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Faith and Community: A Historic Walking Tour

Faith and Community: A Historic Walking Tour
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Southwest Quadrant       Southeast Quadrant



Since the founding of Indianapolis in 1820-1821, places of worship have been a prominent part of the capital’s landscape.  By the 1850s, five notable Protestant churches stood on the Circle at the center of the growing city.  In the surrounding Mile Square area, numerous church buildings lined the streets of Alexander Ralston’s original design for the city’s downtown.

After WW I, three of the large churches on the Circle were torn down to make way for the War Memorial that occupies the spot to this day.  In the succeeding years, the congregations of numerous other churches in the Mile Square moved further out, leaving the buildings to newly arrived congregations, or to be replaced by secular structures.  Increasingly, the houses of government, banking, insurance, and retail have moved to center place in Indianapolis, while houses of worship have migrated toward the suburbs. 

While many of these buildings no longer exist, there are numerous remnants of Indianapolis’ rich religious heritage still to be found.  Over the years, some of the city’s most prominent architects have designed places of worship, many of which still grace the contemporary cityscape.  Our focus here is on historic religious sites and structures in Indianapolis’ Mile Square and the immediately surrounding area.  Within this area you will find buildings of diverse architectural styles representing a variety of faiths and denominations.

This booklet and the companion walking tour map feature buildings both standing and demolished, those still functioning as houses of worship and those converted to other purposes.  It is therefore a guide to the past as well as to the present. 

As one makes the tour, two broad themes become apparent.  One is that Indianapolis has been home, now and in the past, to a diversity of religious practices.  The first order of business for many groups immigrating here, whether from abroad or from other parts of this country, was to establish a place of worship as the center of their community.  The congregation sustained the group’s traditions, and often its language, while it made the transition into the city’s mainstream.  The second theme is that as congregations matured, they tended to move outward from the center city, toward the suburbs.  These processes continue to this day, as immigrants arrive and bring their religious practices with them. 

Faith & Community: A Historic Walking Tour map and booklet ©1998 The Polis Center

Historian:          David G. Vanderstel

Editors: Robert Cole, Michelle Hale

Published by The Polis Center at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, as part of the Project on Religion and Urban Culture, with support from Lilly Endowment Inc.



V = vacant building, A = active religious structure, D = demolished, R = reused by another organization,    C = Protestant/Christian, Ca = Catholic, J = Jewish, O = Orthodox, AA = African American, EE = Eastern European, G = German, I = Irish, D = Danish, It = Italian, X = Existing, active congregation


Northwest Quadrant

1  Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

414 West Vermont Street, brick structure (Built, 1869)
A / C / AA / X

Organized in 1836, Bethel is the oldest African-American congregation in Indianapolis. The brick core of the current building was completed in 1869, with several additions added over the years. Bethel was a stopover on the Underground Railroad and the site of much activity in the African-American community, establishing a school in 1867 and serving as the location for the founding of the State Federation of Colored Women’s Club (1904) and the Indianapolis chapter of the NAACP (1909). In 1991 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

2  Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church

27 South Meridian Street (1900-1914)
West Street between Ohio and New York Streets (1914-post 1960)
D / O / EE / X

Image 1 Settling initially on the near west side, the Indianapolis Greek community established an Orthodox church at 27 South Meridian Street around 1900. It became known as Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and relocated to the 200 block of North West Street, across from Military Park, in 1914. The congregation moved to a new building constructed at 4011 North Pennsylvania in 1960 and has hosted the annual Greek Festival there since 1974. An Indiana state historical marker stands one block south of where the West Street church was located.

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox, ca. 1916
IHS C1873

3  Meridian Street Methodist Episcopal Church

802 N. Meridian Street (Built, 1906)
R / C  / X

Meridian Street Methodist traces its origins to Indianapolis’ first Methodist body established in 1821. Originally meeting in a log cabin on what is now the state house grounds, the congregation eventually moved to the southwest quadrant of Monument Circle. The building at St. Clair and Meridian Streets was designed by the firm D.A. Bohlen & Sons in 1906. This Gothic Revival style church built over two years time served the Meridian Street Methodist Episcopal Church until the early 1950s when the congregation moved to its current facility at 55th and Meridian Streets. Since that time, the St. Clair building has housed the Indiana Business College.

