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Reader’s Question: 

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  

HI’s Answer:

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.

(1889 map of Marion County courtesy of the Indiana State Library)

1889 map of Marion County shows James Huffman as the owner of the acreage north of the canal and south of the river   (map courtesy of the Indiana State Library)               CLICK TO ENLARGE  

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.

The red line defines the lots that hav a Warfleigh legal description (map courtesy of bing)

2016 bing street map with a red outline indicating the area in which the lots have the legal description of  Warfleigh            CLICK TO ENLARGE        (map courtesy of bing)

(1911 Indianapolis News article courtesy of newspapers.com)

1911 Indianapolis News promotional piece listed the many desirable amenities of the new Warfleigh Addition           (courtesy of newspapers.com)     CLICK TO ENLARGE  

The Indiana Central Canal looks much the same today as it did in 1911

The Indiana Central Canal, which is along Warfleigh’s southern border, appeared much the same in 1911 as it appears today      (photo credit:  “Warfleigh – In the Ribbon to the Pole Star” by Charles Sumner Lewis, 1911)

Portions of the Warfleigh neighborhood were still very wooded at the time that it became a housing addition in 1911

Portions of the Warfleigh neighborhood were still very wooded at the time that it became a new housing addition in 1911  (photo credit:  “Warfleigh – In the Ribbon to the Pole Star” by Charles Sumner Lewis, 1911)

The first home was built in Warfleigh in 1911

The first home in Warfleigh was built on the northeast corner of 66th and Broadway Streets in 1911 and still stands today   (photo credit:  “Warfleigh – In the Ribbon to the Pole Star” by Charles Sumner Lewis, 1911)

Before there was a bridge over White River on N. Meridian Street, the bridge was located at the large intersection of 64th, Riverview Drive, and Washington Boulevard

Warfleigh’s original bridge over White River was at the intersection of 64th St., Riverview Dr., and Washington Blvd.      (photo credit:  “Warfleigh – In the Ribbon to the Pole Star” by Charles Sumner Lewis, 1911)

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.

(1917 Indianapolis News article courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1917 Indianapolis News article courtesy of newspapers.com)

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.

June 25, 1925 Indianapolis Star news clipping

June 25, 1925 Indianapolis Star newspaper clipping

Libby Maurer, the little girl dubbed, “The Belle of Warfleigh Beach” in a 1932 newspaper clipping, grew up to be a professional singer.

(1932 Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1932 Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)

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.

Libby Maurer, ten years later (1946 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

The Belle of Warfleigh Beach, fourteen years later     (1946 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

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.

(1943 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1943 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1942 Indianapolis Star courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1942 Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)                  CLICK TO ENLARGE 

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.

(1927 Indianapolis Star headline courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1927 Indianapolis Star headline courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1933 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1933 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1930 Indianapolis Star headline courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1930 Indianapolis Star headline courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1943 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1943 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

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.

1931 Wagner map shows Meridian Street contuing straight north into the Warfleigh neighborhood at Kessler Boulevard (map courtesy of the Indiana State Library) CLICK TO ENLARGE

Red line on 1931 Wagner map shows that Meridian St continued straight north from Kessler Blvd and ended at Riverview Dr    (map courtesy of the Indiana State Library)                       CLICK TO ENLARGE

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.

1954.03.21.IndyStar_bridge.2.

(1950 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1954 Indianapolis Star clipping courtesy of newspapers.com)

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.

(1958 Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)

(1958 Indianapolis Star article courtesy of newspapers.com)

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.

2003 Indianapolis Star article on the latest floodwall project (courtesy of newspapers.com)

2003 Indianapolis Star article on the latest flood wall project (courtesy of newspapers.com)

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.

Warfleigh residence (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

The oldest residence in Warfleigh was built in 1911                       (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence                         (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Bungalow on three lots has attractive river rock wall (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence                             (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

(2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence                      (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

 

Warfleigh residence (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence                         (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

(2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence                      (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence                            (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

(2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence                       (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

(2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence                            (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

(2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence                            (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

(2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence                           (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Warfleigh residence                                 (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

(2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

The newest residence in Warfleigh was built in 2014                        (2016 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

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.

14 responses to “HI Mailbag: Warfleigh”

  1. Bob Palma says:

    What an incredibly interesting article, Sharon; thanks so much. Wonderful research, and so thorough. Much appreciated.
    .
    We have friends in church who recently moved into what must be a Warfleigh residence, in that their home is immediately NW of N. Meridian Street and Kessler Blvd.
    .
    Bob Palma

  2. Steve Jones says:

    Wow! What a great article. Great pictures. I always like driving around this area because of all the different styles of homes.

