There is nothing like a road trip to renew my familiarity with some of Indianapolis’ old neighborhoods and visit the never-ending construction of nouveau riche mansions in Carmel and Clay Township. As of this posting, there are six Higley 1000 neighborhoods with a total of 3,841 households in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Area (SMSA).
Indianapolis’ best neighborhoods are very segregated. When one compares the racial make-up of Indianapolis’ highest income neighborhoods with the racial make-up of the entire Metro area, there is an glaring lack of Black households found in the wealthy neighborhoods. Asians and Non-Hispanic Whites are greatly over-represented. This is a common pattern that is found throughout the country and the big industrial cities of the Midwest are no exception.
The Metro are is primarily Non-Hispanic White and Black (82.9% and 13.2% respectively). Asians (1.0%) and Hispanics (1.7%) were found in small numbers in the metro area. (2000 Census) The six Higley 1000 neighborhoods are 91.3% Non-Hispanic White, 4.1% Black, 3.0% Asian, and 1.2% Hispanic.
From Meridian-Kessler to the Village of WestClay
I never tire of driving up Meridian Street in the city and viewing all the wonderful mansions that were built in the city’s industrial heyday. They are typical of their period: Eclectic, Georgian, and Tudor Revivals amidst countless variations of bourgeois good taste.
This trip I wanted to see just if the adjoining North-South streets of Illinois and Pennsylvania (and the lower 40’s) of Washington Boulevard were equally beautiful and well maintained as the big houses on Indianapolis’ Alpha Street, Meridian Street. The adjacent North-South arterials are lovely and for the most part, nicely maintained. The quality of the neighborhood falls off rather quickly past Illinois to the West and Washington to the East, but it is clear that many of Indianapolis’ elite still want to live in the neighborhood that has been christened Meridian-Kessler. I made Meridian-Kessler a Higley Designated Place as the elite homes are strewn across several Census Tracts and too many Block Groups to make any sense of the mean income numbers. The wealth of the area is obscured by the inclusion of downscale houses and apartment buildings in the Census Tracts and Block Groups on the East and West sides of the rather narrow strip of elite homes running North from 40th Street to 56th Street centered on Meridian.
One of the more unusual tiny enclaves of old wealth in Indianapolis is the 40 house enclave of Golden Hill. Golden Hill was developed in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century and has working class homes immediately to it’s east and south. Somehow, this island of wealth has managed to maintain its cache and is still a lovely neighborhood. Like Crows Nest and North Crows Nest (18 Households; Population 42, LOL), Golden Hill is to small to register on the Higley 1000, but none-the-less it is certainly worth a quick drive through if you are interested in historic neighborhoods.
On this trip I did not visit the tiny, most elite of Indianapolis’ suburbs, the aforementioned Crows Nest. When the city merged with Marion County in the early 70s, a bevy of small and micro suburbs retained their identity and enough autonomy that the Census enumerates them separately from Indianapolis. Crows Nest is one those tiny enclaves. Crows Nest consists of a mere 34 households, found primarily along Sunset Lane. This is where one finds the truly impressive mansions of Indy’s elite residing in baronial splendor. With a mean income of $248,705, Crows Nest would come in at 238th in the Higley 1000, if it was big enough to qualify for the list (a suburb or neighborhood has to have at least 100 households to qualify for the Higley 1000). The sampling procedure that the Census Bureau uses for income (one of every six households) means one has to take the Mean Household Income statistics of tiny places like Crows Nest with a grain of salt. In the case of Crows Nest, the Mean Household Income would be drawn from 5 households! If one of those five households were live-in servants (with separate housekeeping facilities), it would skew the mean income statistics hopelessly downwards. Considering the size of the homes, my bet is that there is live-in help and therefore the income numbers are useless. Oh well, it is an imperfect world!
Further North on Meridian, between 64th and 82nd Streets are two newer elite suburbs that share the same semi-autonomous status as Crows Nest. Meridian Hills straddles Meridian Street and is filled with commodious ranches, forgettable architecture and an occasional teardown. Meridian Hills mean household income of $154, 832 was too low to qualify for the Higley 1000. Meridian Hills is upper-middle class and pleasant enough, but rather uninspiring compared to the grand mansions of Meridian Street to the South!
The tiny village of Williams Creek found just north of Meridian Hills ranks #298 on the Higley 1000 (at this writing). Williams Creek appears to be simply an incorporated sub-division. With a household count of 155, Williams Creek just made the cut in qualifying for my list (minimum 100). Most of the homes appear to be post-World War II and they are uniformly large and lovely.
