Residential History Exercise

UPDATE: For an inventory of the earliest residents in the Grandview neighborhood (that is, 64th Street, Kenruth Drive, Sanwela Drive, 63rd Street, Grandview Drive, Thomas-Wood Trail, Greer-Dell Drive, and 65th Street), see the draft of Grandview Neighborhood Inventory (PDF February 22 2016)

The first step to understanding the families who moved to the earliest Black Indianapolis suburbs is of course to identify them, and this exercise will provide an inventory of the heads of household in a suburban neighborhood being studied in the course.  You will identify the heads of household using the Indianapolis City Directories, which listed the head of each household each year for more than a century.  The directories will help us identify who moved into the earliest suburbs, when they moved to the communities, how long the neighborhoods were being built, and the length of occupancy for residents.

For instance, “Greer Dell Estates”—a term used in only one advertisement in March 1955—first appeared with residents in the 1957 Indianapolis suburban Directory and included these listings below for Greer-Dell Road.  The agent for the properties was listed in 1955 as Henry L. Greer, who had built a home and moved into 6309 Grandview Drive in 1946, which is on the city’s northwest side. The street’s name “Greer Dell” combined his last name and his wife Della’s first name.  In this case, in 1957 only three houses had residents: the remaining lots included one under construction and the rest were vacant.

The 1957 Indianapolis suburban Directory included these listings for Greer-Dell Road on the northwest side.

Above:  The 1957 Indianapolis suburban Directory included these listings for Greer-Dell Road on the northwest side. Henry Greer began to sell property along Greer Dell Drive in March, 1955, and in 1956 an aerial photograph showed only three houses completed on the street.

A 1962 aerial view showed a series of homes had been built on Greer Dell Drive since the 1957 city directory inventory.

Above: A 1962 aerial view (overlaid with the house numbers) showed a series of homes had been built on Greer Dell Drive since the 1957 city directory inventory.

City directories can be found in communities across the nation from the earliest moments of settlement, but in Indianapolis the first surviving directories date to the mid-19th century, when Indianapolis began to grow quite rapidly.  Directories were produced on a nearly yearly basis from the Civil War onward, inventorying city residents, businesses, and their locations, and when phones began to be used the directories included phone numbers.  Directories tend to over-represent male wage earners or assume men are the heads of household or businesses, but they did include African Americans from their earliest incarnations.  Street number errors sometimes will occur in newly constructed neighborhoods, but directory addresses for post-war neighborhoods are generally pretty accurate and are the same numbers used in those neighborhoods today.  In 1957 the Indianapolis directories first included a separate directory for “Suburban” addresses, and some of those addresses are in peripheral neighborhoods that we will examine; other new neighborhoods were listed in the regular directory.

The 1956 city directory residential listing for Agnes Street, which is now known as University Boulevard. Cavanaugh Hall is in the 400 block (odd numbers).

The 1956 city directory residential listing for Agnes Street, which is now known as University Boulevard. Cavanaugh Hall is in the 400 block (odd numbers).

In this exercise you will record the first residents in a series of suburban homes, identifying the earliest residents and then sampling the same neighborhood five years later.  The dates that some neighborhood homes began to be built are not always absolutely clear, but in these cases we have a relatively good sense of when the communities were first being advertised in the Indianapolis Recorder.  Some of them appear to have been constructed and settled very rapidly, but even some of the most popular suburbs continued to be built a decade after opening.

Most of the city directory is organized like a phone book, with most heads of household listed alphabetically by last name alongside businesses, churches, and schools.  At the end of post-war directories is a listing of every street in the city alphabetically (see the example from Agnes Street on the right), and it is in this section that you will find the residential listings for this exercise.

There are nine sets of house numbers below.  Each student will be responsible for one set of numbers.

You will record every head of household in a Word file.  Please be absolutely sure to transcribe everything verbatim.  If you think there is a spelling error, spell the names just as they appear in the directory and type [sic] in brackets after your transcription.  Keep in mind that in the earliest directories you may find only a few residents, whereas you will find more houses in subsequent samples.  If you think there are numbering errors that do not conform to the contemporary city street numbers at IndyMap, please make a note for that and provide me the details.

You must record the first year and a second sample five years later to receive a minimum score of 10 points.  Record all residents from five of the first years for a possible 15 points.

Email me the results of your survey as a Word file on or before February 8.

Augusta Way (88 lots first advertised in 1955)

1) Kenruth Drive 1605-1756 (shown below over a 2015 MapIndy aerial view): the first appearance in the City Directory for Kenruth Drive will be in the 1959 Suburban Directory and the second entries you will make will be from the 1964 directoryKen Ruth

2) 63rd Street 1620-1754: The first few residences appear to be in the 1961 city directory and the second sample will be from the 1966 directory63rd Street

3) Sanwela Drive 1617-1850: The first residences appear to have been in the 1962 directory and the second sample will be from the 1967 directorySanwela

Grandview4) Grandview Drive 6204-6385 (click thumbnail right): the home at 6309 was built in 1947, the first house in the neighborhood, but most construction came later; start with the 1957 directory and then survey the 1962 directory


5) Greer Dell Drive 1436-1562: the only advertisement for these homes was in 1955, and the first homes were completed in 1957; the second sample should be for 1962Greer Dell

Crestwood was first advertised in June, 1961 on the eastside, with the model home at 2733 Caroline Avenue.  Douglas Park Homes was part of the same tract sold by Tobey Developers.

Caroline6) Caroline Avenue 2701-2753 (thumbnail right): first residents appear in the 1963 directory and the second sample will be from 1968

Caroline 29007) Caroline Avenue 2901-2951 (thumbnail left): first residents appear in the 1963 directory and the second will be from 1968


Grandview Estates was first advertised in the Indianapolis Recorder in October, 1962, with its model home under construction a year later (probably the house at 6508 Grandview Drive)

8) 65th Street 1702-1939: first residents appear in the city directory in 1967, so take second sample in 1972

65th street

Cold Spring Heights (first mentioned in the Indianapolis Recorder in November, 1969, with the grand opening coming on April 19, 1970; in 1972, two lots were listed in the directory as under construction; the first residents appear in 1974, so sample through 1979)

9) Paula Lane South Drive 2105-2239
Paula Lane East Drive 4333-4364
Hidden Orchard Lane 4310-4356

Cold Spring Heights 1972

Flanner House Homes: A 1950-1964 sweat equity housing community built in the space vacated by an urban renewal clearance.

10) Lynn Drive East and West, and Ransom Street  first listed in 1957, sample through 1963 (there is no online 1962 city directory)
Lynn Drive East 1411-1460
Lynn Drive West 1411-1460
Ransom Street 514, 534, 546, 556 (that is, the north side of the street)

Lynn Drive, 1962

11) Fall Creek Parkway East Drive residency begins in 1957sample through 1963 (no 1962 directory survives)

930-1341 Fall Creek Parkway East Drive

Fall Creek Parkway East Drive 1962