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Story Behind the Story / Travel

First Draft of History

Recently, I wrote about the history of City Market, a historic landmark in downtown Indianapolis. For the story, I interviewed two historians, read a 166 page thesis, dug through IndyStar’s old newspaper archives, and went down to the market to see if for myself.

post card of city market

City Market is basically as old as the city of Indianapolis. And I traced the way it evolved to justify its existence as the city changed. When I was assigned this story, I had no idea I’d learn so much about Indianapolis…or history and records keeping.

Something a historian said that’s stuck with me is the fact Indianapolis has a “really terrible habit of throwing away records.” Sometimes, the old newspapers are all we have to go off of. People often talk about news as the “first draft of history,” but I’ve never thought about it as the only draft of history.

That makes local news all the more important. I know that it can be frustrating to hit paywalls, I’ve grumbled about it too. But this experience is giving me a deeper appreciation for the work local journalists do, and they (we?) deserve to be compensated for our work. There’s a lot more to say and learn, but I’m grateful to be learning from some of the best this summer.

To eat lunch at City Market today, you have to navigate around construction, trusting signs pointing to a building that can look closed. Once inside, the smell of different cuisines mix in the air as downtown workers buy gyros and barbecue sandwiches. His and Hers Boutique sells clothing near Prox Salads and Jack’s Barber Shop. There’s a stand arranging fresh flowers across from a cookie shop.

The restaurants are a relative newcomer to the market. Throughout its 150-year history, the spot has been used to sell fresh produce, as a gathering place and as a community building. Its current tenants are a testament to the myriad ways the market has evolved over the years to survive. 

City Market’s story is a cycle of love, decay and rescue

Stories about City Market

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