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Just two weeks before my first day of work at Indianapolis Monthly, my husband and I were crisscrossing the city at breakneck speed. We needed a place to live, and quickly. Renting was a necessity (at least until our house in Atlanta sold), and after living in gridlock for almost a decade, a short commute to IM’s Monument Circle office was a must.
Indy natives gave us the lowdown on in-town neighborhoods. And as we drove back and forth, touring condos and scouring Craigslist, I noticed something: Beautiful historic homes abound here. Statuesque Queen Annes on the Old Northside. Classic bricks in Butler-Tarkington. But another motif struck me, too. No matter what side of town we visited, dotted among those swaths of finely renovated homes stood their boarded-up brethren, houses dealt a losing hand by time.
It turns out that the city had noticed all the derelict edifices, too. One year ago, Mayor Ballard’s office began an initiative to knock down 2,000 dilapidated buildings. When I found out, the news made me wistful. Maybe not all of the structures are worth saving. But architecturally notable dwellings like the ones chronicled by Alicia Garceau (“Condemned”) could be great again with a little care.
My husband and I ended up finding our own historic dream spot via a decidedly modern venue: Twitter. Justin wrote about our search on the social-media site that weekend, and soon an Indy resident replied that he had a friend who might have a place for us to rent. When I saw the photos, my jaw dropped.
It was a Victorian in Arsenal Heights, a long-established neighborhood centered on Arsenal Avenue, just a mile east of downtown. Built in 1900, the two-story’s interior stunned—gorgeous woodwork throughout, an intricately carved staircase, elaborate stained-glass windows. Our soon-to-be landlords not only lived in this old house, they loved it, restoring original details and adding updates like double-paned windows to conserve energy, preparing it for generations to come.
Right behind our abode is a rickety version of our own, slated for demolition. I wonder what might have been, had someone possessed the desire or means to cherish it. It’s a stark reminder of how important that kind of commitment is to a home—and to our city’s character.
Amanda Heckert is the editor of Indianapolis Monthly. See her bio here.
This column originally appeared in the August 2012 issue.
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