The Evolution of Butler-Tarkington

CREDIT: NoMeanCity.com / AUTHOR: PHILIP HOOPER

Like Mapleton-Fall Creek, Butler-Tarkington traces its history back to a 19th century village near 38th and Meridian called Mapleton. As Indianapolis streetcars went north, housing followed in the neighborhood bounded by Meridian, Westfield Blvd, the Canal and Michigan Road, and 38th Street. And when Butler College (now Butler University) outgrew its home in Irvington, it moved to Butler-Tarkington's 300-acre Fairview Park in 1928.

As the urban fabric of America changed in the mid-20th century, so did Butler-Tarkington. Residents formed the neighborhood association in the 1950s, seeking to create peace among the new challenges of urban America. They named their new neighborhood Butler for the university and Tarkington for the famous former resident, Booth Tarkington. The author of The Magnificent Ambersons and other books and a member of the Indiana State House of Representatives, Tarkington lived at 4270 N Meridian Street.

As the automobile age dawned, families started leaving their Victorian homes for a new living style. Indianapolis's elite families looked to Meridian Street as the destination for their lavish 1920s life. Now protected by the Meridian Street Preservation Commission, the architecture is unparalleled in Central Indiana. Not many neighborhoods in the United States offer the variation of middle-class craftsman bungalows with upper-class roaring twenties estates. Butler-Tarkington does.

In Butler-Tarkington, residents enjoy the stability brought not only by Butler University but also by anchor institutions such as the Christian Theological Seminary, which spun off from Butler in the 1950s, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art, complete with its stunning grounds and outdoor exhibits in the 100 Acres.

"If you live close to Butler's campus, their campus is like another park for you," says resident Ben Holloway. He and his family moved to Butler-Tarkington 10 years ago, and he speaks fondly of running to campus with their kids.

When the Butler Bulldogs go deep into the NCAA basketball tournament, as they did in 2010 and 2011, the neighborhood feels it. Parades, news choppers, celebrations.The Holloway kids enjoy the electric scene. For the first several years, they lived a few blocks from the university. Since moving to the 4300 block of Meridian, they still enjoy being on the Butler-Tarkington side of the street and identify with the neighborhood. "It's 10 minutes from downtown, and yet still has a neighborhood feel. We actually have chickens now, that's a fun thing."

From affordable bungalows to luxurious Meridian Street homes including the governor's mansion, the Butler-Tarkington area is hard to beat for architectural variety. Add the family friendly environment, wonderful greenspaces, and running trails, and it's not surprising that the Holloways love their neighborhood.

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Updated: 17th February, 2019 8:36 AM.