I snapped this picture of what has to be the biggest lawn in Williams Creek. The cross hatching design of the mowing of this lawn was wonderful! Click the picture for a full size view
I didn’t get a chance to drive by Lake Kesslerwood and its smaller sibling Lake Charlevoix (Higley 1000 #532) on this trip. From Microsoft Live Local it appears that the approximately 200 homes built around appears to be a man-made lake diverted from the White River. Lake Kesslerwood-Lake Charlevoix is the only neighborhood in Indianapolis where African-Americans households are found proportionately as they are in the Metro area in general. Just south of Lake Kesslerwood and Lake Charlevoix one finds an exclusive subdivision by the name of Brendonwood. According to the Homeowner’s Association website, Brendonwood’s 113 homes were built starting in 1895. It was formally incorporated as a planned “City Beautiful” subdivision in 1917 and the heavily wooded site not only features homes that are on 1-7 acres, but there is even a 9 hole golf club for the residents pleasure.
In the tradition of Homer Hoyt’s pioneering studies in the 30s, Indianapolis’ sector and wedge growth for elite homes has moved North on the Meridian axis across the Hamilton County line into the nouveau riche suburb of Carmel and it’s subordinate township of Clay.
Carmel had 37,802 people in the 2000 Census and Clay Township had an additional 26,907 residents. The Census estimated that as of 2005 Carmel had grown strongly to an estimated 59,243 (Census estimate, 2005). A good portion of Carmel’s growth can be attributed to annexing a large chunk of the Northwest section of Clay Township. Clay Township has correspondingly lost population over the last five years to an estimated 19,147. Carmel and Clay Township together account for the vast majority of the new McMansions in Indy’s suburbs. Carmel is geographically boxed off with Zionsville to the West, Westfield and Noblesville to the North. To the East, Carmel is geographically hemmed in by the exploding lower-middle class sub-divisions of Fishers. It makes sense for the city to annex West and eventually take in all of Clay Township.
At this writing, the Southwest corner of Clay Township maintains its independence. There is one Higley 1000 neighborhoods in the township: Crooked Stick Golf Course-Winterwood (Mean Household Income:$221, 914). Twin Lakes-Laurelwood (Mean Income: 182,915) was close, but no cigar. Both of these “neighborhoods” are collections of sub-divisions.
The Crooked Stick-Winterwood neighborhood is a combination of sub-divisions around the Crooked Stick Golf Course (e.g. Crooked Stick Estates, Spring Run Estates, Sutton Place, & Huntington Chase) as well as the the smaller but more exclusive gated neighborhoods of Winterwood and Estancia to the East.
I drove into the tiny ungated neighborhood of the Queens Manor and snapped this impressively fountained arriviste mansion. The lots are huge and the houses ranged from the pictured monument to wealth (left), to more prosaic large, run-of-the-mill houses found in anywhere upper middle Class America.
The other Higley 1000 neighborhood found in unincorporated Clay County I dubbed Twin Lakes-Laurelwood (Mean Household Income $182,915). This neighborhood was was named for the Twin Lakes Golf Course to the west of this block group and Laurelwood on the eastern edge. Laurelwood is gated filled with large homes and is similar to the equally impressive gated community of Coppergate found in the Block Group that statistically makes up this neighborhood.
The Northwest quadrant of Clay Township that Carmel recently annexed has a plethora of standard issue upper middle class sub-divisions such as Hayden Run and Laurel Lakes.
The wealthiest neighborhood in Indianapolis as reported in the 2000 Census was part of Clay Township at the time of the Census. It is now part of the city of Carmel. I have dubbed this neighborhood Claridge Farms-Springmill Ridge after two of the larger sub-divisions of this area. With an Median household income of $267,013, it is the wealthiest Block Group in the Indianapolis metro area.
In my opinion, the most ambitious and interesting new addition to Carmel is the large master planned community of the Village of WestClay (yes, that’s the affected way the developers spell it…). It appears to be built in the popular “New Urbanist” tradition although when these places are planned and built on the further reaches of the suburban sprawl frontier, I don’t know just how “New Urbanist” the developers can actually claim to be.
The Village of WestClay, which didn’t exist when the 2000 Census was taken, appears to be a rather dense and intensely planned affair. Visit their website by clicking here: Village of WestClay. I found some very interesting and unique architecture in one of WestClay’s many sub-divisions.
Here is a picture wonderfully thought out, brand new Painted Lady from one of WestClay’s brand new sub-divisions. This is a wonderful way for history to repeat itself! Of course, this is my opinion. Evidently the gaudy colors on this house have caused at least some controversy. One woman even wrote me and said this house is NOT emblematic of WestClay and implored me to steal some more conservative house pictures from the builders website. I declined.