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The Other Indianapolis City Market

The Indianapolis City Market, located at 222 East Market Street, has been a center of activity in Indianapolis since the early days of the city. However, it wasn’t always the only market space in Indianapolis, although it has won out as the most enduring. When the city was originally platted in 1821, the design contemplated two official market spaces, one on the east side of the mile square, the other on the west side. No doubt there were other markets, including smaller more localized operations in neighborhoods and other parts of the city (there appears to have been a southern market house for a few years in the 1850's), but these were the two "official" spaces established when the city was platted.

The west side market ground was originally set on the northeast corner of Market and West Streets, where the Fire Station, 9/11 Memorial and Central Canal basin are today. The 1831 plat of the city, reproduced in 1913 and shown below, shows the original western market square, although the reprinted version from 1913 makes a note about a transfer of the property (discussed more below). In the excerpt of this map below, West Street would be on the left, and Missouri (later the canal) on the right.

It does not appear the west market space was as developed, or used, as much as the eastern market. The 1835 Sullivan map of Indianapolis (excerpt below), shows both market spaces (yellow highlight) and a large structure on the eastern site (right side), but no such development on the west.

Indianapolis history sullivan map downtown mile square
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Not long after the Sullivan map was created, the western market space was relocated. The reprinting of the 1831 Indianapolis plat mentions this change as noted above, although no date, or reason, is given. However, the transfer occurred in 1838, and coincided with the construction of the Central Canal through the city. The location of the market was in what would become the crosscut off of the main canal, which was intended to provide waterpower to industrial concerns (mills, etc.) on the west side of the city. This western leg of the canal ran along the southside of Military Park.

The market space was transferred from this point adjacent to West Street to the lots just north of the statehouse square, bordered on the north by Ohio Street and Market to the south. This is identified by the green highlighting on the map above. On the plat below, the two sections north of Wabash Alley are marked with "Lower Market Space."

A market building, or market house, was constructed on the new western market space in 1838-39, by Ephraim Colestock, who was paid $3,850 for the work, which included an addition to the Eastern Market. Sulgrove’s History of Indianapolis and Marion County notes that the Western Market House would not be used for several years after its completion, and even then, was never used as frequently as the Eastern Market, even though he described the western market as being a “larger and every way better house.” Even if Sulgrove meant that the market house itself was not used for several years, the "lower market space" was used at times for its market purpose. The May 5, 1838, Indianapolis Journal reported that fresh meets would be available for purchase at the "lower market" on mornings "succeeding those of the regular market."

Indianapolis history market journal
Indianapolis Journal, May 5, 1838

Christian Schrader, whose drawings have been featured previously on this blog (National Road Bridge, Lost Lock of the Central Canal, and Canal Basins), made a sketch (below) of the Western Market House as it appeared between its construction and the Civil War. Schrader was born in 1842, and his drawings show various scenes of Indianapolis in the late 1840's, and into the 1850's, and 1860's. Based on the orientation of the market house, I believe the image below is seen from the intersection of present-day Ohio and Capitol Streets, looking southwest. Ohio Street is to the right, going off towards the trees in the background.

The market is the long structure at center and was described as being 200 feet long and 40 feet wide, with a belfry. Schrader also sketched the eastern market house, which was a similar design. This drawing is available at the Indiana Historical Society and may be viewed here.

With the western market its new location just north of the statehouse, there was a degree of symmetry between the east and west market spaces. The 1852 Munsell map, below, refers to the market spaces as the "Upper" and "Lower" market squares, and shows each being three blocks from Meridian, and both north of the statehouse on the west, and the Marion County courthouse on the east.

Indianapolis history historical map city market
Munsell Map of Indianapolis, 1852, Map Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library

In 1857, discussion began about the need for an enlarged statehouse, the one in use at the time having been constructed in 1831, and attention was turned to obtaining the western market land north of Market Street for this purpose. However, the plan did not advance, and the 1831 statehouse, always the subject of concern about the quality of its construction, would struggle on for another 20 years.

