Indianapolis has some interesting neighborhood names. Looking at a Google Map, or the Naplab map first distributed a decade ago (see image above, taken from a copy of the map in a colleague's office), names like Little Flower, Irish Hill, and Babe Denny stand out, along with many others. One that has always caught my attention was Venerable Flackville on the northwest side of downtown. The use of 'venerable' seems somewhat unique, and frankly, just kind of cool. So, what is the story? Today's Flackville neighborhood started as a small, unincorporated area of Marion County (basically a small town, like Mapleton), and was something of a suburb of Indianapolis, prior to the city’s expansion in the first half of the 20th century pushed the limits out to the Flackville area, eventually resulting in Flackville’s annexation. The borders of the town were somewhat hazy, and centered around a cluster of homes, businesses, churches and schools.
The neighborhood’s borders today vary based on the source you are reviewing. In a February 22, 1998 Indianapolis Star article, the neighborhood is depicted as being in the rough shape of a spatula, running from 38th Street on the north, and Lafayette Road and Kessler Boulevard being the east and west boundaries, until where Lafayette intersects with Tibbs. From there, Tibbs forms the western boundary down to 16th Street. On Google Maps (left), Flackville is more vertical north to south, with the Guion Road being the western boundary. Lastly, the NapLabs map (top of post) expands the neighborhood to encompass all of the above-described area, plus the area directly east of the Motor Speedway, all the way down to 16th Street and the 16th Street bridge over the White River in the area formerly known as Emrichsville.
In the latter half of the 19th century, the Flackville area was centered around the present-day intersections of Lafayette Road and 30th Street and also expanded southward to Lafayette and Tibbs. The area took its name from Joseph F. Flack, an early resident of Marion County, who owned a large amount of land on the west and northwest sides of Indianapolis, and in the area of the Lafayette/30th intersection (the intersection just to the east of Eagle Creek in the map below).
Flack was born in 1843 in Ohio. Two years later, Joseph was brought to Indianapolis to be with his father who was working construction in the city. However, Joseph was actually raised by his aunt and uncle, until he married Amanda Warman, whose family also resided in Wayne Township, in 1867. Flack focused on farming until 1874, when he began the first of what would turn into a variety of business interests. This first endeavor was a brickyard in Flackville, which in 1888 produced 3 million bricks annually, and employed 40 workers. That same year, Flackville was placed on the “map,” so to speak, when a post office was opened at that location (see map below, noting the Flackville P.O.).
A public school was originally constructed in Flackville on 30th Street east of Lafayette Road in the 1860’s. In 1875 a new brick building (using brick from Flack’s yard) was constructed on the westside of Lafayette Road. Yet another new school was built in 1912 and located on Lafayette, south of the 30th Street intersection. In addition to the school, there were several stores, homes, churches and a toll booth for what was initially a toll-controlled gravel road (future Lafayette Road).
In 1961, the Flackville area was annexed into Indianapolis. The 1912 Flackville School was purchased by Indianapolis School City for $426,775 and named Flackville School 100. The building still stands (there were additions made to the original 1912 structure) but has been repurposed and expanded as senior apartments (see photos below). Very faint remains of the school name can be seen above the entry doors facing the Lafayette Road. Historic Indianapolis did a post blog posting about the school several years ago, which may be accessed here. This posting shows photos before the building was repurposed, and the Flackville sign is more clearly visible.
Joseph Flack also operated a dairy farm along 30th Street, just the west of Flackville, although there were some legal troubles with this endeavor. In 1906, city milk inspectors found several violations of the city’s milk ordinance, which set a standard of 3.6% butter fats, by dealers in the city. One dealer, T.F. Fraze, argued that he purchased the milk from Joseph Flack, who sold the milk wholesale, and Fraze did not think he should be held responsible. He instead blamed Flack for the milk which was 3.2% butter fats. William Kessler, another dealer who actually lived in Flackville, argued that he had purchased his sub-standard milk “right off the wagon” from Flack, and that he had a contract with Flack guaranteeing ‘standard’ milk. Both dealers were fined $10, although the judge suggested they may have a claim for damages against Flack.
Flack's holdings in and around Haughville ensured his involvement in that area in addition to serving as a school trustee, and Flack actively opposed the annexation of the community by Indianapolis. An Indianapolis News article on April 2, 1897, noted that to combat Flack’s opposition to annexation, “a committee of annexationists is following him and try to undo his work.” The article also reported that notices had been put up around Haughville asking if the people signing Flack’s petition seeking an appeal against annexation were aware that if they joined the lawsuit, “you are each liable for your proportionate part of the costs of that sit, if the city should win the case?” The notices further encouraged those backing Flack to consult their own attorneys. Despite residing in Haughville, Flack’s business operations and land holdings in Flackville cemented his influence, and name, on the area.
Flack died on March 30, 1926 while at his home in Miami, Florida. His obituary in the Indianapolis Star noted Flack’s many business efforts but noted that “his most extensive holdings remained in real estate and at the time of his death he was one of the largest owners of business and residence properties in Indianapolis.” Among these was ownership in five corner properties along Massachusetts Avenue.
Maps continued to show Flackville as a separate town, until, as mentioned above, the area was annexed into Indianapolis following a legal battle by some residents in the area to be annexed to prevent joining Indianapolis. The map below from the Indianapolis Star shows the area which was annexed. A 1956 article in the Star reporting on the commencement of the legal battle to prevent annexation noted that the Flackville area “is not urban in character and residents bought homes there because they did not want to be part of Indianapolis.” Higher tax rates were also cited as contributing to the resistance.
But when did the Flackville area become Venerable? That is not clear. It does not appear that the 'Venerable Flackville' name was ever used as a common reference to the area prior to the Naplab map in 2008. In local newspapers, there are several references to the Flackville Neighborhood Association prior to 2008. The association is also registered with Indianapolis as a registered organization, although it no longer seems to be active since the information has not been updated since 2007. In fact, the first reference to Venerable Flackville is found in an article which appeared in the Real Estate section of the Indianapolis Star on February 22, 1998 (see image below). The article was part of a series which featured Indianapolis neighborhoods, and the headline reads “Venerable Flackville has nice mix of families, homes," and describes various features and amenities of the Flackville area.
It appears that ‘venerable’ was simply being used as a descriptor of the neighborhood for the sake of the headline in the Star article and was never officially part of the neighborhood’s formal name, or the small town which preceded it. With its inclusion on the Naplab’s map, and the acceptance of the name on online mapping applications like Google Maps and Bing’s map system, the name has stuck and become more commonly known and used.
Indianapolis News: April 2, 1897, October 22, 1901, May 22, 1906
Indianapolis Star: April 2, 1926, February 22, 1998, January 18, 1956, June 30, 1960,
Old Flackville School History, https://www.digitalindy.org/digital/collection/ips/id/350500/rec/27
Your Schools and You, Vol. 13, No. 1, September 1961, https://www.digitalindy.org/digital/collection/ips/id/336661/rec/18
Atlas of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana (1889), https://indianamemory.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15078coll8/id/1610
Dunn, Jacob Piatt, Greater Indianapolis : the history, the industries, the institutions, and the people of a city of homes (1910)
Palmer's official road map of Marion County, Indiana (1895), Indiana State Museum