A Sense of Place in South Indianapolis

A strange phenomenon that I have noticed is the propensity of Indy citizens to refer to almost everything south of Troy Avenue as “Greenwood.” This may be because a driver down US 31 or Meridian Streets will not notice much of a difference once they cross the county line, so that it blurs together. However, there are many other cases in Indianapolis where the county line is blurred, and you rarely hear of the Marion county portion of the west side as “Avon” or the north side as “Carmel”. The west side is generally just called the “west side”, whereas the north side is “Nora” or “Castleton”.

Fortunately, the south side has a perfectly acceptable small-town name in “Southport.” Southport is actually a city (not a town), with its own mayor and business district. It is in better shape than the historic towns of Nora, Avon, or Castleton. It even has its own Street Addressing system; only Beech Grove shares that distinction. Yet you rarely hear the south side referred to as “Southport”. I’m curious of the thoughts from this blog’s readers as to why this has happened.

Comments 14

  • It may be a matter of where the people live who are referring to it as Greenwood. My husband and I attended U of I and then went on to live on Hanna Ave. for the next 33 years and I never heard anyone refer to anything north of County Line Road and the Mall as Greenwood. We were much less aware of the distinctions between neighborhoods on the far north side, however, so it may just be a matter of being familiar with the area.

  • Interesting. I lived near Hanna and Keystone when I first moved to Indy and I heard “Greenwood” quite a bit. So much so that I originally thought Greenwood stretched into Marion County. I had to get out a map to confirm that Indy went all the way to the county line.

  • I have heard the same, even as describing as far north as Southern Plaza. I certainly can see it as to the mile or so of US 31 that is just north of Greenwood Park Mall. I think the placement of I-465 may have something to do with it. I-465 on the north side is a good shorthand for the city/county limit, so I think people make the same presumption about the south side, even though 465 is, what 4-5 miles from the line?

    Indianapolis is desperately in need of a comprehensive neighborhood map and the agreement of media to abide by it. As an Irvingtonian for a few years, it’s been my observation that any given point in the city is more likely to be described as the “east side” if the subject is something bad. Hell, I’ve heard points just north of 38th and Sherman referred to as the east side in crime stories. That’s Washington Township! Yet, Indianapolis Monthly lists the Irvington restaurants such as the Legend and Jockamo as “Downtown.” That listing probably is good for those restaurants, but if someone were stabbed in front of Jockamo, channel 13 wouldn’t say it happened “downtown.”

  • Great point about 465 John. I think that may have something to do with this.

    My crack-pot theory as to why that area is not commonly referenced as Southport goes like this:

    Southport has actual boundaries. Nora and Castleton do not, so they are more amorphous and can be applied as more of a catch-all term.

    This also may hold for Clermont and Cumberland as well. Both places have actual town boundaries and an identifiable history. So you don’t generally see them as catch-all terms for a larger area.

  • i think it probably has to do with hating center grove so much.

    so we all just lump that whole area in together.

    people do the same thing with martinsville & mooresville & monrovia & plainfield — and that area has at least 67 different counties in it.

  • Kevin, I agree with the I-465 thing. On the North side I-465 actually crosses into Carmel from Westfield Blvd. over to the Channel 13 TV tower. Everywhere else it’s several miles inside the county line.

    Southport proper is very small…much smaller than Lawrence or Beech Grove. Further, the last chunks of Perry Twp. down to the county line were developed in Greenwood suburban style right up to the end of the 1990s…so the newer parts west of Meridian look enough like “Greenwood” that the mis-identification is an honest mistake.

  • Oops, I meant “the newer parts west of US31…”, which is NOT Meridian St. south of I-465.

  • I am one of those that says Greenwood for anything south of 465. That is because I used to live in Monrovia and we were very excited when we made that trek to the Greenwood mall. That was the big highlight of the area to us. Then I lived there for a while, in actual Greenwood, so that naming convention really didn’t ever go away for me. Going down 31, it all is a blur to me… it’s all Greenwood haha.

  • Indianapolis is desperately in need of a comprehensive neighborhood map and the agreement of media to abide by it.

    I’ve wanted something that’s an equivalent to this for so long that I’ve almost decided to create one myself. Not only is the media bad about this, real estate agents can be terrible as well. Any area sufficiently trendy will grow dramatically. I’ve see listings where houses well south of Kessler Blvd. are still called “Broad Ripple”, houses well east of Arlington are still “Irvington”, etc.

  • John M: You are dead right on the use of “east side” for anything bad. I am hopefully going to be moving to Irvington in September (as Phaedrus points out real Irvington, not real estate agent defined Irvington). By extension, I have family members and friends who are “worried that i’m living on the east side” with ‘east side’ said in a tone that is better reserved for me just telling them I moved to Compton.iuer

  • If I recall correctly, “real Irvington,” at least as recognized by the Historic Irvington Community Council, does stretch all the way to Pleasant Run Parkway/Kitley. I think that getting the media to shape up might be easier because its failure is based on ignorance. RE agents know exactly what they are doing, although a true neighborhood map would make it tougher for agents to justify puffery such as calling 43rd and Guilford “Broad Ripple,” for example. The Indianapolis Star went the other way: in a profile of Irvington a couple of years ago, the Star defined Irvington only as the historic district, thereby defining out my house (I live north of PRP but south of 10th, so I’m in Irvington but not in the historic district). Grr.

    In my five years in Irvington, I have done plenty of defending of the east side, or at least my corner of it. My modest house is nice enough, but it’s amazing how stunned some long time Indianapolis residents are about the existence of beautiful stretches such as Pleasant Run Parkway, Audubon Road, and the like, right in the middle of what they imagine to be a completely blighted part of town.

  • “Official” map of Irvington:

    It does go way east of Arlington.

    Broad Ripple, is a little more fuzzy. Is its west boundary College, or Central, or Meridian? Is the east boundary Evanston or Keystone? Its south boundary has always been Kessler, and its north boundary the river and the edge of BR Park.

    I certainly agree that “someone” should do this. Possibilities: a virtual working group that co-edits a wiki article; an intern for DMD or Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center; a master’s project at SPEA or BSU; a working group affiliated with the Board of Realtors.

    Shoot, it would be nice if the editorial side of the Star would just use the same map that the classified advertising side uses!

  • I guess it depends on one’s definition of the word “well”. Edmondson is what, a mile from Arlington? When I say “well east” I’m thinking more like Franklin or something. Still, I could have been more clear. 🙂

    BRVA defines Broad Ripple as the White River on the north, Kessler on the south, Meridian on the west and Evanston on the east.

    This does sound like a good SPEA project, maybe if I ever go back to school…

  • I don’t know how all neighborhoods define their borders, but for the historic ones, including Irvington, those are defined by the the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, or the National Register of Historic Places, or both.

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