The Near Westside is bounded by 16th
Street to the north, Tibbs Avenue to the west, Washington Street to the south,
and White River to the east; it includes three historically distinct
neighborhoods: Haughville, Stringtown, and Mt. Jackson.
Historically, Haughville was the area south of 10th Street and north of
Michigan Street, between Tibbs and Belmont Avenues. The entire area north
of 10th Street is commonly referred to as North Haughville, although it was not
part of the earliest settlement. The Stringtown area is typically defined
as the area west of the White River, south of Michigan, east of Belmont, and
north of Washington Street. The area east of Belmont, between Michigan
and 10th Streets, is sometimes included with Haughville and sometimes with
Stringtown, depending on which source is consulted. The area originally
settled as the town of Mt. Jackson is now known as the Hawthorne or West
Washington neighborhood. Its boundaries are the old Big Four tracks to
the north, Warman Avenue to the west, the Penn Central tracks to the south and
Belmont Avenue to the east [see map 1].
transportation routes that bisect the area and form its borders define and
shape the Near-Westside community. The White River served as a barrier
between the area and the rest of the city. By contrast, Washington Street
has provided a vital connection to the rest of the city since the 1830s when,
as the National Road, it first spanned the White River. Early settlers
followed the road to outlying farms and merchants set up small shops along its
length. Supposedly, Stringtown got its name from the fact that the people
lived in a string of houses along Washington Street near the river. The
other early farming community that developed further west was named Mt.
Jackson, after President Andrew Jackson. The earliest settlers in all
three areas were mainly of English and German stock, with family names such as
Whitlock, Smith, Trost, and Emerich.
coming of the railroad changed area's largely rural character. The growth
of factories along the railroad tracks separated the northeastern two-thirds of
the community from the bottom one-third. The old Big Four tracks, laid
sometime in the mid-nineteenth century, entered the community north of Walnut
Street at Tibbs Avenue and traveled diagonally southward to intersect with
Washington Street at Harding Street. The Indianapolis Belt Railroad, a
second area railroad built in the 1870s, made it easier to transport goods
around the city. It also further dissected the Stringtown area.
Good rail transportation encouraged
industrialists to locate their businesses along the tracks, spurring early
urban settlement. Haughville was named for one of these businesses—a foundry.
The Haugh, Ketcham, and Co. Iron Works, an iron foundry, moved from a
downtown location in 1880, and its workers located nearby. By 1883, when
the town of Haughville incorporated, there were 283 inhabitants, mostly German
and Irish employed in the neighborhood or in meat-packing plants south of
Washington Street. The area’s second foundry, National Malleable Castings
Company, soon began recruiting Slovene immigrant workers, known for their
metal-working skills. The area's third major foundry, a precursor to Link
Belt, was established the same year.
the next fifteen years the industrial suburb's population grew rapidly,
reaching an estimated 2,100 by 1890. New Solvenian immigrants encountered
resistance from older Irish and German residents when they tried to
settle. Eventually, Michigan Street became a dividing line: the
Slovenes and other southeastern Europeans lived north of Michigan Street,
clustered in border lodgings, and the Irish and northern Europeans lived south.
Meanwhile, the Stringtown area had grown populous enough to support its own
1897 Indianapolis annexed both Haughville and Mt. Jackson. By then
Haughville included a business center east of the foundries along Michigan
Street, a hotel and restaurant, trolley line, library, jail, fire station,
social clubs, and schools. In addition to the three foundries, the Edward
Chain Works, I.D. & W. Railroad Shops, Evans linseed oil, a creosote plant,
and a number of small factories and mills provided jobs to most of the
neighborhood men. Young single male workers employed in these plants
frequented the "questionable resorts" and corner saloons along
Washington Street in Mt. Jackson and on Holmes in Haughville. These
establishments tainted the Westside’s reputation in the rest of Indianapolis.
its rough and tumble reputation, religion was important to early residents, and
several local churches were founded by the 1890s. The neighborhood’s
citizens supported Haughville Christian (1889), St. Anthony's Catholic (1891),
First Baptist of Haughville (1891), as well as Methodist and German Reformed
congregations. St. Anthony’s served as the area’s first “melting pot,”
with Irish, German, and Slovene Catholics sharing the building, albeit somewhat
Having a church of their own was
especially important to the Slovene community, which numbered over 500 families
by the 1910s. Due to early cultural and language problems they had
encountered in attending the largely Irish St. Anthony's, the Slovenes received
permission in 1906 to start a national parish. The parish dedicated the
Holy Trinity building at the corner of Holmes and St. Clair Streets the
following year. The church immediately became the center of the Slovene
community, especially after a school opened in 1911. Slovenian social
organizations such as the St. Aloysius, St. Joseph, and Franc Preseren Lodges
also were founded through the church.