Upon the breakout of the Civil War, the western market became a supply point and temporary barracks for units moving through Indianapolis to the various fronts in the Confederacy. In 1861 and 1862, Calvin Fletcher’s diary makes several references to Hoosier regiments, and units from other states, stopping at the western market house for meals and supplies. Based on his diary, he often assisted with passing out supplies. On July 24, 1861, Fletcher recorded his duties when the 7th Indiana passed through: I was station[ed] at East end of the West market house. At 1 P.M. 7th Regt. arrived. They were marched round the market house & Co. A left on the East side. We gave them water bread meat cakes coffee. They at 2 were marched to the state House where the Governor addressed them.”

On July 29th, 1861, the Western Market House hosted the 11th Indiana, which had been commanded by Lew Wallace, as they returned home following their initial three-month enlistment. The regiment had served in the campaign for western Virginia. As late as February of 1864, Fletcher recorded that the West Market was still being used to host Union forces passing through. On February 8, he noted that the 117th Indiana was camping for the night at the market.

With the end of the war, the temporary use of the Western Market as a waystation and barracks was concluded. The 1866 Warner map of Indianapolis (above) shows the western market as the long building abutting Ohio Street, and still being called the "Lower Market Square." The Indianapolis Daily Sentinel reported in August of 1865, that the market house had been abandoned for the previous two years, due to its appropriation for use as barracks. The Sentinel advocated for the repair and reopening of the western market, arguing that “[w]e have now but one market for the whole city, and the people of the western portion are either compelled to go a great distance, or purchase their marketing of hucksters.”

The market would reopen eventually, and on April 18, 1867, the Indianapolis Daily Journal posted an announcement that the Western Market House would be reopened at 5 am on April 19. The Journal further noted that “it is to the interests of the citizens to have a good Markets at the East and West Market houses.”

In 1872, the need for a new statehouse once again arose, and as had been discussed in 1857, the ground north of the 1831 statehouse, which contained the western market grounds and market house was, again the target for this expansion. This time, the plan moved forward, and on November 25, 1872, the Indianapolis Common Council voted to "relinquish to the State of Indiana all her right, title to, and interest in the real estate aforesaid."

Indianapolis history common council city market
Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of Indianapolis, 1873

That same session, the council voted to approve the "vacation" of Market Street and Wabash Street (or alley) between Mississippi Street (later Capitol Street) and Tennessee (later Senate) for the purpose of constructing the new statehouse. While this was effectively the end of market operations on the western site, the 1831 statehouse would not be demolished until 1877, and the present statehouse would begin construction in 1880.


Schrader, C. (1987). Indianapolis remembered: Christian Schrader's sketches of early Indianapolis. Indianapolis, Ind.: Indiana Historical Bureau.

1831 Plats of the town of Indianapolis, Indiana State Library, reprinted 1913,

Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, Spring 1991, Volume 3, Number 2, pp. 16-17,

Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of Indianapolis, 1872-1873,

Journal of the House of Representatives, of the state of Indiana, during the forty-eighth session of the General Assembly, commencing Wednesday, November 13, 1872,

Sullivan Map of Indianapolis, 1836, manuscript version, Indiana Historical Society,

Sulgrove, B. R. (1884). History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co.

Dunn, J. Piatt. (1977). Greater Indianapolis : the history, the industries, the institutions, and the people of a city of homes. Evansville, Ind.: Unigraphic.

Gayle Thornbrough, ed. et al, The Diary of Calvin Fletcher (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1978), vols. 6 and 7.

Warner, A., Worley & Bracher & Bourquin, F. (1866) Map of Marion County, Indiana. Philadelphia: C.O. Titus, Publisher. [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

Indianapolis Locomotive: June 10, 1848

Indianapolis Journal: May 5, 1838

Crawfordsville Review: January 17, 1857

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