FLETCHER PLACE HISTORY
Fletcher Place derives its name from Calvin Fletcher, Sr. (1798-1866), whose 269 acre farm originally encompassed most of the land in the area. The early settlement of what was to become Fletcher Place started with the Fletcher farm, known as Woodlawn. Calvin Fletcher lived there from 1839-1855. Gradually, the Fletchers and their associates platted the area into individual lots, beginning in 1857. Fletcher Place was composed of several residents that made many contributions to the early development of architecture, religion, commerce, education and social life in the City of Indianapolis. The structures they built, which remain to this day, are evidence of this contribution.
In the 1850’s, German and Irish immigrants settled in the plats, first in the eastern section of present Fletcher Place. By the 1860’s, large, substantial houses were rising on Fletcher Avenue, and smaller cottages for workers and craftsmen were being built on streets to the north and south. The name Fletcher Place was first used in 1872. With this settlement came the demand for services and, in addition to the churches and a school, other land uses for trade, commerce, and industry. Virginia Avenue became the commercial spine that linked Fletcher Place to the “Mile Square” and the area to the south known as Fountain Square.
The ethnic settlement of Fletcher Place is representative of the Southside as a whole. The early settlers came from both the South and East, while some, such as Calvin Fletcher, came from New England. Very soon came waves of Irish laborers, attracted first by canal and public road building and then by railroad construction. German settlers soon followed and continued to arrive as they fled conscription and revolution in Europe. Towards the end of the century, Italians, Jews, and Central Europeans arrived. The changes in ownership found in title research reveal this pattern. Fletcher Place is significant, therefore, as a record of the Southside’s beginnings and evolution to the present as a stable, working class community made up of a variety of ethnic groups important to the city’s heritage.
Calvin Fletcher, Sr. (1798-1866), was born in Ludlow, Vermont. In 1817 he worked his way westward to Urbana, Ohio, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1820. Fletcher and his first wife, Sarah Hill Fletcher, came to Indianapolis in 1821, shortly after the site had been designed for the new state capitol. Fletcher found himself the first lawyer in Indianapolis. He later set up practice with Ovid Butler, founder of Butler University, and Simon Yandes, member of another early Indianapolis family. In 1826, Fletcher was elected to the state legislature and served in that body until 1833. Shortly thereafter, he helped organize the State Bank of Indiana and acted as a director for 16 years. His interest in education led to his appointment as one of the first members of the Indianapolis Board of School Trustees. An early neighborhood public school bears his name. Later, he was appointed a trustee during the organization of Asbury College, now DePauw University.
A deeply religious man, Fletcher contributed generously to the erection of nearly all the early churches in the city. The Fletcher Place United Methodist Church was built on the on a portion of the farm, after the land had been donated to the church. Fletcher opposed slavery and promoted the organization of the U.S. colored troops in Indiana during the Civil War, allowing them to use his land to train between December 1863 and April 1864.
He died in 1866 and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery. His children, nine sons and two daughters, also held prominent positions in the community and firmly established the Fletcher name in local history. His extensive diaries and letters remain essential sources for study of early Indiana. As a tribute to the significance of Calvin Fletcher, Mayor Bart Peterson declared Feb 4th as Calvin Fletcher / Fletcher Place Neighborhood Day in the City of Indianapolis. The Mayoral Proclamation was made official on the 150th birthday of Calvin Fletcher, at the Fletcher Place Neighborhood History Night in 2003
ABOUT THE HISTORIC DISTRICTS
In 1977 a group of neighborhood residents began renovation efforts and founded the Fletcher Place Historic Preservation Association. They immediately began efforts that resulted in the neighborhood eventually being composed of two historic districts: The Fletcher Place Historic District and the Holy Rosary Danish Church Historic District (a/k/a Fletcher Place II). Virginia Avenue serves as the border between the two nationally registered historic districts.
The Fletcher Place Historic District became listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. That same year, with the support of the neighborhood association, the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission began working on the preparation to make give the district local historic protection. In 1980, this process was completed and the district officially fell under historic preservation. The district is composed of mostly Italianate and Queen Anne style cottages, and it also contains significant historic structures including the Caito bungalow (famous for the murals painted on its inside walls), the William Forsyth home (home of Hoosier Group painter William Forsyth), and a house that is attributed to architect Francis Costigan. Other notable structures include the Union Laundry Lofts, originally known as the Union Co-operative Laundry built 1911, the Calvin Fletcher School built 1857, and the former Fletcher Place United Methodist Church built 1872.