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Garfield Drive Historic District

Indianapolis City, Marion County, IN


900 block East Bradbury Avenue, Garfield Drive Historic District

900 block East Bradbury Avenue, Garfield Drive Historic District, Indianapolis. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Photographed by resident, Edward P. Berry (own work), 2020, [in the NRHP nomination document], accessed August, 2022.


The Garfield Drive Historic District [†] is one of the few areas on the near south side of Indianapolis that has a single, concentrated period of building and a limited number of architectural styles that dominate the house types in the district. Many of the houses, especially the ones overlooking Garfield Park, are large and excellent examples of their types/styles. The district covers a well-defined, compact area, compared with the surrounding additions and subdivisions. These factors set it apart from the surrounding areas and makes it historically unique for the area. The Period of Significance is 1908-1942 which starts with the date of the earliest contributing house in the district and concludes with the date of construction for the last house before the building lull caused by the onset of World War II.

The development of the Garfield Drive Historic District was greatly influenced by its location immediately northeast of adjacent Garfield Park, Indianapolis' first public park. Purchased by the City of Indianapolis in 1873 and established as a park in 1876, Garfield Park (then known as Southern Park) was located just south of the city limits. Few residents took advantage of the park in its early days because of limited accessibility. However, in 1888 a bridge was constructed over Pleasant Run Creek and in 1895 a streetcar line stopped directly at the park's entrance. These two developments had a huge impact on the number of visitors to the park in the 1880s and 1890s. While a picturesque place to visit and spend time, construction in the early 1900s improved the park's amenities and brought even more people to partake of active and passive outdoor recreation. Between 1900-1910 the pagoda, biking/walking paths, greenhouses, tennis courts, small zoo exhibits, and two swimming beaches attracted visitors to the park. In 1908 landscape architect George Kessler was hired by the Board of Park Commissioners to design a park and boulevards system for Indianapolis and a master plan for Garfield Park. He created the Sunken Gardens and other features that boosted attendance even more. All of these attractions and activities brought attention to the area and residential development increased.

Raymond Street runs along the north boundary of Garfield Park and Shelby Street runs along the east boundary. However, the park does not extend north or east far enough to meet the intersection of those two streets. Instead, there is a pocket of roughly 40 acres that now encompasses the Garfield Drive Historic District. Although the plats of the district extended to the southwest corner of Raymond and Shelby, the current boundary for the district omits the extreme corner because of the demolition of historic buildings in the 1990s and subsequent modern commercial development. Both Raymond and Shelby streets are located on section lines in the Section-Township-Range grid system utilized in Indiana. Being on section lines, these streets were planned as major thoroughfares and act as natural boundaries for the district. Raymond Street was widened to form an expressway in the 1990s and Shelby Street is part of a commercial corridor. The south and west boundaries are formed by East Garfield Drive and South Garfield Drive. They border Garfield Park, which is included in the Indianapolis Park and Boulevard System Historic District (listed in 2003). It was decided to extend the boundary to the east side of Shelby Street at the southern end of the district to include the five apartment buildings and smokestack that are part of the Garfield Terrace Apartments. This complex was included because it was built within the period of significance and functioned as an alternative to home ownership, yet still enjoyed the benefits and atmosphere of the park.

The residential areas north of Raymond and east of Shelby were platted in 1873, while Garfield Drive Historic District was platted in six parts from 1910 to 1913. The land adjacent to the park that now includes the district was acquired by patent from the United States government to James F. Bradley, his heirs and assigns on November 30, 1822, for the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 24 Township 15 north Range 3 east 80 acres. For many years, the property was referred to as "Bradley Woods." The property passed through several hands until 1852 when the owners of the tract lost it in a court case and the Peru and Indianapolis Railroad Company took ownership. In 1856, the Peru and Indianapolis Railroad Company was forced to sell the property and it was split amongst Charles W. Wright, William E. Featherston, Jeremiah Featherston, William Turner, and William Quarles.

