Fayette Street Conservation Area

Boundaries

  • 10th Street to the North
  • Missouri Street to the East
  • 9th Street to the South
  • MLK street to the West

Please note that not all homes in the area are original and bound to covenants that require IHPC approval of changes.

History

The Fayette Street Conservation Area is associated with two important historical themes. First, it represents what little is left of the century-old Black neighborhood in downtown Indianapolis. Just after the turn of the century when Black settlement was at its peak, it stretched from the banks of the downtown Central Canal to the White River.

The second theme associated with the Fayette Street Conservation Area is its association with the Indianapolis Central Canal. The canal, built in the late 1830s, holds the distinction of being one of the oldest man-made features in the city and has been designated as an American Water Landmark by the American Water Works Association. It is not by accident that these two historical themes are intertwined. As early as the 1840s, some of Indianapolis' first factories located along the canal in anticipation of it becoming the principal means of commercial transportation. In the early 1860s, when Black folk began moving into the area, the new settlers depended upon the existence of the canal, finding jobs at the factories.

Over time, there grew a respected and prosperous Black middle class that in 1910 added to its number Madam CJ Walker, America's first self-made millionairess. Her company, headquartered in Indianapolis in what is now a National Historic Landmark, made Black cosmetics and hair care products providing good-paying jobs for many in Indianapolis' Black community.

Mid-20th Century, the area was targeted for urban renewal. Large swaths of land were acquired for the development of the campus of IUPUI. In early 1992, the City of Indianapolis began plans to acquire one of the last tracts of undeveloped land around the upper canal. Residents and businesses found out about this decision when they received letters telling them that their property had been placed on the city's acquisition list. They unified under the representation of The Canal Coalition, headed by the African-American Landmarks Committee of the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. They presented an alternative plan to the city, which consolidated twenty residences into the 900 block of Fayette Street. Ten were already in place while ten would be physically relocated from surrounding blocks. The city accepted their plan as a new form of community-based revitalization.

Character

The historic area consists mainly of modest vernacular styles typical of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, whose simplicity speak to the humble beginnings of the area. The area is predominantly made up of one- and two-story frame dwellings, the earliest of which was built prior to 1887 at 906 Fayette Street. After the turn of the century, apartment construction was more cost effective with a greater return for the investor due to the high density of an apartment or flat. Two nearly-identical apartment buildings were built on the east side of Fayette Street circa 1914. A small collection of double shotgun, houses, once located along Missouri Street, have been relocated to Fayette Street and are interspersed amongst some of the larger two-story houses moved from the 800 block of Fayette Street. While not completely identical, many of these two-story houses are variations of the same gable-on-hip with lower crossing gable roof form typical of the Queen Anne style, but without much of the elaborate detailing. In fact, the majority of these vernacular houses are very simplistic in design, borrowing a few stylistic details such as decorative siding and turned posts from the Queen Anne style. While many of these residences have undergone minor alterations, primarily replacing porches and windows, they still retain their original plan and much of their original trim and decorations.

Historical Designation

1995 - Local Designation

For more information, please refer to “Historic Area Preservation Plan: Fayette Street Conservation Area,” March 1, 1995. Prepared by Connie L. Choate, Preservation Consultant, in conjunction with Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana & its African American Landmarks Committee, Canal Coalition, City of Indianapolis, and Mayor Stephen Goldsmith.