Babe Denny and South Meridian Street

According to the latest issue of Urban Times, South Meridan Street has begun to make a push to attract more visitors. They’ve added a new Farmers Market on Tuesday evening, which is a good idea to serve the people who can’t make it to the typical lunch-hour markets around the city. One look at the street configuration of the South Meridian district displays what the promoters are up against:

The red line is the path one has to travel to get from the Slippery Noodle on Meridian to Iozzo’s Garden on Meridian. The other angled street between McCarty and Merrill Street feed in to Illinois, which is one-way northbound, so that is not an option. Alternatively, you could head south on Madision and turn right at McCarty, but you’d better pay attention or otherwise you would find yourself on the Interstate. This, unfortunately, is a common theme for streets on the near south side of downtown.

Another issue is that its location is just far enough away from the downtown core to discourage visitation by foot, but too close to justify the fare for a bus trip. The best options for a quick lunchtime visit are by automobile or bicycle. Even worse, the residents of the surrounding Babe Denny neighborhood are treated with little respect, and most of them live on the equivalent of named alleys. Their streets have been disconnected with the interstate feeder streets, not to mention the southern half of the neighborhood.

This commercial block is very fortunate to contain Indianapolis icon Shapiro’s Deli, which has been in business for over a century, and can be used as a landmark for navigation. I fear, however, that without a major investment in street realignment, the neighborhood will have to continue to battle against confusing navigation and a lack of visibility.

Comments 12

  • I've said in that past that whoever designed that on/off ramp system for I70 must have been on crack. It's completely illogical and for seemingly no reason. How many ways on and off the expressway do people need?! It's only about a 6 block stretch there.

    It wouldn't be terribly difficult to redesign the area with a frontage road system using Ray St. and Wilkins St. There's just no political will or money to do so.

    The area north of the expressway that you're touching on is more intriguing. Why all the funky angles? Madison seems like it was once a through-street that was severed near Pennsylvania (when the interstates were built?). But the other roads were probably built as-is long ago. Why?

  • I can't give you a definitive answer, but it's possible that Meridian Street has the angle as part of a greater pattern. If you look at Oliver Street to the west of White River (and it's roughly at the same latitude as McCarty is), there are a good number of streets that have a jog to the east. Sometimes these jogs are in place to account for the curvature of the earth, but I can only speculate on this point.

    As for why Russell Street exists? Even more speculation, but perhaps early South Meridian district business people had more clout and they pushed for another connection to downtown back when Illinois Street was 2-ways.

  • When Pogue's Run still ran on the ground through that area some streets on the SE side of downtown were canted off slightly NW/SE, even the ones within the original Mile Square. They were set perpendicular to the streets fronting the creek. Other remnants are the now-angled streets in Fletcher Place.

    I think Russell is the westernmost of those, as it is parallel to Madison.

  • I looked at our shapefile of Pogue's Run out of curiosity, it does cross just north of the intersection of Merrill and Illinois at the present moment. So that is plausible.

    Here's best original plat map I can find on the web. Pogues Run does seem to run a bit north of Fletcher Place, even in 1821. And, holy cow, the state misspells Andrew Ralston's name on this page…here

  • Wait, much better map on this page. Pogues run is north of South Street in the southeast corner of the city. There was one short perpendicular street known as Short Street. On this map, Pogues Run, believe it or not, matches our shapefile of its location underground pretty well.

  • The aerial photography collection at might give you some insight. I looked briefly, but didn't really have time to compare. The 1972 aerial photos predate I-70, but not by much–it appears that the demolition has occurred, but not the construction of the elevated highway. The 1962 photos are the most recent pre-interstate photos of that part of town.

  • Awesome, someone uses the GIS data viewer! (full disclosure, I work on some of the data that appears on that site). However, I didn't look at the historical photos until you mentioned it, so I'm glad you did.

    An amazing thing to notice from the 1962 photo is the density of houses in that part of town…wow!

  • I get your point, but it's not that difficult to get there. You just take one of the other one-ways south and turn appropriately.

    The businesses have banded together to form "Stadium Village" and with a couple of restaurants, a massage therapy studio/art gallery, a nursery, and a florist, you can do a lot in a one-stop shop.

  • One thing that I think could help would be to have businesses fill in the gap between Slippery Noodle and Shapiro's along Meridian Street. There is a commercial building on that block that formerly housed a Harley Davidson dealership. Unless something new has gone in there that I'm unaware of, it is still empty.

    However, a realignment of the streets so that the default movement is along South Meridian instead of towards the interstate ramp would help out even more, IMO.

  • Yeah, I love that thing, or at least the historical photos. I'm already jealous of future generations because of Google Street View. I hope they are archiving it by date. How cool would it be to take a virtual cruise down your home street circa 1950?

  • Babe Denny and downtown's south end has lost so many buildings in the last two decades, but the area also represents perhaps the last of downtown's big opportunities. Most of the other comments are rightly geared toward the practical, but I also want to point to the cultural opportunity, namely that much of this area was the city's historic Jewish quarter. We need to find a way to celebrate that part of the city's history when re-envisioning the space. Not necessarily a historic district, but perhaps a cultural one? Not sure if that would help momentum.

  • Hi there.

    I was wondering if anyone can help me?
    I am looking for a family with the name of Crawford.
    James c Crawford lived at 830 S Kenwood Avenue in 1943.
    I was hoping his family were still in the area,but have noticed there is no longer a property there now.
    I know James died on the 21May 1972.
    If anyone knows of his living family,please would you contact me.

    Kind regards


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