Welcome to Highland Park in the Holy Cross neighborhood
Indianapolis’s second highest elevation is found in a park in the Holy Cross Neighborhood, near 1100 East New York Street. The park’s unimaginative name? Highland Park. But what this green space lacks in clever naming, it makes up for in beauty, history, and community involvement.
The 4.09 acre neighborhood park is one of Indianapolis’s oldest and is set in one of its most venerable communities. The area we now know as Marion County was originally inhabited by the Delaware tribe of the Miami Nation. The United States government entered into a land treaty with the Miami Nation in 1819. Three years later, a tract of land spanning from today’s New York Street at Oriental to Highland Street was deeded to Casey Ann Pogue. Casey, a relative of George Pogue, who is regarded as one of Indiana’s earliest white settlers, and the man for whom Pogue’s Run is named, sold the land to the state’s fifth governor, Noah Noble, in 1832.
Governor Noble built a large mansion called Liberty Hall near the intersection of E. Market and N. Pine Streets. He lived there with his wife and children until his death in 1844. Governor Noble left 80 acres of land to his eldest daughter Catherine. Catherine’s daughter, also named Catherine, and her husband George F. Miller built their residence, Highland Home, on the land. The Governor’s widow lived with her daughter’s family until her death in 1874. Daughter Catherine sold Highland Home to the city of Indianapolis in 1898 on two conditions: the house must be demolished, and the land where it stood would become a park.
Coincidentally, the Millers are also the ones who gave their long-time slave and servant Louisa Magruder her home on Highland Avenue.
The bricks from Highland Home were repurposed to build attractions in Garfield, Brookside, and Riverside Parks. A forty-nine foot fountain was erected where Highland Home was located. One of the park’s stately oak trees is said to have been planted by the Governor’s wife in his memory. Today, its trunk is nearly thirty six inches in diameter.
In 1955 the city made plans to sell Highland Park. Noah Noble’s great granddaughter, Valette Miller White, launched a campaign to save the park. She wrote a newspaper article , decrying the loss of “a piece of dedicated land, nearly as old as the city itself.” Thanks to the efforts of White and the residents of the Holy Cross Neighborhood, the city voted to retain Highland Park.
Though the Highland Park fountain no longer stands, visitors can enjoy other amenities, such as a playground, paved walking trails, and a picnic shelter. But the park’s most spectacular feature is the view of downtown it provides. There is scarcely a better place to take in the Indy skyline or holiday fireworks.
The quaint Holy Cross Neighborhood is experiencing a rebirth, as a group of developers seek to build sustainable housing around the park. As this community’s next chapter begins, its rich history is maintained in Highland Park.
Hi. Nice article. However, I feel I need to mention that Highland Park is not the second highest point in Indianapolis. I wrote a blog post on this subject last year.
Thanks for the article. Would love to see more historic (vs. current) photos, including Highland Hall and the fountain that was subsequently built onsite.
I have lived in the area for 63 years now. I remember the old shelter house up on the hill, it was there for many, many years before they tore it down. Not sure why they did that, only to replace it with what is there now. My neighborhood friends and I would play football almost every night within the park grounds. About the mid seventies there was a basketball court built in about the same area we once played football. My friends and I took to the court playing games of twenty one, horse and etc. A whole lot of fun. The basketball court would later be torn down. Now there is nothing in that location, but grass. The park has a lot of history behind it. The park used to have picnic tables in several locations throughout the park. The playground used to have two sand boxes. The shelter house up on the hill was a place to hang out with friends. The park used to be for neighborhood family and friends to enjoy; but now it seems to be a place for passerby’s to sit in the grass. I bet they don’t know the history of Highland Park as most who have lived around it for years do. I would like to see pictures of how I remember Highland Park to be, and not the way it is today.