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Fountain Square is the closest thing to a preserved microcosm of historic Indianapolis we have–a mix of neighborhood serving commercial, surrounded on all sides by plenty of residential options. Who wouldn’t love having a home (preferably historic, of course) within walking distance of all the amazing offerings of the area? This one isn’t about fancy big mansions or captains of industry. It started as a predominantly German area and then Irish and Italian also–so a strong work ethic and slightly European feel shaped the area.

If I’d had the first clue or known anyone when I arrived from Los Angeles, I think I might have opted for Fountain Square–especially since, back then, Antiques on the Square was still there. (My first favorite shop in Indianapolis, may it rest in peace). I’d be willing to bet most transplants from teeming metropolitan cities would gravitate in a southeasterly direction, for its many offerings. After all, this is the only area of its kind in the city– the only part of the city outside the initial mile square to have continually operated as a recognized commercial area, since the 1870’s.  And since we love giving you those little lost crumbs of history, Shelby Street was originally called Dillon Street.

If the saying was “Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the coolest neighborhood of all?” The mirror would likely show you images of Fountain Square. And here are a few reasons why:

1. A library branch- considering you can pre-order whatever you want online for a pick-up at the branch of your choice, who wouldn’t love to quickly walk or bike over?

2. The restaurants– they seem to be proliferating like some randy bunnies–every time you blink, another one pops up. And not just run of the mill, but some of the best in town: Revolución (shrimp tacos and spice rimmed margaritas–olé); Santorini- one of the best Greek Restaurants in town (at the very least, they have the best Greek potatoes);  Siam Square- are there any other Thai restaurant in town? Red Lion Grog House- best Shepherd’s Pie in town and has Boddingtons on the beer menu–both welcome for a former UK resident (side note: for some reason in the USA, Shepherd’s Pie is often misnamed–if it’s got beef, it should be Cottage Pie, but you know the drill: I digress); Shelbi Street Cafe and Pure Eatery–never had a bad meal at either, but no specific recollection of what I ate there; La Margarita and Mama Irma- I cannot wait to try—and have plans within the next few days. Frankly, there are too many to mention them all..

3. The Night Scene- Between the bars and entertainment, I really wish I could stagger home on foot as opposed to an expensive cab ride. Of course, drinks are available at a number of the aforementioned restaurants, but the bar at The Brass Ring is all kinds of awesome, especially in the summer, when the place is open to fresh air. Same goes for the Tiki Bar in the back part of Revolución. And if I wasn’t allergic to honey, I’d be at New Day Meadery with much more frequency–love the vibe. White Rabbit Cabaret is a hootenanny, and after being ‘exposed’ to a few other burlesque troops recently, I feel comfortable saying that Alabaster Betty (Bettie Page look-alike) is one of the best in town.  The Burlesque Bingo-Bango Show even won over a Victorian-leaning girlfriend to the merits of this form of entertainment. Throw Radio Radio into the mix–from Mandy Marie and the Cool Hand Lukes to Shonen Knife, in a fairly intimate setting–and you start thinking you might return to the early 1900’s way of life, when there were residents who never left Fountain Square at all.

4. Art Galleries and Film HQ- The Murphy Building is always overflowing with a variety of colorful characters on First Fridays–Big Car and IMOCA pack in the crowds (Still faithful to my true blue, the Harrison Center, though), but you’ll marvel at how packed the place is with friendly and fascinating local artists. And to boot, Heartland Film Festival Headquarters are also joining the overall art scene here. One more way Indianapolis shows off its hippest self in Fountain Square.

5. Duckpin Bowling- Hard to fathom that these pins and balls in petite form are the farthest west you’ll find them in the good ol’ US of A. DC and East Coast duckpin bowlers can abandon the congestion of the east coast–because the Fountain Square Theater has your duckpin bowling needs covered in not one, but two alleys! Atomic and Action (1930’s) Duckpin Bowling.

6. Fire station- Should your home be hit by lightning or pyromaniacs, there’s a station right there in the heart of Fountain Square. Seem to be very friendly fellas, too. (Thanks for your service IFD!)

