Created By: Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis
WELCOME TO LOCKERBIE SQUARE NEIGHBORHOOD
This tour is a part of the Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis Tour Series. It is endorsed by the Indianapolis Bicentennial Commission as an 'Official Indy Bicentennial Community Project.'
This tour should take approximately 90 to 120 minutes to walk.
Parking is most available on both sides of College Avenue between Lockerbie and Vermont Streets or Vermont Street east of College. Do not park on Lockebie, Park, Vermont (west of College) or north side of New York as it is residential only and requires a sticker.
Lockerbie Square, named for its main street, is a quiet residential area that abuts the eastern edge of the “Mile Square,” Indianapolis’ downtown business core. With its beginnings in the 1860’s, it is rich in history and charm, with tree-lined streets, a mixture of charming homes from small cottages to Victorian mansions, and even a cobblestone street.
Lockerbie Square is the oldest surviving residential neighborhood in Indianapolis and the first designated historic district under the auspices of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission.
After Alexander Ralston laid out the plan for the city of Indianapolis with a mile square formed by North, South, East & West streets with Monument Circle in the center, the city fathers sold excess land to developers for the creation of residential neighborhoods. The McQuat family purchased land adjacent to the northeast portion of the mile square, sharing East Street as the border and platted the first residential neighborhood with Lockerbie Street in the center. Being Scottish, the McQuats named Lockerbie Street for Lockerbie Scotland, home of their ancestors.
During the 1860s, Lockerbie Square prospered from the Civil War driven economy. During the rest of the 19th century numerous skilled German immigrant artisans and tradesmen used their savings to build small homes on narrow lots close to the commercial center of Indianapolis. Several prosperous families built larger homes in the neighborhood, while religious groups added substantial charitable institutions. (The large structures of Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged and the original St. Vincent Hospital are no longer here but their locations are marked with historic signage.) The neighborhood saw its historic heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The neighborhood prospered into the early part of the twentieth century when the appearance of factories signaled the beginning of a downturn for the neighborhood. With the increase of commerce in the vicinity and economic changes following World War I, those who could afford to moved farther north, and the area fell into decline. Many of the homes were sold or abandoned, or became home to renters or boarders, few of whom had much interest in maintaining the neighborhood. Around WWII it was reputed to have become a “red light” district.
In 1958, what little of its original charm remained combined with the preserved residence of James Whitcomb Riley at its center, attracted the efforts of the Metropolitan Planning Department of Marion County--the first of a number of civic boards to seek to restore and preserve this unique, and now very needy, neighborhood. Had the “urban renewal” money been found, "Lockerbie Fair," as this first restoration concept was to be called, would have become a Victorian replica "Midwestern Main Street," inspired by Disneyland!
Fortunately, steps were made to stimulate more appropriate restoration and revitalization of Lockerbie Square. In 1973, the neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee (GIPC) located in a house on Park Avenue was restored by Indiana Landmarks. Inspired by the 1976 Bicentennial, and joined by the Junior League, the Indianapolis Garden Club, and the Department of Transportation, these groups worked together to bring noticeable improvements to the neighborhood—including replacing Lockerbie Street with cobblestones to match the historic ones located along its gutters and adding Victorian street lamps, brick sidewalks, and tree replacements. These latter improvements have been continued throughout the neighborhood by the Lockerbie Square People’s Club (now known as the Lockerbie Square Neighborhood Association).
In the early 1970’s “urban pioneers” began moving back into the neighborhood, revitalizing dilapidated structures and building contextual new in-fill. With the flurry of urban renewal projects in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana Landmarks (previously Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana) was able to rescue several endangered houses of the same historic period and move them to Lockerbie Square, providing a unique in-fill solution. Additionally, they initiated the stabilization of other homes for new owners. Revitalization of Lockerbie included the conversion of factory buildings that popped up in the early 1900’s to contemporary loft living. Many "before" photos have been included to illustrate the effort that has been put into this neighborhood to bring it back. Helen Small, one of the earliest urban pioneers in Lockerbie Square, provided these photos.
Since Lockerbie Square became a historic district, most of the residences have been renovated, industrial buildings converted to residential use and many new homes and townhouses have been built, which now combines its convenience, rich heritage, and restored historical charm with new urban comforts and vitality. The challenges today in Lockerbie Square are no longer the halting of demolition and decay, but shaping and managing the new changes and growth, as the area builds upon its character as a historical urban neighborhood. Neighbors welcome visitors and hope that they enjoy a nice stroll through Lockerbie Square either as a destination or on the way to the many eating or entertainment venues in the area.
WANT TO LEARN MORE OR TAKE OTHER TOURS?
This program has been made possible through a Historic Preservation Education Grant from Indiana Landmarks, Indiana Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Funding provided in part by Indiana Landmarks.