4  St. Bridget Catholic Church

801 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street (Built, 1880)
R / Ca /I and AA

Formed from a portion of St. John’s Catholic Parish in 1879, St. Bridget originally served primarily Irish parishioners on the city’s north side. The Romanesque Revival-style brick building, situated on the Northeast corner of St. Clair and West Streets, later included a pastoral residence and parish school. After 1900, it began serving the growing African-American Catholic community in the Indiana Avenue area. The parish was closed in 1994, and the building now houses the Newman Center (Catholic campus ministry) for IUPUI.

5  St. Constantine and Elena Romanian Orthodox Church

West Market and Blackford Streets (1911-1947)
D / O / X / EE

Romanian immigrants organized a parish in 1910-1911 and erected a building at West Market and Blackford streets. The parish conducted a weekly language school to maintain the native tongue among the children. Following the purchase of its property by the Acme-Evans Company in 1947, the church moved to 3237 West 16th Street where it has since 1949 served as the center of Romanian culture in the city.

6  St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

New York and Illinois Streets (Built, 1866; Re-built, 1889-1940s)
D / C / X

Members of Christ Episcopal Church founded St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in 1866. They were reputed to have been sympathetic towards Southern Democrats during the Civil War, which earned the parish the popular label, “the church of the Holy Copperheads.” Fire destroyed the building in 1889, and the congregation erected a new structure on the site. They occupied the building until the late 1940s when they relocated to 10 West 61st Street.

7  St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

720 North Martin Luther King Jr. Street (Built 1888-1905, Re-built 1986)
A / P/ X/ AA

St. Phillip’s began in the 1880s as a mission of Christ Episcopal and St. Paul’s Episcopal churches among the city’s African-American population. The small mission congregation laid the cornerstone for its first building in 1888. Officially organized as a parish in 1901, the 25-member church erected their first building in 1905 at 720 North West Street. The predominantly African-American congregation commissioned the firm of Woollen, Molzan, and Partners to design a new edifice, which was completed in 1986.

8  St. Stephen’s Bulgarian Orthodox Church

226 N. Blackford (1916-1955)
D / O / X / EE

Local Macedonian and Bulgarian immigrants established this Orthodox congregation in 1907 in a remodeled house. They erected a new building at the intersection of Blackford and New York Streets in 1916 to serve the nearly 1,000 countrymen who inhabited the city’s near west side. During the 1940s, the population began moving to the far west side where they constructed a new building in 1955. The congregation now worships at 1435 North Medford Avenue. An Indiana state historical marker stands near the former church site, now occupied by the IU Law School at Indianapolis.

9  Scottish Rite Cathedral

650 North Meridian Street (Built, 1926-1929)
A / C / X

This monumental building serves as the headquarters of the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis, a Masonic organization. Designed by architect and member George F. Schreiber in 1926, it was completed in 1929 at a cost of $2.5 million. The building is of basic Tudor design with Gothic ornamentation, and is laid out in multiples of 33 feet, symbolizing the 33 years of Christ’s life and the degrees of masonry. The Gothic tower rises 212 feet above street level and houses a carillon of 54 bells. The interior is known for its grand staircase and two-story ballroom with a “floating floor” laid on springs and felt. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Open daily for tours.

10  Second Baptist Church

West Michigan and West Streets (Built ca. 1867; Re-built, 1912-20)
R / C / X / AA

Organized in 1846, this church was the city’s first African-American Baptist congregation. The congregation worshipped in several locations on the near west side before finding a permanent home. Under Pastor Moses Broyles, the church grew rapidly and relocated to West Michigan Street near the Central Canal where it erected a new building. Having fallen into disrepair, Second Baptist began a rebuilding project in 1912 that was not completed until 1920. In the early 1990s, the congregation relocated to 2203 West Washington Street, and in 1994 sold their former building to developers who have transformed the interior into condominiums.