The Panic of 1873 and the ensuing depression of 1873-1879 had a great impact on the area at large. As stated earlier, the park was acquired by the city in 1873 and an additional seven acres connecting the park east to Shelby Street were purchased in 1898. The areas to the north and south of this entrance were by that time divided into 15 blocks ranging from .75 acres to 10 acres. The nine blocks north of the park formed the basis to the additions and subdivisions that were later platted there. The city also acquired three additions to the north of Raymond Street and east of Shelby Street. These areas outside of the park were then platted and subdivided.

Another court case in 1898 further fragmented the district when county commissioners auctioned off tracts of land ranging from three quarters of an acre to ten acres each. The city kept one seven-acre tract that would become an entrance to the park. The new tracts were further divided into residential subdivisions between 1905-1911. The 1901 Baist's Atlas shows only nine buildings in the district along Shelby Street and none of them appear to have survived to current times. By March 1905 the first plat of the district had been filed as Metzger's Garfield Park Addition. Subsequent plats included: Bohne's Garfield Park Addition, Bishop, Childers, and McKee's Subdivision, St. Catherine Garfield Park Addition, F. Niemeyer's Addition, and John S. Hamill Re-Subdivision.

The 1908 Baist's Atlas shows 18 resources within the boundaries of the present district. They are scattered mostly along the northern and eastern portions near Raymond and Shelby streets. The two oldest resources in the district [936 E. Tabor (1908, contributing) and 935 E. Raymond are on the 1908 map. By 1916, the Baist's map shows seventy-five primary structures in the neighborhood. The surrounding area had been developed, but had a lower rate of construction than within the district. By 1929 there were 215 primary structures in the district. Although some buildings were later demolished, this still represents over 90% of the primary structures in the neighborhood. The areas east and north of the district still show a considerable number of vacant lots, many of which were not built on until after World War II. The 1941 Baist's map shows little change in any of the areas. The building in the Garfield Drive Historic District was basically completed between 1910-1940, giving the district a concise and cohesive period of development that surrounding areas do not have. This leads to a distinctly different style of architecture in the district as opposed to what is found in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Architecture

The period of significance for the Garfield Drive Historic District dates from 1908-1942. Technically, the oldest house in the district is 935 East Raymond and was constructed in 1907. However, this asymmetrical plan house has undergone at least two rounds of exterior alteration and is considered non-contributing. Therefore, the I-house at 936 East Tabor Street, constructed in 1908, is the oldest contributing resource and the basis for the beginning date of the period of significance. The first plat dates from 1905 and led to a period of intense building including an I-house, various gable front forms, bungalows, American Foursquares, Colonial Revival/Dutch Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival/English Cottages, a handful of Arts & Crafts/Prairie and other assorted examples from early 20th century through postwar architecture.

There was a significant lapse in construction after World War II and the examples of postwar building in the district are sparse and distinctly different from earlier styles/types. There are only six houses in the district constructed prior to 1910 with only four of them being contributing. The previously mentioned I-house at 936 East Tabor Street, the earliest contributing resource in the district, does indeed date from 1908. Such a late date for this type is unusual, but it first appears on the 1908 Baist's map. This is the earliest development found on Tabor Street. Other contributing vernacular forms prior to 1910 include a pyramid roof cottage (949 East Tabor Street), a bungalow (1020 East Garfield Drive), and a Dutch Colonial Revival (1022 East Tabor Street). The two pre-1910 non-contributing residences are an asymmetrical plan house (935 East Raymond Street) and a gable-front house (2221 South Garfield Drive).

The years 1911-1930 saw the build-out of approximately 84% of the district (192 resources) which coincides with the dominant architectural forms being bungalows (56%, 126 resources) and American Foursquares (17%, 38 resources). In fact, 50% of the district was constructed between 1921-1930. Both styles were popular throughout the United States in the early 20th Century and are representative of the period of significance for the district. Bungalow is a term from the Indian subcontinent and describes low profile homes with many porches and massive eaves to provide shade in hot climates. The style gained popularity in California by the work of brothers Henry Mather Greene and Charles Sumner Greene. The style is characterized by low pitched roofs, massive gables, and large porches, triangular knee braces and exposed beams in the eaves, frequently with battered columns and exposed beams.

