Canal Zone: Indianapolis

Indiana, the home of my graduate school days, beckoned me to a conference a couple of weeks ago.  While I spent most of my time there in the late 1970s and mid-80s in Bloomington, I did work, and live, in Indianapolis for the latter part of that time.

The city used to be a dead area after five p.m. in those days, when the office workers abandoned ship for their suburban areas mostly north of town.  You were hard pressed to find a happy hour spot in the immediate downtown.  All that has apparently changed, as have the shopping areas and – most impressive of all for walkers and water buffs – the canal.

I don’t even remember there being a canal when I worked downtown.  Yes, it was there (as it has been since the 1800s), but walking along it was not an option, so it was not on my radar screen.  My friend Peggy and I took a leisurely stroll along this sanitized waterway on a lovely May day.  We stopped into something called the Center for Inquiry and learned rather more than we really wanted to know about secular humanism.  We took selfies at the waterfall created from the lock at the end.  We sipped lemonade at a canalside cafe.

It was hard to imagine this urban oasis as the gritty transportation hub it once was, smelling of mule and sweat and coal.   I am not sure it reaches its goal of creating “an opportunity to engage people of all ages and enabl[ing] them to learn more about Indiana’s past, present and future.”  I don’t have a creative answer for how it might have been differently interpreted or put to use, any more than its sister reinterpreted waterways, from the Baltimore Inner Harbor to Cardiff Bay in Cardiff, Wales.

We can only imagine, through photos, illustrations, artifacts and words, the former conditions of these now pleasant strolls.  So there you have it.

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