11  Second Christian Church

702 W 9th Street (1911-1948)
R / C / X / AA

Second Church was Indianapolis’ first African-American congregation in the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ denomination. Founded by Central Christian in 1866 as a mission chapel to the growing black population around Indiana Avenue, Second Church moved several times before taking root at the corner of Pratt (now 9th) and Camp Streets. In 1911, the congregation erected a frame building, which served until they relocated to 29th and Kenwood Streets in 1948. The church moved again in 1982 to 5640 East 38th Street and changed its name to Light of the World Christian Church. The church, which has several thousand members, maintains an active television ministry and numerous community and youth programs.

12  Simpson Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME)

11th and Missouri Streets (1899-1950s)
C / AA

The Simpson Chapel began in 1875 to serve the surrounding African-American population. By 1899 the congregation laid the cornerstone for their new brick building. They remained at this location until the late 1950s before removing to a site at 2900 North Capitol Avenue.

13  Witherspoon Presbyterian

700 block of Camp Street (1907-post 1930)
D / C / X / AA

This African-American congregation has its origins in the Ninth Presbyterian Church, organized in 1872. Following differences of opinion, the church split, with one group locating on Camp Street amidst the African-American population. The congregation officially reorganized in 1907 as the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church. It occupied this site until the late 1930s when it moved further north. In 1968, the congregation built a new sanctuary at 5136 North Michigan Road.


Northeast Quadrant

14  Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME)

637 East 11th Street (Built, 1928)
A / C / X / AA

This African-American congregation began in 1865 as a mission effort of Bethel AME Church. The congregation’s first structure was erected at Broadway and Pomeroy Streets in 1867 and served the city’s east side African-Americans. This congregation sponsored one of the first day schools for blacks in the city, which is the forerunner of School No. 26. Allen Chapel erected a new building at the corner of Eleventh and Broadway Streets in 1928 where they continue to worship today. Image 2

Allen Chapel AME, ca. 1960
Recorder C7664

15  Cadle Tabernacle

Northwest corner of Ohio and New Jersey streets (1921-1968)
D / C

Constructed in 1921 by local businessman/evangelist E. Howard Cadle, this Spanish-style building had seating for more than 11,000. Modeled after the Alamo with a red-tiled roof and whitewashed stucco exterior, the tabernacle was reputed to be the largest building in the U.S. devoted to religious services. Cadle Tabernacle hosted famous evangelists, including Billy Sunday, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Billy Graham, and served as a public convention center for non-religious events. It was alleged to be a popular gathering place for the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s. Indiana National Bank purchased the property in 1968 and razed the building to make room for a parking lot. 

16  Central Christian Church  

Southwest corner of Delaware and Ohio Streets (1852-1893) D
701 North Delaware Street (Built, 1892)
A / C / X

Image 3 Indianapolis’ first congregation affiliated with the Indiana-based Christian Church/ Disciples of Christ was the “Church of Christ in Indianapolis,” founded in 1833. The congregation erected a chapel at the southwest corner of Delaware and Ohio Streets in 1852 and did not adopt the name Central Christian Church until 1879. Central Christian played an important role in the early years of the denomination. Several members were involved in the founding of North Western Christian (now Butler) University in 1855. Their current red brick Romanesque Revival-style building at Delaware and Walnut Streets was designed by local architect W. Scott Moore and dedicated April 16, 1893.

Central Christian, ca. 1940
Bass 210445

17  Christ Church Cathedral

Northeast corner of Monument Circle (Built, 1859)
A / C / X

The city’s first Episcopal congregation founded in 1837, Christ Church Cathedral is the only religious structure remaining on the Circle where several churches once stood. This English country Gothic-style building, designed by William Tinsley, opened in May 1859. Over the years, as the downtown commercial district grew, Christ Church resisted offers to
purchase its property. In 1927, the congregation excavated an undercroft or basement to house educational facilities at the site. Probably the oldest religious structure remaining in Indianapolis, Christ Church was entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Image 4

Christ Church Cathedral, ca. 1900
Bass 4359

18  First Baptist Church

Meridian and Maryland Streets (ca. 1829-1861)
Pennsylvania and New York Streets (1864-1904)
Meridian and Vermont Streets (1904-1960)
D/ P/ X

