The Hoosierist Tackles a Rumor With Legs

One terrifying bike land, Eli Lilly’s proximity problem, and a lurid neighborhood name. Ask The Hoosierist.

Q: Kokomo’s “Silk Stocking” neighborhood has the coolest precinct name in the state. Did the town once have a red-light district?
Elise O., Carmel

A: The Hoosierist would love to serve up a racy origin story, but the facts won’t cooperate. The neighborhood, a cluster of hulking Victorian mansions planted west of downtown Kokomo—and officially called the Old Silk Stocking District—was born during the last days of the 19th century, when the discovery of huge nearby natural gas deposits drew in lots of industrialists. Those high rollers, doubtlessly needing someplace to store their top hats, monocles, and moustache wax, built big homes. And when their womenfolk went out, they often did so sporting too-expensive-for-regular-people silk stockings. Hence the nickname.

Q: Has anybody had the courage to ride the bike lane on the Allisonville Road overpass at I-465? It’s bracketed on both sides by traffic lanes and looks incredibly dicey.
Parker C., Indianapolis
A: Having traversed this bridge (by car) many times, The Hoosierist can’t help but wonder what sadistic monster decided to wedge a bike corridor no wider than a placemat among multiple, traffic-clogged lanes. Not surprisingly, almost no one uses it. A call to a nearby bike shop for tips on how to negotiate the area was met with an incredulous “You’re not going to try that, are you?” As another biking aficionado pointed out, some places are just too car-intensive to risk on a two-wheeler. Better to leave the bridge to the cars. To paraphrase Apocalypse Now, that’s Charlie’s beach.

Q: I hear Eli Lilly and Company is trying hard to “connect” its campus to downtown. If being in the center of things is so vital, why didn’t they locate there in the first place?
Ashley P., Indianapolis 

A: Probably because that ship sailed long ago. Lilly started out at a downtown office in 1876, but decamped to the near southside a couple of years later. This was back when the only “amenities” businesses cared about were paved roads, city water, and rail service. Today, of course, the roughly 7,000 employees wouldn’t mind having some nice restaurants nearby. That’s why the corporation pushed for the CityWay development and a Cultural Trail extension to its offices. And things could be worse. Just a few decades ago, Lilly was surrounded by stockyards and factories. Imagine popping out for lunch and coming back smelling like soot and cow manure. People would think you had dined in Louisville.

Got an Indiana- or Indy-related question? E-mail The Hoosierist here.

Illustration by Shane Harrison

This column appeared in the May 2014 issue.