The American Foursquare, as its name would suggest, is an indigenous American house type. The name comes from the square footprint of such houses, of which the plan typically includes four squares/rooms. The two-story houses have low-pitched, hipped-roofs with deep overhanging eaves, pronounced attic dormers, full-width brick porches with massive supports, and balanced openings on the facade. A good example of this type is the house at 1022 East Garfield Drive. Other vernacular forms found in the Garfield Drive Historic District from the 1910s-1920s include a variety of cottages (front gable, side gable, L-plan, and X-plan). Such houses are smaller with wood/siding, have less ornamentation, and are located within the center of the district rather than along the higher profile streets of East and South Garfield drives. These forms make up approximately 8% of the housing stock within the district and about half of them are rated non-contributing. Typical examples include 1033 East Raymond Street, 934 East Bradbury Avenue, and 1025 East Bradbury Avenue. The house at 2245 South Garfield Avenue is an exception to the norm, although it is a side gable house. Located on a more prominent street, this 2‑1/2 story brick house has elements of both the Craftsman and Classical styles.

Another early 20th century architectural style in the district is Colonial Revival along with the subtype of Dutch Colonial Revival. Approximately 4% of the buildings in the Garfield Drive Historic District reflect these styles and date from 1909-1927, with one late example of Colonial Revival (1937). The Colonial Revival emulates the Georgian and Adam designs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They are characterized by a symmetrical facade with a small, centrally-located entry porch and elaborate door surround, often with sidelights and fan lights. The larger modern windows distinguish them from older colonial types. They tend to have their long axis parallel to the road and require larger lots. The house at 2235 South Garfield Drive is such a house and it is built across two lots. The house at 2301 South Garfield Drive, at the southeast corner of South Garfield Drive and Hervey Street, is aligned so that the long axis of the house and the main entrance is on Hervey Street. The orientation allowed it to be built on a standard 40-foot lot. This hipped-roof example exhibits many of the characteristics that define the type: the symmetrical facade, central entry has a small porch supported by wooden pillars, are an asymmetrical plan house (935 East Raymond Street) and a gable-front house (2221 South Garfield Drive).

The years 1911-1930 saw the build-out of approximately 84% of the district (192 resources) which coincides with the dominant architectural forms being bungalows (56%, 126 resources) and American Foursquares (17%, 38 resources). In fact, 50% of the district was constructed between 1921-1930. Both styles were popular throughout the United States in the early 20th Century and are representative of the period of significance for the district. Bungalow is a term from the Indian subcontinent and describes low profile homes with many porches and massive eaves to provide shade in hot climates. The style gained popularity in California by the work of brothers Henry Mather Greene and Charles Sumner Greene. The style is characterized by low pitched roofs, massive gables, and large porches, triangular knee braces and exposed beams in the eaves, frequently with battered columns and exposed beams.

The American Foursquare, as its name would suggest, is an indigenous American house type. The name comes from the square footprint of such houses, of which the plan typically includes four squares/rooms. The two-story houses have low-pitched, hipped-roofs with deep overhanging eaves, pronounced attic dormers, full-width brick porches with massive supports, and balanced openings on the facade. A good example of this type is the house at 1022 East Garfield Drive. Other vernacular forms found in the Garfield Drive Historic District from the 1910s-1920s include a variety of cottages (front gable, side gable, L-plan, and X-plan). Such houses are smaller with wood/siding, have less ornamentation, and are located within the center of the district rather than along the higher profile streets of East and South Garfield drives. These forms make up approximately 8% of the housing stock within the district and about half of them are rated non-contributing. Typical examples include 1033 East Raymond Street, 934 East Bradbury Avenue, and 1025 East Bradbury Avenue. The house at 2245 South Garfield Avenue is an exception to the norm, although it is a side gable house. Located on a more prominent street, this 2‑1/2 story brick house has elements of both the Craftsman and Classical styles.

