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Ever thought you’d love to live in an historic home, except…it’s old, it’s drafty, it needs a lot of maintenance?

Like the rest of us, existing architecture isn’t getting any younger, but there is something to be said for the sturdy craftsmanship of an historic home. The materials used to construct these homes tend to be higher quality—real wood, painstakingly layered construction, real plaster. But drafty? That can be addressed. Needs maintenance? Not necessarily much worse than a new home and can also be handled.

You won’t find this quality and craftsmanship in a new home on the outskirts of Indy. (Photo: Greg Perez)

If you have already taken the plunge or it’s been under consideration, now is the time to take advantage of available resources that can help you overcome what you may have seen as an obstacle. Join others in one of the greater downtown neighborhoods and help make Indianapolis better. How?

It starts with you, me and us. We are the human capital that can move the city forward.

It’s no big revelation to explain Indy’s evolution from a sociological perspective. The city started almost 200 years ago with a platted square mile, and an overall 4 square miles–way to think ahead. As the number of residents increased and availability of transportation spread, people built increasingly further from the original core of the city. And just as one area was populated and thriving, the next wave of development pushed the boundaries of the city farther afield. One could argue that Indianapolis of today is too spread out for its own good. The continuing proliferation of cheap new development on the city’s outskirts is actually harmful to the city’s redevelopment and future. If urban Indianapolis is to become a desirable destination, we need all hands on deck to return to the heart of the metropolis.

We need people of all ages, creeds, incomes, nationalities, affiliations and interests to take back this city and make it the envy of the rest of the country. We were there before, and we can do it again.

How?

The Cruz Family (photo: Greg Perez)

“Every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” the old saying goes. And that first step for Christin and Keith Cruz was to move to Indiana’s capital city from a small Hoosier hamlet. They knew life in a subdivision wouldn’t cut it for them and so, sought something large and unique that had “an original feel.”  After searching for seven months—no capricious decisions for this pair—the two found the house they never knew they always wanted in the 3000 block of North College. Though the neighborhood “didn’t have much going for it” at the time, the house was filled with potential and they felt they could make a difference.

Since their arrival in 2006, they have witnessed a community garden sprout up and have become frequent visitors to Indy’s world class Children’s Museum—a mere 7 block walk—since all neighboring families receive free annual membership. (Nice perk if you can get it, and you can get it if you buy…in this area).

Original Staircase (photo: Greg Perez)

Their home’s infant years kept warm and safe a family with two children: Martin and Elizabeth McCracken, a grocer’s children who both eventually attended Butler University. The future of the three Cruz children is currently being inspired by the same surroundings that shaped the McCracken family . The Cruz home, built sometime before 1914, atop part of the grounds once home to the Newby Oval, still retains most of its original features. A fun coincidence: the Cruzes are avid bike enthusiasts.

Of course, the family knew a home of this age was going to need some TLC. Ripping out ancient carpets isn’t so bad when it reveals gorgeous hardwoods beneath. Issues like rotted window sills and outdated mechanical or electrical infrastructure are, of course, more involved. The love of details like the original staircase, stained glass windows, pocket doors, other built-ins, and coffered dining room ceiling, all outweighed the repairs and updates they knew would be necessary. Rewiring and updating the invisible functions of the home as a trade off for all the beauty and irreplaceable craftsmanship was a no-brainer. So how would a young family take on such monolithic-seeming tasks?

The Cruz home falls within the boundaries of Mapleton-Fall Creek CDC, an organization working for the last 20 or so years to help revitalize that part of Indianapolis. The CDC has been making great strides in rebuilding a cohesive community and collaborating with organizations like Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP). In the summer of 2011, the Cruz family chanced upon an event with an INHP information table, where the family first heard of INHP’s low-interest loans relating to energy efficiency. Having already ‘weathered’ a few expensive winters, in their ‘drafty’ old house, the family availed themselves of the INHP energy audit, to determine where they were losing heat and efficiency. Within one month they went from first phone call to completed audit and suggested remedies.

Radiators were retained and repaired! (photo: Greg Perez)

INHP’s EcoHouse program provided a list of ways the Cruz home could be more efficient, associated costs, and approximate savings to be seen per item, if implemented. The family opted to insulate the attic, replace a couple of windows and fix the boiler that fuels the steam radiators the family was determined to keep. All of those costs were rolled into the low-interest Ecohouse program loan in a process the family calls ‘easy.’ The Cruz family noticed an immediate difference in the feel of their home and a reduction in energy costs. This made for a cozier and improved home for the Cruz family. And one more historic home has been saved, updated and is lived and loved in, bringing us one step closer to being the best Indianapolis we can be.

Interested to know if the EcoHouse program can help you? Click here.

All photos by Greg Perez

This article and a portion of Historic Indianapolis.com is generously sponsored by INHP

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2 responses to “Friday Favorite: Helping Hands for Historic Homes”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    Need to stay with this type article!

  2. Yohoho says:

    ….also, a park/playground is currently going up on Ruckle between 30th and 31st, a rain garden and landscaping redesign is taking place for the 34th ST Double 8, and the Fall Creek Trail connecting the Monon, Fall Creek Trail, and Meridian will begin construction in Spring 2013. Mapleton-Fall Creek is on the move!

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