The Holy Cross neighborhood is the first neighborhood one encounters when leaving the downtown area, driving east on New York Street. The neighborhood lies just east of the Cole-Noble Neighborhood, home of Easley Winery and Sun King Brewery; and also east of Lockerbie Place. Holy Cross is defined by Michigan Street on the north, Washington Street on the south, Davidson Street on the west, and State Street on the east. The campus of Arsenal Technical High School, home of the Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center, is on the northern border of Holy Cross.
The name of the neighborhood comes from the Holy Cross Catholic Church and School, located just on the eastern edge of the neighborhood. The neighborhood was previously known as the Holy Cross Westminster Neighborhood, with the Westminster designation coming from the Presbyterian Church located on State Street. In recent years, the neighborhood association has shortened the name to just Holy Cross.
The Holy Cross neighborhood is one of the very first areas settled in Indianapolis. In either 1819 or 1820 (the date is in dispute), George Pogue arrived on the scene and built a cabin on the bank of a creek. The location of this cabin would be at the present-day intersection of Pogue’s Run Creek and Michigan Street. George Pogue is credited by some as the first to settle Indianapolis, which was land inhabited by the Delaware Indians at the time. George Pogue later died while in the pursuit of some missing horses. He was said to have come to his death at the hands of a group of Indians.
The land & the Noble family
In 1822 a tract of land running along New York Street from Oriental to Highland was deeded by Land Patent to Casey Ann Pogue by the United States of America. The property was transferred by Warranty Deed to Noah Noble on February 14, 1832. This was the same Noah Noble who became the fifth governor of Indiana at the age of 37 and served two terms, from 1831 to 1837.
Noah Noble came to the Indianapolis area in 1826 from Brookville, Indiana. He ran for the Senate two times but was defeated both times. Noble owned several large parcels of land in the Indianapolis area. He bought nine parcels of land on the eastside of downtown, bounded by Washington, Arsenal, North Street and Noble (presently College Ave.), where he established his home farm. He planted an orchard of peach and apple trees, and a vineyard. There was also a grove of sugar maple trees from which syrup was made for the use of his family.
Gov. Noble built his home on Market Street, near Pine. It was a large house in the center of the farm, and was of the type he was familiar with in Virginia, where he was born. There was a center hall with rooms on both sides, and extending wings. In the rear were several more rambling rooms and galleries. The ceilings were 12 feet high. The house was built of brick and painted white. The architect was Isaac Hodgson, who also built the Marion County Courthouse. The house was named Liberty Hall.
Mrs. Noble was a second cousin of Governor Noble – her name was Catherine Stull Van Swearingen Noble. Together they had 14 children, although Catherine Mary and Winston Park were the only ones to live to maturity. They were born in Liberty Hall.
In 1831, Governor Noble brought Tom Magruder and his wife Sarah to Indianapolis from Kentucky, where Tom had been a slave on Governor Noble’s father’s farm. Governor Noble built a cabin for Tom and Sarah on the northeast corner of Noble Street (now College) and Market Street, where they resided until their deaths. Their daughter Louisa was brought from Lawrenceburg to take care of them. Tom died in 1857 at the reputed age of 110 years. Louisa died in 1900. He was buried in the Noble Family’s lot at Greenlawn and Louisa in the Davidson family lot at Crown Hill. Louisa was 92 years of age at her death.
In 1840 Catherine Noble was married to Alexander H. Davidson in her father’s house. In a letter to a friend, dated June 6, 1840, Catherine describes her wedding – what she wore, who was there, what Mr. Davidson wore and the number of guests. The minister who officiated at the wedding was Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, and pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis.
Four years later, Governor Noble died, leaving 80 acres to his daughter Catherine. Catherine and her husband built Highland Home on this farm. Mrs. Noble, the Governor’s wife, lived at Highland Home until her death in 1874. Four generations of the Noble’s lived in Highland Home.
The Inception of Highland Park
Mrs. George F. Miller was the last member of the Noble family to own Highland Home. She sold it to the city of Indianapolis in 1898, with two agreements – that Highland Home was to be torn down at once, and that the ground on which it and its lawns were located should be a park. Bricks from the house were used for gutters in Garfield and Brookside parks and for foundations in Riverside Park. A fountain basin 49 feet in diameter was placed where the house formerly stood.
Thus, Highland Park was created. It is bounded by Dorman and Highland Streets and Marlowe and New York Streets, and is the centerpiece of the Holy Cross Neighborhood. It is the last memorial in the city to the fifth Governor of Indiana. In the park, there now stands an oak tree, said to have been planted by the Governor’s wife.
In 1955 the city of Indianapolis decided to sell Highland Park. In an article in the Indianapolis Star on February 7, 1955, Valette Miller White, great granddaughter of Governor Noble, tells of “the destruction of a piece of dedicated land, nearly as old as the city itself.” She begs for some group with historic interest to save the park and keep it green and beautiful. Through her efforts and those of neighbors in the Holy Cross neighborhood, the park was saved. As the second highest point in the entire city of Indianapolis, with a great view of the downtown skyline, Highland Park is a favorite spot on the Fourth of July for picnicking and watching the city’s fireworks display.
For the next twenty years, the neighborhood declined. Homes fell into disrepair and were abandoned, or were rented out by absentee landlords to people who did not care for them. 1975-76 was the lowest level for the neighborhood. Long-time residents began to move out. However, others refused to give up on this old-fashioned neighborhood. People began talking to each other and found they had the same concerns. With the help of the Near Eastside Community Organization (NESCO) homes began to be rehabilitated. A few families began to take a chance on buying homes here again.
A neighborhood reborn
In the 1990’s, the ‘back to the city’ movement caught fire in Indianapolis, and Holy Cross was perfectly situated for a renaissance. Small investors decided to buy older homes and fix them up to sell. Builders purchased empty lots and built new homes that fit into the cottage-style neighborhood. Young couples with small children saw the advantages of living near downtown cultural amenities and places of work.
Holy Cross is a neighborhood that has come back to life and is better than ever. With fabulous views of downtown, and friendly people who use their big front porches, this neighborhood is a beautiful gateway to the entire eastside. Come visit us and find out what we’re excited about.
(Thanks to Susan Houchin and Vonda O’Neill for research and composition)