Another early 20th century architectural style in the district is Colonial Revival along with the subtype of Dutch Colonial Revival. Approximately 4% of the buildings in the Garfield Drive Historic District reflect these styles and date from 1909-1927, with one late example of Colonial Revival (1937). The Colonial Revival emulates the Georgian and Adam designs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They are characterized by a symmetrical facade with a small, centrally-located entry porch and elaborate door surround, often with sidelights and fan lights. The larger modern windows distinguish them from older colonial types. They tend to have their long axis parallel to the road and require larger lots. The house at 2235 South Garfield Drive is such a house and it is built across two lots. The house at 2301 South Garfield Drive, at the southeast corner of South Garfield Drive and Hervey Street, is aligned so that the long axis of the house and the main entrance is on Hervey Street. The orientation allowed it to be built on a standard 40-foot lot. This hipped-roof example exhibits many of the characteristics that define the type: the symmetrical facade, central entry has a small porch supported by wooden pillars, and paired sash widows. The upper story has identical double windows above the ground floor ones and a single matching window above the door. The side entry allows the house to have a large porch on the west facade, giving a good view of Garfield Park. The Dutch Colonial Revival style exhibits the symmetry and detailing of the Colonial Revival with the main difference being the presence of a gambrel roof, as illustrated by the house at 924 East Garfield Drive. This type is characterized by a gable front with a steeply-pitched gambrel roof and prominent gambrel side dormers, which allows more floorspace in the upper floor. The dormers and front gable usually have centrally located windows. A full width porch is common.

Less common styles of the early decades of the 1900s in the district include the Arts and Crafts and Prairie styles. There are three primary examples in the district: a 1913 house at 968 East Garfield Drive, the former fire station on Shelby (1916), and the apartment complex east of Shelby with five matching buildings dating to 1925.

By the 1930s, the Tudor Revival/English Cottage style became popular. This style represents 4% of the housing stock in the Garfield Drive Historic District. The earliest examples are from 1924 (959 East Bradbury Avenue) and 1928 (1037 Hervey Street). The rest of the Tudor Revival houses are from the 1930s and into the early 1940s. The Tudor Revival was a popular house style from the early 20th century until the start of World War II. It is characterized by a steeply-pitched roof with prominent cross gables and are usually brick with patterned masonry or stone decorative trim. It is found throughout the district including the houses at 936 Hervey Street and 954-956 East Bradbury Avenue. The house at 936 Hervey embodies several Tudor characteristics including the prominent cross gable and decorative brickwork. It also has other features common to the style including the prominent exterior chimney, the projecting entry gable with decorative brickwork surround, and wood batten door. The house at 954-956 East Bradbury Avenue is a duplex of the English Cottage type. The massive front gable for the porch encompasses the entries for both sides. The broad arches across the front and sides of the porch are also common features. There is leaded glass in all of the windows, another common feature of Tudor houses.

For as small and compact as the Garfield Drive Historic District is, it has a solid representation of key styles/types from the first half of the 20th century and also a broad range of styles/types, some with only single examples, found up until the beginning of World War II. The housing stock north of Raymond Street is much more focused on the late 1880s and tapers off shortly after the turn-of-the-century. East of Shelby Street, the housing stock has been demolished due to the construction of Interstate 65 and the houses that remain date more from the late 1930s and beyond. This area extends for blocks and does not have the solid district boundaries that Garfield Drive Historic District has. There isn't housing immediately south or west of the district as Garfield Park surrounds both sides. However, south of the park is block after block of 1920s bungalows. Like the housing to the east, there isn't a strong boundary to define any kind of district. Rather, the housing simply tapers off. The nearest residential neighborhoods west of the district are past the boundaries of Garfield Park, a railroad line, a large high school complex and a major north-south artery into downtown. The housing beyond is approximately half of a mile away and consists of 1920s bungalows and transitions into 1930s American Small Houses, also without a strong district boundary.

Developmental History

The areas to the north and east have a profusion of cross plan cottages, pyramidal roof houses and shotgun houses, all types that are associated with the working-class neighborhoods closer to the Belt Railroad. The most prominent architectural styles in the proposed district are the Bungalow, American Foursquare, Tudor Revival/English Cottage, Dutch Colonial Revival, Gable Front, and a variety of other house types with smaller representations. In addition to the houses, there are nine commercial buildings, a government building (the old firehouse # 29), a church and a group of apartment buildings.

