PAST and PRESENT
Every artist, musician, and creative type needs a place to call home. A place where inspiration can be found, where simply walking the streets is enough to summon those creative juices. For those who crave an artistic metropolis, New York City is where it’s at. Those who look for inspiration in the sunlight and sand head West towards Los Angeles. But then there are those who find motivation in “life away from life”, meaning a place where the energy of daily life doesn’t consist of cramming onto a subway at 6am or waiting in a line-out-the-door for a good cup of coffee. Well look no further… welcome to Fountain Square, a growing community of dreamers, entrepreneurs, and Hoosiers.
Fountain Square has a long, storied history. Early purchasers of the massive land where Fountain Square now sits had planned to turn the space into “town lots”, presumably, with the hopes to create a new suburb just outside the bustling city. It wasn’t until nearly 60 years later, during the mid-1800s, that the area really began to take shape. Virginia Avenue came to be an active commercial center around 1860, after a railway company laid tracks that turned around at the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Prospect Street. This area, naturally, came to be known as “The End” to Indianapolis locals. Around early 1870, expansive growth began to consume the area. Consisting mainly of immigrants from Germany, Italy, and Ireland, the area began to fill up with schools, businesses, and churches of all denominations, as well as its first fountain construction in 1889. Known as “Lady of the Fountain”, this important structure brought forth the name “Fountain Square”.
Around the late 1890s, early 1900s, Fountain Square became known exclusively as a German neighborhood. German-owned businesses dominated the neighborhood’s commercial district as the growth continued. Schools were being constructed around every corner, as well as the city’s third branch library, which opened at the corner of Woodlawn and Linden Street in 1896. This is also around the time where Fountain Square began to see growth in the arts. In fact, the neighborhood’s construction of a pagoda in Garfield Park in 1903 marked the two-decade- long renovation into Indianapolis’s very first theater district. From that point, there was no stopping Fountain Square’s desire to be the artistic and cultural hub of the city as 11 different theaters were built between 1909 and 1929,
Naturally, after WWII, the economic decline of the country affected Fountain Square in a major way. The commercial aspects of the neighborhood fell, which required the removal of many theaters and businesses, as well as the beloved and symbolic fountain in Garfield Park. But while commercialism fell, the strength and integrity of Fountain Square’s residents thrived. Churches and schools developed many organizations that placed high priority on health and fitness, as well as charitable assistance for local residents.
Since then, times have grown better and better in a remarkable way. Between the period of strife in the 1950s to now, millions of dollars have been invested into the revitalization of Fountain Square. The current neighborhood residents recognized it’s deep roots within the arts and have since devoted the majority of its time and money into redeveloping that scene. Today Fountain Square is overflowing with a mix of art galleries, entertainment venues, antique and vintage shops, unique restaurants and bars, small professional offices, and even it’s very own Fountain Square Brewery.
In order to better understand the current state of Fountain Square, one needs only to look at the people who choose to inhabit it. Take singer-songwriter and Indy native, Landon Keller, who recorded his latest album Oh Hallie & The Big Blue Sky right in the midst of Fountain Square in October of 2012. Otherwise known as, The Prospect Sessions, this entire album was recorded in a 12-hour period inside the apartment of fellow local musician Brandon Whyde. Sitting high above Prospect Street in Fountain Square center, Keller recorded this album using only his MacBook and a microphone slung over an aging ceiling fan. “Over coffee in the morning, and bourbon in the afternoon” Keller says, “I just started recording…” With the faint sounds of old wooden floors creaking in the background, Keller deems the album “raw… diverse… and extremely candid”. Much like the neighborhood in which he recorded in, lacking fluff or pretention and filled with character.
Another great example of the modern day charm of this neighborhood can be found in the aforementioned Fountain Square Brewery. Located on the west side of Shelby Street, Fountain Square Brewery is said to derive much inspiration from the neighborhood for which it bears its name. Via their website: “We chose Fountain Square because of the community. Since we would be the first to admit our creativity and talents exist on a side of the brain that has little capability to draw, we have an admiration and attraction to those whose talents reside in the arts.” Events also play a major role in the life of this brewery. Stacey Christie, Bar Manager and Event Coordinator spoke about the breweries most infamous event, The Peep Show, which recently marked its third year. “The Peep Show is held every Good Friday for the release of our Saison DuVall, which is brewed with peeps” says Christie. That’s right, Peeps, as in those little yellow marshmallow birds everyone eats during Easter. Christie continues by saying “During this event we will have live music and our popular peep shooting contest, where individuals or teams construct their own “peep shooter” to aim at a target” This is just a one of several quirky, fun events held by Fountain Square Brewery each year. In lieu of these events, FSB also has it’s own art gallery on the walls of its bar. “Every First Friday”, Christie says, “we have live music and our walls are covered by new featured artists. We range anywhere between one and twenty artists per month.”
The community that is Fountain Square can be perfectly summed up by the good people at Fountain Square Brewery “Fountain Square is a community of hard working, creative, fun loving, and genuine people. They are probably the most helpful people we’ve ever met. We are truly honored to be a part of the community and will strive to be worthy ambassadors and stewards”. Just think, if a business has such admiration for it’s own neighborhood, imagine what you could experience… as a resident.