Indianapolis’ first Baptist congregation was established in 1822 and first met in a schoolhouse. Members erected a crude brick building in 1829. In 1864, after a fire, they built anew at the corner of Pennsylvania and New York Streets. This edifice served First Baptist until a fire in January 1904. Then the congregation constructed a new building, reported to be the largest Baptist church in the state, at the northeast corner of Meridian and Vermont Streets. By the 1920s, First Baptist had grown to nearly 2,000 members. The church vacated its building in 1960 after the state purchased its property for an expansion of the World War Memorial Plaza. At that time, First Baptist erected a new building at the corner of North College Avenue and 86th Street. Image 5

First Baptist, ca. 1930s
IHS 2242597F

19  First Friends Church

Intersection of Fort Wayne, St. Clair, and Delaware Streets (1856-1896)
1245 North Alabama Street (1895-late 1950s)
V / C / X

Image 6 The first meeting of the Society of Friends in Indianapolis occurred in the 1830s. They erected a two-story building in 1855-1856 at the intersections of Fort Wayne, St. Clair, and Delaware Streets. This white congregation was very active in reform movements and assisted several African-American congregations and organizations get started in the city. Forty years later, the congregation dedicated a Romanesque Revival-style brick building at Alabama and Home (now 13th) Streets. In the late 1950s, they relocated to a new building at 3030 East Kessler Boulevard.

First Friends, ca. 1930
Bass 8628

20  First Lutheran Church

Meridian and Ohio Streets (1837-1853) D
Alabama and New York Streets (1853-1875) D
701 North Pennsylvania Street (Originally built in 1875, addition 1887)
A / C / X

The first Lutherans to settle in Indianapolis established a congregation called Mt. Pisgah Lutheran Church in 1837. Their building stood at the corner of Meridian and Ohio Streets for sixteen years. Occupying a site at the corner of Alabama and New York Streets until the early 1870s, the congregation purchased land at its present site on North Pennsylvania Street and erected a Gothic Revival-style building. A second portion, a Romanesque Revival-style building facing Pennsylvania Street, was completed in 1887. Over the course of its existence, First Lutheran has helped to establish five other churches in the Indianapolis area. The church joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Image 7

First Lutheran, ca. 1930s
Bretzman 19142

21  First Presbyterian Church

Pennsylvania Street between Market and Ohio streets (1823-1841) D
Monument Circle and East Market Street (1841-1864) D
Southwest corner of New York and Pennsylvania Streets (1864-1899) D
Southeast corner of North Delaware and 16th Street (1903-1970)
R / C / X         

The city’s first Presbyterian congregation was founded in 1823. The church occupied a site on the southwest corner of New York and Pennsylvania Streets from 1864 to 1899. At that time, the Federal Government acquired the church’s property, and First Presbyterian erected a large stone building at the southeast corner of Delaware and 16th Streets. A notable feature of their building was the Benjamin Harrison Memorial stained glass window designed by Tiffany’s of New York. The window is now housed at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In 1970, the congregation, plagued by declining membership, merged with the Meridian Heights Presbyterian Church located at 47th Street and Central Avenue and adopted the name First-Meridian Heights Presbyterian. The Delaware Street building currently operates as the Metropolitan Community Center and houses other religious organizations.

22  First United Brethren Church

21st Street and Central Avenue (1898-1907) D
749 North Park Street (1907-1920)
704 North Park Street (1920 - 1960s) D
R / C / G

Image 8 A United Brethren congregation first organized in the city in 1844. They erected a building at 21st Street and Central Avenue in 1898 before moving in 1907 to a new structure, designed by the firm of Rubush and Hunter, at the corner of North Park and St. Clair Streets. Around 1921, the congregation moved one block south to a much larger building, again designed by Rubush and Hunter. The 1907 building has housed the Phoenix Theatre, a professional theater company, since 1988. In 1997 the 704 North Park building was demolished, leaving only the main tower standing.

First United Brethren, ca. 1930s
Bass 82390F

23  Fourth Presbyterian Church

Southwest corner of Delaware and Market Streets (1857-1874)
Northwest corner of Pennsylvania and Pratt (1874-1895)
D / C / X

Organized with members from Second Presbyterian in 1851, this congregation erected a building at the southwest corner of Delaware and Market Streets in 1857. The church moved in 1874 to a new building at the northwest corner of Pennsylvania and Pratt Streets. Twenty years later, in 1895, the church completed construction on a building at Alabama and 19th Streets.

