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Anchored by the Elm Heights School, the Elm Heights neighborhood consists of large and gracious homes built primarily after the turn of the century. Many of the platted subdivisions were subdivided for development in the first decade of the twentieth century, but actual construction began gradually and reached a peak in the 1920's.

Elm Heights contains residences comparable in scale to those developed by the Showers family on North Washington Street, although its period of construction is significantly later. Through the early 1920's, the area of Bloomington just south of Indiana University Campus- south of Third Street and east of Woodlawn Avenue - consisted of spreading fields and pastures, rising southward to the crest of Vinegar Hill, where East First Street now stretches.

Construction of the Elm Heights School was completed in 1926. Designed by Alfred Grindle, it quickly catalyzed a building boom. The school's identifiable, although restrained, version of collegiate gothic style was probably influenced by ongoing University construction projects along Third Street.


The background of the early residents has a decidedly academic flavor. The neighborhood was calm, prosperous and stable. A predominance of brick is evident throughout the neighborhood, which is overhung with large deciduous trees. Along Hawthorne Drive, the original iron lighting standards are still standing, preserved by local ordinance.

Roof coverings of tile and slate show the stability and wealth of the early residents. East First Street, the spine of Vinegar Hill, provides a wide and gracious corridor with deeply setback lots. In contrast, houses in Elm Heights are on smaller lots and the area is a less dramatic environment.Also notable are the number of architect designed homes in the neighborhood. Hiram Callender, Alfred Grindle, Edward James and H.B. Roach lend their names to the roster of designers that heretofore was composed solely of Bloomington's own architect, John Nichols.

This expansive cosmopolitan posture was also portrayed by the architecture itself. The theatrics of the twentieth century revival styles expressed by Spanish colonnades, English split timbering, steeply pitched cottage roofs and French turrets. These features were all a part of the prosperity that accrued to Bloomington's expanding manufacturing base and the limestone industry. Aside from its social significance, Elm Heights is a lexicon of the architectural styles that followed the veterans of World War I back from Europe. The vernacular styles of the west side are abandoned for a more picturesque paradigm, one that exuded old world craft and eclectic details.

The neighborhood has remained essentially unchanged in appearance since the 1930's although pressures from student rental properties continue to be an issue in the area along Atwater and Hunter and east to Jordan Avenue.