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Bellevue Resort – The Prettiest Grass in Indianapolis

February 15, 2021

Bellevue Resort was a pretty little place situated where the canal and an old tow path crossed the Michigan Road, roughly where Butler University is now. Operating in the 1890’s, Bellevue was part of the Kneipp Association and employed many different water healing techniques for members, as well as a rest point along a bicycling trail where cyclists could stop and limber up after riding. It was also a place that people could go to relax and have a good time, offering a clubhouse that served ice cream.

Rear view of the Bellevue clubhouse. From the American Tent and Awning Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

The founder of Bellevue, Charles J Truemper, was an enterprising man, and it was said that his beard would stick out almost horizontally whenever he was interested in something, and that it constantly bristled because there was always something that he was interested in. He certainly had his fingers in many different pies: in 1873 he founded American Tent & Awning (which still runs today, making it one of the oldest continuously running businesses in Indianapolis), served as the Chief Decorator in the Horticultural and Floral Culture Departments of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and helped decorate Union Station when Prince Henry of Germany visited in 1902.

Bellevue was known as a place of healing, and as a member of the Kneipp Association, it achieved this through use of the Kneipp Water Cure. The Kneipp Cure was started by German Catholic priest Father Sebastian Kneipp and utilizes hydrotherapy to heal injuries and boost the immune system. One of the primary methods of the Kneipp Cure is to walk barefoot through dewy grass, and the Bellevue garden had some of the greenest, prettiest grass in Indianapolis. The Kneipp Cure also utilizes water baths of cold or hot water, or alternating between the two, which Bellevue made sure to have ready for patrons to take advantage of.

The Bellevue gardens, where members could relax and walk barefoot for the Kneipp Cure. From the American Tent and Awning Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

It is a good thing that people love hearing about scandals, because while not much about Bellevue is documented, there was an incident that made several newspapers involving alcohol, theft and the death of a man. Late one night, a group of men wandered away from Bellevue after having had too much to drink at the clubhouse and came across the house of Henry Leonard. Once there, the men broke into Leonard’s barn and tried to steal a horse, but Leonard came out to stop them and in the altercation that ensued fired his shotgun, killing a man named Thatcher. Leonard was not prosecuted as it was found he acted in self-defense, and he then sued Truemper because the men became intoxicated on his property and an injunction was placed on Truemper, making it illegal for alcohol to be sold on Sundays and after 11 p.m. on weekdays. Two years after the injunction, it was found that Truemper violated the injunction by serving alcohol during the prohibited times. Truemper and his lawyer tried to argue that he had not violated the injunction because management of Bellevue had been taken over by John Ruppel and the injunction was against Truemper himself and not Bellevue. After some comical banter between Truemper and both lawyers, it was ultimately ruled that because Truemper received a portion of the profits he had violated the injunction and was fined for this violation.

Bellevue Resort: a place of rest, good health, and good scandal. Its location next to the canal and just outside the then city limits made Bellevue an ideal place to relax and rest. People could also come there to partake in different hydrotherapy techniques to heal, or just walk through some of the prettiest grass in Indianapolis barefoot. While a place for relaxation and healing, it also was known for allowing people in and out all times of the night and girls were seen smoking on the grounds. One night this rowdiness led to the death of a man in an altercation involving alcohol and further scandal when the terms set after this incident were violated.

Although no longer around, Bellevue occupies a small but interesting part of Indianapolis history.

Stephen Good is a graduate student at IUPUI for Public History and Library Science. He works in the Collections department as an intern at the Indiana Historical Society. His favorite time period in history is WWI and he has studied the political situations that led to conflict extensively.

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