24  Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation

Market and East Streets (1868-1897)
10th and Delaware Streets (1899-1958)
D / J / X

Jewish immigrants organized the city’s first Jewish temple in 1856 and erected their first building in 1868 at the corner of Market and East Streets. Desiring to move further north, the congregation sold their temple to the Ohev Zedeck congregation and hired the local architectural firm of Vonnegut and Bohn to design a new building at 10th and Delaware Streets. Built in the Moslem/Byzantine style, the temple was topped by three domes. One unique feature of the worship space was a memorial stained glass window depicting Moses that was reputed to be the first instance in which a person was portrayed in a synagogue. In 1958 the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation moved into a new temple located at 65th and Meridian Streets. For a short time Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple used the old Delaware Street building.

25  Lockerbie Square United Methodist

Southeast corner of Wabash and New Jersey Streets (ca. 1850-1883)
237 North East Streets (Built, 1883)
A / C / X

This congregation of German Methodists began in the 1850s at the southeast corner of Wabash and New Jersey Streets. In 1853, they became the city’s first church to affiliate with the Evangelical Association. Commonly referred to as the “shoemaker church” because of the many members involved in that trade, the congregation purchased land at the southeast corner of New York and East Streets in 1880 and three years later dedicated a Neo-Romanesque-style building, debt free. Local architect Diedrich A. Bohlen designed the edifice. After several mergers and name changes, the church became Lockerbie Square United Methodist in 1979.

26  Ohev Zedeck Temple

Market and East Streets (1897-1928)
D / J / EE / X

Hungarian Jews established this congregation in 1884 and for years worshipped in several rented storefronts. They also supported a Hungarian Jewish school at 350 South Meridian Street for many years. In 1897, they purchased the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation’s temple at Market and East Streets. Following a merger with Congregation Beth-El in 1928, the new congregation, named Beth-El Zedeck, moved to Beth-El’s site at 34th and Ruckle Streets. In 1958, the congregation moved to its current location at 600 West 70th Street.

27  Plymouth Congregational Church

Meridian Street just north of Monument Circle (1859-1884)
Southeast corner of New York and Meridian Streets (1884-1900)
D / C / X         

In 1857, Plymouth was the first Congregational church established in the capital city. Its first building was on the Circle across from Christ Episcopal Church, the chapel of which was later incorporated into the English Hotel. Pastor Oscar McCulloch led the congregation in 1884 to a new site on New York and Meridian Streets. Plymouth developed as an “institutional church” and became active in public charity and the Social Gospel movement of the period. In 1900 the Federal Government purchased the block occupied by the church and other buildings for a new federal building. Eight years later Plymouth merged with Mayflower Congregational Church, adopted the name First Congregational, and moved to the southwest corner of 16th and Delaware Streets. (That building is currently used by the Joy For All Who Sorrow, an Eastern Orthodox congregation.) In the late 1950s, First Congregational erected a new building at 7171 North Pennsylvania Street.

28  Roberts Park United Methodist

Northeast corner of Pennsylvania and Market Streets (1842-1879)
401 North Delaware Street (Built, 1879; addition, 1927)
A / C / X

Image 9 Roberts Park Methodist traces its origins to Indianapolis’ first Methodist body established in 1821. Roberts Chapel’s first building stood at the northeast corner of Pennsylvania and Market Streets. After the Civil War, Indianapolis architect Diedrich A. Bohlen designed a new building, which was erected at the corner of Delaware and Vermont Streets. Named Roberts Park because of its park-like setting, the Romanesque Revival-style building, patterned after the City Temple of London, cost $128,000 and took ten years to build.  Involved in local mission activities, the congregation sponsored the city’s first library and YMCA, and 18 other Methodist congregations.  Despite many of its members moving to the suburbs in the 1950s, the congregation elected to stay in the downtown area. Known for its Indiana limestone exterior and the use of black walnut wood throughout, the church building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Roberts Park United Methodist, ca. 1850
Bass 17804