Historic preservation in Indianapolis began with the formation of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission in 1967. In 1968 Lockerbie Square was designated as the first historic district in Indianapolis. The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) was founded in 1966, and in 1973 named Lockerbie Square as the first Indianapolis district to be listed on the National Register. Since that time, several other districts in Indianapolis have been granted that status. The pattern of historic preservation followed the pattern of affluent building progressing north from the center of town. Much of this has to do with the Belt Railroad, which was founded in 1878. The area south of the National Road/US 40, and known locally as Washington Street, was developed in a significantly different way than the areas to the north. The Belt Railroad, which runs parallel to Washington Street, virtually divided the city into two different parts. The residential expansion to the north was not mirrored to the south. The area to the south of the National Road and the Belt Railroad was developed mainly for the working-class people who worked in the factories and industries associated with the railroad. The subdivisions on the near south side of Indianapolis tended to have small lots that were associated with vernacular workmen's cottages and shotgun houses. These types of architecture are found throughout much of the near south side but are not found in the Garfield Drive Historic District area.

The Belt Railroad connects with the Monon Railroad to the east and other railroads to the west forming a "U" around the city center. It was envisioned that industry would be established along the railroad and commerce and banking would dominate the city center. This meant that affluent people and more high style architecture would progress north from the center of town, while those areas outside the "U" would be developed for the workers who worked in the industry associated with the railroads. Consequently this led to development of working-class neighborhoods on the south side with small lots and working-class architecture embodied by cross plan, gable front, pyramidal roof, and shotgun houses--all types associated with the working classes. It should be noted that these types of architecture are commonly found north and east of the proposed district. These types are poorly represented or not at all within the district.

To make this point, the residential historic districts that exist north of the Belt Railroad and inside the Monon Trail and the White River include, with their date of inclusion to the National Register:

However, south of the Belt Railroad there are only two residential historic districts. They are, with their dates of inclusion: Fletcher Place (1982) and Holy Rosary-Danish Church Historic District (1986). It might be noted that Fletcher Place was platted in 1853 and Holy Rosary in 1854, both long before the Belt Railroad..

The Garfield Drive Historic District is distinct in its architecture and the timeline of its development. Its association with the park can be seen in the fact that four of the six additions that make up the district include "Garfield Park" in their titles. Another feature that ties the different subdivisions of the neighborhood together can be seen on the sidewalks of the district. They have ceramic tiles inlaid in them at the intersection of every street where it intersects with South Garfield Drive. Some of the tiles are now broken and a movement is underway by the local neighborhood association to have them replaced. It may be noted here that the names of several streets have changed over the years. The street now known as South Garfield Drive, which separates the district from the park to the west, was originally called New Street. New Street was a continuation of the same street that was platted in D. S. Beatty's Addition, north of Raymond Street, in 1873. What is now East Garfield Drive, was originally plated as merely Garfield Drive in 1910. In 1919 New Street became part of Garfield Drive and both parts of the Drive shared the same name. In 1920 the old New Street became Garfield Drive. By 1922, the old New Street had become East Garfield Drive because it was east of the park and Garfield Drive became North Garfield Drive because it was north of the park. This led to confusion because it differed from the normal street naming and numbering conventions used in the city. In 1972 the two streets were again renamed to conform to the rest of the city's naming and numbering systems. North Garfield Drive became East Garfield Drive and East Garfield Drive became South Garfield Drive.

