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Walled car center city 1912

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Temple c.  1913

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Temple c. 1913
image: Thematic Press / The Hulton Archives (beautiful pictures)

The Indianapolis 500 tomorrow will not be held in Indianapolis, Indiana. The iconic 500-mile race has never been held in the state capital of Indiana. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is located in Speedway, Indiana, a small town compound surrounded by Indianapolis. It’s the equivalent of a non-real Las Vegas Strip race in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the same way that Paradise, Nevada existed to advance the interests of the casino industry, the Speedway was created to advance the interests of the auto industry.

Three years after the construction of the Indianapolis Motorway, two of the track’s founders have realized their dream of building an automobile utopia. Carl G. Fisher and James A. Allison purchased more than 1,000 acres in front of the racecourse, built the entire city as planned, and began construction on the major project in 1912.

Holes in 1911 Indianapolis 500

Holes in 1911 Indianapolis 500
image: Nathan Lazarnick / Hulton Archives (beautiful pictures)

The founding fathers of Speedway had great ambitions that the city was planned to usurp Detroit as the capital of the then fledgling American auto industry. The highway is planned to be legally separate from Indianapolis because the land wants to form its own government and private law. The city government will only include employees of the automakers that have built factories in Speedway. No other industry is allowed to open stores in the new city.

The most strictly enforced rule is that horses are not allowed on the Highway, Indiana. An article on the planned city in the June 1912 issue of Age of movement note:

“The city will be surrounded by a cement wall with artistic gates at the entrances. It will probably be the only city in the United States completely surrounded by ancient Chinese and Roman walls. These gates will be attended by surviving city employees, whose job it is largely to see that the rule that prohibits horses from entering the Highway has not been violated. “

By the early 1910s, last-mile logistics had not yet been fully mechanized. Two different railway lines were built into the Expressway to facilitate transportation, and the city’s businesses would be forced to use trucks to move goods and materials from and to warehouses. While Fisher and Allison’s vision of motor vehicles becoming the dominant form of transportation in the United States was correct, the Speedway was not properly planned to accommodate it.

Ford's River Rouge complex c.  1946

Ford’s River Rouge complex c. 1946
image: AFP (beautiful pictures)

Land was the most important factor surrounding Speedway’s eventual defeat. Upon Speedway’s first 1,000-acre acquisition, the 235-acre Buick City plant in Flint, Michigan was the largest auto plant in the world. By 1928, Ford had opened River Rouge, which itself spanned nearly 1,000 acres. Speedway simply underestimates the speed at which the car industry is evolving. There is no realistic way for a major automaker to mass produce vehicles in town. Not to mention that Indianapolis will cover the purpose-built settlement for several decades.

However, Speedway remains an independent town of nearly 14,000 residents with its own municipal government, emergency services, and school system. Wonder if horses are still banned.

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