Woodruff Place Walking Tour

Woodruff Place Neighborhood, Indianapolis, IN

Woodruff Place Walking Tour

Indianapolis, Indiana 46204, United States

Created By: Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis

Tour Information

Woodruff Place Neighborhood

Indianapolis, Indiana 46201, United States

Created By: Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis

Tour Information


This tour is a part of the Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis Tour Series. Situated approximately two miles east of downtown Indianapolis, between Michigan and 10th Streets and adjacent to Arsenal Technical High School, Woodruff Place is readily accessible from the interstate loop. The tour begins on the north end of East Drive near 10th street.

This tour should take approximately 120 minutes to walk.

Parking is most available on most neighborhood streets.


Visit HUNI Tours at: HUNIindy.org/tours

Visit Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis at: HUNIindy.org


Neighborhood History

“Touch and tame us with thy grace, Placid calm of Woodruff Place!”

These words of praise, penned by Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley in “June at Woodruff,” hint at the endearing quality of this historic near-Eastside neighborhood. Woodruff Place, a gracious 125-year-old community spanning eighty acres, merits historical significance from its unique character as a planned residential suburb with a park-like atmosphere. Seasonal changes enhance tree-lined boulevards bisected by grassy esplanades. Elegant multi-tiered fountains on the three north-south drives and clusters of graceful cast-iron statuary in the esplanades complement spacious lots with rambling frame homes or picturesque cottages.

When James O. Woodruff laid out Woodruff Place in 1872-73, he envisioned an exclusive suburban town far from the noise and distraction of the Mile Square. The Panic of 1873 financially ruined the far-sighted man, but his namesake community survived and in time largely fulfilled the founder’s brilliant expectations. In 1876, a small group of initial property owners successfully petitioned for incorporation of the subdivision as a town.

Though it grew slowly at first, Woodruff Place experienced a boom during the 1890s as Indianapolis citizens of means discovered its sheltered, restful charm. By the early twentieth century Woodruff Place had earned recognition as a close-knit, affluent community. Alleys lined by large carriage houses and servants’ quarters bisected lots along north-south drives which housed well-kept residences of varying sizes and architectural styles.

A broad range of income levels and professions among residents coincided with the diversity of Woodruff Place homes. Prominent citizenry included Rear Admiral George Brown, a retired naval officer, Charles E. Test, President of the National Motor Co., Chauncey Butler, the son of educator Ovid Butler, William H. Hart, state auditor during the 1890s and architect Brandt T. Steele, the son of famed Indiana artist T.C. Steele. Other residents with more modest professions occupied smaller homes intermixed with the more imposing residences.

Following World War I, Woodruff Place experienced a noticeable decline when wealthy near-Eastside families chose suburban homes further from inner city growth, and the great Depression reduced the citizenry who could afford to maintain the larger homes. These factors prompted the razing of founder James O. Woodruff’s house, designed by William LeBaron Jenney for a large lot on West Drive.

Reacting to dire economic conditions in the 1930s some homeowners chose to divide their three-story residences into apartments. Further decline came after Work War II when most of the remaining Victorian and Edwardian homes were subdivided into apartment units to capitalize on a housing shortage provoked by returning Indiana servicemen.

Woodruff Place’s town government, the remaining symbol of its golden age, succumbed in 1962 after a long court battle, the victim of soaring fire and police protection costs.

The 1960s and 1970s brought neighborhood renewal when the Woodruff Place Civic League filled a critical vacuum left by the town government and worked to preserve the community’s heritage. New residents have purchases and restored vintage Woodruff Place homes to their original appearance and integrity.

Historical Significance

Included in the National Register of Historic Places July 31, 1972, Woodruff Place is one of the first contained Victorian residential subdivisions in the nation. Founder James O. Woodruff may have been influenced by the Urban Park Movement of the 1860a, which emphasized the provision of open spaces as a means to counteract “the harmful influences of urban life.” This reform movement in housing and park planning resulted in significant changes in numerous American cities after Frederick Law Olmsted designed Central Park in New York City and publicized the concept.

Woodruff Place was planned as a total residential area featuring a park-like atmosphere made possible by wide spacious lots and formal public esplanades lavishly adorned with nine Victorian fountains and approximately ninety vases, planters, urns and other cast-iron and masonry sculptures. These clustered works of art cannot be found in such variety and number anywhere else in the United States, while the total environment and residential nature of Woodruff Place makes the area unique among historic planned communities.

