By 1890 Indianapolis’ near south side was densely populated and had the highest percentage of foreign-born residents of any district in the city.
Irish and Germans arrived in Indianapolis in the early 1830s as builders of the Central Canal and workers on the National Road. Many of the early immigrants were of the Roman Catholic and Jewish faiths, so throughout the mid-1850s and the mid-1870s, they erected the first Catholic churches on the city’s south side: St. John’s, St. Mary’s, and Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
In the 1840s and 1850s, hundreds of African Americans settled on the south side, and by 1875, South Calvary Baptist Church was erected for spiritual encouragement and assistance with social and economic issues.
The influx of Jewish citizens into Indianapolis created a need for organizations designed to help them settle into their new urban homes. In 1856, the first Jewish congregation, the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, was organized. In 1914, the Jewish Federation built a settlement house on the Southside on Morris Street.
Photo: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society