7. Boutique Caffeine- technically, it’s Fletcher Place, but Calvin Fletcher Coffee Company is one of my favorites ma & pa coffee shops in town. If you prefer to patronize the non-chains of the coffee world, this is THE choice if you find yourself on our southeastern diagonal. Who isn’t floored when Doug & Jeff remember your name? I know I’m not alone. Plus they just may be the nicest proprietors of a business you’ll ever meet (are they just high on caffeine fumes, perhaps? Nah, it’s that “nice” Midwestern thing we’re often touted for) and they donate all tips to a different charity every month. Plus they have awesome cookies, Circle City Sweets treats and free wi-fi.

8. Vintage and Antiques- Though my beloved Antiques on the Square is long gone (sniff, sniff)–Indianapolis Downtown Antique Mall is still there, and is always fun to browse. And as for my beloved obsession with vintage fashion, you’ve gotta love Harloh’s. IndySwank is another option, though it offers a variety of new, local artisans– not 100% vintage, as is Harloh’s

9.  The surprises of a diagonal street-Virginia Ave, you’re just a cool address. Keep your eyes peeled for new history maker, The Hinge, shaping up to be a groovy new addition to a non-traditional-shaped piece of property. Pop-up shops seem to be cropping up like wild mushrooms in this area of late—and even I will be participating in the Durwyn Smedley 20th Century Pop-Up Shop, organized by friend and former proprietress of the Mass Ave shop of the same name, some years ago. All kinds of mid-century goodies, vintage clothes and accessories and all kinds of unexpected goodies—just two days, though. Come check it out: Friday, December 2 from 5-10pm and Saturday, December 3, from 10am-5pm almost across from Harloh’s at 647 Virginia Avenue.

10. The Cultural Trail connects us from downtown–via bike or kicks. Mark my words, Indianapolis is going to be well-known nationally for this visionary amenity.

You want to start looking for new digs in the area, right away, right? Before your expedition to check out the local living options, or for any general newcomers, first-time home buyers or others exploring their options—stop into City Gallery before you go. Not only are they familiar with Fountain Square housing options, but others as well—especially for those looking to find a community with connections to the arts. Like getting a tour guide who will personalize an agenda for you, Fountain Square is one of the areas CG knows best. Please tell them H.I. sent you!

26 responses to “10 Reasons Fountain Square Would Be My Next Indianapolis Neighborhood…”

  1. Sandra Jarvis says:

    Great story and excellent photography. AND FS does still have the best Value World in the city, LOL

  2. Jessica says:

    Enjoyed your comments about Fountain Square, I’ve lived here a long time and am so excited about the Cultural Trail!

  3. Jason Burk says:

    And a home brewing supply shop, Tuxedo Park Brewers Supply!

    I’ve been around the area for the last ten years and it’s been an amazing transformation in the past three especially. And also as an architect in the area I would personally be willing and qualified to help any interested in purchasing and renovating houses in the area…did two myself recently. Fell free to hit me up!

  4. Suzanne says:

    Love your article! We love living and having our businesses in Fountain Square. As an addition, Indiana’s premier raw pet food company,is also located in FS. We’re in the process of moving from by the railroad tracks (Spann Ave.) to our new location at 1402 S. Shelby. St. Thanks!

  5. P.J. says:

    Great articles, Tiffany! I enjoy learning more about Indianapolis’s history. Kudos to marketing your website & Facebook page, too!

  6. Erik Barnett says:

    I moved to Fountain Square in 2004 and instantly fell in love with the neighborhood, for many of the reasons listed here. I recently joined the Fountain Square Arts Council to help promote even more arts and cultural events in Fountain Square. Come check us out in the Wheeler Building.

  7. Lori Werner says:

    Don’t forget the Peppy Grill. LOVE the Peppy Grill!

  8. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for the love!!! This is by far the best neighborhood to live in Indy. We love it here!! Thanks for the article 🙂

  9. Adam Howell says:

    I am with Heartland Film Festival and being in Fountain Square has made me fall in love with this area! The options are endless…seriously endless. SEND and Craig with the Murphy are doing a killer job making this a unique area that is attracting a lot of attention!

  10. Theresa Goodwin says:

    Fountain Square has come a LONG way over the past 10 years since I’ve been living in Indianapolis. It’s definitely a place that I would look to buy a home. Lots of great shops, restaurants and entertainment in the area. Great article!