29  St. Joseph Catholic Church

Vermont and east of East Street (1873-79)
540 North College Avenue (1880-1949)
V / R / Ca

The Parish of St. Joseph was established in 1873, carved from St. John the Evangelist Parish, to serve Catholics in the northeast portion of the city. In 1879-1880, the parish erected a Gothic-style building, designed by Diedrich A. Bohlen, at the corner of North and Noble (now College) Streets. During the following decade, parishioners added a rectory and school. The sanctuary contains ceiling paintings by Italian artist Giovanni Gioscio. In 1949 Bishop Paul Schulte ordered St. Joseph’s closed, making it the first parish casualty of urban flight. In 1950, the bishop established a new St. Joseph’s parish on the city’s southwest side near the Indianapolis airport. Currently, the Hispanic Center is housed in the old parish rectory.

30  St. Mary’s Catholic Church

117 East Maryland Street (1857-1910?)
317 North New Jersey (Built, 1910?)
A / Ca / G / X

St. Mary’s was the city’s second Catholic parish, founded specifically for Germans in 1856-1857. Initially located at 117 East Maryland Street, the parish relocated to a new site at New Jersey and Vermont Streets around 1910. There, they erected the present limestone Gothic Revival structure, modeled after the Cologne Cathedral, and designed by German architect Herman Gaul. The St. Mary Rectory (built 1910) and St. Mary Academy (built 1912) adjoin the main church building. A fine example of German Gothic Revival style, St. Mary’s was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Image 10

St. Mary's Catholic, ca. 1920
Bass 30898

31  Second Presbyterian Church

Northwest corner of Monument Circle (1840-1860s)
Vermont and Pennsylvania Streets (1860s-1959)
D / C / X

A small plaque on the Associated Group building marks the first location of the Second Presbyterian Church, organized in November 1838. The congregation split from First Presbyterian over theological issues. Henry Ward Beecher was the church’s first pastor (1839-1849). In the late 1860s the church constructed a Neo-Gothic-style building at the corner of Vermont and Pennsylvania Streets. The congregation remained at this location into the 1950s, despite construction of the Indiana World War Memorial and Plaza on land immediately adjacent to the church. Since 1959, the congregation has worshipped at 7700 North Meridian Street. Second Presbyterian was responsible for planting seven Presbyterian churches or missions throughout the city.

32  Unity Center

907 North Delaware Street (Built, 1950s)
A / C / X

The Unity movement, founded on non-creedal Christian teachings, began in the US in 1889. A study class began in Indianapolis in 1914 and was incorporated in 1923. Under the leadership of Murle Powell Douglass, the church occupied several sites in the downtown area before erecting a building at its present site in the 1950s. A new 480-seat sanctuary opened in December 1964 was reputed to be the first religious structure built in the Downtown area in 25 years. Image 11

Unity Center interior, ca. 1910s

33  Wheeler Mission

245 North Delaware Street (Built, 1922)
A / C / X

Image 12 In 1893, William V. Wheeler, sales manager for a local hardware business, opened a mission to the needy on South Street. Incorporated as the Rescue Mission and Home of Indianapolis in 1905, the mission acquired the name of its benefactor following his death in 1908. The program occupied several sites, including the former Empire Theater building on Wabash Street, before moving in 1922 to its present location at 245 North Delaware Street. Wheeler Mission provides free shelter of men, meals, medical care, clothing and other programs. The organization, which recently completed a new addition, is now known as Wheeler Mission Ministries.

Wheeler Mission, ca.?
IHS C5794

34  Zion Evangelical United Church of Christ

32 West Ohio Street (1841-1911) D
601 North New Jersey Street (Built, 1911)
A / C / G / X

German immigrants organized this congregation in 1841. The congregation erected its first building, a frame structure, at 32 West Ohio Street. In 1860 the church added a two-story parochial school. Zion members were instrumental in founding the General Protestant Orphans Home, the Protestant Deaconess Hospital, and the Altenheim, a home for the elderly. In 1911, the congregation built a new structure at its present location. The firm of D.A. Bohlen and Sons designed the glazed red brick Gothic Revival-style building and a sanctuary with Arts & Crafts-style stained glass windows. The church tower includes three large bells from Bothum, Germany. In 1957, the congregation became known as Zion Evangelical United Church of Christ.


