|In the nineteenth century, affluent citizens built grand homes in suburbs north of Indianapolis.|
The Morris-Butler House stands in a neighborhood known as the Old Northside, bounded by Pennsylvania Street, College Avenue, 16th Street, and I-65.
Seeking an escape from the crowds and grime of downtown, many of the city’s well-to-do built large, expensive houses on the expansive lots that lined Meridian Street—the most fashionable street in the city. Those who could not afford a lot on Meridian Street bought lots on nearby streets, causing a residential expansion east into what is now the Old Northside, along Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Alabama Streets.
Once home to such prominent Indianapolis residents as President Benjamin Harrison, writer Booth Tarkington, Mayor Thomas Taggart, and department store owner Lyman S. Ayres, the Old Northside neighborhood had become less attractive to the city’s wealthy population beginning in the 1920s. As the automobile became the primary mode of middle-class transportation, the city’s more affluent residents began to move even farther away from downtown to larger lots north of Fall Creek Parkway.
The residential landscape of the western half of the Old Northside began to change as commercial buildings and elegant apartment buildings replaced homes along Meridian, Pennsylvania, and Delaware streets. An acute housing shortage during and after World War II led to the subdivision of many larger homes into apartments. By the 1960s, landlord neglect and vandalism threatened many of the houses in the neighborhood, and by the mid-1970s, over half of the original houses of the neighborhood had been demolished.