According to the United States Census Bureau, the City has a total area of 4.3 square miles (11.1 km²), all of it land.
The city's elevation, measured in feet above sea level, ranges from 766 (the Beech Creek waterway, where it is crossed by South 9th Avenue) to 845 (the northeastern portion of the Amtrak railroad property). It is higher than that of downtown Indianapolis.
The city contains several small non-navigable waterways. Beech Creek, McFarland Creek, Pullman Creek, and Victory Run all feed into Lick Creek, which (after leaving the City limits) feeds into the West Fork of the White River.
The city is located within parts of four of Marion County's townships. In order of city land size, those townships are Perry, Franklin, Center, and Warren. (In order of city population, the list is Perry, Center, and Franklin; the Warren Township section is uninhabited railroad land.)
The city is one of three towns/cities in the United States with this name. The other two are in Arkansas and Kentucky. There is also a town in Tennessee, which has the name as one word ("Beechgrove").
Beech Grove maintains a distinct address-numbering system from nearby Indianapolis. Addresses are numbered as either East/West or North/South from the intersection of Main Street and First Avenue.
The city's street grid reflects two distinct urban planning styles. The original roadway connecting Beech Grove to Indianapolis was Churchman Avenue, running northwest from Beech Grove. The "original" city was built to the north of Churchman Avenue, on a north/south "grid" pattern with alleys, centered on the widened roads of Main Street and Fifth Avenue. While a parkway was planned for both sides of Lick Creek, only a small segment of it was actually established.
The growth of Indianapolis toward Beech Grove, and the distinctness of both cities, led to the unusual result of different names for certain roadways. Indianapolis's Troy Avenue becomes Beech Grove's Albany Street; Indianapolis's Sherman Drive becomes Beech Grove's 17th Avenue; and Indianapolis's Emerson Avenue becomes (in places) Beech Grove's 1st Avenue.
There were 6,085 households out of which 30.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.1% were married couples living together, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present and 36.9% were non-families. 31.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 2.99.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.2% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 30.8% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 15.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 88.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $41,548 and the median income for a family was $46,944. Males had a median income of $37,500 versus $26,135 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,647. About 4.4% of families and 6.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.1% of those under age 18 and 9.5% of those age 65 or over.
Beech Grove's government was first organized as a "Town Board" system on November 12, 1906. The system remained until 1935, consisting of three elected Ward representatives and a Clerk-Treasurer. From 1911 to 1939, Board members were elected as representatives of locally-organized political parties (e.g., Progressive, Citizens' Ticket, Peoples' Ticket).
Upon legally becoming an Indiana Fifth-Class City in 1935, its first mayor and four city council members were elected (three district members, and one at-large). Beech Grove achieved Indiana Fourth-Class City status in 1961. The present city council consists of five district members and two at-large members, plus an elected clerk-treasurer.
The mayors, their political affiliations, and their terms of office, have been:
The 1951 Mayoral election featured Democrat Alice Stratton, one of Indiana's first female candidates for such an office.
The city flag was not adopted until the 1970s, when a competition was held in which citizens were invited to submit designs. The winning designer was Mike Hart. The flag features an orange, black and white logo on a blue field; the logo shows the profile of an old-style railroad locomotive, in orange, with a white circle superimposed in the center. The circle contains a depiction of the tower complex of St. Francis Hospital, and bears the name of the city, the year "1906" and the motto "Where Tradition Welcomes Progress."
The city's first school was opened in 1907 in the upstairs of the Wheat Grocery Store at 423 Main Street. Between 1909 and 1929, a series of school buildings and additions were built on the 1000 block of Main; only the original gymnasium remains from these structures. The high school was begun in 1917 and its first graduating class was in 1922.
A new combined junior high/high school was built in 1955 at 1248 Buffalo Street, just northwest of the existing school site. The previous complex became Central Elementary. The new facility operated on a split-day schedule, with high school students attending in the morning and junior high students attending in the afternoon.
By 1960, the city's growth to the south prompted the building of South Grove Elementary (later Intermediate) at the 800 block of South 9th Avenue. With the population growth, the present high school was built in 1966 just east of the 4000 block of South Emerson Avenue and the 1955 facility remained as the junior high (later middle) school.
