could only grow more valuable because of its beauty and its proximity to the city.

Stewart designated Gabbard to manage the land. He handled the rental of the houses and negotiated with three different farm operators to grow crops on a share basis. While the university managed the property, it was proposed as a possible location by state and Purdue officials of a huge, federal nuclear atomic research program and particle accelerator, which eventually was built at Batavia, Illinois.
In 1960, a newspaper article quoted Indianapolis Mayor Charles Boswell to the effect that part of the Lilly land should be given to his city for use as a park. Hanley, as president of the Purdue board and a resident of Indianapolis, came under a great deal of pressure on the subject. His answer was that “this wasn’t given to the university to benefit Indianapolis. This was given for the benefit of the university and we have no right to give it away.”

At a trustees meeting, someone suggested that if Indianapolis wanted the land, the city ought to buy it—the entire tract—for a park. The trustees and the administration were aware that, to develop the land, the university would require a longtime operating agency and a great deal of money. The university, they felt, would be better served with endowment money from a sale of the land and they expressed willingness to sell it to Indianapolis for the appraisal given Lilly. Stewart did not know Mayor Boswell but he asked the board’s permission to talk to him.

R.B.’s approach to Boswell was that if the city bought the land, he, Boswell, could provide Indianapolis a park with areas for sports of all kinds and wooded picnic grounds along a U.S. highway within a short distance of anywhere in the city. He also told Boswell that it would be possible to pay the purchase price over a period of time if he used the city’s bonding power. Boswell answered Stewart that he would take the matter to the city council. But before a decision came from Indianapolis, another governmental agency wanted part of the land as a gift.

At that time the Indiana State Highway Department was in the process of planning Interstate 65 north of Indianapolis and one of the interchanges of that highway was to be laid out on a corner of the Lilly land. Officials of the department approached the university administration with the argument that since they were both arms of the state of Indiana, the necessary land should just be transferred to their department. Again, it had to be emphasized that the land hadn’t been given to any governmental agency except Purdue and the university was entitled to the benefit of the gift.

The highway department people weren’t convinced and the dispute continued. Finally, board president Hanley and several other trustees, Hovde, Stewart, the state highway commission, and some representatives of the Federal Bureau of Roads met in Indianapolis. At the meeting the chairman of the state highway commission offered the university $500 an acre for the land it wanted. At that R.B. exploded, slapped his hand on the table, roaring “Mr. Chairman, let’s stop talking nonsense and talk about the real issue here—the value of the land. Where in the hell in Marion County can you buy land for less than $2,000 an acre?” The federal representative whose agency was to supply 90 percent of the highway’s cost agreed with R.B. The State Highway Commission remained unconvinced and the decision was eventually made by Governor Handley who said that the highway department, to get title to any part of the land, had to purchase it from Purdue as it
would from a private individual.

Eventually Indianapolis bought the land for a park. Some years later R.B. was shown the preliminary plans for the park and noticed that there was no entrance to the interstate for many miles north of 38th Street. When he pointed it out to the park board, the highway had to be redesigned to provide an entrance in the vicinity of Seventieth Street. When both the highway department and the Indianapolis Park Board had made their purchases, the university received a little more than $5 million. The money was used to set up the Lilly Fund, part of which was used to finance construction of the building of the Krannert School of Management.

Chap. 7 Winding Down in the Sixties

p. 190

Many of the projects and much of the planning with which R.B. was involved in the later 1950s carried over into the 1960s. The sale of the Lilly land for an Indianapolis park was delayed when the purchasing agents, the Indianapolis Park board and the Flood Control Commission, were sued by a group of taxpayers. The suit sought to prevent the issuance of bonds which would be retired from a property tax levy. While the matter dragged on, Purdue Research Foundation bought the land from the university at the appraised value so the money would be available to Purdue even if the sale was not consummated. Besides the use of some of the Lilly fund money for the Krannert building on the West Lafayette campus, it also provided some of the financing for the construction of a new runway at the airport. J.K. Lilly, who had given the Eagle Creek land, did not want any personal recognition for it and in 1960 the trustees approved naming the life science building to
honor the entire Lilly family.
(For 36 years, R. B. Stewart served the University as its chief financial officer from the 1930s through the 1960s. Stewart and Lilly shared an appreciation for Amelia Earhart and her efforts. A letter in the Purdue archives (reproduced above) confirms Mr. Lilly’s gift of $2,500 to Purdue to recognize Earhart’s acheivements.

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Bridge – Week 2

Thursday, March 12, 2009

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