The Irvington neighborhood is bounded on the north by East 10th Street, on the east by Edmondson Avenue, on the south by Brookville Road, and on the west by Emerson Avenue.
The one-hundred-seventy year history of European settlement in the Irvington area can be divided into four somewhat equal phases: (1) a pre-town phase, from the first settlement in 1821 to the town’s inception as a planned development in 1870, (2) the era of Irvington as an independent town before annexation by Indianapolis in 1903, (3) an era of integration into Indianapolis as the larger city increasingly suburbanized around the smaller town, and (4) the more current era of challenges, as the tide of suburbanization rolled on and left Irvington balancing somewhere between inner city and outer suburb.
This construction, emphasizing the wider context in which the community originated, thrived, and evolved, provides a useful backdrop for addressing the core issue of community identity: Like all social organizations, communities are self-defining, and planned communities are expressly so. Understanding the extent which Irvington has been successful in the effort to establish and maintain an identity may also help us understand something about the nature of the wider community from which it distinguished itself.
The original white community was defined by the frontier experience in which longer-term relationships were important in the face of a continuing flood of newcomers. In 1818 European settlement in central Indiana consisted most notably of the tiny frontier settlement on the west fork of the Whitewater River, then growing up around the trading post of John Conner. In that year the Treaty of St. Mary’s guaranteed the opening of most of the two-year-old state to settlement, to begin in 1822. Nevertheless, as early as 1819 a few brave settlers began to arrive along the White River West Fork. They followed the Whitewater Trace, a trail which connected Connersville with White River and its many Delaware villages, where John’s brother William occupied a site even more isolated from white settlement, later known as Conner Prairie. Apparently a small group came together in 1820, including John Wilson and John McCormack, staying near the confluence of White River and its largest tributary, Fall Creek. A third frontiersman, George Pogue, had occupied a cabin on the low bluffs over a mile away from the river, along the first stream towards civilization to the east, probably in 1819. After a bout with malaria in his first year, Wilson decided to follow Pogue’s example and relocated to still higher ground, some 175 feet above the flood plain and over five miles away from the river, where the trace crossed the next stream over, named Pleasant Run by government surveyors. Here, in 1820 he registered eighty acres and built a more permanent cabin, where present-day Hawthorne Lane crossed the railroad tracks in Irvington, just southeast of present-day Emerson and Washington Avenues. (V. T. Cottman, p.145, 149)
As the few remaining Indians disappeared, settlers streamed into the newly-designated state capital, most of them passing Wilson’s cabin. The trail became known as the Centerville Road, and Wilson became an innkeeper. The remaining area of present-day Irvington south of Pleasant Run was patented in 1822 by Joseph Sandusky, who built a log cabin north of the Centerville Road but south of present-day Washington Street, near Audubon and the site of the future homes of Irvington’s founders. The Sandusky’s, from Kentucky via Ohio, also acquired other parcels in this part of Indiana.(V. Cottman, p. 146-7; Ind. Woman, Irvington Edition, p. 1) The state government, after professionally planning the isolated settlement of Indianapolis, yet while still in Corydon, in 1823 funded ten different road projects into new capital, including two which passed through the future Irvington area. Efforts in this transportation development legislation were concentrated on the Brookville Road, which alone received over eleven percent of the road fund, being the most direct connection to the most heavily-settled part of the state and Cincinnati, the largest city in the West. The Centerville Road received less than five percent of those funds, and a Connersville branch over two percent, with five other roads connecting Indianapolis in other directions receiving more. (Indiana Senate Journal, 1823-24, p.252, from Thornbrough and Rikker p.309-10) In 1824 the General Assembly voted to move to the new capital the following year.(Blomquist, EI, p86)
Wilson soon acquired other land-owning neighbors around his property, and several other parcels were taken along Brookville Road and Lick Creek on the south and east edges of the parcels of future Irvington. Along this road, by present-day Arlington Avenue, was Edward Heizer, who served two terms as township assessor in the early 1830’s.(Sulgrove, p.614-5) This is also where a tollbooth was located. (Korra p30). In the next mile or so out Brookville Road, where it crosses Lick Creek , were several more early farms, including that of Henry Brady, who arrived in 1823, established an inn the next year, was a surveyor of the Michigan Road in 1825, opened the first school in the area in 1826, was the Justice of the Peace from 1828 to 1833, and was in and out of the General Assembly from 1831 to 1852. Beside Brady in 1830 was the property of Joseph Clinton, Justice of the Peace 1842 to 1852. Up the Brookville Road towards Indianapolis, and less than a half-mile almost due south of Wilson’s cabin, lived Elias H. and Mahalia Shimer, who arrived from Zanesville, Ohio in 1827, who also served as Justice of the Peace for fourteen years off and on between 1832 and 1857, who was twice township assessor between 1834 and 1841, and who built the second oldest surviving house in the area around 1833, to be seen at 4905 Brookville Road. Further down the pike from Brady between 1833 and 1844 was the inn of Nathan Harlan, who had arrived in 1827. (Sulgrove p.613, 618-9; Korra, 1991 p12-22) This activity suggests a pattern of early general recognition of the importance of the transportation routes to the area, and a clustering of pioneer activity into a loose rural neighborhood, with inns spaced along the routes favored by travelers. This district also had the first school in the area, south of Brookville Road near Kitley, around 1827. (Muncie, Stories, p44)
In 1825 Congress agreed to locate the National Road (Washington St.) through Indianapolis. (Leary p17, Rikker p309-10) By 1827 the National Road was surveyed to connect with Washington Street, the main street of Indianapolis, and thus passed through the Sandusky and Wilson property a quarter-mile north of Wilson’s inn. Indianapolis had grown to more the seven hundred, and by 1830, around 1900, (Rikker p312-3) but the outlying areas were sparsely settled. Although apparently incomplete, the 1829 property assessment for the new Warren Township lists only twenty-five land owners, all but three of which held only eighty acres. The same assessment list recorded 65 non-payers, indicating a high proportion of tenant farmers, squatters, and laborers among the settlers. The 1830 Census lists 94 heads of households in Warren Township, or almost two per square mile.
