Norwood was previously farmland and woods in rural Marion County. Key owners of land in this area at the turn of the 19th century were the Bremer, Hosbrook, McLaughlin and Quack families. In addition, much of the land near Norwood was owned and utilized by the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway. This railway company was known locally as the “Big Four Railroad.”
Four distinct subdivisions were developed to create today’s Norwood.
The first major housing subdivision in Norwood was John A. Hosbrook’s Prospect Street Addition. This development included the housing lots along today’s Vandeman and Madeira streets, as well as the west side of Earhart Street. According to a news article dated Dec. 27, 1888, in The Indianapolis Journal, this subdivision was one of 66 new subdivisions platted in Marion County that year. With 202 lots, this subdivision was the largest of the new subdivisions listed by the newspaper.
To provide a perspective on pricing in the early years of this subdivision, consider a real estate transfer reported in The Indianapolis News on April 18, 1888: Lot 2 (a lot on Prospect Street) was sold for $150. Three years later, on March 16, 1891, the same newspaper included note that Lot 4 (a lot facing Prospect Street at Vandeman Street) had been sold for the same price of $150.
Re-sales of lots began early in Norwood. According to a news article on Dec. 22, 1893, in The Indianapolis Journal, Lot 192 (on the west side of Vandeman Street, between Terrace Avenue and Orange Street) had been sold for $300. The new owner of that lot then re-sold it again to another person for $325. The same newspaper reported on Jan. 22, 1894, that Lot 132 (located on the east side of Vandeman Street near Terrace Avenue) was re-sold for $800.
Pricing was not always on an upswing in this subdivision. On June 27, 1899, The Indianapolis Journal reported that Lot 140 (situated on the east side of Vandeman Street, between Terrace Avenue and Orange Street) had been re-sold for $50.
Everett M. Schofield’s Fairfield Addition was the subdivision located between Ewing Street and Sherman Drive as well as between Prospect Street and Orange Street. The Indianapolis Sunday Star on July 16, 1916, included a large display advertisement for this subdivision. The ad noted that lot prices ranged from $175 to $500, with terms of $2 cash down and $1 each week; no interest or taxes were charged for the first two years.
The subdivision between Orange Street and Terrace Avenue as well as between Ewing Street and Sherman Drive was Bremer’s First Addition.
Prospect Heights was the name given to the subdivision located between Earhart and Ewing streets as well as between Prospect Street and Terrace Avenue. On June 9, 1926, an advertisement in The Indianapolis Times bore the headline of “Prospect Heights – High-Class Colored Addition.” The ad noted that there were 120 lots for sale with prices starting at $280; down payment was $5 with $1 payments each week. Terms included no interest for one year, no taxes until 1928 and discounts for early buyers. Both electric lights and telephone service were available in this subdivision, according to the advertisement.
Apple Street and Orange Street were both named after the fruit trees of the same names. Previously, Orange Street was known as Wallace Street.
Vandeman Street was initially named Miami Street. The specific date when the roadway was renamed is not certain, but the initial street name was still being used as of Feb. 17, 1901, according to a news article in The Indianapolis Journal. On Feb. 23, 1906, The Indianapolis News included a real estate transfer entry that included “Vandeman Street” as the name of the roadway.
This road’s current name comes the Vandeman Family. J. H. Vandeman owned 39.48 acres of land on Sherman Drive, according to a map published in 1901, while L. Vandeman owned 10.06 acres of land north of Bethel Avenue between Keystone Avenue and Sherman Drive.
Sherman Drive is a continuation of the roadway that was formerly known as Brightwood Avenue in what is today’s Brightwood neighborhood in Indianapolis. Brightwood was at one time its own municipality, separate from Indianapolis. The earliest written mentions of Sherman Drive were in an advertisement in The Indianapolis News on May 11, 1889, and in a news article dated Dec. 15, 1889, in The Indianapolis Journal.
Morris Street was named after the Morris Family that owned lands in the region.
The Indianapolis Recorder included a front-page news article on Sept. 28, 1912, with a headline of “Colored Library Opened in Norwood.” This news article detailed that this library was “the first colored library in Indianapolis” and included a collection of approximately 1,000 books as well as a variety of periodicals. The library was located on the grounds of the Norwood Boys Club.
Do you have questions about communities in Indianapolis? A street name? A landmark? Your questions may be used in a future news column. Contact Richard McDonough at email@example.com.