1968 BRHS History Booklet - Chapter Ten
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Chapter Ten

Floods ravage town

The town of Broad Ripple was the unhappy victim of various disasters between 1880 and 1920.

The first on record was a fire which occurred in 1889 and destroyed the Ripple Hotel. That hotel, located at the corner of Winthrop and Westfield, was rebuilt, only to be damaged again in the gas explosion which also damaged Watt's Drug Store, the I.O.O.F. Hall, Gresh's Grocery, the Christian Church, and Isaac White's livery stable. The fire was thought to have been caused by a leak in a gas main or by a fire in an old film laboratory. This disaster killed seven people and injured several others.

In 1902, Kingan's ice houses, which occupied the area where Bill Kuhn's used car lot is now located, burned. The fire was so intense that a bucket brigade had to be formed to keep nearby Broad Ripple High School from catching on fire. Rebuilt soon after the fire took place, the ice houses were later abandoned in 1917.

The biggest fire, after the 1891 gas explosion, occurred February 3, 1906, and supposedly was caused by flying sparks from the 2 a.m. Monon freight train. The fire was believed to have started in Jackson's store and to have spread first to the Hoffman House Restaurant and then to Charles Florander's blacksmith shop.

A large coal and wood storage shed near Jackson's store ignited and continued burning for a long time after the other flames were extinguished. The fire burned for two hours before extra help came from Engine House Number Five on 15th Street and Hose Company Number Fourteen at 15th and Kenwood. These units were needed because there were no fire hydrants in the area and the Broad Ripple Fire Station needed help in obtaining water from the canal. No deaths were recorded; however, George Melick, a former Broad Ripple marshal, was nearly crushed by a falling chimney.

Damages amounted to approximately $15,000 because the fire was not discovered until Jackson's store was almost completely destroyed. At the end of the 1910's, Buddenbaum's Lumber Company, located where the Broad Ripple Lumber Company now stands, burned.

Floods were also a threat to Broad Ripple. The flood of 1875 destroyed the Broad Ripple grist mill and also the oldest house in Broad Ripple owned by Joseph Wray, an area merchant. The men of Broad Ripple worked day and night building straw and sand levees to protect the village from White River.

During the usual spring floods, the river was held back and controlled until 1884 when strong flood waters broke the levees and flooded the town. In 1903 and 1913, severe floods hit Broad Ripple again. The flood in 1913 ruined the jail and left most of Broad Ripple under water for two and a half days. Street cars attempting to reach the turn-around loop in Broad Ripple Park were either shorted out or washed off the tracks.

Broad Ripple also had its share of train accidents. The worst train wreck occurred in 1884 when the railroad bridge over White River at 64th street collapsed as the train was crossing it. Several people were killed and many more were injured.

Another accident occurred when a Monon train jumped the track near the old depot, now the Whistle Stop Sausage House. Several accidents involved streetcars. In one of the less serious accidents, occurring in 1910, an inexperienced streetcar conductor failed to make the turn at Broad Ripple and College and the car ended up in the canal.

Near the time of annexation of Broad Ripple to the city of Indianapolis in 1923, modern fire protection became available, and from that time on fires ceased to take as great a toll. Floods were also restrained by high levees built on the river banks. Even though these threats were curbed, the number of accidents increased with the coming of automobiles.

BR Transit Car - click to see larger image
Open streetcars with full running boards on the sides were used during the summer months.

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Cover and Forward
1878 Surveyor's Record of Broad Ripple
Chapter One - Coil Starts Settlement
Chapter Two - Ripple Linked To City
Chapter Three - Canal Creates Rivalry
Chapter Four - Villages Start Schools
Chapter Five - Religious Life Grows
Chapter Six - Social Life Develops
Chapter Seven - Canal Villages Thrive
Chapter Eight - Trolleys Aid Travel
Chapter Nine - Farmer Shakes Jail
Chapter Ten - Floods Ravage Town (current page)
Chapter Eleven - Park Attracts Visitors
Chapter Twelve - BRHS Joins City
Chapter Twelve - Errata
Chapter Thirteen - City Annexes Village

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