April 26, 2024

New historical marker commemorates Syrian Quarter in downtown Indianapolis

One side of the historical marker in downtown Indianapolis. - Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Bureau

One side of the historical marker in downtown Indianapolis.

Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Bureau

The history of Syrian immigrants in Indianapolis is inscribed on a new state historical marker downtown. A public dedication was held this week for the Syrian Quarter marker.

The marker was erected outside of Lucas Oil Stadium, where in the late 1800’s Arabic speaking people started moving to a multinational neighborhood.

IU Indianapolis Professor and Chair Edward Curtis said the sign depicts a vibrant community.

“We can imagine that over 100 years ago Arabic was being spoken somewhere around the 50th yard line inside Lucas Oil Stadium,” Curtis said.

Curtis said it was also a difficult history, where people lived in crowded row houses and faced xenophobia and racism.

“I'm pretty convinced that that is why the memory of our first Arab neighborhood in Indianapolis was forgotten, because I think life there was so hard,” he said.

The new marker is the culmination of a series of projects, in partnership with the Arab Indianapolis Foundation, to bring greater awareness to local Syrian and Arab history. The community history project included a book and a documentary that highlights the hidden history of this population.

Curtis said the marker helps people connect with Indianapolis' diverse, ethnic, racial and religious history.

“A lot of people think that immigrants and people of color are somehow new to the Hoosier state,” Curtis said. “We have always been part of the Hoosier state. We've helped to build Indiana.”

The historical marker is downtown, on the corner of Capitol Avenue and South Street.

Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at jsheridan@wfyi.org.

 

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