1900 the census reported sixteen different nationalities living in the
Haughville area, including Hungarians, Poles, Austrians, and Macedonians.
However, 48 percent of the population was Slovene. Boarding houses filled
with single men soon were replaced by small workers’ cottages for young
families. The Haughville immigrant community, although very insular,
began to assimilate. Kerchiefed women kept clean homes where windows were
hung with lace curtains and yards were planted with flowers. Native
Indianapolis residents also fostered assimilation by opening a Free Kindergarten
branch in the area in 1902.
World War I approached, some of the early Irish and German residents in the
Stringtown area began moving out of the neighborhood. They were replaced
by migrants from the southern United States, as well as some families who had
formerly lived within the downtown’s Mile Square. Despite the great flood
of 1913, which submerged much of this area and
damaged or demolished many homes, these new residents built houses on land that
recently had been cornfields. Most neighborhood men continued to work in
the nearby factories, but by the 1910s there also were significant numbers
working as building tradesmen, firemen, policemen, mailmen, and transportation
workers. During the same period, more city services came into the area.
A Carnegie library branch opened in 1910 at Mount and Ohio Streets, and new
schools were built in Haughville and Mount Jackson. The naming of School
#50 as the Nathaniel Hawthorne School led to the renaming of the Mount Jackson
area as Hawthorne.
the 1920s Haughville and Hawthorne could boast wide, paved streets lined with
shade trees, modest homes, modern churches of many denominations, parochial and
public schools, branch libraries, a fire station, and George Washington High
School. Groups such as the Civic League of Haughville and the West
Michigan Street Improvement Association claimed responsibility for the
increased civic participation that accompanied these physical changes.
The community was economically healthy, with several thriving business
districts along Michigan and Washington Streets and local factories that
employed thousands of the area's adult men. Community rituals developed,
such as Saturday night haircuts and baths and shopping and socializing along at
the main business centers. Despite this stability, some middle-class
leaders believed the working-class community needed social services.
Local minister Rev. Clarence G. Baker organized what would become known as the
Hawthorne Community Center through private donations in 1923. Christamore
House moved from the eastside to the corner of Tremont and Michigan Streets in
1924, specifically to serve the immigrant population of Haughville.
the Near Westside population continued to grow during the 1920s, so did
diversity and, at times, divisiveness. During World War I, anti-German
sentiment led to the renaming of Germania and Bismarck Streets to Pershing and
Belleview Streets. Even within the tight-knit Slovene community conflict
between socialists and Catholics led to the establishment of the Slovenian
National Home in 1918. Originally located at 729 N. Holmes, it sponsored
concerts, plays, cards, dances, and sports teams that were not connected to the
church. The number of churches in the area had grown since the turn of
the century, with new congregations of the Christian, Methodist, Missionary
Baptist, and Nazarene denominations being established in the area. A
small settlement of African-Americans also developed west of Pershing at 10th
Street during World War I, but they were excluded from community
activities. Recollections of growing up in the Near Westside during this
time suggest that violence was an accepted part of life. As former Mayor
Charles Boswell jokingly recalled, "We got along with each other on all
the days except when we fought; the fighting didn't take place more than five
to six days a week."
Great Depression hit hard and fast in the solidly working-class area in the
1930s. Most families were too proud to go on relief, accepting support
only from the people and institutions within the neighborhood. Others
left the area to farm further west and south. Shantytowns, called
Curtisville and Hooverville, sprang up just south of Washington Street along
the river, and the old Haugh and Ketcham foundry and the nearby Duesenberg
factory both closed, putting many out of their jobs. Reflecting the
area’s hard times, Christamore House reported a large increase in attendance
during the early 1930s—from 53,000 per year in 1928 to 76,000 in 1936.
War II brought temporary economic relief as factories boomed again. For
the first time, even African-Americans found work in the foundries.
Everyone took on new responsibilities to support the war effort; despite the
limited means of most working-class residents, local school children collected
scrap metal and purchased thousands of dollars of war bonds and stamps.
