Fountain Square Neighborhood Walking Tour

Wheeler Arts Community - 1035 Sanders Street, Indianapolis, IN 46203

From downtrodden to hot, Fountain Square tells a great urban story. The Virginia Avenue corridor emerged as the south side’s primary commercial center in the 1860s. The district’s entertainment roots also go deep: from 1910 to 1950, the area had more theaters than any other part of town.

The post-World War II years were tough on Fountain Square as suburbs multiplied and the population shifted. Theaters closed and the commercial district suffered. Even Fountain Square’s fountain left for the greener pastures of Garfield Park.

A reversal of fortune—this time in a positive direction—began in the 1990s, a change credited to artists moving to the district, the work of Southeast Neighborhood Development, Inc. (SEND), and private developers and investors. The neighborhood holds local and national status as a historic district, boasts one of Indiana’s first urban Main Street programs, and is one the city’s cultural districts.

Today, the fountain is back, and the thriving district offers an eclectic mix of houses and apartments, locally-owned retail shops, restaurants and entertainment, where lots of artists live and work. SEND’s Paul Smith, Kipp Normand, and Brad Keen will lead the tour.

The tour begins at Wheeler Arts Community, 1035 Sanders Street, located a short block west of Shelby St. In addition to Wheeler Arts, the tour will make stops in two additional landmarks. Larry Jones, owner with Craig Von Deylen of the 1929 Murphy Building, will lead an interior tour. Constructed in 1929 and later converted to a department store, the building today houses a combination of art galleries, artists’ studios, and restaurants. Linton Calvert, owner of the Fountain Square Theatre Building, will lead a behind-the-scenes tour, including the fourth floor bowling alley and the roof garden.

Fountain Square has too many dining options to list, but a few in the immediate vicinity of the tour’s end at Fountain Square Theatre include: End of the Line Public House, Smokehouse on Shelby, Thunderbird, and Siam Square. A bit farther north on Virginia Avenue, Bluebeard, Rook and Milktooth are among the hot restaurants in the area.

Staged by Indiana Landmarks and HUNI, each tour begins at 6 pm, led by Indiana Landmarks and a resident of the neighborhood. The 90-minute tours are $10 per person (discount for Landmarks members and residents of the tour neighborhood). Register online: or call 317-636-4534. Capacity is limited, so please order soon.