Commentary by Robert Bowling
The Nickel Plate Bar and Grill has always been a popular lunch spot in downtown Fishers, serving up Indiana’s staple: breaded tenderloin sandwiches. In addition, it is a gathering place for Pittsburgh Steelers fans, which is ironic considering this is the heart of Colts country.
But long before the Nickel Plate began serving food, it had always been just a bar for as long as anyone can remember. Its prime location along the railroad tracks made it an ideal place for locals and travelers to “wet their whistle.”
It is unclear exactly when the building was erected or who might have been the first proprietor. What we do know, from the Hamilton County Ledger, is that James H. Underwood applied for a liquor license for the saloon as early as 1889. The property changed hands a couple of times before Park Crawford bought it around 1893.
Crawford’s ownership was tumultuous at times. Saloon owners were required to get a license from the Hamilton County Commissioners. An 1888 town ordinance made it a violation to sell liquor without one. Crawford violated that ordinance in 1894 and was fined $5.
In 1897, his liquor license renewal was rejected by the commissioners because he had been charged twice with selling liquor to minors. The fine for that in Fishers Station was no more than $100 and no less than $20. Later that same year, he was arrested on a warrant out of Marion County for the same thing and for selling alcohol on Sundays.
By 1899, residents had enough of him and most signed a petition, referred to as a remonstrance, to shut the saloon down. Next week, I will discuss how the tavern changed during the 1900s.