For those who want to live immersed in both art and history, the neighborhood of Irvington in Indianapolis, Indiana might be an ideal spot.
Irvington, with a population of 11,000, is home to an historic art movement called the Irvington Group. In the early 1900s, this group of artists lived, met, practiced and exhibited art in Irvington. Many of the artists’ homes and studios remain standing.
The neighborhood also incorporates the Irvington Historic District. This 545-acre area listed on the National Register of Historic Places is the largest locally-protected historic district in Indianapolis, covering roughly 2,800 buildings and about 1,600 parcels of land.
Irvington is important for its Victorian Romantic winding street pattern, varied architectural styles and its cultural role in the city. Located five miles east of downtown Indianapolis along Washington Street, the neighborhood is roughly bounded on the north by East 10th Street, on the east by South Kitley and North Edmonson Avenues, on the south by Brookville Road and on the west by Emerson Avenue.
Irvington was founded by Jacob Julian and Sylvester Johnson, both successful lawyers and Quaker abolitionists who bought the site in 1870, developed its 300 acres into residential plots and named the development after writer Washington Irving. In 1900, the Indianapolis & Greenfield Rapid Transit Company laid tracks down the center of Washington Street, and soon Citizen’s Street Railway moved its new electric trolley line up the street as well. Business owners quickly built commercial blocks along the trolley line, and developers filled lots with new houses during the first decades of the 20th century.
It was during this period that Irvington became a favorite haunt of the city’s best fine artists and writers. Noted Indiana painters William Forsyth, Dorothy Morlan, Clifton and Hilah Wheeler and others were part of the Irvington Group, who drew national attention in the 1920s and 30s.
Architecture in the district displays a variety of late 19th- and early 20th-century styles, including French Empire, brick Italianate, Victorian Gothic and Arts & Crafts.
The Benton house has been called the symbol of Irvington. Built in 1873, the house is a charming example of the Second Empire style of architecture. It is the only house on the National Register on the Indianapolis East Side listed in the Historic Register that is available to the public.