February 9, 1973.
On this day, in the early morning hours, a fire broke out in a five-building industrial complex at 900 West Wabash Street (where the National Institute for Fitness and Health and the Riverwalk Garage are today) housing warehouses of the Beveridge Paper Company. The fire destroyed all the buildings, which were owned by Indiana University. City newspapers reported that 85 firemen from three fire stations responded to the alarm and fought the blaze in zero-temperature weather.
IUPUI had purchased the complex in November 1972 with aims to expand the campus south toward the White River. The paper manufacturing company, its headquarters nearby on west Washington Street, planned to vacate the property in the near future. The warehouses contained large quantities of paper and other supplies.
The report of the fire in the IUPUI Sagamore, the student newspaper, focused on the intense destructive power of the blaze. "An explosion occurred during the fire that lifted a railroad boxcar off its wheels, leaving the imprint of a brick wall on its twisted roof." The reporter also marveled at the bravery of the firefighters, who combatted the blaze while encrusted in ice.
The industrial facility fire highlighted the fact that IUPUI was planted in a mixed residential/industrial section of Indianapolis's near westside. For generations, local residents walked to work in the factories and meat-packing plants that lined White River. Over the decades, Indiana University purchased lots and buildings in the neighborhood in order to expand IU Medical Center's footprint. Later, when IUPUI emerged, land acquisitions continued. The university became a major landlord. The university later razed houses and commercial buildings, displacing many residents.
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