Indianapolis was a commercial producer of automobiles and taxicabs from 1897 to 1937. The Circle City, with 65 different vehicles manufactured here, ranked second to Cleveland, with 82, as Detroit’s chief rival for the title of the nation’s auto capital.
David L. Lewis notes in The Automobile in American Culture that until 1905 Indianapolis contained more auto plants than did any city in Michigan. Indianapolis makes, like Duesenberg, Marmon, and Stutz, are highly sought after by collectors today and have achieved the “Classic” designation from the Classic Car Club of America. Plus, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway brought acclaim for the city as the birthplace for many engineering improvements and played an important part in the development process for Indianapolis makers as well as other autos.
As with the majority of manufacturers around the state, the companies in Indianapolis were primarily assemblers. They concentrated on providing uniqueness to their products, which proved to be their undoing. They were not able to compete with the mass producers who could control all components of the process and, therefore, offer a product at a much lower price.
Many of the buildings that housed the movers and shakers of Indianapolis automotive industry still stand. Capitol Avenue has the nucleus of what might be regarded as an Indianapolis automotive heritage district.
HCS Motor Car Co., 1402 N. Capitol Ave., 1920-1927
Harry V. Hyatt, Graham-Paige Showroom, 1327 N. Capitol Ave., 1929
Stutz Motor Car Co., 1008 N. Capitol Ave., 1916-1935
Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., 640 N. Capitol Ave., 1913
Frank Hatfield Ford Showroom, 627 N. Capitol Ave. 1920
Williams Building Showroom, 611-617 N. Capitol Ave. 1916-1917
William Small Co., (Monroe Factory), 602 N. Capitol Ave., 1918-1923
Cadillac Co. of Indiana Showroom, 500-514 N. Capitol Ave., 1910-1911
Gibson Co. Building (Willys-Overland affiliation), 433-447 N. Capitol Ave. 1916-1917
The Duesenberg Motor Car Company (1920-1937) final assembly building is situated at 1511 W. Washington Street. At 1225 W. Harding Street is the Marmon complex (1919-1932).
The former home of the Cole Motor Car Company (1913-1925) is at 730 E. Washington Street, and at 1307-1323 E. Washington is the Ford Motor Company (1914-1932) branch. This plant produced over 581,000 vehicles for the Indiana Region.
These buildings serve as an overview of the over 40 existing sites of Indianapolis automotive heritage. Occasionally one of the existing structures is demolished. There needs to be a way to better recognize these heritage sites for posterity. Let us know your thoughts.
For a personal tour of various Indianapolis automotive sites, follow this link.