Southwest Quadrant

35  Ezras Achim

708 South Meridian Street (ca. 1910-??)
D / J / EE / X

Founded around 1910, this congregation of Eastern European Jewish immigrants met at this South Meridian Street location for several years. It was commonly known as the “peddlers shul” because of the many poor peddlers who comprised the congregation. In 1966 Ezras Achim merged with Knesses Israel and Sharah Tefilla, took the name the United Orthodox Hebrew Congregation, and moved to the city’s north side at Central Avenue and Kessler Boulevard.

36  Mayer Chapel

448 West Norwood Street at West Street (1894-1960s)
R / C

Second Presbyterian Church established this chapel in 1894 to support the work of missions on the city’s south side. Using funds provided by local businessman Ferdinand Mayer, the church expanded the mission in 1897. The mission provided free kindergarten classes, mothers’ clubs, young people’s groups, and worship services to serve the people residing near the stockyards and Belt Line Railroad. Around 1910, it offered space for the Children’s Aid Association to distribute free milk. In 1917, the newly renamed Mayer Chapel and Neighborhood Home expanded to include a gymnasium and a minister’s residence. The building continued to serve as a neighborhood center into the 1960s. The building currently houses state government offices.

37  St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church

Washington between West and California Streets (1840-1850) D
South Capitol Avenue and West Georgia Street (Originally built, 1850; re-built 1871)
A / Ca / X

Image 13 Founded in 1837, St. John the Evangelist is the city’s oldest Catholic parish. It was originally called Church of the Holy Cross and served all of Marion County. After occupying a small frame structure on the north side of West Washington Street between West and California Streets, the parish erected a new brick church in 1850 on the site of the present structure and was renamed St. John the Evangelist. Under the leadership of Father August Bessonies (1857-1892), the parish constructed the present Gothic Revival building, designed by Diedrich A. Bohlen, between 1867-1871. The towering spires and stained glass were added in 1893. By the late 1880s, five parishes had been carved out of St. John’s parish; still, some 3,000 members remained as part of the original parish. Since factories and warehouses and the RCA Dome have replaced homes in the area, St. John has come to serve a transient hotel and tourist crowd, though many individuals remain faithful to the historic parish. The church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

St. John the Evangelist Catholic, ca. 1900
Bass 841

38  Sharah Tefilla

352 South Meridian Street (1882-1909)
Meridian and Merrill Streets (1909-1966)
D / J / EE / X

In the 1870s, a small prayer group of Polish Jews gathered on the city’s near south side. They organized as Congregation Chevro Bene Jacob in 1876. In 1882 the congregation changed its name to Sharah Tefilla and purchased a building at 352 South Meridian Street. In 1909, they moved to a new Classical-style synagogue at South Meridian and Merrill Streets. Later in 1966 Sharah Tefilla merged with Knesses Israel and Ezras Achim, took the name the United Orthodox Hebrew Congregation, and moved to the city’s north side at Central Avenue and Kessler Boulevard.

39  Volunteers of America

531 West Washington Street (ca. 1900) D
44 South Capitol Street D
D / C / X

Founded in New York in 1896 as a religious-social reform organization, the Volunteers of America had a local branch in Indianapolis by the turn of the century. They opened a Mission Hall on West Washington Street that provided religious worship services, Sunday school, and a variety of social welfare programs and services. Currently, they have one local post with membership of about 60.


Southeast Quadrant

40  Fletcher Place United Methodist Church

501 Fletcher Avenue (1872-1980s)
R / C

In 1872, members of the Fletcher family donated the site for a church. Reputed to be designed by Pastor Charles Tinsley, the church served its congregation until the early 1980s. For a short period, the building operated as a community center. Threatened with demolition, the Fountain Square & Fletcher Place Investment Corporation undertook extensive exterior restoration. Currently in the process of becoming a catering establishment, the building continues as a reminder of the prominence of the church in this southeast side neighborhood. Image 14

Fletcher Place Methodist, ca. ?
Bass 62802

41  Holy Rosary Catholic Church

520 Stevens Street
A / Ca / X

The Holy Rosary parish was established in 1909 to serve the growing Italian population living on the south side and working in the produce business. The church building was constructed between 1911 and 1925. A school church was added in 1924. Between 1957 and 1977 the school housed the Latin School which prepared boys for the priesthood. Even though the Italian population dispersed from the area, the church is still home to Italian culture in the city. The Italian Festival has been held there since 1984, the proceeds of which support building maintenance. Because of this loyalty, Holy Rosary has survived shrinking membership, even though the Archdiocese sought to close the parish in 1992.

