Preserving the old in New Augusta

The old New Augusta train depot sits along the tracks just north of 71st Street.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Train transportation fueled growth in 19th century Marion County. Railroad villages sprung up across Central Indiana to accommodate travelers and the goods they carried. But in Marion County, only one of those railroad villages is still intact.

Away from the hustle and bustle of 71st Street on the Northwest side of Indianapolis lies a quiet neighborhood known as New Augusta.

“These are the boundaries of the area that’s considered historic,” says Paul Diebold as he pointed to the original plat of the town. “You can see how it’s oriented all to the railroad, diagonally.”

Paul Diebold works with Indiana DNR in the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. He helped New Augusta earn its place on the National Register of Historic Places, 28 years ago.

“In the case of New Augusta, we have all the things you would expect to see in a railroad village. We have the original depot, we have general store buildings that are still left that have gone into other uses of course but you still have all the things a railroad villages would have had.”

New Augusta was originally named “Hosbrook” when it was platted in 1852. There was already a “Hosbrook” somewhere else in the state, so after a number of mail mix-ups, the postal service asked the town to change its name. The name change to “New Augusta” went into effect in 1876.

In the case of New Augusta, some of its buildings existed in a town called Augusta that sat along present-day 71st Street and Michigan Road/US 421. The town was originally built to capitalize on the North-South route of Michigan Road., but when the railroad came through one mile west of Augusta, the commerce moved.

“In some cases, some of the buildings were physically moved to New Augusta. There’s one that we believe still exists, that was a building moved from that location over to this location,” says Diebold.

This red frame building is believed to be the original home of Salem Church.
This red frame building is believed to be the original home of Salem Church.

A red frame building that used to house the former Salem Church was believed to have been moved in the 1850s. The purpose of the building changed once the church moved one block away into a more permanent location.

In the 1910s and 1920s, railroads lost prominence and automobiles became the preferred mode of transportation. Commerce moved back to Michigan Rd./US 421 and left New Augusta perfectly preserved just north of the hustle and bustle of the northwest side.

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