HISTORY OF HERRON-MORTON PLACE
The Herron-Morton Place historic plan, adopted in 1986, contains a wealth of information about the neighborhood in addition to historic photos and pictures of all properties as they existed at the time the plan was adopted. Historic Plan 1986 (Green Book)
Samuel Henderson, the first postmaster and first mayor of Indianapolis, was also the first owner of the land now encompassing Herron-Morton Place. He did not believe Indianapolis would ever amount to much, and later sold his substantial real estate here to pursue the Gold Rush in California. In 1859, Indiana’s State Board of Agriculture purchased what are now roughly 19th to 22nd Streets and Delaware Street to Central Avenue to create a permanent Indiana State Fairgrounds.
After hosting only one State Fair in 1860, the area was requisitioned in 1861 to be the Civil War induction center for Indiana volunteers and troop training and renamed “Camp Morton,” in honor of Governor Oliver Perry Morton. In 1862, it became a Confederate prisoner of war camp, hosting more than 15,000 men through the course of the war. At the same time, much of the southern portion of the current neighborhood was home to “Camp Burnside,” with Tinker Street (now 16th street) as its southern border. Volunteers, and later, invalids and members of the Veteran Reserve Corps inhabited Camp Burnside.
With the Civil War over in 1865, the State Fair resumed festivities here. In the ensuing years, improvements were made. In 1872, the giant Exposition Building—designed by Edwin F. May, architect of the current State Capital—was erected. The fair took place in the same location until 1891, when the State Board of Agriculture purchased and relocated to the Voss Farm, where it has continued until this day. Three businessmen purchased the old fairgrounds: Edward Fay Claypool, Elijah Bishop Martindale and Willard W. Hubbard and divided it into 280 residential lots, renaming the area “Morton Place.” On the main streets of the new neighborhood—Delaware, Alabama and New Jersey—were esplanades, which lined the middle of those streets. Soon after, in the southern portion of the neighborhood, the Art Association selected the “Old Tinker” homestead as the site for a new art museum and school. Famed Hoosier artist, T. C. Steele had been residing at this property for a number of years. Art association sponsored classes began out of the old home, which was eventually razed to make way for the Vonnegut & Bohn designed John Herron Art Institute building.
Morton Place quickly became one of the most elite and desirable neighborhoods in Indianapolis. It would become home to multiple leaders in all aspects of Indianapolis life: lawyers, doctors, politicians, artists, architects and many of the most successful businessmen of the time. Unfortunately, the proliferation of the automobile and subsequent expansion of Indianapolis lured the well to do further away from the heart of the city. The automobile is also to blame for the removal of the esplanades on Delaware and Alabama Streets in the 1920’s. When the Great Depression began, many of the large single-family homes were carved up and re-purposed as multi-family dwellings, causing the neighborhood to further lose its appeal. Between 1950-1970, a number of homes were lost to fire or neglect and subsequent demolition.
The listing of Herron-Morton Place in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 helped preserve the majority of the remaining structures. New Jersey Street retains the original esplanades, and thus provides the best example of what the north half of the neighborhood once looked like.
Timeline of Herron-Morton Place
Notable Former Residents of Herron-Morton Place
The Board of public works approved the plat of Morton Place on December 23, 1891 on the land that had been occupied by the Indiana State Fair & Exposition. “Morton Place” was the brainchild of three Indianapolis businessmen, Edward F. Claypool, Elijah Bishop Martindale and Willard W. Hubbard.
Elijah Bishop Martindale - Born August 22, 1828 in Wayne County, Indiana, he was the son of Elijah and Elizabeth (Boyd) Martindale. Though originally apprenticed to learn the trade of a saddler, he found that he was not suited to that endeavor and pursued a career in law. After years practicing as an attorney throughout the state of Indiana, and a brief stint as a judge of the Common Pleas Court (a position to which he was appointed by Governor Oliver Morton), Mr. Martindale was elected to the state senate. In 1875, he became the proprietor of the Indianapolis Journal, the leading Republican publication in Indiana. In 1880, he sold the Journal to the Honorable John C. New. Subsequent years were devoted to a stint as President of American Central Life Insurance Company and development of Indianapolis real estate. “He has made more than twenty additions to the city, aggregating nearly one thousand acres of land, and more than fifty of the leading streets of the city bear names given them by him. The additions he has made to the city are largely in excess of its original area. The Martindale addition on North Delaware and Pennsylvania streets is now the center of the best resident portion of the city, while Morton place and Lincoln Park are really a wonder in growth and beauty.” Mr. Martindale died February 28, 1910 at his home on North Meridian Street.
Edward Fay Claypool was born March 17, 1832 in Connersville, Indiana and moved to Indianapolis in 1873. Best known as the namesake and organizer of the Claypool Hotel, built in 1904 and formerly located on the northwest corner of Washington and Illinois Streets, where previously stood the Bates House Hotel. Mr. Claypool was a capitalist, banker—vice president of the First National Bank of Indianapolis for a time—and investor and key player in the company that built the Belt Railroad in Indianapolis. Mr. Claypool died of pneumonia on 24 February 1911.
Willard W. Hubbard was born in Delphi, Indiana on August 5, 1854. He graduated from Butler College and made Indianapolis his permanent home in 1884. He was secretary and treasurer of Island Coal Company and President of Linton Supply Company, another Coal Company based in Greene County, Indiana.
Other Notable Former Residents of Herron-Morton Place
- T.C. Steele
- J. Ottis Adams
- Julia Graydon Sharpe
- Virginia Keep
- Otto Stark
- Ruth Pratt Bobbs
- Samuel Ralston- governor and U.S. Senator
- Albert J. Beveridge- U.S. Senator
- John W. Kern- U.S. Senator and Vice-Presidential nominee
- Alonzo G. Smith- Indiana State Attorney General
- James Bingham- Indiana State Attorney General
- Frank Fishback- Marion County Treasurer
- Dr. Willis Gatch- inventor of the first adjustable hospital bed
- Dr. William Niles Wishard- namesake of Wishard Memorial
- Dr. John F. Barnhill- Drive in front of Riley Hospital named for him
- Dr. Joseph C. Alexander- involved with a scandal in 1903 involving grave robbing
- Otto Stark
- Ruth Pratt Bobbs
- Gustave Efroymson- President of the H.P. Wasson Co.
- William H. Block- President of William H. Block & Co.
- William C. Bobbs- President Bobbs-Merrill Publishing
- Charles M. Malott- President Indianapolis Paint & Color Co.
- Julius C. Walk- President Julius C. Walk & Son Jewelry
- J. C. Sipe- President J. C. Sipe Jewelers
- George W. Bliss- Bliss, Swain, & Co.
- Sol Meyer- President Meyer-Kiser Bank, owner of Indianapolis Baseball Club
- Evans Woolen- Founder Fletcher Trust Company
- Herbert Foltz- Architect