Before the 1990s, the kindergarten education experience was only offered in the city by private specialty schools (past examples being Cassidy's and Happy Time). As part of the state's trend to incorporate this age level within the public schools, the city school system joined with the City's Parks Department in the development of Hornet Park, a dual-use facility built on the grounds of the former Olympia Club (a private swimming/recreation club). Kindergarten (and, added recently, 1st-Grade) classes are held in the south part, while the city offers meeting rooms and exercise facilities in the north part.
At different times in the city schools' history, certain grade-levels have been moved between schools. Ninth-graders were moved from high school to junior high from 1964 to 1973. Sixth-graders were in elementary school until 1977, when they were moved to middle school level, but were returned to the elementary level in 2004.
Also within the city limits are the Holy Name of Jesus School (Roman Catholic, grades 1 to 8 only), built in 1922, and the Nazarene Christian School (independent Nazarene). Many students from Holy Name of Jesus continue their high school studies at Beech Grove High School or the nearby Roncalli High School.
St. Francis Hospital, founded by the monastic order of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in 1914, has grown from its single building within Beech Grove to include a greatly expanded Beech Grove complex and newer facilities in south Indianapolis and nearby Mooresville. Its hospital services and health care network make it one of the important health-care providers in central Indiana.
Beech Grove's oldest churches have existed since the earliest days of the city. Father Peter J. Killian established the Blessed Sacrament Parish (Roman Catholic Church) in the upstairs of his home in 1908; its present name of Holy Name of Jesus Parish was taken in 1918. A Methodist Episcopal meeting in the Clapp family home in 1908 eventually led to the present Beech Grove United Methodist Church. A noon-time Christian men's meeting of "Big Four" railroad employees in 1910 was the genesis of the present Beech Grove Christian Church. In late 1912, the First Baptist Church (since 1937, General Association of Regular Baptist Churches) was organized and is now in its second location within the city.
Churches established in the city in later years include Beech Grove Wesleyan Church (formerly Pilgrim Holiness Church, in the 1920s); Independent Nazarene Church (in the 1950s); Faith Assembly of God (Assemblies of God, 1958); South Emerson Church of God (Reformation Movement, Church of God (Anderson), 1961); Southwood Baptist Church (Southern Baptist Convention, 1962); and Ascension Lutheran Church (Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, 1972). In recent years, independent community Churches have appeared (e.g., Body of Christ Fellowship, Church on The Word, Omega Harvest). The Benedict Inn is a multi-use facility operated by the local Our Lady of Grace Monastery of the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict. It contains meeting rooms, a gymnasium, and an indoor pool, which were part of the former Our Lady of Grace all-girls Catholic high school.
Established service groups include chapters of the Lions International and Kiwanis. The local Beech Grove Promoters Club was founded in 1953 as a chapter of the National Exchange Club, but left that organization in 1957 and adopted its present name. It organizes the city's two main public festivals—the 3rd of July Fireworks and the Fall Festival (since 1959) in September.
Past civic organizations which, while no longer in existence, performed service to the city include the Beech Grove Civic League and the Beech Grove Jaycees. The Jaycees organized a "Buck-A-Brick" campaign in the 1950s to build a house-sized Beech Grove Civic Center on South 3rd Avenue, offering meeting rooms to the citizens. (This facility is now the home of the Body of Christ Fellowship.)
Beech Grove has no daily newspaper, but its news events have been mainly covered for many years by a free weekly newspaper headquartered within the city. Now titled the Southside Times, the weekly was for most of its existence known as the Perry Township Weekly. Another southside Indianapolis free weekly, The Spotlight, also reports on some city events. (Past Beech Grove newspapers included the Independent and the Graphic.) The city has no local radio or television station. It is part of the Indianapolis radio/television market and has its own Cable TV Access channel available on the Comcast system.
Among the organizations sponsoring youth athletics are the Beech Grove Little League, the Beech Grove Athletic Boosters (football, volleyball, basketball), the Beech Grove Wrestling Club, the Beech Grove Girls' Softball Association, the Beech Grove Soccer Club and the Beech Grove Swimming Club. Teams representing Holy Name of Jesus School participate in Indianapolis' Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) sports league, in sports such as football, wrestling, kickball, and basketball.
The Scouting movement, both the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA, have had a long history within Beech Grove. For many years, Boy Scout Troop 79 was the city's main unit; present troops are 108 and 465. Various Girl Scout and Brownie Troops have existed. Beech Grove, although not a rural community, also has an active chapter of the traditionally-rural 4-H Club.
