Skip to main content

See also:

Secret Indianapolis

The view from IUPUI.
The view from IUPUI.
Melissa Estes

It's funny how mundane the place where you live can seem. You go to work in its borders, you become part of a local community, you walk your dog, and you meet friends at the local craft beer joints. All the while never realizing how different, kookie, weird, and far from ordinary your place of residence is.

Well, that's definitely true for Indianapolis. It feels like many times, people assume this city and it's history is a one trick pony...racing. And while racing is awesome and it's got it's own unique heritage, the city of Indy itself has AMAZINGLY fascinating stories, histories, and even current happenings that make one "oh and aw" with excitement. A part of this astonishing history is shown in one of my first articles published on here, called "Irvington: Far From Ordinary". I talked about Irvington's cool past and its current standing as a hip little berg, but Indianapolis itself has much of a web to weave!

Let's start with the fact that Indianapolis, at one time, had three (yes, I said THREE) amusement parks. They were called White City, Wonderland, and Riverside and one of them, Wonderland, was located right here in Irvington! Riverside was along the White River off 30th St., and White City was located in Broad Ripple. They each had their own attractions, many of them overlapping. However, White City had a sunbathing beach area and baby incubators as well as a boardwalk area that set it apart from the other two parks. (To learn more about these parks visit this link to WFYI.

If rides and carnivals aren't your thing, what about underground catacombs? When the topic of underground cities come up, especially with reference to the U.S., many folks think about Seattle where you can still tour the original city of Seattle, circa 1889, 15 feet below the current streets of Seattle. Well, Indianapolis has its own underground history. At the northeast corner of Market and Delaware streets in downtown, there lies a vast cavern of archways underneath the streets. It is part of the remains of Tomlinson Hall, which was a 3,500 seat auditorium built in 1886. The building burned down in the 50s but the caverns remain. Tour information is available here.

This final Indianapolis fact will have those interested in military history intrigued. The Heslar Naval Armory that sits on the White River off 30th street saw some WWII action planning inside its walls. During the war, generals wanted a less visible, less surveilled location with which to plan their Pacific and Atlantic campaigns. Indianapolis was ideal, given the fact that's it is inland and away from the coasts. Even cooler...some of strategic plans for the Normandy Beach invasion were devised here. You can learn more about the facility by visiting here.

It seems that Indianapolis is anything BUT mundane. Under the surface of our everyday roads and parks lives a rich history that we could be constantly learning about. Knowing all of this secret history, however, makes you think about what you don't know about your city's current incarnation. Maybe we all should spend some time checking out the local businesses, parks, shows, and concerts this summer, considering we have a front row seat!