Photo by Tony Valainis
On Mother’s Day 2018, we found ourselves gleefully homeless. A friend of a friend texted an offer to buy our (off-market) midcentury-modern home for a “we’ll-get-out-tomorrow-for-this-figure” price. That night, my wife and I sat on the couch with a larger dilemma on our minds:
Where are we going to go?
A second providential text message soon came from a fellow Realtor friend and midcentury enthusiast with the inside scoop on an upcoming property. He asked if we would consider living in Ladywood Estates. I thought, Why on earth would I ever want to live in Ladywood?
Ladywood was the brainchild development of local midcentury architectural legend Avriel Shull. Designed as upscale apartments in the 1960s at the Emerson Way/Millersville Road split, it was carved into the loveliest perch overlooking Fall Creek with breathtaking views and topography. Fast-forward through some economic ups and downs and the struggle of nearby neighborhoods, and Ladywood slipped into default, was acquired by a developer for a song, and converted to condos in the early 2000s. More downturn left initial investors and buyers in the red, and soon units were selling for nothing, if at all. The complex became a laughingstock among Realtors, including yours truly.
However, a growing interest in midcentury-modern design over the last couple of decades led to a serious appreciation for Shull in Indy, and several aficionados moved into Ladywood. We had several friends who lived there. But we have two kids and were used to living in 4,000 square feet.
Then we went and saw it.
A treasure trove of original details awaited inside, starting with a soaring foyer with wrought-iron stair rails. Walls of rich, non-bastardized paneling. Hardwoods, bath tile, and slate floors. A cavernous living space that could swallow up our baby grand piano and still leave ample room to host gatherings and display our art collection. Plus, the condo was a healthy 2,500 square feet. With one of our kids headed off to college and the other wrapping up high school, the idea of downsizing suddenly did not seem that crazy.
What intrigued us most, though, was that we were not the only ones newly enchanted with Ladywood. An influx of Avriel Shull and midcentury-modern enthusiasts had arrived, and soon the complex morphed into a community. We live among an eclectic group of talented creative types breathing new life into these structures that Shull poured herself into. More than 20 units have sold since we moved in in 2018. A once-anemic HOA now has strong leadership and vision. Its drained coffers have been replenished. A massive visual overhaul has been approved by the residents that will include period-appropriate paint schemes, repaving, lighting, and signage. And with great pride, the development has recently been added to the National Historic Registry.
Units that had once sold for $15,000 to $40,000 are now commanding close to $200,000. And with the slate of improvements on the horizon, in conjunction with the kinetic word-of-mouth enthusiasm of its residents, values are projected to climb even higher. I think Avriel Shull would be thrilled.
Perrin Slowey Carmel
“I got very lucky. I’ve always been aware of Avriel Shull’s work, but when my husband and I put in a bid for this house, we didn’t know it was one of hers. The house needed some work, but the gorgeous window architecture and beautiful views of Woodland Lake were worth it. I was committed to preserving the 1960s architecture and design. I even took out a fireplace that was installed in the 1990s.
Joshua Scism Carmel
“I grew up near the ‘Golden Unicorn,’ the first house Avriel Shull ever built. Years later, my hairstylist’s coworker said to him, ‘Tell Josh that cool house he always talks about is up for sale.’ She’d noticed because she lived in the neighborhood. At light speed, my wife, Tami, and I snapped it up. It had been neglected, but the architecture is spectacular. Avriel represented that can-do mentality. She was very brassy and self-determined. If you’re a fiercely independent individual, like me, the house represents that. It’s a real paradise.”
Heather Bolejack Indianapolis
“My husband and I didn’t go hunting for an Avriel Shull house. We were looking for a diverse and centrally located community close to our son’s school, Warren Central. We wanted to rent and then look at options. At Ladywood Estates, we knew after the first few months that we wanted to own—the HOA is engaged and the community is diverse and supportive of each other. We were watching for condos to go up for sale. Our Realtors gave us a tip and stayed on top of the negotiations to get us to closing quickly. We were not going to lose this place.”