Seeking to preserve the grandeur of this eighty-acre neighborhood, residents formed the Woodruff Place Civic League, Inc., in 1952 and have concentrated their efforts toward restoration of houses and public grounds. Among their accomplishments are the successful “Adopt an Urn” program and the purchase and resale of a deteriorating structure at 980 West Drive. This real estate transaction, made possible by financial assistance from Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, set an important precedent for future property restoration.

Cooperation with the City of Indianapolis resulted in major restoration activities in Woodruff Place following its enrollment in the National Register. Utilizing federal community and economic development funds, the City restored the three Cross Drive fountains to their former magnificence. Combined efforts of the City and Indianapolis Power and Light Company achieved restoration of the seventy-six distinctive light standards. Reconstruction of one smaller fountain on West Drive and a hexagonal gazebo on Middle Drive are the first of other restoration efforts completed by the Woodruff Place Civic League in the 1980s.


Marked by a variety of domestic architectural styles, Woodruff Place homes found along the four drives range in age from one to one hundred years. Predominant architectural styles include Queen Anne, Eastlake, Stick and Jacobethan Revival. Other residential architectural styles popular in Indianapolis during the 1880s and 1890s, such as Italianate, Second Empire and Romanesque Revival, found little favor in Woodruff Place. Town residents also preferred frame construction rather than masonry as a building material. Stained glass windows abound in the neighborhood, adding Victorian charm to both the exterior and interior of homes.

The twentieth century brought a flood of diverse architectural styles as residential construction continued in the little town. Also represented in Woodruff Place are the Free Classic, Georgian Revival and English Tudor modes, making “A Walk Through Woodruff Place” a graphic example of architectural history in America.

