Anchor of the "Horseless City"

May 13, 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of the big Prest-O-Lite factory in Speedway - the town Carl Fisher envisioned as the "Horseless City." Fisher, a person the track could well use today, was a man of vision and one of his many plans was to create a living environment that integrated his business interests: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Prest-O-Lite and Speedway Realty Company. The track held a lot of glamour but it was Prest-O-Lite with its hundreds of jobs that was the economic anchor that supported the community. The company made possible the construction of a residential neighborhood close enough for many employees to walk or ride bikes to work. The hope was they would purchase automobiles from Fisher's automobile business - all fitted with acetylene canister Prest-O-Lite gas headlights.
The town of Speedway was and is about five miles from downtown Indianapolis - a fair distance in a 1913 world that still thought in terms of how fast a horse could trot. The distance, too, was a factor as Prest-O-Lite factories and been "zoned" out of downtown Indianapolis due to a series of expolsions that had occurred during the risky process of charging the acetylene canisters that fueled the gas flame headlights. Today the Praxair company sits on the very grounds where the big Prest-O-Lite factory stood. And that's no conincidence. Although Carl Fisher and partner James Allison made a fortune off the company and then furthered their net worth by selling it to Union Carbide in 1917 the unit is now independent again and has global operations.

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