  3. Bob Palma says:

    Sharon: Do you have any idea where the name Warfleigh came from?
    .
    A friend of mine, a retired Indianapolis City Fireman, is an Indianapolis history buff who spent most of his career assigned to the small firehouse at 56th and Illinois. Warfleigh was in the district they served and he well-knows every street in that subdivision, but had never heard of the name Warfleigh until reading your blog entry.
    .
    We are both intrigued as to where the name Warfleigh originated. Any ideas?
    .
    Thank you. Bob Palma

  4. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Thanks, Evan. I have scans of those pages from the Warfleigh book, but I didn’t think it appropriate to put all of them in the Mailbag article. ~ Sharon

  5. MaryAnn WIskerchen says:

    Great article. A bit more – Earlier map of Indy showed Robert Earl owned the land even before Huffman.

  6. Linda Jenkins says:

    I remember that very modern white home with black awning when I was a kid growing up in the 50’d and 60’s. My gosh, it still looks as modern now as it did then!

  7. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Bob,
    .
    Good question. I have searched and searched for the origin of the name “Warfleigh,” to no avail. There does not appear to be any other place on earth with that name. I’m thinking it may have been contrived by the developer, Charles Sumner Lewis. The first syllable sounds like the word “wharf,” which comes from the Old English word hwearf and means an embankment. The second syllable sounds like the word “lea,” which comes from the Old English word leah and means a meadow. Although they were not as obvious after the homes and levees were built in the addition, Warfleigh had both embankments and meadows at the time it was founded.
    .
    Sharon

  8. Shellie Conway says:

    Sharon – great article! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I always called the “Florida House” the Showboat House.

  9. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Thanks, Shellie,
    .
    You probably already know this, but just in case you don’t, the former residence in which our real estate firm at 6338 College Avenue was once located is part of the Warfleigh Addition. It’s Warfleigh Lot Number 122. However, I have recently discovered that the home was moved to Warfleigh! The home that became our office formerly stood at 6325 Guilford Avenue, where the Kassebaum Building is now. It was moved to College Avenue in 1926 or 1927.
    .
    Sharon

  10. James Evans says:

    For one summer I had the honor and privilege of working with my nephew, Delbert Pierce, at Broad Ripple Heating and Cooling, which took me inside many of these homes and back into their history.

  11. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Bob,
    .
    If your friends’ residence is within the area that includes the north side of Kessler Boulevard, the east side of Riverview Drive, the south side of 61st Street and the Indiana Central Canal, then their property has a legal description of Meridian-Kessler Terrace. M-KT includes Garver Road and Gladden Drive, two short streets that were named for the maiden names of the mother and grandmother of Meridian-Kessler Terrace’s woman developer, Artie Wheeler.
    .
    If your friends’ residence is on the west side of Riverview Drive and/or anywhere north of the north side of 61st Street, then it’s in Warfleigh.
    .
    Sharon

  12. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Mary Ann,
    .
    You are absolutely correct. Robert Earl appeared on the 1855 Condit, Wright & Hayden map of Marion County, Indiana, as the owner of the same land that was subsequently owned by James Huffman. Huffman died in 1905, and his widow, Caroline, sold the land that became Warfleigh to Charles Sumner Lewis in 1909.
    .
    Going back even earlier, the original land patents for the area that is now Warfleigh were purchased from the U.S. government in 1823. Because these tracts of land were rectangular in shape, whereas the Warfleigh Addition follows the lines of the curving White River and the angled Central Canal, there were actually four different owners of the portions of land that now make up Warfleigh. The original landowners were Joseph Gladden, Jeremiah Johnson, Jacob Whitinger, and John Young.
    .
    Sharon

  13. Jan Kenton Gardner says:

    I lived in three separate dwellings in Warf leigh between 1943 and 1978. The first one was a cape code owned by my grandparents at 66th and Riverview Drive during WWII> subsequently moved to a brick ranch double in 1945 at 6307 Washington Blvd My grandmother remained their until about 1972 when at eighty eight years of age, grandmother had a fall and broke her hip. My grandfather had died earlier in 1959. Grandmother then moved into my parents house at 511 E. 62nd Place along the north bank of the canal. They resided at that location until 1978 when they initiated a move to central Florida. I lived in all three of these house at one time or another. My young chums and I had many an adventure along the White River and across to Holiday Park using the old 64th street wooden floored bridge I have very fond memories of my many years in Warfleigh. It was a great place to be a child during the late forties and fifties There were still numerous vacant lots after WWII where we delighted in building forts, foxholes, treehouses, and a softball field. We would camp out in a home made tent in one of the lots. Time had no meaning: we were going to live forever.

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