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.
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.