I have lived on the south side of Indianapolis my entire life, so I am not very well-acquainted with other parts of the city. Recently, I had an appointment on the north side and was driving through an area just off North Meridian Street. I noticed that a number of the homes had signs in their front yards that said, “SAVE WARFLEIGH.” Who or what is Warfleigh? ~ Beverly W., Greenwood
Warfleigh is the legal description of the lots in a popular neighborhood in the center of Washington Township. The area has a long and interesting history, going back to the founding of Marion County. The tract of land that became Warfleigh more than a century ago had previously been owned by generations of the Huffman family. In the late 1800s, Huffman’s Grove was a desirable destination for picknickers and campers. It was also the site of a bathing beach until the 1930s. As Indianapolis continued to expand further north, it was inevitable that this peaceful rural setting — well outside the city in the county’s early days — would eventually become more urban.
Warfleigh was platted in 1911 by developer Charles Sumner Lewis (1854-1931). Lewis was also the developer of Brendonwood, a historic neighborhood established in 1917 on the northeast side. The Warfleigh addition extends from Kessler Boulevard and Laverock Road on the south to Riverview Drive on the north, and from Riverview Drive on the west to College Avenue on the east. Riverview Drive was the name that Lewis chose for the continuation of North Illinois Street, after it crosses Kessler Boulevard West Drive. Since Riverview Drive follows the curve in the banks of the White River, Riverview forms the west boundary of the Warfleigh neighborhood and the north boundary of it, as well.
Warfleigh was annexed to the City of Indianapolis in September of 1917, despite the protests of about 100 of its residents. Apparently their remonstrance failed.
In the early decades of Warfleigh’s existence, there was still a bathing beach on the south side of White River, just west of College Avenue.
Libby Maurer, the little girl dubbed, “The Belle of Warfleigh Beach” in a 1932 newspaper clipping, grew up to be a professional singer.
If Libby Maurer Fleisher’s maiden name seems familiar, it’s because Libby’s brother was the late Sidney Maurer, beloved owner of Atlas Supermarket at 54th and College Avenue, and Libby’s nephews are Morris “Morrie” Maurer, President and CEO of the National Bank of Indianapolis, and Michael “Mickey” Maurer, Chairman of the Board of both the Indianapolis Business Journal and the National Bank of Indianapolis.
During World War II, the Warfleigh Civic League organized a Victory Garden. It was a very popular project, and many families farmed their own 50′ x 100′ garden plots.
Two of Warfleigh’s greatest assets are the Indiana Central Canal and the White River. Residents and visitors alike have been drawn to the area because of these bodies of water. However, these same amenities have also caused great burdens to property owners. The housing addition was plagued with flooding problems from the start. Serious flooding has occurred in Warfleigh in nearly every decade of its existence. Although both a levee and a storm sewer were promised after annexation, the former wasn’t built until 1934, and the latter wasn’t completed until 1960. Unfortunately, these improvements did not completely solve the flooding problems.
An interesting fact about Warfleigh is that the layout of the neighborhood today is not exactly as it was originally platted. Thousands of vehicles travel up and down North Meridian Street every day, crossing the bridge over White River at approximately 6300 North. However, not many of those motorists know that a bridge did not exist in that location when Warfleigh was built. Originally, Meridian Street continued straight north from Kessler Boulevard and dead-ended at Riverview Drive. In other words, Meridian Street was on the west side of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, rather than on the east side of it, as it is today.
The Warfleigh bridge that was built in 1909 at the large intersection of East 64th Street, Riverview Drive, and Washington Boulevard was replaced by a new bridge, a short distance west of it. The location of the new bridge necessitated a curve in Meridian Street in order to line up with the bridge and the continuation of Meridian Street. The neighborhood street that had been called Pennsylvania in Charles Lewis’ original Warfleigh plan was then vacated. Homes that had originally had Pennsylvania Street addresses were changed to Meridian Street addresses. The street that had initially been North Meridian Street in Lewis’ Warfleigh plan was then renamed “North Meridian Street West Drive,” which is the sometimes confusing name by which it is known today.
The 1909 bridge that took travelers across White River between Warfleigh and Arden was closed to vehicle traffic in about 1940. Although signs prohibited crossing the river on the abandoned bridge, many people continued to use it as a foot bridge until it was finally demolished in 1954.
In 1958, contracts were awarded for a storm sewer system to be installed in the Warfleigh area. The work was not completed until a couple of years later.
In the 1990s, a new plan was created to remove Warfleigh and surrounding areas from the flood plain. Unfortunately, the Indianapolis North Flood Damage Reduction Project has encountered many delays in the two decades since its inception. Although the section of the wall alongside Warfleigh was completed several years ago, the entire length of the floodwall must be finished in order to provide protection. It remains at a standstill southwest of the Riviera Club.
Homes in Warfleigh are an eclectic mix of old and new, large and small. Materials run the gamut from brick to stone to frame to stucco to siding to concrete block. There are also at least a half-dozen post-World War II, all-metal, prefabricated Lustron homes nestled into Warfleigh lots. Architectural styles include Bungalow, Colonial, Cottage, Tudor, Mid-Century Modern, and Moderne. More than a century separates the oldest house (built in 1911) and the newest house (built in 2014). Random photos of a small sampling of Warfleigh residences appear below.
The Warfleigh Neighborhood Association (WNA) was organized several years ago, so that neighbors could work together on common interests and issues. The group extended its boundaries beyond the lots that officially have the name “Warfleigh” in their legal descriptions, so as to include adjacent properties that share the same goals. The legal description of those nearby homes is Meridian-Kessler Terrace. Due to its similar-sounding name, this relatively small housing addition is sometimes mistaken as being part of the Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood Association, when it is not. Meridian-Kessler Terrace is immediately south of Warfleigh and immediately north of the canal, and the homes in Meridian-Kessler Terrace are on both the east and the west sides of Meridian street. Everyone residing in Warfleigh or Meridian-Kessler Terrace is encouraged to join the association.
The SAVE WARFLEIGH project was created by residents in favor of completing the flood wall as soon as possible. Doing so would bring relief to a great many of the affected property owners, but proceeding would also mean leaving some areas out of of the plan that need flood protection, as well. The yard signs were created by supporters of the project. You can read more about the SAVE WARFLEIGH efforts by clicking here.
If you have a question about Indianapolis history, please send it to historicindianapolis(at)yahoo(dot)com, with “HI Mailbag” in the subject line. We will do our best to answer it. Sponsors and Subscribers are given preference for extensive research on specific properties or specific families featured in HI Mailbag articles. ~ Sharon
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