42  Olivet Baptist Church

1001 Hosbrook Street (1927-present)
A / C / AA / X

Originally founded in Beech Grove in 1867, the Olivet Baptist congregation moved to a location at Prospect and Leonard Streets in the early 1900s. They moved again to 1001 Hosbrook Street in 1927, in the Fountain Square area and the former home of the St Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church where it continues to worship today.

43  St. Mark’s Lutheran Church

647 Virginia Avenue (1891-1893) D
1001 Hosbrook Street (1893-1922)

This congregation was founded as the Second English Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1891.  It represented the strong concentration of German families and businesses clustered in the Fountain Square area.  It did not become known as St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran until 1910.  The congregation sold its Hosbrook building to the Salvation Army in 1922 and moved to its present location at 1301 E. Prospect Street.  The first building it worshipped in was later destroyed to make way for highway construction. 

44  St. Paul Lutheran Church

Georgia and East Streets (1860-1882)
717 South New Jersey Street (1882-19??)
D / C / G / X

Considered the mother of German Lutheran churches in the city, St. Paul’s Lutheran began in 1842.  The congregation occupied a site first on South Alabama Street and then erected a structure in 1860 at Georgia and East Streets.   The continued growth of the church led to a split, producing Trinity Lutheran Church to serve members living to the north.  After a fire destroyed the building in 1882, the congregation secured the firm of D.A. Bohlen and Sons to design a new Gothic Revival edifice for the corner of South New Jersey and East McCarty Streets.  As Eli Lilly and Company expanded to surround the church, and as maintenance expenses increased, the St. Paul’s congregation decided to relocate to Perry Township on the city’s south side.  The building was subsequently demolished in 1995.

45  Trinity Evangelical Danish Lutheran Church

701 East McCarty Street (1872-1956)
R / C / D

Immigrants from Denmark came to Indianapolis in 1860 to assist in building a German Lutheran church.  In 1872, parishioners purchased property at Noble (now College) and McCarty Streets and erected a red brick Gothic-style church that still stands.  It is reputed to be the first Danish ethnic congregation in the U.S.  The lintel over the front door still bears the original inscription in Danish.  The building continued to house Danish societies and cultural organizations even after parishioners left the area.  (The congregation still survives as First Trinity Lutheran Church on East 42nd Street.)  The surrounding district, known as the Holy Rosary-Danish Church Historic District, was placed on the Nation al Register of Historic Places in 1986.  The building now houses the Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic Faith.


Image 15

Church Spires on the Circle, ca. 1870


V = vacant building, A = active religious structure, D = demolished, R = reused by another organization,    C = Protestant/Christian, Ca = Catholic, J = Jewish, O = Orthodox, AA = African American, EE = Eastern European, G = German, I = Irish, D = Danish, It = Italian, X = Existing, active congregation




Jacob Piatt Dunn, Jr.  Greater Indianapolis.  2 vols.  Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co.,  1910; reprint ed. Evansville: Unigraphic, 1977. 

Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.  Center Township, Marion County, Interim Report.  Indianapolis: Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, 1991.

David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows.  Encyclopedia of Indianapolis.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994. 

Joseph M. White.  Where God’s People Meet.  Carmel: Guild Press of Indiana, 1996.

Riley-Lockerbie Ministerial Association of Downtown Indianapolis.  “The History of Nine Urban Churches.”  Pamphlet, n.d.

Riley-Lockerbie Ministerial Association of Downtown Indianapolis.  “The Art and Architecture of Nine Urban Churches.”  Pamphlet, n.d.

Author:  David Vanderstel
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