While most analysis of postwar suburbanization is directed toward the fringes of cities, some similar housing movements were being undertaken in urban spaces emptied by urban renewal. Perhaps the most interesting of these in Indianapolis is Flanner House Homes, a “self-help” sweat equity project that built homes in the near Westside as well as the eastside adjoining Douglass Park. This page links to a PDF inventory of some of the earliest residents in Flanner House Homes as a preliminary step examining who built and settled these homes and how long households lived in the neighborhood.
Flanner House was founded in 1898 as a “settlement house” agency to assist Black residents arriving in the earliest waves of the Great Migration. In 1936 Cleo Blackburn was hired as the Flanner House director, which he would head until his retirement in 1975. In 1946 Blackburn conducted a study of 454 households on the African-American near-Westside and concluded that the neighborhood was “one of the most unsightly, unsanitary, and deteriorated sectors in the entire city of Indianapolis.” Blackburn advised that it “is urgently recommended, that the clearance, planning, and redevelopment of this area under the Redevelopment Act of 1945 affords the only hope of correcting the conditions existing in the area. … Immediate steps should be taken by the Indianapolis Redevelopment Commission to declare the area blighted and to acquire, clear, and redevelop it.”
The Redevelopment Commission purchased a 178-acre tract north of Crispus Attucks High School in November 1946, referred to as Project A, and after displacing the residents (none of whom were guaranteed acceptance into Flanner House Homes) they turned it over to Blackburn and Flanner House. Flanner House Homes built “sweat equity” housing in which male head of households constructed their homes and the homes of their neighbors (women could not participate in home construction). Construction began in 1950 by a series of men whose families had been exhaustively reviewed by Flanner House, leaving Flanner House solidly peopled by middle-class African Americans.
This table (PDF) lists the earliest heads of households who appeared in the city directory for Flanner House Homes on Lynn Drive and Fall Creek Parkway East, which sat on the northern and western edges of the Flanner House Homes community. Homes on these streets did not appear in the city directory until 1957, but it it is possible that some of these homes were settled before then. Each table in this report includes the addresses and names as they are provided in the city directories, so there may be some mis-spelled names or mis-numbered houses.
- Click here for a Google Maps view of the Flanner House Homes Neighborhood today
- Click here for a Google Maps view of Lynn Drive today
- Click here for a Google Maps view of Fall Creek Parkway East today
- Click here for a map of Indianapolis’ African-American Suburbs that includes Flanner House Homes
Original research in this post was conducted by Hadya Sow and Lynette Taylor.