  11. Jules Bush says:

    Excellent article – fabulous photos – and great insights! I’ve been a resident of Garfield Park for 11 years and always knew the value of being a hop, skip and a jump from Fountain Square. With the new addition of the Cultural Trail – I now have wonderful walking and biking accessibility in addition to the already quick automotive option in the colder months. I’ve waited a long time for this progress, and seen a lot of great businesses and entrepreneurs come and go – but, now that the city has put some funding behind FS and hopefully further south to its surrounding neighborhoods – it truly is a fabulous option to being downtown without the high downtown real estate price. But, don’t wait too long before developers take advantage of the extremely affordable housing or it will become Mass Ave real estate priced. Would love to see an article in the future about historic Garfield Park – the north and south sides. Wonderful neighborhood, beautiful park, and so close to downtown, FS, the airport, and more!

  12. Karen Masbaum says:

    My husband and I just moved to FS two months ago today, having also lived in Fall Creek Place, and Herron Morton downtown neighborhoods. May I just say, we are THRILLED to be here! Not only for all the reasons you mentioned, but because each time I step outdoors I am greeted by someone with a “hello”. Real estate is cheaper here too, but I’m guessing not for long. I feel so fortunate to have gotten here at this time. A previous comment stated FS was ghetto, and full of white trash. I don’t know if that used to be true, but it isn’t any more!

  13. Catherine Esselman says:

    Lovely article! I moved to Fountain Square 3 years ago and am thrilled with the progress we are making! There are great things in the works and it’s fantastic that the rest of the community to coming down to support all of the businesses that are the driving force of it all!

  14. Linda Hupp says:

    As for the “white trash” comment, my feelings are these: . Many areas, including my beloved, beloved, BELOVED Irvington sort of run with two entirely different entities going at the same time. There are those that love, support and believe in these areas. They enjoy the convenience to downtown, yummy restaurants, relatively reasonable home prices, and the fun of seeing what new is going to pop up and the sheer joy of watching an historic area come back to life. There are also the seedier types who are either left-overs from a sadder time, or holdovers from the olden days who have fallen on hard times. In this life nothing is guaranteed. You can keep moving further and further from the city center to give yourself a false sense of “safety” but there is domestic violence, robberies, drug and alcohol abuse and the like in every area of every town in the U.S. (except possibly Jasper, IN). Any sense of security, is to some degree a false sense of security. Lets face it, no one gets to leave their door unlocked anymore, besides as Garth Brooks so aptly put it “Life is not tried, it is merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire”.

    One thing you didn’t mention on your list is Garfield Park – beautiful, cultural and has a great new remodeled pool.

  15. Mikki Barnes says:

    I moved to Fountain Square from “the burbs” a little over 3 months ago and not for a single second have I ever regretted the decision. Everyone I’ve met, from the hipsters, to the dozens of musicians, to our fairly large contingent of seniors, has been small-town friendly and neighborly. I can walk into an eating or drinking establishment by myself and within no time, I’m making new friends. Nearly every time I go out into the neighborhood, I’m greeted by someone who says “Hi, I’ve seen you around. Don’t you live down at (my address)?”. This lets me know that people pay attention and look out for each other around here and that’s important to me.

    The historic buildings, quirky shops, fabulous eateries and delightful nightlife, all within walking distance of my home are simply the whole package for me. If there are still a few small problems here and there, I find them easy to overlook. All I can see on the horizon are good things for this area and the surrounding neighborhoods, especially to the south, around Garfield Park, another of Indy’s gems.

    Like Lisa H., I am a HUGE fan of Irvington, especially in the fall. In fact, I had a deposit down on a property there when my opportunity to come to Fountain Square came up. Some days, I feel a little wistful about my decision but then I meet yet another awesome neighbor or just spend an afternoon walking to do all my favorite things and I know I made the right choice.