Bolton's farm, "Beech Bank" and Churchman's cattle farm, "Beech Grove Farm", both reflected the abundance of beech trees in this area. This would eventually provide the reason for the city's name, although an early railroad stop in the area was known as "Ingallstown." The city's Sarah T. Bolton Park, situated on some of the former Beech Bank farmland, still contains several large beech trees along its southern boundary.
The actual city came into existence as a 'company town' for a new railroad repair facility constructed by the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railroad (nicknamed the "Big Four"). Through acquisitions and mergers over the years, the railroad "shops" have been run by the New York Central, Penn Central and, presently, Amtrak rail systems. Although Beech Grove was incorporated in late 1906, it did not see rapid growth until the completion of the railroad facility in 1908; by July 1907, for example, there were only four homes and two businesses in place.
Beech Grove grew with two annexations after World War II, with the final one (1967) taking place just before the Uni-Gov legislation which merged Indianapolis with most of the rest of Marion County, preventing future annexation.
Two famous actors have listed Beech Grove as their birthplace—Clifton Webb (November 19, 1889–1966) and Steve McQueen (March 24, 1930–1980). Webb was born before Beech Grove came into existence as a separate entity, while McQueen was born at the City's St. Francis Hospital. Both moved away from the area while they were still infants; neither one grew up or lived in Beech Grove.
On October 15, 1948, Beech Grove received the honor of a visit by a sitting President of the United States. Harry S. Truman, a Mason, came to the city's Masonic Lodge during his legendary 'whistle stop' re-election campaign to participate in a ceremony involving a member of his staff who was one of its members.
Within the traditional focus in Indiana on high-school basketball, the Beech Grove Hornets have earned one IHSAA State Championship--that of its girls' team, in Class 3A of the 2003 tournament. From that team, senior Katie Gearlds won both the IHSAA's Patricia Roy Mental Attitude Award (for Class 3A) and the "Miss Basketball" honor for the entire State. She went on to be a four-year starter for Purdue University from 2003 to 2007, and was the first Hornet graduate to play in an American professional sports major league (for the WNBA's Seattle Storm in the 2007 season). During the non-class years before 1996, the school had earned only three Sectional (equivalent to District in some states) titles (two by the boys' team in 1966 and 1992, and one by the girls' team in 1978); since the change to classes in Indiana high-school basketball, the boys' team has won one Class 3A Sectional title (2008).
The Hornets' most consistent state-level athletic success has come in wrestling, in which five students have won a total of seven individual state titles (Ralph Edwards and Gary Pierson in 1972, Ethan Harris in 2005, Danny Coyne in 2006, and a three-year unbeaten run by Steven Bradley from 1996 to 1998). The 1972 wrestling team endured the closest-ever runner-up finish in IHSAA wrestling history, ending up a half-point behind Bloomington. 59 Hornet wrestlers have qualified for the IHSAA State Finals (with several appearing two, three or four times), winning 55 placement medals. Also, in swimming, Andy McVey won two IHSAA individual titles in 1986, setting State records for that time; he had come back from a false-start disqualification in the 1985 finals, in which he had been favored to win.
Beech Grove High School's "Marching Hornets" band program has earned four Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA) State Band Finals berths in its history, during the long service of former director James Williams. The present band, directed by alumnus Cory Wynn with the help of Scott Bradford and Chad Barton, has sought to return to that level of success, earning their first ISSMA Regional Gold rating in nine years in 2005. The Marching Hornets continue to achieve great levels of success on the marching music field. After 2005, the band has returned to the level of success that they had during the James Williams years. They have grown to become one of ISSMAs Class C "powerhouses" in the South.
Some Beech Grove streets have been named in honor of notable citizens, such as Byland Drive (Mayor Richard Byland); Fletcher Lane (former Fire Chief, City Councilman and business owner Robert Fletcher); Killian Drive (Father Peter Killian); Newcomer Lane (Town Board member and businessman W. S. Newcomer); and Ticen Street (Town Board member Willard Ticen). A quartet of parallel streets in the northern part are named, in alphabetical order from south to north, for the cities of Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit. In June 2007, a sign post on Hornet Avenue was given in honor of Katie Gearlds, honoring her arrival into the WNBA. No one has yet made widely known, however, the story of the naming of two connected cul-de-sacs in the far south part--Rodney Court and Dangerfield Drive, presumably someone's tribute to the comedian.