Near the eastern edge of the county, further down the Centerville Road, was the inn of Samuel Fullen. After the announcement of the National Road route in 1830, he hired Brady to lay out the town of Cumberland along the government survey route in 1831, and moved his establishment there. Fullen married George Pogue’s daughter, Ann, whose mother in that same year sold the Pogue farm, now bordered by the national road route and the extension of Washington Street. The buyer was none other than Noah Noble, who was also elected governor that same year as perhaps the state’s leading promoter of transportation development. (L. Hulse, EI, p133)
When that first national turnpike was cut through eastern Indiana in 1834, Wilson also relocated there, building an impressive ten-room two-story brick inn from materials manufactured on site. This inn, over-looking Pleasant Run at the present-day southeast corner of Emerson Avenue, became a stagecoach stop and landmark, remaining into the 1890’s. At least two other ‘taverns’ were spaced between this point and Cumberland, far enough from Indianapolis to become a more significant commercial center and the site of several early mills. Rufus Jennison had a tavern near present-day Shadeland, probably near brother Samuel Jennison’s parcel, where Eastgate Shopping Center is today. As early as 1825, a little further out was the inn of James Ferguson on whose land a school-house was built in 1827. Ferguson also has the distinction, along with George Pogue’s son John and others, of being one of the founders of the first church in the area, Pleasant Run or “Old-School ” Baptist, organized in 1832 and joined by the Shimers in 1834. Wilson’s son-in-law Aquilla Parker succeeded him at his death in 1840 and maintained their inn during the heyday of wagon travel. (Sulgrove p618, 620, 622-3) Other early surviving homes in the area date from this period, including the Askren House (c.1833), near 16th Street and Pleasant Run, the Moore-Christian House (1841) at 4200 Brookville Road, and the Wallace-Bosart house (1841?) west of Wilson’s Inn. (Diebold ms.)
These first immigrants were a loose community based on common economic situation and similar frontier experience. Their accounts for the most part touch on common themes: when they arrived and where from, contact with Indians if any, where and when they built their homes. Yet the stories also reflect the individuality of their separate origins and situations in the community. Accordingly, their institutions were few and loosely organized. For example, the first church congregation in the area met beginning in 1827 in the homes of the members, led by Methodist circuit preachers. They organized themselves in 1832 as the Bethel United Methodist Church, but were still without a regular meeting house until a cabin was donated in 1838, apparently along Pleasant Run east of present-day Arlington Avenue. (Korra p77-8) Also dating from this era was the National Horse Thief Detective Association Company #33, a sort of nineteenth-century rural neighborhood crime watch, which aimed not only at prevention but also apprehension and the execution of justice. (Korra p47) Another subscription school was started in 1846, being located east of the inn, but it lasted only about six years, going through five teachers in the process. The cause was thereafter taken up by the Methodists on Pleasant Run. (Muncie, Stories, p45)
Indianapolis, with 2700 in 1840, tripled in population by 1850 to over 8000 people, a far faster rate than the state’s 44 percent growth rate. A large portion of the immigrants and the goods to meet their needs came past the Wilson/Parker Inn. Nevertheless, the overall population growth was predominantly rural, Indianapolis absorbing only 2.6% of the state’s growth. By 1850 the population of Warren Township had passed 1700, or a density of over 35 persons per square mile. As the countryside filled in, the local establishments also settled in as neighborhood centers. In 1848, for example, Aquilla Parker was granted one of the township’s first liquor licenses. (Muncie, Irvington Stories, p.3) The little Methodist congregation, called Bethel Church, doubled to 160 members during a revival in 1850. (Korra p78). Throughout this early period, these “turnpike founders” along the National Road and the Brookville Road, in the central part of the township, were a dominant aspect of the local leadership. Up to 1850 Justices of the Peace were drawn from the above mentioned group 52% of the time and assessors were drawn from this group 50% of the time. (Sulgrove p613-4)
In the 1850s, however, another transportation development brought another shift in the direction of growth in the area. A rail line between Indianapolis and the Cincinnati area by way of Brookville, to be called the Harrison and Indianapolis, had been sanctioned by the state along with the first spate of eight railroad charters granted in February 1832. This plan did not materialize until 1846, when the progress of the Madison and Indianapolis line filled the booming capital city with railroad fever, and several more lines were initiated. Chartered in 1846 as the Terre Haute and Richmond, the company made some progress on the roadbed east of Indianapolis in 1850, but concentrated on its Terre Haute leg, selling off the eastern leg to the Indiana Central Railway Company in 1851. Tracks reached Richmond in October, 1853 and the state line December 8, using the old abandoned roadbed of the Centerville Road, now superseded by the National Road. Begun as the Ohio and Indiana around 1850, a second line was also constructed through the area in 1853, following just north of the Brookville Road, still in use as the B. & O. line. (Dunn p143,152; Muncie, Stories, p22-4)
In spite of these improvements, the area retained its isolated, farm character for another generation. Although the new railroads were supporting a commercial and population boom in Indianapolis, Washington Street frontage was yet platted only a mile east of Meridian in the 1850s, leaving four rural miles between the city and the Parker Inn. The nearest post offices to the pre-Irvington area were Lawrence, Cumberland, and Indianapolis as late as 1858. (McEvoy’s)
The Sandusky land had been worked by various tenant farmers. One of these, Joseph Pouder, built a cabin east of the inn on the south side of the National Road just west of what was to become Ritter Avenue. In 1853 his brother-in-law, John Ellenberger, brought his family over the National Road from Cincinnati and replaced Pouder, who moved on west. (Muncie, Stories, p.4) In 1858 Ellenberger bought the northern 180 acres of the Sandusky property on the north side of Pleasant Run, extending north to Eleventh Street, and in 1865 built a new home at what is now 5602 E. 10th Street.(Diebold, ch. 2) The southern Sandusky parcels were then operated as a dairy. (V. Cottman, p.146-7)
During this decade, Indianapolis again more than doubled to over 18,000, but the state as a whole was experiencing the largest raw increase of any decade in its history, 862,000 or 2.8 times the increase of the previous decade. On the other hand, Indianapolis’ increase, though still booming, was only 1.3 times the previous decade, or only 1.2% of the state’s total gain, again reflecting the predominantly rural character of the growth. As new residents filled the township and the railroads began to knit the countryside to the world outside, strains were bound to emerge. For example, efforts were made around 1859 to stop the Horse Thief Detective Association because of its vigilante activities, but it was deemed sufficiently important by its members to resist these efforts. (Korra p47)
The retention of the majority of the land that was to be Irvington in two large parcels, when most parcels were only eighty acres, may have preserved the sizable underdeveloped area for the next phase of development, a full-blown town and property development scheme. By 1870 Indianapolis had grown to more than 48,000 and Center Township, with another 4300 outside the city, held 73% of the county population. Warren Township, like the rest of the county, remained very rural, with only 2300, or 47 per square mile, only barely catching the state average, which had actually declined because of the Civil War. This rate, about six persons per eighty acre parcel, indicates a fairly full settlement for the township and the state. Indianapolis, however, actually grew more in the Civil War decade than it had in the previous, first railroad decade, again increasing to 2.6 times its 1860 size. This means that, even assuming no departures (and research for other areas indicates that the turnover was probably high), only one person in three had been in the city for more than ten years, less than one in six for twenty years, and one in for seventeen thirty years.
