Our Most Livable Small Towns: Plainfield
This article is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s July 2016 Small Towns package. For more on these cozy small towns, click here.
First rule in Plainfield: Don’t bother Meryl Streep. The actress is known to pop into town while visiting in-laws who live in the area (most recent sighting: Stone Creek Dining Company). Some locals sneak a photo, but no one disturbs her. Stone Creek didn’t even mention her visit on social media for free publicity.
On celebrity treatment alone, Plainfield earns its small-town bona fides. But the Hendricks County community has a pretty airtight case anyway in its genuine downtown. Wait, you didn’t know Plainfield has a downtown? Oh, yeah. The west end of strip-mall-heavy U.S. 40 gives way to a sweet strip of old-fashioned street lamps and businesses in 100-year-old buildings. Gear Up Cyclery occupies one corner, and Nomad Yarns brings a bit of hipsterdom. Locals clean out Al’s Donuts nearly every morning, and watch the door to see who’s coming and going at Oasis Diner, a restored, chrome-fronted 1950s greasy spoon with housemade pies on the counter. Festivals take place on the grand lawn at Plainfield Friends Meeting, an active Quaker church that represents the town’s roots. The commercial area abuts square block after square block of tidy older homes of all sizes, interwoven with outstanding parks and trails. It’s a place where kids still walk to school and bike to Splash Island waterpark on their own.
This quaint side of Plainfield appears immune to the rest of the town’s growth and expansion (next up: an Embassy Suites with convention space) and contributes to its argument for offering the best quality of life in populous Hendricks County. Plainfield is neither rural nor overtly suburban, the school system neither massive nor tiny. Best of all, large distribution and transportation companies along I-70, near the airport, fill the municipal coffers, helping to pay for amenities neighboring communities don’t have. The Recreation & Aquatic Center offers more than 80 fitness classes each week, plus free supervised child care for 90 minutes. The parks system rivals any in the region, blanketing the town with green spaces, a skateboarding facility, a bark park, and more than 20 miles of paved trails, which reach all the way to the Shops at Perry Crossing outdoor mall. “You can walk from one community to the next without ever going on a road. That’s huge,” says chamber of commerce executive director Brad DuBois. The public library ranks as another hit. Patrons stream movies and download e-books from its website. Its big calendar of events even includes a beer tasting every October. Someone should invite Meryl Streep.
Faryal Khatri is the communications director for the Plainfield-based Islamic Society of North America.
Are you from Plainfield?
No, Pike Township. But I’ve always been a small-town person. I really grew up at the ISNA headquarters. At the time, it was the only mosque in the city.
Diversity and small towns don’t always go hand in hand.
Wearing the head cover in Indianapolis, sometimes I don’t feel that safe. Here, people are always helpful. There’s a lot of religious tolerance. The pluralistic values of the Quaker faith really reflect the culture of Plainfield.
Yet the ISNA was vandalized last year.
The outpouring from the community was so immediate, we didn’t have an opportunity to feel sad. People and student groups offered to wash the walls. It brought out so much good.
What’s your favorite thing to do in town?
It’s therapeutic to take long walks, and everyone uses the trails. I typically start in Hummel Park. I meet people at the mosque who say, “Oh, I remember you from the trail.” You start seeing familiar faces.
While Plainfield has a classic section of older homes within blocks of Main Street (and not a lot of competition for them), subdivisions are just as walkable because almost every development connects to the town’s extensive trail system. Ridgeline Estates, Willow Ridge, and Willow Pointe put you closest to Main Street. Residents are excited about brand-new Vandalia, only the second Indiana development by Del Webb, a pioneer in 55-and-over “active adult” communities; new homes there start at $142,000.
Check It Out
Hummel Park attracts 10,000 people for the annual Fourth of July festival, featuring the Hendricks Symphony Orchestra in the park’s bandshell before fireworks … Coconut tip buckets cool you off while floating on the lazy river at Splash Island, which also boasts three twisty water slides and numerous pools … Every throwback menu item is housemade at Oasis Diner, including root beer sold by the pint glass or growler. Save room for a slice of fruit pie.
Concert Day at Ellis Park
Thirty-some years ago, Norm Gulley, Lee Comer, and their spouses were attending the ISO’s Symphony on the Prairie in Noblesville. Gulley, Danville’s town board president, turned to Comer and asked, “Do you think we could do this in Danville?” “Probably not,” Comer replied. “I can’t play the violin.” Nevertheless, the idea took hold, a site was selected, funds raised, and Symphony in Ellis Park was born. The amphitheater, bordered by woods and the meandering White Lick Creek, hosts regular concerts—the Marshall Tucker Band and Creedence Clearwater Revisited have graced its stage, as have the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and jazz great David Baker. This year’s Symphony in Ellis Park, July 14, will feature the works of Hollywood composer John Williams. It’s Danville’s place-to-be for one glorious evening each summer, young and old tapping toes, transported by music under the stars, culminating in fireworks shot off to a patriotic medley. 600 E. Main St.