Trinity’s loss of its national parish status in 1948 confirmed the social
changes already at work within the community. The post-war economic boom
allowed educated children of Haughville immigrants to find jobs outside the
community. Many residents began moving to western suburbs, such as Chapel
Hill and Chapel Glenn subdivisions or to the town of Speedway.
Southern-born white Appalachians and African-Americans who had migrated to the
city to find war work increasingly moved into vacated homes,
especially along the eastern edges of the area. As more of the
area’s housing stock became rental properties, physical deterioration began to
institutions reacted to the social change in several ways. In 1951
Christamore House adopted an open door policy and for the first time allowed
blacks to participate in their programs; by 1955 there were 635
African-American members at Christamore. Other institutions, such as
Hawthorne House, St. Anthony's, and Eighth Christian Church, ignored the new
population and continued with their expansion plans and were content to serve
traditional populations. But many long-standing institutions began to
close or leave the neighborhood, choosing to follow their
membership. The Carnegie library in Hawthorne closed after forty-five
years of service; and, after sixty years in Haughville, Memorial Baptist left
the neighborhood in 1952, selling its building to a new black Baptist
apparent physical and social deterioration, the spirit of the Near Westside was
not extinguished. The rate of white out-migration was less than in other
neighborhoods during the 1950s and 1960s, and several community achievements
were noted. Holy Trinity reached its peak year of membership in 1956
(2,250 members). Haughville residents gloried in the fact that “local boys"
Phillip Bayt (Prosecutor), Charles Boswell (Mayor), and Robert O'Neal (County
Sheriff) were elected to public office in the late 1950s. The entire city
noticed when George McGinnis led the Washington Continentals to two state high
school basketball championships in the late 1960s.
heavy blow to the community came when several of the area's largest employers
shut down, causing the area’s joblessness rate to mount. The Link-Belt
plant closed in 1959, leaving its massive buildings vacant. National
Malleable followed suit in 1962. The buildings of both plants were
demolished later that year to make way for a new redevelopment, including a
grocery store, drugstore, and a public housing project. Many residents
resented the redevelopment plans, both symbolically and practically. The
housing project represented a particular insult to local residents. Not
only had many long-time residents lost their jobs, but with the new housing
even more unemployed people were moved into the neighborhood. Many inhabitants
began to believe the city would simply allow the neighborhood to die a slow,
unemployment rates in the 1960s were accompanied by increased poverty, juvenile
delinquency, and crime. Theft was such a problem for Holy Trinity that it
discontinued the annual summer festival and had to safeguard the church
buildings. Local social service agencies tried to combat these trends by
implementing special youth programs and emergency support services such as food
pantries, drug counseling, and job training. Christamore House helped
sponsor the Haughville Community Council to organize residents into addressing
the community's problems. Previously strong neighborhood business
associations tried actively to assist in these efforts, but local shops and
services increasingly closed and were not replaced by new businesses.
the IUPUI campus expansion and federal highway construction proceeded in the
1970s, the Near Westside area continued to accept many people displaced from
east of the river. These new arrivals brought new churches. New
congregations purchased buildings from existing congregations or established
facilities in houses, former saloons, corner groceries, and commercial
storefronts. Between the 1950s and 1970s the number of Missionary
Baptist, Free Methodist, and independent congregations grew. As these new
congregations became established, some moved out of temporary locations and
built modest churches, including Mount Olive Baptist, Light and Life Free Methodist,
and Friendship Missionary Baptist.
social service and church supports within the neighborhood, area residents felt
increasingly abandoned by city officials. An informal resident survey of
the neighborhood, conducted by a Washington High School class in the early
1970s, revealed that while many inhabitants cited resident apathy as a problem,
more were concerned about lack of positive youth outlets and city services
such as police protection, street lighting, health services, and animal control.
Since the survey coincided with the closing of Haughville's fire station,
library, and Stringtown's Indianola school—all of which dated to the 1890s—many
residents were convinced of the city's indifference to their problems.
