In April of 1837, Jacob Coil laid claim to 48 plots of land northeast of Indianapolis on the south bank of the White River. Built at the time when the ripples of the River were the largest and broadest in the county, Broad Ripple Village today is bounded by Keystone Avenue, Kessler Boulevard, and Meridian Street. During the same year, James and Adam Nelson purchased 37 lots for a 2nd canal settlement, the Wellington. After the Central Canal linked the Village to the city, and connections were made by the Indianapolis, Delphi, and Chicago railroad, the population grew and Indianapolis soon became known as the “Crossroads of America.” The two settlements of approximately 150 people merged in 1884, a U.S. Post Office was established, and it was officially annexed by the city on June 20,1922. The arrival of merchants, businessmen, and farmers to the area increased the demand for residential development, schools, and churches. The unusual history of the Village has encompassed everything from grist and saw mills, icehouses, and a jail to the Grand White City Amusement Park of 1906 and steamship cruises along the White River. After a fire in 1908, the Park was rebuilt, and it is now maintained by the Indy Parks and Recreation Department. Despite floods, gas explosions, and an economic decline in the 1970’s, the Village revived and continued to flourish as transportation progressed from canals and streetcars to railroads and automobiles.
A major attraction of the arts scene in the Village is the 12-acre Indianapolis Art Center, a 1934 WPA project designed by Michael Graves. It is a complete cultural complex with artists’ studios, classes, and a writers’ center. More than 250 classes and workshops for adults and youth are held here throughout the year. In addition, it offers 30-60 minute guided tours for $2.50/person, a variety of hands-on activities, and demonstrations for reasonable fees. Upcoming events at the Center include the silkscreen prints exhibit Confetti by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Shades of Clay, a traveling exhibition of international ceramics, and the exhibit and film series of the Callejon Experience, highlighting the involvement of local artists with the Afro-Cuban artists’ community in Havana, Cuba.
In 2005, the ARTSPARK was established as an outdoor venue for artistic expression in a natural environment of winding paths of greenery and river views. It features garden sculpture such as Confluence by Robert Stackhouse, created from 100 tons of Indiana limestone, and the Implication of Three by Tim Ryan. Over 650 ceramic tiles adhere to this three-sided steel and concrete column that rises 20 feet above College Avenue at 67th Street.
Over 25,000 people visit the annual art fair every May to view and purchase from the 225 national and international artists. In addition to live bands and entertainers performing on four stages, there are food vendors, two beer and wine gardens, and a separate kids’ amusement area. Advance tickets for adults – $8.00 and $2.00 for children. Tickets at the gate – $10.00 and $2.00, respectively. Free parking. Other annual events include the Midwest Music Summit, the Broad Ripple Music Fest, and the Taste of Broad Ripple.
Broad Ripple Village offers something for everyone, with a diverse range of activities from the Farmer’s Market, parks, and street life to nightlife, restaurants, and art galleries. Within its friendly neighborhood environment, visitors can experience shopping at its finest, or find collectibles, antique furniture, vintage clothing, and jewelry at boutiques and thrift shops. Others visit the two authentic English and Belgian pubs, relax at sidewalk cafes, or enjoy the international flavor and variety of cuisine including Asian, Greek, Thai, Italian, and Mexican in the numerous restaurants throughout the Village.
After dark, the artsy, the young college crowd, and the sophisticated fill the numerous nightspots such as Kathi’s Corner, Pepper’s, and Rock Lobster enjoying music, dancing, and drinking, while some prefer watching sports events on the big screen at Average Joe’s. There’s lots of glitz and glamour at Seven, the Vegas-style nightclub owned by Jermaine O’Neal of the Indiana Pacers. The Vogue, a Village landmark on College Avenue near Broad Ripple Avenue, has been in existence since Carl Niesse opened the movie house in 1938. The original theater, seating 700, was remodeled in 1977 and again in 1993. Although the outside marquee of the old theater remains, the interior is now a trendy dance club with DJ music and occasional performances by top entertainers.
Leisure and recreational activities play a big part in the community, as well. Bikers, runners, and walkers join the others on the Monon Trail, a 10.5-mile path that begins in Broad Ripple Village and connects numerous other neighborhoods, commercial districts, and the state fair grounds. From the first section that opened in 1996, it now forms a trail from Fall Creek and the Central Canal Towpath to the White River Wapahani Trail, Butler University, and downtown Massachusetts Avenue. Many pleasurable hours are spent in cycling, walking, roller blading, or viewing the murals created by aerosol artists that are displayed along the Trail. The more adventurous outdoor enthusiasts visit Rusted Moon Outfitters for boat rentals and classes, open Monday — Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Kayaks can be rented for $40.00 or $60.00 a day and canoes for $40.00 for the White River ride. The store offers a variety of backpacking, paddling, and hiking gear to buy, sell, or trade.
Broad Ripple Village, at one time no more than a summer retreat, is now a thriving community. Indianapolis’ pride in their Village is evident throughout with clean and tidy streets, carefully maintained architecture, and privately owned and locally operated establishments. It is a tasteful blend of eclectic sights and sounds for the individual, the tourist, or the family seeking respite and rejuvenation. Many have chosen to set up residence in the condos and lofts of the restored Victorian buildings. Thousands of visitors and permanent residents have discovered the unique appeal of the successful combination of delightful living conditions with employment opportunities, culture, and recreation in Broad Ripple Village.