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City of Bloomington, Indiana

Invoking a simpler time when neighbors greeted one another along tree-lined streets and from porches and yards, Garden Hill remains a simple treasure, a lesser-known, modest neighborhood of no more than 10 city blocks on Bloomington's near-northside. Embracing a diverse array of home styles in clapboard, siding, brick, and stucco, this unique enclave of cottages, bungalows, kit houses, and ranch-style homes is laced with lush gardens and landscaping-hence its name.The carpenters and tradesmen who built and lived in these solid structures in the 1890s and the first half of the 20th century have now been replaced by professionals, retirees and students who share neighborhood pride, independence and respect for a treasured past. Prospective homeowners looking for affordable homes can find great opportunity in Garden Hill.

 

 

Because the Garden Hill neighborhood is located well over a mile from downtown Bloomington, dates of initial land subdivisions were surprisingly early-- in 1906 and 1907. Well-known names such as William A. Fulwider, William N. and James D. Showers, S. Rhorer and Sanford Teter are associated with its development. Many of these same names occur in the land subdivisions of Prospect Hill in the early 1890s.

Before many Garden Hill homes were built, the neighborhood boasted Showers Park, a roughly four-block area between Dunn and Lincoln and 14th and 16th Streets, where Bloomingtonians flocked to baseball games at the turn of the 20th century. This spot was the highest point in the area and equipped with playing fields, fences, and bleachers. Residents came out to the see the "Showers Specials," a company team sponsored by the Showers Brothers' Furniture Company. This ballpark was later subdivided for Garden Hill's first homes.

In 1907, the city's edge, Seventeenth Street was populated only by a few scattered houses. Some homesteads, such as the Free Classic pyramidal cottage at Dunn and 14th, probably predate subdivisions. Garden Hill is distinctive because the range of its contributing architecture covers more than 70 years, making it unique among city historic districts. Construction took place over a longer time frame and incorporated a broader range of styles than in other core neighborhoods.

A small African American community prospered near the Pentecostal Mission in the 1920s, made up mostly of Showers factory workers. They called their community "Cherry Hill," and as they grew, the name Cherry Hill Christian Center was given to the church. The local black baseball league had a field nearby where George Shively played. Shively, who resided in Bloomington, was later a fixture with the Indianapolis ABC's.

City directories show early residents of the neighborhood were largely working class: carpenters, laborers, teamsters and mechanics. But the architecture of Garden Hill belies its modest beginnings, displaying a complex diversity, ranging from small working-class cottages to a single majestic brick four-square built by Stephen Hupp (who was identified simply as a carpenter). The neighborhood's diverse range of architectural forms. from early gabled-ells to 1950s limestone ranches, share a common denominator of smaller scale.

With time, Garden Hill's residential character, relative affordability, and proximity to IU and downtown attracted a diverse mix of young families seeking started homes, older couples appreciative of it small-scale historic charm and many other drawn to its ambiance. Beginning in the 1970s, however, much of the neighborhood was upzoned to multi-family, facilitating the development of high-density apartment complexes. Many serviceable affordable homes were demolished or carved into rentals. The next twenty years witnessed the loss of resident homeowners and families and ever-increasing levels of noise, trash, vandalism and other crimes.

In response, a core group of homeowners resolved to save their neighborhood. They renamed it Garden Hill, and in 1999 formed the Garden Hill Neighborhood Association. GHNA works to protect the neighborhood from incompatible development and destruction of historic homes and landmarks while promoting a safe, livable environment for all.