Cumberland, however, had become the largest secondary center in the county, with almost three hundred inhabitants, having benefited from the National Road, a railroad stop, and its eastward orientation. Warren Township as a whole had grown only 32% in twenty years, suggesting that growth had slowed once most desirable agricultural land was taken. Consequently, the first generation of settlers and their descendants remained in the majority. In this era of immigration, Indianapolis had grown to over 22% of foreign birth, but Warren Township had by far the highest concentration of foreigners of the other townships at almost 16%, and these were actually somewhat more concentrated in the countryside than in Cumberland. (Compendium of the Ninth Census, p.172) Perhaps this indicates the township had closer ties to Cincinnati or Pennsylvania than other rural parts of the county. As the countryside filled in more completely, country roads were developed, and rail transport whisked people and freight through the township, the importance of the earlier turnpike leadership was mitigated– in the fifties and sixties they were Justices of the Peace only 23% of the time and assessors not at all.
Indianapolis’ remarkable growth as a railroad city led to a rail-oriented, warehousing, manufacturing, and commercial district on its south and eastern sides. In ten years of manufacturing growth the number of workers was ten times larger, the amount of capital invested twelve times larger, and the output eighteen times greater, implying also large increases in productivity, since output increased so much more than labor and capital. Lumber was more readily available, with pine being imported at the rate of four or five thousand carloads per year, primarily to support the housing market. (W.R. Holloway, Indianapolis, p366-7,382). In 1864 the city chartered a street railway company for mule-drawn cars on tracks. This company was bought the next year by E.S.Alvord and W.H. English, the latter being the founded of the First National Bank, these two, along with Stroughton Fletcher and Noah Noble’s heirs, became the largest developers on the east side. This developing area had a striking ethnic character, becoming known as Germantown. This growth meant that or the rural areas, the winds of suburbanization were beginning to blow. Comparing Marion County assessments between 1869 and 1875, town lots grew in value at over three times the rate of land in general, and town improvements almost eight times land improvements, while the number of taxpayers only doubled. (First Annual Report p353)
Halfway between Indianapolis and Cumberland and spanning the two major turnpikes and two major rail lines, the Irvington area was well situated to be a new secondary center. Transportation developments to the east led indirectly to the founding of Irvington, but its impetus was residential development rather than commercial. Centerville had been the seat of Wayne County, but intersecting rail lines, along with the National Road had assured Richmond’s ascendancy. With overwhelming economic forces against them in their home territory, two prominent Centerville citizens, Jacob B. Julian (1815-98) and Sylvester Johnson, decided to direct their investments elsewhere. Julian was an attorney, president of the First National Bank of Centerville, and had been a two-term legislator in the late forties. His brother, George W.(1817-99), served in Congress and ran under the Free Soil banner for Vice President in 1852 under John P. Hale. As a Republican founder, along with Oliver P. Morton (1823-77), another Centerville lawyer and anti-slavery man, George Julian in 1860 began five more terms in Congress.(M. Hipskind, EI p856) Sylvester Johnson was Wayne County auditor, head of the Indiana Horticultural Society, and on the board of directors of Purdue University.
They were informed about the Sandusky land through Rev. T. A. Goodwin, a Methodist pastor who lived about halfway toward Indianapolis and sold real estate. Goodwin and the Julians no doubt had known each other politically, since Goodwin had edited in Indianapolis from 1857 to 1862 an anti-slavery, anti-liquor weekly called Indiana American, which had moved from Brookville, and was also Recording Secretary of The State Temperance Alliance. (History of Warren Township p65; Diebold, ch. 3; A. Colbert and D.Vanderstel, EI, p96; Holloway p255) Julian no doubt had seen the area when passing through by horse as a legislator. Julian and Johnson purchased from Joseph Sandusky’s heirs the remaining 320 acres not owned by Ellenberger at $100 an acre on June 30, 1870 (Muncie, Stories, p4). Dr. Levi Ritter, attorney, physician, and surveyor from Danville, Indiana had in 1869 purchased the Pouder half quarter section, and another ‘land company’ got the Parker’s’ eighty acres. (V. Cottman, p148; Diebold, Ch. 3)
On November 7, 1870, Julian and Johnson platted a 304 acre town of 108 lots on this purchase, applying the name in honor of Washington Irvington, at the suggestion of Julian’s daughter, Mary Downey. Johnson modeled the design after Glendale, Ohio, laid out in 1855 on high ground on the Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Dayton rail line north of Cincinnati, one of the first few of such suburban communities in the country and near where Mary had attended Wesleyan Female College in the late fifties. Like Glendale, Irvington was to have lanes winding along the natural contours, laid out from a central avenue. With the assistance of Wayne County’s professionally trained surveyor, Robert A. Howard, the two developers apparently also curved at least one street around a particularly “magnificent” oak. (V. Cottman p.150; Diebold ch. 3) These lanes intentionally followed the lay of the lower ground, leaving the higher ground for building sites. (Johnson, IMH, June, 1908, p88) Irvington’s plan was more formal than Glendale’s, however. A central north-south meridian street connected the two turnpikes and the two rail lines like a pin, with the National Road and its companion rail line bracketed by the circles like jewels on the pin. With a density of 2.8 acres per lot when most town developments were supplying about five lots per acre, Irvington was definitely elitist in its aspirations.