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

Year Built: c. 1893 Architecture Style: Queen Anne Key Features:           The gables and small-scale, classically inspired details are Queen Anne elements.
Year Built: c. 1907 Architecture Style: Free Classic Key Features: A charming smaller home, this cottage boasts a Palladian window in the gable and simple columns that illustrate a departure from the exuberant detailing of Queen Anne arch... Read more
Year Built: c.   1902 Architecture Style: Free Classic Key Features: A hipped roof, symmetry of openings, clapboard siding, and restrained detailing are typical of this popular design.
Year Built: c. 1904 Architecture Style: Jacobethan Revival Key Features: Note the center Dutch gable on this house designed by architect Brandt T. Steele, the son of Hoosier artist T. C. Steele.  He chose this residence for his own home ... Read more
 Year Built:   c. 1876 Architecture Style: Renaissance Key Features: Restored in 1976, this two-tiered cast-iron fountain has elaborately detailed ornamentation and a larger basin than the two smaller fountains at Middle and West Drives... Read more
Architecture Style: Tudor Key Features: Formerly the town hall when Woodruff Place was an incorporated town, it still serves the community as a meeting hall and recreational facility.
Year Built: c. 1920 Architecture Style: Prairie Key Features:    A very popular style although it has no name, this design was influenced by noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s distinctive prairie style houses.  It also reflects ch... Read more
Year Built: c. 1898 Architecture Style: Queen Anne Key Features: Restored in the 1980s, the period color scheme appropriately reflects the Victorian era.
 Year Built: c. 1904 Architecture Style: Dutch Colonial Revival Key Features: The gambrel roof is a chief characteristic of this style, a variant on the Colonial Revival popular in the first quarter of the twentieth century. ...
Year Built: c. 1930 Architecture Style: Spanish Colonial Revival Key Features: Decorative gables, red tiled roofs and stucco walls are characteristics of this very popular style used for houses, churches and commercial buildings. ...
Year Built: c. 1897 Architecture Style: Queen Anne Key Features: A prominent tower, diamond-paned window glass, and clapboard/shingle siding are common style characteristics of Queen Anne architecture.
Year Built: c. 1902 Architecture Style: English Picturesque Key Features: An unusual style, it is most often associated with English architecture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Year Built: c. 1935 Architecture Style: Jacobethan Revival/Picturesque Key Features: A scaled down version of a style popular after the turn-of-the-century, it is a favorite in Indianapolis and many similar designs are seen in other parts... Read more
Year Built: c. 1924 Architecture Style: Late Colonial Revival Key Features: This is a late example of a style first popular in the latter part of the nineteenth century and continuing in popularity today
 Year Built: c. 1870 Key Features: Milton, Shakespeare and Scott are among eight important literary figures depicted on the urn.  Note the circular basin mounted on an octagonal pedestal that features a floral leaf motif in bas-relief. ...
Year Built: c. 1894 Architecture Style: Queen Anne Key Features: Designed by Thomas A. Winterrowd of Indianapolis, this house illustrates a pleasing blend of Queen Anne and Shingle styles.  Note the unique porch. ...
Year Built: c. 1873 Key Features: Restoration of this fountain originally designed by J. L. Mott Ironworks was completed in 2020 from three remnant pieces of the original fountain.  The color of the statuary replicates the original. ...
Year Built: c. 1900 Architecture Style: Foursquare Key Features: These twin structures were built as speculative houses.  The first floors are cast or imitation stone; the second floors are tile hung – a very unusual treatment found mo... Read more
Year Built: c. 1890 Architecture Style: Queen Anne Key Features: Two story porches lend symmetry to this Queen Anne with a round tower and large eaves.  The house has been in the family for three generations. ...
Year Built: c. 1872 Key Features:  Restoration in 1977 has preserved the unique ornamentation of this smaller cast-iron fountain which differs from those on East and West Drives.
Year Built: c. 1906 Architecture Style: Prairie Key Features: Unusual detailing on this residence shows the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright and art nouveau.  The material used is also unique to the city.
Year Built: c. 1872, razed 1936 Architecture Style: Stick Key Features:  William LeBaron Jenney, a nationally acclaimed residential architect of the period, constructed the first home built in Woodruff Place. ...
Year Built: c. 1877 Architecture Style: Stick Key Features: Tall proportions with high steep roofs and an irregular silhouette typify this style.  There was probably a tower above the entrance at one time.
Year Built: c. 1889 Architecture Style: Shingle Key Features: Shingles and round arches show the influence of Henry Hobson Richardson who popularized the style in the east.
Year Built: c. 1889 Architecture Style: Shingle Key Features: Gables, various windows sizes, asymmetrical façade and mixed surface textures make this house a classic version of this style.
Year Built: c. 2021 Architecture Style: Farmhouse Key Features:  This is the newest built home in the neighborhood.
Year Built: c. 1922 Architecture Style: Free Classic Key Features: Although the porch gives the house an asymmetrical look, the openings are arranged symmetrically.  The Palladian window in the gable and other simple detailing are Free C... Read more
Year Built: c. 1872 Key Features: This two-tiered cast-iron fountain mounted on a concrete base was restored in 1977.  Ornate leaves and detailed fish supporting the second tier are distinctive characteristics of this unique fountain. ...
Year Built: c. 1905 Architecture Style: Queen Anne Key Features: Twin gables, various window sizes, soffit brackets, first floor overhang and large bay windows are typical characteristics of Queen Anne style. ...
Year Built: c. 1922 Architecture Style: Bungalow Key Features: A popular style in Indianapolis, thousands of bungalow houses were constructed throughout the city because the design was an easy, inexpensive one to execute. ...
Year Built: c. 1888 Architecture Style: Shingle Key Features: Simpler than Queen Anne architecture, this style is distinguished by the small diamond pane window glass and uniform covering of shingles.
Year Built: c. 1886 Architecture Style: Queen Anne Key Features: With a three-story turret, stained and lead glass, this house is easily recognized as Queen Anne.  Renovation has restored the house from apartments to nearly its original ... Read more
Year Built: c. 1875 Architecture Style: Eastlake/Stick Key Features: This is the oldest remaining structure in Woodruff Place.  Although altered, the decorative work in the gable helps to emphasize the underlying frame construction. ...
Year Built: c. 1890/91 Architecture Style: Eastlake Key Features: The rows of spindles, turned porch posts and notable terra cotta tiles in the chimney are typical of the Eastlake style.
Year Built: c. 1906 Architecture Style: Prairie Key Features: Influenced by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this residence features design characteristics emphasizing horizontal, grouped windows and a wide roof overhang. ...
Year Built: c. 1920 Key Features: Stone detailing reflects different style sources.  Large flats such as this one became popular during the early part of this century as people sought to free their lifestyles from large houses. ...
Year Built: c. 1906 Architecture Style: Queen Anne Key Features: Although this is a very late example, the gable, mixed surface materials, octagonal tower and various window sizes are all characteristics of the Queen Anne style. ...
Year Built: c. 1893 Architecture Style: Queen Anne Key Features: Although the tower does not dominate the façade, the gable is within the picturesque look of Queen Anne architecture.  The house and nearby carriage house occupy the large... Read more
Year Built: c. 1885 Architecture Style: Gothic Revival Key Features: Restored in 1970, this cottage illustrates the typical modest dwelling of the Victorian era.  Because of its frame construction, it is classified as Carpenter’s Gothi... Read more
Year Built: c. 1910 Architecture Style: Federal Key Features: This antebellum Federal style four-unit brick apartment building was built in 1920 and was owned by the Larsons for many years.  The building was renovated 1993-1997 keeping t... Read more


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