Summary of History and Significance
The Wholesale District possesses a high degree of historical and architectural significance for Indianapolis and central Indiana. The pre-World War II history of transportation in the area is represented in the district by one of its largest surviving artifacts - the immense Union Railway Station, Concourse, and Train Shed. Together with the surviving freight depots of the downtown area, Union Station symbolized the railroad's contribution in developing Indianapolis into an important Midwestern metropolis. Within the Wholesale District, Union Station and the railroad gave birth to and sustained the large and vigorous Indianapolis wholesale trade, most of the city's principal hotels, and several small industrial enterprises.
The district draws its name from the wholesale business that lined its streets at the turn of the century. Indianapolis became an important regional center of wholesale activity by 1900; its balance of agricultural and industrial production helped to create a varied array of wholesale firms. Today a majority of the surviving buildings in the district date their construction to the pre-World War I era, when large numbers of successful wholesale merchants operated there. Because of its proximity to Union Station, the Wholesale District was interspersed with a number of hotels varying in size and price range. A number of small industrial structures were constructed in the district housing several light industries. Three commercial office buildings have survived in the district.
With respect to its architecture, the Wholesale District is of major significance to Indianapolis because it contains the City's largest remaining collection of 19th century and turn-of-the-century commercial buildings. For several 19th century Indianapolis architects, it is probable that their only extant commercial designs are found in the Wholesale District. The Wholesale District also possesses architectural significance because it illustrates the evolution locally of wholesale house and warehouse design from the 1860s to the 1920s.
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