Following the example of Colorado Springs, the development also used deed restrictions to prohibit liquor, the manufacture of soap, and slaughter houses, along with a fifty foot setback for “any stable, hog-pen, privy, or other offensive building, stall, or shed.” (Sulgrove p621) These covenants not only established landmark precedents in deed restrictions, they reflected a self-conscious program for collective community-building. (Diebold; Sehr)
Dr. Ritter joined the development scheme on September 6, 1871, by filing an addition on his 80 acres on the west side of the Julian-Johnson plat, adopting both the restrictive covenants and the curvilinear street pattern. The developers began construction of their own Second Empire homes that fall, Julian and Johnson choosing lots adjoining the National Road, but building facing each other across the central drive, like “ceremonial gateposts” for the development, replacing the homestead that had begun with the Sandusky cabin, and thereby fulfilling an agreement among the principals to reside in the new community. Their probable architect, Isaac Taylor, was also active in Republican politics, founding the Tippecanoe Club in 1876 and serving as its president. (Diebold ch.3; Ind. Woman p1)
On January 4, 1872, James E. Downey, Julian’s son-in-law, and Nicholas Ohmer filed another addition, and they too built new homes, although Ohmer never lived in his. John W. Chambers added 250 lots on the north side of the first plat, retaining the winding streets but moving much closer to conventional lot sizes. The new development was supported by the Panhandle Railroad, operating on the old Indiana Central line, by the building of a depot in that same year. In 1873 Downey acquired and platted another eighty acres, from the Shimers on the west side of Emerson(Sulgrove, p; Diebold )
This group was somewhat successful in their efforts to market the property, for on March 11, 1873 a total of 82 signers petitioned to the Board of County Commissioners for incorporation. The resulting plebiscite on March 21 was nearly unanimous for the proposition, and officers were elected April 3. Julian and Ritter were two of the three trustees. The third was Charles W. Brouse, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for actions at Missionary Ridge, who was apparently involved with the Downey platting the same year. Johnson was made treasurer and assessor. This newly legitimized regime met immediately on April 7 and aggressively passed ordinances to require owners to grade their sidewalks, plant trees, and keep their livestock confined, while prohibiting the use of fire-arms and the killing of birds. (Dunn p.435, W. Sanford, EI p.470; Diebold) In this year Julian’s brother George, now retired from Congress, joined the new neighborhood with a home at 115 South Audubon. (M. Wright EI p445). School bonds were authorized by the trustees in November, and supplemented the following April, for completion of an “ambitious” three-story brick school building on the south circle. (Dunn p435; Sulgrove) Roads continued to be graded and graveled and maples planted lining them. (V. Cottman p151)
The development of Irvington may also be placed in the context of the wider landscape design movement to beautify residential areas. Following eastern trends, Indianapolis had begun this process as a public endeavor with the 1864 purchase of the land for Crown Hill Cemetery. Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux had just planned Riverside, Illinois in 1869. Following close on the heels of Irvington’s success was Woodruff Place, platted in 1872-73. (C. Ziegler, EI p.894). Irvington’s plan also incorporated a park in the middle of the south circle, four years before Indianapolis acquired its first, Garfield Park. (Diebold, ch. 3)
Complementing this intellectual approach to development was their support of liberal education. Not only was public education given a priority, but higher education as well. The original plat of the town provided for a female college in the north circle. George Julian was known as a pro-suffrage Congressman, and women’s rights activity had increased in Indianapolis in the wake of the war. (C. Ziegler, EI p1446-7). Such sentiments perhaps helped influence the decision of Northwest Christian University to relocate to Irvington. Ovid Butler, the founder, primary benefactor, and president for the first twenty years, of what was the second or third coeducational college in America and the crown jewel of the Disciples of Christ denomination, was also a successful developer of the Old Northside, and prominent Republican publisher. His college also broke new ground by creating in 1869, with his personal endowment, the first chair in the country designed specifically for a woman, in literature. Appointed to it was Catherine Merrill, who thereby became the second female professor in the country. Her father was Samuel Merrill, former state treasurer, Indianapolis founder, state bank president, president of the Madison and Indianapolis, and publisher. Catherine had just published a two-volume history of Indiana’s participation in the war, commissioned by Governor Morton, thus solidifying her literary and Republican credentials. (A. Colbert EI p992; C. Ziegler, p370-1; D. Sobol, p992)
While Irvington was busy forming a local government in the spring of 1873, the directors of Northwestern Christian University were deciding to move, because they had already outgrown their eighteen-year-old building and because surrounding land prices had risen so high. The college had suitors in addition to Irvington, including another brand new suburban town, Brightwood. That town’s developers were involved in manufacturing and mercantile interests, and many of the lots were sold to their employees and those of the adjoining Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis Railroad. (Sehr, p310-3) The college and Irvington both were institutions which projected a high moral tone in an era when temperance and suffrage were often allied issues. Both the college and the town rejected the old agricultural environment and the new urban commercial/industrial environments alike. Greek Professor John O. Hopkins had been one of the new town’s first residents, opposite the north circle, which the developers had proposed as a site for a college, and his wife was already teaching students in their home in 1871. (Muncie, Stories, p47) The moral, intellectual, and political affinities of the two institutions were cemented by the town’s donation of 25 acres and $150,000 for buildings, quite a sum at that time. A three-story brick building with steam heat was completed for fall classes in 1875. (Dunn p435)
