At the June 24, 2024, public information meeting at Edison School of the Arts, the Indianapolis Department of Public
Works (Indy DPW) announced an updated and enhanced archaeology plan for construction of the Henry Street Bridge, which overlaps with a portion of the former Greenlawn Cemetery.

The city has entered into a contract with Stantec, an engineering services company, to provide a proactive archaeological approach to the site. “As we’ve continued to meet with members of the community, we realized that we were falling short of their expectations. By adding Stantec to the team, we believe we are now more closely aligned with the desires of our residents,” said Indy DPW Director Brandon Herget. “Stantec’s previous work on the Bethel Cemetery project has been referred to as the “gold standard” by community members I’ve spoken with, and provides this project with an excavation process led by archaeologists, not a contractor-led project with archaeologist oversight.”

For more than a year, city officials have been meeting with concerned community members regarding the future construction site, which occupies a portion of the city’s first cemetery, a collection of four long-abandoned cemeteries that are often referred to collectively as Greenlawn Cemetery.

Despite 100+ years of previous development on the site, many gravesites remain buried. This group of concerned community members and city officials became the Community Advisory Group (CAG). Through conversations with
the CAG, City officials have consistently pledged to go above and beyond to meet the expectations of community members asking the CAG to help guide choices related to the archaeology and memorialization of the site.

“The new bridge and roadway project, known as the Henry Street Bridge, will be constructed through the old ‘Bury Ground’ and ‘New Bury Ground’ sections of the Greenlawn Cemetery, parts of which hold the largest African American
burial ground in Indianapolis or Marion County. Although this project will only disturb less than 1.5 acres of the 20-plus acre site, the city estimates that 650 or more graves could be unearthed during the construction of this project.
Based on the number of human remains unearthed at the Greenlawn Cemetery site over the last six months, this is a fair assessment of the challenges that lay ahead. The city’s plan of having an archaeology team methodically search for and recover forgotten graves at the site before the construction crews begin work is the best way to ensure all those left behind when the cemetery was abandoned more than a century ago are relocated to a place where they can respectfully rest in peace,” said historian and Community Advisory Group member Leon Bates. “The price tag of the city’s approach to Greenlawn Cemetery is not cheap, but then, is there a price limit for doing the right thing?”

The Henry Street Bridge project originates from an agreement between the city, state and Elanco for the city to build out the infrastructure supporting Elanco’s new global headquarters on the west side of the White River. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick will also expand as part of this project, connecting The Valley and near Westside to downtown.

“This project will – for the first time – truly connect these west side neighborhoods to downtown Indianapolis,” said Councilor Kristin Jones. “This much-needed connection point will become a vital asset for our community.”

The White River Innovation District is being completed in phases, with work underway currently underway on the west side of the river.
– Phase 1 is currently under construction with the infrastructure to support the Elanco campus on the west side of the river
– Phase 2 is the Henry Street Bridge
– Phase 3 is the Henry Street connector, which includes building the roadway that connects from the bridge to Kentucky Avenue

 “This project will – for the first time – truly connect these west side neighborhoods to downtown Indianapolis,” said Councilor Kristin Jones. “This much-needed connection point will become a vital asset for our community.”Earlier in June, Indy DPW announced a new dedicated website for the project and history of the site. Community members are invited to work with the CAG to help provide research material regarding the former Greenlawn Cemetery. To learn more about the project and submit your own research into the site, click here.