HOLY ROSARY-DANISH CHURCH
Holy Rosary-Danish Church Historic District illustrates how close enclaves of European immigrants settled Indianapolis in the late 1800s. These groups left their mark in churches and dense areas of modest vernacular cottages on the near south side of Indianapolis.
This pocket of small frame cottages, brick commercial buildings, and churches lies south of downtown, adjacent to the sprawling Eli Lilly corporate headquarters. At first home to a mix of ethnic groups in the mid-19th century, two took precedence by the 1890s. Italian families constituted 90 percent of the population of the area by 1910. Most were involved in the produce trade and many family names survive as produce companies today.
In 1910, the Catholic Italians obtained permission to build a new parish church, named Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church. Designed by Kopf & Wooling, the brick and stone church is clearly Italian Renaissance in inspiration. The parish was designated an Italian National Parish. The houses of the district are not Italian in design; most were built before Italian immigrants settled here. The other ethnic group represented in this district was the Danes. Following social upheaval after the loss of the 1866 Danish-German War, a number of Danes immigrated to the United States. In 1872, a group of Danes that had formed a congregation bought land in the district and built a small brick church. The front gable inscription contains the only Danish writing on a building in Central Indiana. Translated, it reads “Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church.”
A good place to begin touring the district is the former Danish Church at 701 E. McCarty. Indianapolis once had many vernacular gable-front Gothic Revival chapels like this one dating from 1872 with a Danish inscription in the gable end. Further south on Noble or Greer are typical vernacular cottages with milled trim work and simple wood porches with lathe-turned posts. Horace Mann School #13 is at the southern end of the district, at 714 Buchanan Street. Indianapolis architect Edwin May designed this two story brick Italianate schoolhouse, completed in 1873. It now houses condominiums. Holy Rosary Catholic Church is at the north end of the district, at 520 Stevens Street. Built from 1910 to 1911, architects Kopf & Wooling’s Renaissance-flavored design features twin campaniles, recessed Corinthian columns, and terra cotta tile roofing. Initially, the first architect, George Bedell, had planned a central dome and domed towers for the building. Bedell’s design only rose to the upper foundation walls before the parish switched architects.
The Holy Rosary Danish Church District became listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Excerpts from the historic marker commemorated in 2000 for the district describe it as such: Early residents were Germans, Irish, Scots, and Welsh. Danes resided in area circa 1870 - 1890. By 1910, ninety percent of area residents were Italian immigrants. The Area became Indiana’s largest continuously occupied Italian neighborhood. Sicilians opened nearby produce businesses. The district, containing mainly working class cottages, includes Trinity Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church built 1872, Horace Mann Public School built 1874, and Holy Rosary Catholic Church built 1911 - 1925