This generous subsidization of the college is all the more poignant since it came in the context of the Panic of that same year, with resulting dislocations and capital shortages. Whereas in 1872 the new development was selling lots for the exorbitant sum of $1000 per acre, prices soon declined, and the developers began subdividing the large lots to broaden their market. Julian and Johnson multiplied 42 unsold lots south of the railroad into 182 lots the year of the Panic. (Sehr, p316) Apparently sales were slack relative to the cost of development commitments. Julian, already participating in the development more actively by building homes for new residents, was hit particularly hard. Hopes were placed on the connection to Indianapolis by streetcar. Johnson invested heavily here, and the community began receiving hourly departures in conjunction with the opening of the college. (Sehr p309 Note B)) Even though the university’s arrival brought high occupancy rates in 1875, “the early capitalists kept up their high hopes and also high prices until these last great features to the town had been realized, then wealth and prosperity still failing to materialize, many of them left town for other places, where they had hopes of retrieving their lost fortunes. It has been many times asserted that every investor of that day came out a financial wreck.” (V. Cottman p151)
In spite of these difficulties, the task of community-building continued full force, and by 1876 the population was reported above 200. (Muncie, Stories, p36) On September 19, 1875, in conjunction with the commencement of fall classes, Hopkins began conducting church services in the new university building. The organization of the First Church of Christ in Irvington, later to become the Downey Avenue Christian, came two months later. This congregation was more or less as an extension of the college, meeting there, with President O.A. Burgess as one of the first five elders, and Hopkins, Burgess and successive presidents as frequent speakers. (George E. Owen, A Century of Witness, p11-2). The Disciples of Christ denomination had been experiencing substantial growth in the Indianapolis area, which may have also contributed to Butler’s move. When the college was begun in 1855, there had been only one congregation in the city. The college’s growth led to the organization in 1868 of the Third Christian Church on the old Northside, and by the mid 1870’s, when the Irvington church was begun, there were six Indianapolis congregations, with almost two thousand members in affiliation, along with several non-affiliated, splinter congregations. (EI p416)
Not all community building was so directly an extension of the college. In the same year, an Irvington chapter of the Oddfellows was instituted, its membership dominated by the names of earlier area families: Parker, Wilson, Heizer, Askren, and Wells. In 1867 the one-room log school house that had been Bethel Methodist was torn down and replaced by a new frame structure with a playground. It received the new Irvington older students until Hopkins’ school was built. In 1877 Sally Askren was instrumental in revitalization of the Bethel Methodist, which had declined during the Civil War era, during which the building was used by the home guard. She reportedly was concerned about the youth of the community, the availability of liquor and other temptations of nearby commercial centers, and grocer and school board member Shank donated a lot to support the project. (Muncie, Stories, p45-7) These themes resonated with the reform-minded religious newcomers in Irvington, and she was assisted in her efforts by Mrs. L.O. Robinson, an evangelist residing in the new town who spoke at the reopening of the building in 1878, and James Downey, who became Sunday School Superintendent. (Sulgrove p621-2; V. Cottman p152; Korra p79)
As summarized by one contemporary observer, Irvington was “fortunate” for being a “college town,… for the college life not only helped it weather the financial stress of the seventies, but it gave it an intellectual atmosphere that has made the place an attractive residence.” (Dunn p435) The students not only boarded with the residents, they attended their churches and taught the Sunday School classes. The residents supported the college’s literary societies and attended commencement activities. (V. Cottman, p152-3) It is possible, however, that these sentiments were not so widely shared outside the cultural setting of the new town proper.
Jacob Julian, now near bankruptcy, was already sufficiently well known in the capital to be made judge of the Marion County circuit court in 1876. He sold his new Irvington mansion, ironically in the same year that it was featured in an atlas of the state. Following a two-year tenure, Julian stayed in the city to support his legal career, leaving behind his financial embarrassments and the diluted results of his Utopian vision. His career move to the city poignantly underlines the relative isolation of his development project from the broader opportunities of the era. (Taylor, et al p98, Sehr p.309; Diebold ch.3).
Another sign of stress in the new community’s leadership at this time was the 1877 battle by rival school boards for legitimacy over the firing of a teacher, with George Julian and Hopkins opposing Sylvester Johnson and Dr. Jacob A. Krumrine, the town’s first druggist. Hopkins resigned and was replaced by William H.H. Shank, a local grocer. Shank sided with Johnson and Krumrine, and this threesome forcibly ejected the resistant teacher and were rewarded with two convictions, two fines, and a lost appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court. (Dunn p435; C. Ziegler EI p832-3; Owen p13; Sulgrove p621) It is interesting to note not only the rift in the original founding group, but also the appearance of mercantile interests in local politics.
The 1880 Census lists Irvington with 652 residents, a close second to Brightwood and contributing a large portion of the township’s increase of 816 persons. Whether or not a financial success, Irvington was a population success. Warren Township thus increased 36% in the 1870’s, behind Center and Wayne Townships, even though the statewide increase was less than 18%. Irvington’s relative success in self-conscious community-building indicates that the founders’ vision stuck a resonant chord in a culture being apportioned between urban and rural communities. Indianapolis, however, had increased 56% and Wayne Township more than doubled. In spite of Irvington’s illustrious beginnings and relative success, the primary thrust of suburbanization was working class and westward from Indianapolis. Once again the liberal planners were beset by economic forces beyond their control.
