With more ups and downs and twists and turns than a rollercoaster ride, what factors–other than the land itself–have been constants in the neighborhood? Above all, there is the Englewood name. The name apparently was first given to an allocation of land in what would become the neighborhood: south of Washington Street, and bordered by Gray and Tuxedo Streets, but the question of why that parcel of land was given the Englewood name remains a mystery. A church, a Masonic Lodge, a hardware store, a veterinarian have all taken on the Englewood name over the years, along with probably a number of other entities that have been lost over time.
Additionally, there are several institutions that have weathered changes that the neighborhood has faced over its history: the churches that have served as cornerstones to the neighborhood–Englewood Christian Church, St. Philip Neri Catholic Church and St. Matthew Lutheran Church–and the East Washington Street library, a branch of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library System.
One of the first institutions to settle in the Englewood neighborhood as we know it today was the Evangelical Lutheran Orphans’ Home, which purchased land along the National Road (now Washington Street) in 1886. The six acres of farmland they purchased (of which would today be the land occupied by Taco Bell!) was described at its purchase in one of their written histories as being “a considerable distance from the city limits.” In the period between 1890 and 1910, many scattered houses were built throughout the neighborhood, and several formative institutions in the neighborhood emerged (Englewood Christian Church, IPS School No. 3, and the East Washington Street branch library). At the turn of the century, the Indianapolis Indians had their start in baseball’s American Association at East Washington Street ballpark, which was just south of Washington at Gray Street. After the ballpark closed, Wonderland Amusement Park blazed to the height of its electric glory, and just as quickly, fizzled and then blazed to death in a mysterious inferno.
The bulk of the houses in our neighborhood were built over the course of two decades beginning in 1910. Many of the houses were built by several builders who developed blocks as suburban-style neighborhoods with a limited number of similar floorplans (the first block of North Dearborn Street is a good example of this type of development). By 1930, both the RCA and the P.R. Mallory plants were up and running, creating jobs on the north and south ends of the neighborhood respectively. The 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s were the classic era of the neighborhood; business was thriving, with dense commercial development, the streetcar ran down the center of Washington Street, and the size of the population would peak in the early 1950s.However, as the 1960s progressed, the neighborhood began to change in its economic profile, thus beginning to be more urban and less suburban in character. Many long-time residents of the neighborhood exited during the three decades between the mid-1960s and the mid-1990s. The exodus of many neighbors would be followed by the exodus of the two industrial complexes, first P.R. Mallory and then RCA.
However, over the latter years of the last decade, there have been a number of signs that life is beginning to rebound in the Englewood neighborhood, particularly the rise of neighborhood groups working together to imagine a flourishing future for the neighborhood. These efforts can probably be traced back as far as the formation of the Near Eastside Community Organization (NESCO) in 1970, a group that sought to support neighborhood organizations throughout Indianapolis’s Near Eastside, the broader area within which Englewood lies. Another foundational piece that would eventually lead up to this process was the formation of Englewood Community Development Corporation in 1996 and the Englewood Neighborhood Association in the early 2000s.
Adapted from The Electric Glory of the Near Eastside, 2011.