when the Christamore House staff and the Haughville Community Council asked the
city for $150,000 for housing rehabilitation work in 1973, city planners began
conducting a study of the Near Westside area. After meeting with a
"Community Advisory Team," made up of representatives from
Christamore House, Hawthorne Community Center, the Salvation Army, and the
Westside Advisory Community Council, the planners published the "Near
Westside Subarea Plan" in 1975. As a result of the plan's proposals,
the area's first medical center was established that year. City officials
also promised to support zoning and code enforcement, housing improvements,
better public transportation, street improvements, and increased maintenance of
schools and parks. The area also was designated a "treatment
area" for federal community development funds in 1979. However, when
the subarea plan was updated in 1982, little significant positive change was
events further eroded community on the Near Westside between 1975 and 1985, including
the closing of almost all of its public schools, the consolidation of local
parochial schools into one school, and the loss of seventy homes with the
construction of the Indianapolis Zoo. Additional housing along the
western bank of the river hung in the balance as city officials debated the
merits of a proposed north-south thoroughfare and the further expansion of
IUPUI and White River State Park. While neither proposals materialized,
area residents watched helplessly as their homes deteriorated and property
values dropped in anticipation of the city's demolition.
final neighborhood losses stimulated local residents and social service
agencies to organize and seek outside funding for their own neighborhood
projects and programming. Old frictions between social service
professionals and local resident groups began to lessen, though not disappear,
as they worked together to establish community-policing programs such as Crime
Watch and Project Respect. Local ministers banded together in 1984 to
form the Rainbow Christian Association and voiced their congregants' concerns
about balancing development with respect for residents' way of life. That
same year the West Side Cooperative Organization (WESCO), the Haughville
Community Council, and Christamore jointly founded the Westside Community
Development Corporation (WCDC) to administer housing and revitalization
programs. Early projects by the WCDC included establishing Haughville
Park on the site of the former city hall and Project Home, an annual home
service centers, including the Hawthorne Community Center, the Salvation Army
Corps in Stringtown, and Christamore House all were rebuilt or renovated during
the late 1970s and 1980s. These centers also expanded their social
service programs, often with the help of public and private partnerships.
Hawthorne Center received a Lilly Endowment grant to fund a summer youth
program, while Christamore House sponsored several health clinics with the help
of the Marion County Health Department. Several religious groups also
established social services, such as the Better Living and Community Services
Center (Seventh-Day Adventists), the Holy Trinity Senior Day Care program, and
Friendship Westside Charities.
the 1990s, a new spirit of revitalization and cooperation had entered the Near
Westside area as a combination of new residents and long-time leaders pledged
to take back the neighborhood. Two new resident groups were formed in the
early 1990s: Neighbors for Historic Haughville (1991) and the Stringtown
Neighborhood Association Council (1993). When Merchants Bank closed its
neighborhood branch in 1989, leaving the community without the services of a
large lending institution, WESCO, WCDC, and Partners for Westside Housing
Renewal successfully attracted another bank and to the area and set up
low-interest loan programs with several other banks. Neighborhood leaders
also worked with the Indianapolis Police Department to work towards community
policing. The former IPS School 52 was converted into the Area #4
Headquarters in 1990, and a substation was later established at Concord
Village, the area's worst crime area. When the 500 mini-marathon was
re-routed to pass through the area, neighborhood residents provided water
stations and sponsored a neighborhood fair at the race's conclusion.
Cooperation with Historic Landmarks of Indiana resulted in a section of
Haughville being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
the Goldsmith Administration program "Building Better Neighborhoods,"
the area has been the focus of four large, federally-funded revitalization
programs. In 1992 the Near Westside received a $190,000 planning grant to
recruit and train community leaders and to formulate ways to launch a
multi-faceted social service program. The following year, the Near
Westside was promised $16.3 million over three years to revitalize the
area. The plan, "Operation Weed and Seed," was designed to
"weed out" crime and replace it with "seeds" of human
services and economic development. Another program involved focusing on
improving the lives of disadvantaged children.
recently, city planners updated their plans for the area in their 1994 Near Westside
Housing Improvement and Neighborhood Plan, which focused on economic renewal of
the old B&O Railroad corridor. Additional economic development
projects have been implemented along White River Parkway and have brought new
businesses and health services to the area. Additionally, as WCDC
celebrated its ten-year anniversary, the organization pointed to forty units
completed and over 200 homeowners helped through their programs.
these efforts on the part of both local residents and city officials in the
recent past, the Near Westside remains vulnerable. The Hawthorne area is
probably in the best shape, and much of north Haughville seems stable.
Crime and poverty are still major problems around Concord Village, and much of
the remaining Stringtown housing and infrastructure continues to
deteriorate. The recent closure of Central State Hospital and Washington
High School removed two long-standing institutions from the neighborhood.
Revitalization and social service programs provide hope for the future, but the
outcome of these efforts remains to be seen.