Irvington was not emerging as quite the elitist Utopian community its founders might have liked. The occupations of the 171 Irvington males over 16 in 1880 show a significant number of professional and business men, 22%, but also an even larger number of unskilled workers, 27%, with skilled workers next at 12%. There were even 13 men in the town who listed farming as their primary occupation. (Sehr, p328)
In addition, the Irvington newcomers, in spite of their numbers, were a minority in their own territory, whatever their occupation, still only 21% of a township which remained an agricultural community. Supported by great access to external markets and high local demand by the needs of the city, Marion County was one of the leading agricultural counties in the state. In 1879 Marion County actually led all counties in the number of horses, was only third in the number of hogs, fourth in bushels of potatoes, sixth in acres of corn, seventh in bushels of barley, ninth in tons of hay, and eleventh in numbers of mules and acres of meadow, falling behind in wheat and cattle, which would utilized too much valuable land. (Ind. Statistics Bureau, First Annual Report of the Department of Statistics and Geology, 1880) Irvington also did not share the township’s ethnic emphasis, being 89% native born, as compared to the rest of the non-urban county being only 84% native born. Interestingly, Irvington had more blacks than foreigners, although of course employed as servants and laborers. (Sehr, p330)
As the sale of smaller lots combined with a growing local demand for labor and services, cultural and class divisions arose within the town itself. The community was too small and too isolated to separate the classes into distinct, discretely separate neighborhoods. Social and economic divisions were manifested by a series of controversial measures which struggled with the keeping of animals and the protection of the horticulture. (See esp. G. Cottman, “A Hoosier Arcadia,” IMH V.28)
Since Butler University and Irvington drew from the same cultural well, there was not the overt town/gown schism found in other college towns, but there may have been town/country and elite/non-elite ones. In addition to the economic differences there were bound to be cultural ones as well. For one thing, Butler’s denomination became Irvington’s, but represented only 5% of Marion County’s faithful. The Methodists, representing the state’s most numerous denomination, while supported by a few Irvingtonites, were nevertheless relegated to a small frame building on the outskirts of town. In addition, just the presence of Butler, as the only college near Indianapolis, set the town apart. Butler’s eleven faculty members, for example, averaged $103 wages per month with a 1 to 12 teacher student ratio, whereas other county teachers averaged only $44 per month with a 1 to 35 ratio.
In spite of their cultural distance from the rural community around them, or perhaps because of it, the leadership of the new college town continued to solidify and extended their community and its reputation. The college continued to bring in distinguished residents whose families became leading lights of the church and the community. Consider, for example, D.C. and H.U. Brown, Indianapolis residents who came to Irvington as students, graduating in 1879 and 1880, respectively, and receiving M.A.s in 1880 and 1882. D.C. Brown, after joining the church in 1881, studied in Germany , returned as professor of Greek, and went on to be State Librarian for 20 years and President of the National Association of State Libraries. H.U. Brown went to work for the Indianapolis News in 1881, became Butler’s youngest board member in 1885, and remained with both organizations for over seventy years, rising to managing editor and Vice President of Indianapolis Newspapers Inc. He was also president of Butler’s board for 52 years, as well as president of the Irvington town council and school board and an elder at Downey Avenue Christian. Allen R. Benton, who had already been President of the college 1861-68, returned to teach after a five-year term as University of Nebraska’s first chancellor, serving again as President 1886-91. He also was a member and frequent speaker at the church and bought Ohmer’s house in 1890. Thomas Carr Howe also joined the church as a student in 1884 and returned to teach, after earning degrees from the University of Berlin and Harvard, serving as the college’s president from 1908 to 1920, as well as President of the Church Federation of Indianapolis and the Disciples of Christ Pension Fund. His younger brother, Will David, became a church member at fourteen and a Professor of English from 1899 to 1906, going on to a distinguished career as a publisher and editor with Harcourt, Brace and Charles Scribner’s Sons. (A Century p40-1; EI, various)
The founders’ families also provided a second generation of community leadership. We have seen that Jacob Julian’s son-in-law, James Downey, actively participated in the property development and helped build the Methodist congregation. Sylvester Johnson’s son, Eudorus, built his own house at 5631 University in 1876, but relocated to north Meridian in the mid 1880s, following in his father’s public accounting footsteps by serving as Marion County Auditor for many years. (Diebold, Ch. 4) George Julian, after publishing his Political Recollections in 1884 at age 67, left the following year to become surveyor general of New Mexico, taking as his deputy Indianapolis attorney Charles B. Clarke, who had been his Congressional secretary. Julian’s daughter, Grace, after receiving Butler degrees in 1884 and 1885, married Clarke in 1887, and went on to a notable career as an columnist for The Indianapolis Star, an author, suffragist, and clubwoman of national stature. (M. Hopskind EI p856; M. Wright, p445-6) In this category one might also include Ovid Butler’s son Scot (c.1844-1931), returned from studies in Heidelburg, joined the church in 1883 and went on to serve as president of Butler and started a local literary society, the Irvington Atheneum. Scot Butler’s brother Chauncey, another college trustee, also built an Irvington home.
Another indication of the solidification of the community in its second decade was a growing commercial development and the influx of some prominent merchants. As observed in 1884, “The town has a telegraph-office (Western Union), and a telephone-station connecting it with all parts of the state.. a post-office, an Odd-Fellows’ Lodge, one general drygoods store, one drug-store, a wagon-shop, a meat-store, and a blacksmith-shop.” (Sulgrove p622) In the mid 1880s a large three-story brick commercial building named Moore’s Hall was built, where the central avenue crossed the railroad. It housed a grocery and drug store at street level, and offices and meeting hall above. (Muncie, Stories, p30) In 1887 the old Julian home was bought by James T. Layman, an Indianapolis wholesaler who had served on the City Common Council and Board of Aldermen 1877-84 and as president of the latter body 1881-3. (Diebold, Ch. 4; Dunn, p640-1).
Piece by piece, however, Indianapolis was reaching out and drawing the unique community in. This was partially a consequence of growing numbers– in the 1880s Indianapolis’ growth matched the thirty thousand increase of the 1860s. The city thus grew forty percent in the decade while the state grew only eleven percent, and became over twice the size of the second largest city, Evansville. In the 1890s, however, Indianapolis grew almost 64,000, or over sixty percent, while the state as a whole grew only fifteen percent. Indianapolis was now absorbing almost twenty percent of the state’s growth and was starting to overflow Center Township. In 1880, 7.5% of Center Township’s population was outside the city; by 1900 the city exceeded the township. In fact, over the twenty year period, Indianapolis had absorbed 99.6% of the county’s growth.