Other streets have also changed names from their original platted names. Raymond Street and Shelby Street both follow section lines and existed well before the development of the district. New Street, now South Garfield Drive, and Ringgold Avenue were both continuations of streets that existed to the north. In Metzger's Addition, what is now Tabor Street was originally dedicated as Winchester Street. In Hervey's Garfield Park Addition, what is now Hervey Street was originally dedicated as Saint Catherine's Street. Of the east-west streets in the district, only Bradbury Avenue retains the same name as which it was platted. Some of this may be attributed to the section-township-range grid system. The Rectangular Survey System takes into account the curvature of the earth and at north-south section lines there are adjustments made to compensate for this. As a result, the streets on the west side of the section line separating Range 3 East from Range 4 East do not line up. A perusal of a map of the area will make this obvious. Since the streets on either side of Shelby do not match up, they were originally given other names. However, it seems that the streets changed their names prior to any development. Raymond Street, even though it is a major street, also had a correction corner, which led to some interesting events. In 1969, Raymond Street was widened in order to smooth out the correction corner and an on ramp to I-65 south was constructed. Several buildings were torn down, including the Garfield Theatre and the Beech Grove Coin Shop on the southeast corner of Shelby and Raymond. The Standard Grocery on the northwest corner of the same intersection was also torn down and a new store built on what was formerly the parking lot. During the 1990s Raymond Street was again widened, this time as part of the Airport Expressway project. This second widening caused the demolition of several buildings in the district including Michael's Drug Store, The Early Inn, Higgins Restaurant, and The Garfield Bakery, as well as some houses along Raymond Street near its intersection with Shelby Street. Rumor has it that the post office, fire department, police, and ambulances services found the locations hard to find because the addresses did not match the east-west and north-south numbering conventions used in the rest of the city.

In addition to the architecture, the people who resided there can give insight into the culture of the proposed district during the period of significance. The ownership records from the city directories can tell much of the culture of the people who lived in the proposed Garfield Drive Historic District. People lived there for long periods of time, sometimes even moving to different homes within the area. Frequently more than one generation was represented on the ownership records. Children often inherited the family home or bought another home in the district. The ownership records show that many of the early homeowners had names of German descent (e.g., Schatz, Oberting, Lutz). Names indicate that German Americans continued to be the most represented group in the district for the entire period of significance. This is not surprising because people of German ancestry were the largest ethnic group in Indianapolis during the city's early years.

A reason why there were so many German-American owners in the proposed district was that Albert Metzler, who founded the German-American Trust Company in 1894 and owned a real estate company, was the developer of the first subdivision in the proposed district; Metzger's Garfield Park Addition. He was also one of the developers of the Saint Catherine Garfield Park Addition. The Saint Catherine Garfield Park Addition was of particular interest because it was platted the same year that Saint Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church was built. Catholic parishes in the early 20th century tended to be organized along ethnic lines and Saint Catherine of Sienna always identified as a German parish. Less than a mile to the north, in Fountain Square, was Saint Patrick's Catholic Church, an Irish parish. Less than a mile to the west of that was Holy Rosary Catholic Church, an Italian parish. A new neighborhood started by a German banker and realtor called for a new German church and parish.

Saint Catherine of Siena Church was a focal point of the neighborhood until its demolition in 1998. The church was built in 1910. Originally it had the school in the wings of the church building. The school was expanded with the construction of a separate school building with additional classrooms and a convent for nuns from the Order of Saint Benedict to teach the students. The school building was constructed in 1922, which happened to coincide with a building boom in the proposed district. Saint Catherine's drew students from a large area, but most heavily from the proposed district. A cursory survey of the neighborhood found 48 houses where families had students that attended the school during the 1960s-1980s. This amounts to almost 25% of the 204 residential structures in the proposed district.

Saint Catherine of Sienna Church itself was an impressive Romanesque Revival building. It was listed on the Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory. The church and school were an important influence on the culture of the proposed district and its population.

The district has also been culturally significant on a local level due to its Saint Catherine of Siena Church and School. Built in 1909, Saint Catherine was a focal point of the neighborhood and a large portion of the families who lived in the district were members of the parish and sent their children to school there, many of them for successive generations.

Adapted from: Edward P. Berry, Garfield Drive Historic District, nomination document, 2020, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Bradbury Avemue East • Garfield Drive East • Garfield Drive South • Hervey Street • Raymond Street • Raymond Street East • Ringgold Street • Shelby Street • Tabor Street East