Category Archives: Auto Landmarks

Happy Centennial, Speedway Indiana

July 3, 2012, marked the centennial of the founding of the town of Speedway Indiana. This date commemorates the transfer of the deeds for the 240 acre site to Carl G. Fisher and James A. Allison, owners of the Globe Realty Company, and Lemon H. Trotter, their real estate partner.

The partners conceived Speedway to be a horseless manufacturing city adjacent to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway served by two railroads and modern thoroughfares. The city was designed to be attractive to skilled workers to provide steady employment for the nearby factories.

Allison Engineering
Allison Engineering Plant 1
Copyright ©2012 Dennis E. Horvath

The realty company laid out the residential section on a grid of streets between 16th and 10th streets and between Main and Winton. The east side of Main Street was platted for factories.

Fisher and Allison’s Prest-O-Lite Company was the first to build five buildings on the north plat near 16th Street. The charging building was located at the far end of the property to preclude damage to other properties from possible gas explosions. This facility opened in May 12, 1913. Swartz Electric Company, makers of automobile batteries and electric appliances, opened its plant about the same time. The Electric Steel Company completed facilities in 1915.

The lots on the west side of Main Street were specified for stores and offices. In late 1915, Allison became the sole owner of the Indianapolis Speedway Team Company and moved operations to a small shop on the corner of the Prest-O-Lite lot. The morning after America declared war on Germany in 1917, Allison instructed his chief engineer to find out how to get war orders going. Thus, the Allison Experimental Company was founded. Allison Experimental Company Plant 1 was built on the south side of 13th and Main Street in 1917 for the production of Liberty aircraft engines and other war material.

Other factories followed and the residential streets began to fill up. In 1926, the town was incorporated and experienced explosive growth during World War II, when the company now known as Allison Division of General Motors became a large manufacturer of military aircraft engines.

Speedway is experiencing renewal along Main Street in this new century. I wish a Happy Centennial to Speedway Indiana.

For more information on Indiana’s auto pioneers follow this link.

Indianapolis Auto Row

In the 1920’s, a 10-block area along North Capitol Avenue in Indianapolis became the home to several segments of the auto industry. If you wanted a new car or service in Indianapolis, this is where you would come. So, let’s take a stroll along N. Capitol to visit sites and structures of that bygone era.

The genesis for Indianapolis Auto Row began with Carl G. Fisher relocating his Fisher Automobile Co. showroom to 400 North Capitol Avenue in 1909. The Fisher Gibson Co. followed in 1910 at 416; with the following firms over the next decade, National Motor Vehicle Co. showroom (1911-1912) at 426-428; Fisher Automobile Co. (1918) at 434-442; and Colonial Automobile Co. (1917) at 444-450. Along the east side of the 400 block of N. Capitol were: Peterson Keyes Automobile Co. (1915) at 401-411; Central Motor Parts Co. (1913) at 419-425; Gates Masters Co. (1911) at 431; and the only currently existing building the Gibson Co. (1916-1917) at 433-447.

Gibson Company in 2007
The Gibson Co. Building in 2007
Copyright © 2007 Dennis E. Horvath

The Cadillac Co. of Indiana/Automobile College at 500-514 N. Capitol was built from 1910-1911. The first floor housed a Cadillac dealership and on the second floor was the college that was reputed to be one of the first “technical” schools related to autos. Just north on the west side of the block was Cooper Tire Service built in 1910.

Continuing up the west side of the street to the 600 block of N. Capitol, we come to the William Small Co. (1915) at 602. At this site in 1920, Louis J. Chevrolet built four Monroe and three Frontenac race cars. His brother Gaston Chevrolet drove a Monroe to victory in the 1920 Indianapolis 500.

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. built its regional service center at 640 N. Capitol in 1913. Across the street on the east side was the Williams Building, known as a “cafeteria of auto parts companies,” built in 1916-1917 at 611-617. Just north was the Hatfield Ford Co. showroom and service center at 627 N. Capitol built in 1920. This building served as a Ford dealer into the 1970’s.

Stutz Motor Car Company
The Stutz Motor Car Company
Copyright © 2007 Dennis E. Horvath

Walking a few blocks north we come to the Stutz Motor Car Co. (1914-1920) at 1002-1008 N. Capitol and the Ideal Motor Car Co. (1911) at 221 W. 10th Street. The first Stutz automobile was built at Ideal for the inaugural running of the Indianapolis 500 in 1911. A Stutz Model A torpedo roadster served as the pace car at the 1912 Indianapolis 500. In June 1913, the Ideal Motor Car Company was reorganized as the Stutz Motor Car Company. Following the initial success of the Stutz Bearcat roadster, construction of new facilities commenced at the 1002 N. Capitol. Stutz production continued here until 1934.

Further along the street we have the Harry V. Hyatt Graham-Paige Co. at 1327 N. Capitol built in 1929. This building is a good example of a single-story showroom. In the next block was the Stutz Fire Engine company at 1411 N. Capitol built in 1919. Across the street was the HCS Motor Car Co. at 1402 N. Capitol built in 1920-1921. This was Harry Clayton Stutz’s last auto venture.

I believe this area deserves a more formal designation as “Indianapolis Auto Row” for its large concentration of automotive related sites from the first three decades of the twentieth century. Most people are unaware that they are passing by some Indiana automotive landmarks as they motor down North Capitol Avenue in a hurry to work or to an entertainment venue.

So, take a look during your next visit to downtown Indianapolis.

Discover a wealth of innovation and history with Indianapolis Auto Tours at this link.