Suburbanization was felt unevenly in the surrounding townships, however. Warren Township was beginning to feel its effects, increasing over 800 persons or 35% for the twenty years. Warren was nevertheless a poor second to Wayne Township, which more than doubled in the same period and was now over three times as large. Warren Township’s more moderate growth is nevertheless significant, considering that four townships actually lost population. Looking at housing development on the east side, although the Highland Park and Fountain Square neighborhoods were being built up rapidly, the infill was mostly west of State Street, except for some spotty residential growth and combined commercial and residential extension along the transportation corridors of Tenth Street, Washington Street, English Avenue, and Prospect Street. Irvington continued to grow, with real estate sales were brisk enough for C.W. Brouse, Irvington’s original trustee and a long-time school board president, to open a real estate office in 1890. For the next few years Brouse dominated both the local real estate market and the efforts to promote improvements. (Ind. Woman, p3)
Even though the city was step-by-step spreading out toward the town, the more significant factors for Irvington in this era were the local improvements which attracted new growth. As awkward and unreliable as the mule-cars seemed in retrospect, they nevertheless facilitated more regular commuting. Being at the end of a long line, Irvington suffered the full brunt of the system’s limitations, chiefly its overcrowding and meandering route through the southeast side. Nevertheless, at least some Butler students apparently commuted often, but horseback and carriage were probably still the preferred means for those with the means and who chose not to adapt to the spaced schedules of the trains. (G. Cottman, A Hoosier Arcadia) In 1893 Washington Street line was added, pulled first by mules, briefly by a steam engine, but soon by electricity, which gradually provided more reliable transportation.
Electricity also became available for consumer use in the 1890s, with the activist town board providing a $10,000 subsidy for a line down Washington, and leading the town to vote for its own power station. (Dunn p435-6) In 1893 natural gas was also brought to the town, via Brightwood, the town providing a $20,000 ante for the gas company. Brouse, chairman of the improvements committee of a strong Commercial Club, personally led the subscription drives for both of these endeavors. (Ind. Woman, p2-3,8)
Butler had grown apace with the town, having added a number of buildings, including a dormitory in 1885, a women’s building, a gym, and an observatory. The Board of Trustees and officers had a number of long-time Irvington residents, including the Butler brothers, H.U. Brown and A.R. Benton and others. These were balanced, however, by a strong contingent of city residents, as well as one third from other towns around the state. The college had over 200 hundred students for its 21 faculty members, and its college preparatory section was providing secondary education for the town. H.U. Brown was even president of the town board and his support of internal improvements would naturally benefit the college as well. (Ind. Woman, p4-5,7)
As the demand for improvements increased, the old town split over the grazing of animals evolved into pro- and anti-development factions. With a population of over 800 and commuter transportation, the town was losing some of its rural-town atmosphere. Measures had always been directed not only at wandering animals in the town per se, but herds of grazing stock at the towns fringes. William H. H. Shank, long time grocer and school board trustee, at one time had several hundred sheep in the Arlington area. In the 1890s, however, measures shifted in favor of stricter control, for example, toward chickens, a mainstay of rural residential life. Butchering shops on Washington Street, which slaughtered onsite, providing meat locally and to the Indianapolis city market, were a target of public concern, even though located at the eastern edge of town. Again the situation was complicated because Shank was one of the offending parties. (Muncie, Stories, p36-40)
It was the transportation changes that would again prove critical for the development of the area. As late as the mid 1890s development was still focused on the railroad and Central Avenue (now Audubon), for example, the construction of the two-story brick Palace Drug Store building across from Moore’s Hall. (Muncie, Stories, p30-33). Those who sought improvements had a long list, borrowed from the nearby city which they increasingly saw themselves associated with: paved streets and sidewalks, street lighting, and public water. With its new streetcars, the growth of Washington Street, was both as a developing corridor uniting the long-isolated town with the city and as the local commercial district. Paving the thoroughfare was finally achieved in 1897, although only the western half of town was at first included, and even this had long and vociferous opposition, to the point of the use of injunctions as delaying tactics, even though it would lead to improved streetcar service. (G. Cottman, p111; Ind. Woman p2)
It was the issue of water, however, the raised the most emotion, proved to be the Waterloo for those resisting development, and brought Irvington prematurely under the administrative control of the city. The importance of water supply for fire protection was illustrated with every building that burned, such the dramatic 1898 destruction of the 1874 school building, which had recently added four new rooms to accommodate the growth in population. City water meant city annexation, however, and the new school building, promptly opened the next year on Central Avenue, south of the southern circle, remained under threat of fire. The city toyed with the pumping of water from Pleasant Run, but this alternative was dismissed as unsuitable for drinking and expensive for fire protection alone. The city wanted Irvington, and residents of the intervening districts, stimulated by the transportation improvements, such as the booming Tuxedo Park area, wanted the city services.
