With very few exceptions, the neighborhood follows a grid pattern derived from the original plats of the various subdivisions set out during the 1800's. Almost all the buildings in Meridian-Kessler were constructed during the 20th Century, with the biggest boom in construction coming before the Depression. As such, almost all architectural styles common to the period can be found. Lot sizes on most streets are less than half-an-acre, with the exception of Meridian Street and some blocks of Pennsylvania Street, Washington Boulevard, Central, and College.
- North: Kessler Boulevard East Drive
- South: E. 38th Street (aka Maple Road)
- East: The Monon Trail
- West: N. Meridian Street
The area was first populated in the 1820's, and as early as 1880 had a population around 2,500, when the first platted neighborhoods began to appear. It was around that time that the Indiana State Fairgrounds was moved from 19th and Alabama Streets to its current location, bordering the southwest corner of the neighborhood. By 1900 the entire area was platted and incorporated into the City of Indianapolis, but it wasn't until 1965 that the neighborhood came to be called Meridian-Kessler.
In the spring of 1965, the first African-American family moved into the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood. Encouragement by Rev. Gerald Johnson of the (then) Meridian Heights Presbyterian Church, a group of residents "deeply devoted to our area and to justice" met to discuss the formation of a neighborhood group which would:
- Bring about a closer relationship between all people and provide a service for newcomers.
- Monitor zoning and guard against illegal conversions of single-family housing.
- Maintain quality schools in the area.
- Provide adequate municipal services for all residents.
In early meetings there was prolonged discussion about the boundaries of the proposed new neighborhood. The south and west boundaries were not debatable (38th and Meridian Streets, respectively), because they adjoined existing organized neighborhoods. However, the northern boundary was difficult to determine.
At first it was set at 46th Street, then tentatively moved to 54th Street. By the time the constitution and bylaws were finalized, however, those who maintained that a larger group of residents would be more effective politically, succeeded in getting the boundary extended north to Kessler Boulevard.
The name of the new association, based on the names of the streets on the west and north boundaries, was coined at that time. Large posters were distributed to the area shopping corners inviting everyone to the first general meeting on June 2, 1965.
Meridian-Kessler is not a designated historic district itself, but three National Register Districts are currently contained within MKNA: Forest Hills, Oliver Johnson's Woods, and Washington Park. The remainder of the neighborhood, broken into smaller sub-areas, is eligible for the same designation and simply awaits efforts from neighbors to complete the applications.
Entryways and Landmarks
Because of its size, there really aren't specific entryways into the neighborhood, or, rather, there are so many that it would be impossible to list them all.
One good way to view the picturesque locations within Meridian-Kessler is to attend the annual Meridian-Kessler Home & Garden Tour. More information is available on the neighborhood's website. Local libraries also have available copies of the coffee table book, The History & Architecture of Meridian Kessler, by Paul C. Diebold, published by the Association in 2005.