The first sentence of the Emerson Heights Community Organization’s website reads ‘Emerson heights is proud to be listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.’ This single sentence pretty well sums of all that is Emerson Heights. With historical significance abound, Emerson Heights has seen it all, from the rise of the automobile to famous architectural movements of the late 19th century. The good people of Indianapolis have focused myriad efforts of preserving the wonderfully historical aspects of this great neighborhood. With the help of community organizations and citizens alike, Emerson Heights has come back around the timeline as a must-live neighborhood for Indy residents.
Emerson Heights is located on the Eastside of Indianapolis. When developers purchased the property in the early 1900’s, is was nothing but farmland (as was the majority of Indiana around this time). After establishing boundaries on each side, developers began the architectural planning. This was around the time when the American Arts and Crafts, or American Craftsman, style homes were all the rage. These homes we’re modeled after our neighbors across the pond, Britain, developed a similar movement in mid 1800’s. The brilliance of this movement, which came from the mind of an English man named William Morris, was that it emphasized handwork and skilled craftsmanship. This was a big deal during this time, as it was also during the height of the Industrial Revolution which brought fourth the machine to replace the man when it came to production. The American Craftsman style encouraged manufacturing and production methods, which have now become much sought after. These methods include simplicity, local natural materials, and the support of originality.
Early residents of Emerson Heights were ones that sought to escape the ever-growing and busy downtown area of Indianapolis. This was made possible with the rise of the automobile. Emerson Heights Reality Company was responsible for the development of the neighborhood itself. They chose to build the above-mentioned Arts and Crafts style homes in the hopes to attract a strong middle class to the area. These developers really did think of everything. A meticulously planned community, with no homes built for less than $1,200, all set back an equal distance from the street, and most houses we’re situated on hillsides above the street with tree lined esplanades. The developers aimed to create a pleasant streetscape, even adding a neighborhood entrance featuring brick pillars festooned with flowers.
This brings us to the Emerson Heights of the modern era. This neighborhood still holds many of the old charms from previous centuries, including handcrafted woodwork, unique and interesting built-ins, real oak hardwood floors, brick fireplaces, beveled-glass windows, and of course, what Hoosier home is complete without a large front porch to watch the world go by.
Though the neighborhood itself still holds the same boundaries set fourth when it was first built, the city around it has grown tremendously, making Emerson Heights a great neighborhood for any lifestyle. The neighborhood boasts a 7-minute commute (if you can even call that a commute) to both IUPUI and downtown Indy, as well as all the accoutrements one could hope for, or need; shopping, coffee shops, banking, pharmacy, eateries, and a library. Be sure to check out The Emerson Theater for some of the best alternative music scenes in the city! Athletes will be pleased to know that Ellenberger park and Pleasant Run Trail are right in the mix, with the beloved Monon trailhead just a short trip up to 10th street. Indianapolis also has many trails in the works in and around Emerson Heights, including Pennsy Trail.
Emerson Heights is said to be ‘a place where neighbors still greet each other on the sidewalk and visit friends on the front porch’. Though this may be what many Hoosiers experience (what we call Midwestern hospitality), residents of Emerson Heights may just have a slight edge of our proud heritage of hospitable living.