Nothing is more staggering than to see what Irvington has lost in the way of its historic commercial corridor. This photo, taken in 1950 for an Indianapolis newspaper, depicts a vibrant street. Every structure in this photo with the exception of the the brick building barely visible at the end of the row is now gone. East Washington Street became a victim of the mass exodus of businesses out of the Irvington and towards Shadeland Avenue and beyond. This trend began in the 1960s and continued unabated until 2000. Residents also fled the neighborhood for greener pastures.
By the 1980s, a bookstore featuring pornography, cash and pawn shops, and a host of other businesses of the same ilk began to take root. In the 5400 block, several buildings sat empty for years and derelict landlords allowed the structures to crumble. When Walgreen's entered the scene in the early 1990s, Irvington residents jumped at the chance for revitalizing a sagging corner. Walgreen's came into the neighborhood with caveat in that they would not only tear down historic buildings, they would place a parking lot in front of the building. This was the beginning of the end for the historic structures on the north side of East Washington Street in that block. By 2002, the destruction was complete with the addition of a suburban strip mall.
Thankfully, brighter times now exist for Irvington. The neighborhood is protected under the auspices of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. The 5600 block is as vibrant now as when it was first built in the 1920s. While it is too late to save two blocks of historic buildings, we can now do our parts to be caretakers of this lovely place so that the next generation can enjoy it. This era of neighbors shall be given credit in the future for not only saving the historic fabric of the community, but restoring it as well.