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Oliver Johnson’s Woods Historic District

Morrison House
Morrison House
Indiana Division of Historic Preservation
and Archaeology

Oliver Johnson’s Woods Historic District illustrates the remarkably swift suburban development of the north side of Indianapolis, from the 1860s Johnson family farmhouse to Tudor Revival houses of the 1930s. Indianapolis civic and business leaders built houses in Johnson’s Woods, which flourished from 1910–1935.  The name Johnson’s Woods comes from the family that owned the land from the 1860s to the early 1900s.  Oliver Johnson’s farmhouse, a once typical five-bay wood frame I-house dating from 1862, still stands in the district at 4456 North Park.  It once faced Central Avenue, but when the plat was still under development in 1919, a new owner moved it to face Park Avenue. 

The family encouraged suburban development before deciding to divide the farmstead.  In 1903, they sold land along present-day College Avenue to the Northern Traction Railway Company for use as part of the Broad Ripple–Indianapolis interurban route.  Silas and Franklin Johnson, Oliver’s sons, platted the family farmstead in 1909.  By the 1920s, the area was attracting auto industry leaders, business owners, and successful German Jewish merchant families among its prominent residents.  Early residents of the district reflect the social and cultural change occurring at the turn of the century.  As immigrants and their children became better educated and more successful financially, they moved from ethnic neighborhoods to more affluent and diverse neighborhoods.

Homes are of various architectural styles popular during the first two decades of the 20th century, and the many old trees visually unify the district. Broadway Street near 46th has several early Arts & Crafts houses.  The Berne and Eugenia Cohen House, 4586 Broadway, and the Francis Morrison House, 4560 Broadway, were both designed by local architect Charles Byfield. The Cohen House, c. 1915, is an American Four Square, but with highly original Oriental-inspired bargeboards, brackets, and flared roof corners.

Local builder William F. Nelson designed a number of Colonial Revival houses in the district.  Nelson was a prolific home builder in Indianapolis in the ‘teens and ‘twenties.  He was among the new generation of builder-contractors who combined drafting skills with real estate know-how. The Lemaux brothers hired Nelson to build houses at 4550 and 4560 North Park, both well-designed brick veneer Colonial Revival homes.  Nelson also designed houses at 4444, 4565, and 4545 Broadway, all similar in massing but with varied Colonial entries or side porches. 

Plan your visit
Oliver Johnson’s Woods Historic District is located on the north side bounded by Central and College Aves. and 44th and 46th Sts. and includes the east side of Central and both sides of Park and Broadway between 44th and 46th.  Most buildings are private homes.  INDYGO bus line from downtown: #17 College, disembark at 46th St; walk west to district.  
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