Today, we bring you one of Sylvia Henricks' "Remembrances." You can read more of Sylvia's columns weekly in The Franklin Township Informer, or in her book From The Ash Grove (available directly from the FTHS, and via the web site).
Beech Grove, our neighbor community to the north west, is the subject of a new book. being sold by the Beech Grove Library. Produced by Arcadia Publishing, as one of their Images of America Series, the 127 page book is well-written, interesting and full of new and old black and white photographs. Eleven of the photos are of postcards from the collection of our own society member, Joe Seiter. The text is written by Jim Hillman and John Murphy, “with the Beech Grove Public Library.”
The Foreword by former Beech Grove Mayor Donald Joe Wright gives an overview of the earliest days of the area, when the prominent families were the Churchmans, McGregors, Boltons and Cottmans. The Churchman property was then in Franklin Township, and George Cottman, who became a historian, wrote at one time of attending school at “No.9,” the one-room Franklin Township district school known as Poplar Grove.
In 1904 construction began on a large repair facility by the Big Four Railroad (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St.Louis Railway). Beech Grove as a town also had its beginning, at first only four homes and two businesses. But as the repair facility for engines and passenger cars grew, so did the town. Beech Grove was incorporated in 1906. The Shops were completed in 1908.. “Of the original 2400 acres the railroad had acquired, 640 acres were reserved for the Shops and rail operations, and the balance formed the original land for the town itself,” the authors wrote.
The name of the facility has changed over the years. In 1923 it took the name of its parent Company, the New York Central Shops. During World War II, it had its busiest years with 5000 men and women employed, but after the war railroad traffic declined, and in 1968 the NYC Railroad merged with Penn Central, and the facility became the Penn Central Shops.
The Federal Government created the Amtrak passenger rail system, which used the repair facilities of the Penn Central Shops in1975. In 1986 Amtrak took control of the facility, renaming it Amtrak Shops.
The attractive paperback, which sells for $23.50 at the Beech Grove Library also records the growth of Beech Grove, its businesses, schools, homes and celebrations. Beech Grove opted, in 1970, not to join UNIGOV, the county-wide consolidation with Indianapolis, and maintains its own government and municipal services. The Society has added a copy of the book to our collection of local histories, and you may look at it at our Meeting House.