  16. ken williams says:

    I enjoy your website very much. I own a home in Fountian Square built in 1866. This home faces North and you can see much of the South downtown sky line from the second and third floors.In 1866 the name of the street this home is on was named Coburn and it ran from East st to Short st. Later Coburn ran from Madison Av to Short St. Around 1878 or so the name was changed for both Coburn and Short st. I t would be intersting to see if you or your readers could tell the name of the street this home in on. A little history of the fountain area,it was known as the Foot of Virginia Av. The reson being that at the fountain Virginia Av turned left and ran as far as Shelby Av, this being the case untill they renamed part of it Prospect after 1870. This can be seen ot the 1870 maps. You folks might try this, I have researched who live in 14 homes on my block near my home in 1870 to see who they were and what they did for a living, many owned shops on Virgina Av. I have love letters to the dauthers of the 1874 owner of my old home. I have have made contact with some some of that owners off spring and helped make thier family tree. Sorry for the poor spelling.

  17. Mikki Barnes says:

    Ken,

    I believe your house is located on Prospect, just west of Patrick? Patrick used to be Hunter, also known as Short Street. I live on Morris at the edge of what was once McKernan.

    Property records show that my house was built in 1914 but it is shown on the Sanborn maps from 1898. The same is the case with a couple of the homes behind me on Prospect. Would you happen to know why this is?

    A good source for city maps, directories and digital images is the collection @ IUPUI which can be located here: http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu I can spend hours just browsing there.

  18. Joan Hostetler says:

    Mikki, Beware of the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps dated 1898 on the IUPUI web page. Although the maps say 1898 in the title, the metadata (cataloging) at the bottom shows “Date Update: 1902-1913.” I believe that all of the maps date to 1913 or 1914. These maps were originally created in 1898, but updated by a series of images pasted over the base map. I research house and business histories and give workshops on the topic and this is a source of confusion to researchers who are convinced that their houses are older than they really are because of this. I called IUPUI years ago to try to get them to change it, or at least give a word of warning on their Sanborn maps collection page, but so far that has not happened. To my knowledge, the other maps are correctly dated.

  19. Mikki Barnes says:

    Thanks for the tip. I thought something seemed off about the maps and I didn’t think it was possible for my house to be that much older.

  20. ken williams says:

    Not sure why that is. Propect street is correct. I have the original abstract for my oldest home it was made by the L M Brown abstract co. The Spielhoff family moved into the home in 1874 they were the third owners after the home was built, one of the dauthers of Henry Spielhoff {Rose} married one of the Brown boys (Hirman) Hirman was also the attorney for The Spielhoff family as well as taking over the abstract co. after his fathers death. The builder of my home also lived on Coburn st in the 1860s. He lived at 42 coburn st and built this house in 1866 with the help of his one son who was also a brickmason. There last name was Gravis.I have kind of adopted the Spielhoff family and now have pictures to hang in Henrys parlor, one dauther ,one great great grand dauther, one of Henry and two of his sons and others. Here is an oddity, one little house on Prospect st I bought from the serial killer Hebert Baumester.

  21. ken williams says:

    An 1880s home on our block of Prospect needs a new owner. I see SEND has listed the home at 538 Prospect as one to be sold and restored.I believe they have several housing programs.This home was restored in the 1980s with the help of The Old Coburn Block Inc (our block club back then) and Fountain Square Fletcher Place Investment Corp.(now SEND)Historic Landmarks placed covenets on this home before it was sold., It was a beautiful home in the 80s. The alley way next to it was vacated so as to make a place for parking. A great view of down town from the back yard. The past owner realy let it go.We need more people that love old homes and love great history. Send number is 6345079

  22. Shari Moon says:

    I don’t know how I missed this article…..it’s fantastic! I love living in Fountain Square!

  23. Sherry Gormley says:

    Also would love to read information on Garfield Park and the surrounding homes circa 1880s – 1940s. Several family members lived in the area and loved it of course. Thank you for your incredibly fascinating work and photos!

  24. James Evans says:

    I have lived in Fountain Square for 64 years and I can’t imagine any place else that I would want to live, They can have Suburban Communities, They do not hold a light to Fountain Square

  25. Judy says:

    Fountain Square in the 1940’s and 1950’s. My grandmother owned a house at 829 Prospect St. Lots of shops – wades drugstore, weidamans meat market, Natalie’s vegetable market. Thomas’s shoe store.

  26. Anonymous says:

    3.5

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