Timeline: Indianapolis Migration and Urban Renewal

This timeline serves as a reference point for many of the events in Indianapolis leading up to the university as we know it. A special thank you to

Dr. Paul Mullins and Greg Mobley in Archives for helping me put our campus area history in perspective.


1836: First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Indianapolis (Which would later be named Bethel AME [1969]) organizes and meets in private homes

1846: Second (colored) Baptist Church opened (Encyclopedia of Indianapolis 1994: 5)

·         Despite discrimination and humiliation, African Americans in Indianapolis had a sense of identity and community.

1860: Leading up to and especially after the civil war, an influx of African Americans into the city

1870’s: Concentrations of African Americans on what is now campus, near North and Agnes Streets (now the south side of Lockefield).

1875: The city reroutes Fall Creek so that it flows due west into White River instead of southward through what is now campus.

1900-1920: Influx of African- Americans to Indianapolis’ near- Westside from the South.  “The Great migration.”

·         Southerners fled a depressed farming economy, absence of jobs, and unequal rights for Blacks and Whites

·         Arrival in Indianapolis: find a network of African-American churches, neighborhoods, employment, and a business district with implicit but not codified racism.

·         Similar to many Northern Cities, Indianapolis was a migration point for poor African- Americans after WWII

o   “Well, there were jobs in Indy, many folks had family and friends here already (hence a support network), and many simply wanted to escape the Jim Crow South and did not much care where they were going since it could not be any worse than where they were already” (Mullins)

·         They crowded into marginal locations and modest homes

·         Near-Westside-first black population majority (still areas remaining home to European immigrants Italian-born whites into the 60’s)

·         Complex divisions of affluent and impoverished residents

1914: Long Hospital, the first building in what becomes the IU Medical Center, opens.

1919: The School of Medicine Building, now called Emerson Hall, opens.

1920’s: The first University Hospital expansions probably began with the construction of Riley Hospital, although these early projects have not been well documented (see photos of construction)

1924: Riley Hospital for Children opens.

1920s: Houses between Long and Riley Hospitals are torn down.  One house is the Wilson-Patterson House, built in the early 1820s and said to have been the oldest frame house in Indianapolis at the time.  A landscaping plan for the Medical Center results in the grading and leveling of much of the land of the Medical Center.

1927: Coleman Hospital for Women opens west of Long Hospital.

1928: Ball Residence Hall for Nurses opens west of Coleman Hospital.   

1930: Neighborhood decline

·         Depression

·         WWII migration into the city

·         Post-war migration out of the near-Westside due to displacement process beginnings:

o   “I think many folks who left after WW2 had money from military service, and select suburbs mostly to the north had begun to open up to African Americans.  Gradually the line of Black folks inched northward and finally made it to areas like 64th Street in the NW side by the late 1950s” (Mullins).


·         1933 headline:  “4,460,000 Loan will help city to banish slums”…federal funds had been given to finance elimination of slums and construction of low cost housing units in the Indianapolis Negro section (Barrows 2007: 125) (This refers to Lockefield Gardens)

1933: The School of Dentistry Building opens on the south side of Michigan Street.

1938: The Clinical Building opens north of Long Hospital.

1938: Opening of Lockefield Gardens

1939: The first State Board of Health Building, now called Fesler Hall, opens northwest of the Clinical Building. 

1948: A historian of the expanding Medical school concluded that: “As the Medical Center develops there is sure to be a parallel growth of private institutions in the neighborhood- hospitals, apartment houses, fraternity houses, office buildings and the like. The fact that we are surrounded on all sides by ‘blighted areas’ gives large room for expansion”.  

1950: Federal Funds available for “slum clearance projects”


1950s: Houses in an area bounded by Michigan Street on the south, Barnhill Drive on the west, Coe Street (just south of Wishard Hospital) on the north, and Locke and Agnes Streets on the east are torn down to make way for the Medical Science Building and University Hospital.

1956: (One Example of this type of project) 19 acre tract adjoining the Indiana University Dental School was purchased by the city’s Redevelopment commission using federal funding. The Commission’s president called the area ‘one of the city’s most blighted sections.’ (Indianapolis Star 1956: 1) Hence, it became a series of surface parking lots:

·         Similar to many Northern Cities, Indianapolis was a migration point for poor African- Americans after WWII

o   “Well, there were jobs in Indy, many folks had family and friends here already (hence a support network), and many simply wanted to escape the Jim Crow South and did not much care where they were going since it could not be any worse than where they were already “ (Mullins)

·         They crowded into marginal locations and modest homes

·         Of the 116 families targeted by the 1956 project, 33 had no indoor plumbing, 29 had no running water and 63 had neither a bath or shower

o   “But if the city wanted to it could have put water and sewer supply lines into these areas, and we probably could’ve rehabbed declining homes.  Keep in mind, that decline was a result of landlord disinterest and not necessarily a reflection of tenants’ own issues; you need to always be clear that tenants are only one piece of the material and social picture in American cities that were targeted for urban renewal” (Mullins).


1960’s: Campus continues to expand into the predominantly African -American neighborhood

·         “Most of the mechanisms to acquire the campus were in motion by the early 1960s, and land will still be acquired into the 1980s in some cases” (Mullins).

·         Between 1960 and 1980 nearly 1000 properties were bought by the university, destroyed, and replaced with institutional architecture and parking lots

1968: Ground is broken for the new School of Law Building on the southwest corner of New York and Blackford Streets and for the Cavanaugh Hall/Lecture Hall/University Library complex in the blocks bounded by Michigan, Agnes, New York, and Blake Streets.  This construction marks the beginning of the major development of the campus along the south side of Michigan Street.

·         1969: Indiana University Medical Center became part of IUPUI

o   Merging of Indiana University and Purdue University

o   IUPUI Master Plan, 1974-1984 [1974]

o   p.65: “Land Acquisition and Site Development:  The University announced plans and boundaries for the University Quarter Campus in 1966, and since then has been purchasing available property within the total campus area.  It was expected that urban renewal funds, obtained through cooperation with the City, would meet about one-half of land [p.66] costs.  These monies were not obtained, so it became necessary for the University to provide the total funding.  A substantial backlog of property owners wanting to sell endangers the University’s commitment to the immediate campus neighborhood.  An infusion of funds is needed to meet this backlog.”


·         Campus landscape linked to neighborhood stereotypes: student complaints of high crime area

o   “We know less about how neighbors responded to such dramatic transformations, but it is worth conceding that there was resistance.” (Mullins)



Last updated by on 12/17/2009