On June 19, 1900 the Indianapolis and Greenfield Rapid Transit Company began interurban service between its two namesakes, barely six months after the city’s first line, to Greenwood. Comfortable, quiet, clean, cheap, and frequent, the interurbans were instantly a huge success. Merchants grasped the potential quickly, because the fast, extended lines could not only bring in more customers, but also, with telephones and small package dispatch freight service, could allow merchants to offer same- or next-day delivery. As the century closed, commercial development in Irvington had clearly shifted to Washington Street. (J. Marlette, EI, p825)
In this context, with promises from the city for water connection, a fire station, a new high school, and the development of Ellenberger Park, annexation was approved on February 17, 1902. The city did not move fast enough, however, for the following January the three-year-old school building also burned, fire engines taking a half hour to reach the scene and city water as yet only available as far as Sherman Avenue. A new city firehouse on Washington Street was then completed that same year. (Dunn, p436; Muncie, Stories, p32, 49-51; Ind. Woman p2; Korra p70)
When the new school was built, it too was relocated on Washington, replacing the Ritter house, based on the attendance of a large delegation to an Indianapolis school board meeting in March of 1903. D.D.Pike’s grocery and the Post Office soon followed, abandoning the original town center by the railroad.(G. Winders, A Glimpse, p25; Muncie, Stories, p53) In 1904 a second interurban ran down the Brookville Road to Connersville, but the momentum of the Washington Street corridor was already established. (Korra. p42)
It was also during this period that the fate of the Irvington elite culture became increasingly intertwined with the Disciples of Christ organization. In 1893 the local congregation had separated itself from the college by building its own house of worship and renaming itself as the Downey Avenue Christian. (A Century, p14) The denomination was experiencing growth in this period, reporting twelve Marion County congregations and 4000 members in 1897. Since 1874 an important organ of the denomination, the Christian Women’s Board of Missions, had been located in Indianapolis. Among its founders and first officers were Mrs. P.H. Jameson, whose husband served on Butler’s board of trustees into the 1890s, and Mrs. O.A. Burgess, whose husband was president of Butler and a prominent member of Downey Avenue Christian in the 1870s. The organization also had eminent Republican connections from the beginning, since another founder was Mrs. William Wallace, brother of Lew Wallace and former law partner with Benjamin Harrison. Another founder, Caroline Pearre, waited until 1893 to move to Irvington and join Downey Avenue. Also closely associated with this group were the A.M. Atkinsons, Nancy Atkinson having been the first woman graduate from Butler in 1856, and Alonzo, on the board of trustees in the 1890s when they were residents of Wabash, Indiana. They also moved to Irvington and joined Downey Avenue in 1904. (A Century; McCrae, et al p2; Ind. Woman, p4)
In 1898 the college finally added a program for the training of ministers and donated a small parcel by the church for the construction of a library, which was built in 1903. The group enlisted the help of Prof. T.C. Howe, who was active in both Downey Avenue Christian and the Disciples of Christ organization, and who was soon to replace Butler as president of the college. They also received a donation from the A.F. Armstrongs of Kokomo, he on the college board of trustees and she serving with the CWBM. Land was purchased and an impressive training building completed by 1910. (A Century; McCrae, et al p2; Ind. Woman, p4)
In this first decade of the twentieth century, Indianapolis grew another 64,000 or 38%, as compared to fifteen percent growth for the state as a whole, so that Indianapolis now was absorbing twenty percent of the state’s growth. In fact only twenty counties grew more than five percent in this period, and only five grew more than 25%, while 54 out of 92 counties actually lost population. Indiana actually lost by migration, with 28% of those born in the state now living in other states, and only six percent of the state being foreign born and about 17% born in other states. The growth of Indianapolis was being fueled by a relatively local rural to urban transformation.
The city was also spilling out of Center Township, the ten percent that was outside still primarily in Wayne Township, with Warren Township still a distant second, in spite of the annexation of Irvington (Tuxedo Park was in Center Township). The city was now also edging into Franklin, Decatur, and Washington Townships. As for the state as a whole, this suburbanization was selective– even though Warren Township grew 55%, at a faster rate than the city, Wayne and Washington Townships were growing even faster, while Decatur, Franklin, and Pike more or less held even. The dynamic relationship of suburbanization and annexation is also clear, for over half of the population of Warren and Wayne Townships was now inside the city limits, even though the city had as yet acquired only a modest portion of their areas. Surrounding this suburbanization over eighty percent of the county remained in farms.
In the decade of World War I, Indianapolis again grew at the same 38% clip, while the state as a whole slowed to an 8.5% increase, the city absorbing a whopping 35% of the total growth of the state. Still only eleven percent of the city was outside Center Township, suggesting that suburban extension was balanced by infill and increased density. Warren Township again grew at a faster rate than the city, also at an almost constant 54%. Again the city gobbled up this growth, so that 66% of the township’s population was now in the city.
Much of this growth was a widening of what had been a narrow Washington Street corridor. The development of subdivisions further back from the streetcar line encouraged the growth of secondary arteries such as Tenth Street and Prospect Avenue, and expanding streetcar lines encouraged even more developments. These arteries, especially Washington, became increasingly dotted by commercial buildings to serve the neighborhoods behind them, many of which can still be seen. Irvington, as recognized terminus a few miles from downtown, like Lawrence, Broad Ripple, Speedway, and Beech Grove, was developing an especially strong commercial district to serve a rapidly growing surrounding population. Even the rapid transit of the interurbans seemed to support this process– as they extended they connected these invigorated suburban towns with more distant shoppers.
With this growth, the rural town was a thing of the past, and the small town was giving way to a metropolitan feel to the town. The high school students commuted to Broad Ripple or Manual. In June, 1906, Irvington Presbyterian Church was organized, right in the middle of the town, and by 1910 had it 240 members. (Dunn, p589) Left over corners of the town were being filled in. Less elegant neighborhoods were developing on several sides, such as the Riley Avenue area, west of Emerson and north of Michigan, with its tree-lined esplanades but typically small town lots with neat rows of bungalows. Another rapidly growing area in the teens was Irvington Terrace, located east of Arlington and north of Washington. Warren Park was platted in 1913. Only to the south where the Hawthorne Yards were constructed in 1917, was residential development more restricted. (Diebold, Ch.4) Also initiated in this era was George Kessler’s master plan for the connection of city parks with each other by boulevards along the streams. Although parts of this plan were not fully implemented around Irvington until the depression era, when more public labor was available, Pleasant Run’s connection of the Ellenberger area with the Christian Park and Garfield Park areas served to subtly integrate Irvington with the rest of the city. Similarly, Emerson, Ritter, and Arlington Avenues related Irvington to the new adjacent neighborhoods through which they ran. (C. Ziegler, P. Diebold, EI, p867-9)
In the 1920s the growth of Indianapolis was finally beginning to slow. Although it still grew by a significant fifty thousand, when this somewhat smaller amount is compared to the now larger base, the rate of growth was only sixteen percent, the lowest in the city’s history. This was only somewhat above the state’s 10.5% growth rate. Now, however, almost nineteen percent of the city’s population fell outside Center Township, with all townships being affected. The Irvington area, if now defined as that part of Warren Township within city limits, continued to grow even more rapidly, increasing by 79% to more than eleven thousand. Although this was still almost 58% of Warren Township’s total growth, there was once again significant increase outside city limits, indicating that the annexation process was slowing.