Happy life in a modest neighborhood

It’s a modest house in a modest neighborhood. Isn’t the aspiration supposed to be for more, for a fresh build in a tony suburb? But I’ve been happy here, surprisingly so. It has been a good place to rebuild my life after my first marriage crashed and burned.

My humble home

The homes here are ranches, usually faced in brick, largely built in the 1950s and 1960s as people moved out of the city proper. But a couple lots remained vacant until almost 1990, which is about when the golf course was built behind us, putting an end to flooded back yards on each heavy rain. And the cornfield across the main road finally succumbed to suburban sprawl in about 2010 when the megachurch went up. Thanks to the city’s MapIndy site and its historic aerial imagery, you can watch my little neighborhood go from farmland 80 years ago to what it is now.

I’ve been here ten years now. I probably shouldn’t have bought this house; my divorce left me broke. But I’d moved three times in three years and I craved permanence. And this house was less than a mile from where my sons lived with their mom. And my credit was very good. So I got an ill-advised 100% mortgage and moved in.

I couldn’t see the looming housing bubble about to burst. I couldn’t see my ex-wife soon remarrying and getting that fresh build, that tony suburb, 20 miles away. I wanted to move to live closer to my sons, but my house was suddenly worth less than what I owed on it. And so I remained.

It’s worked out; my sons and I have been happy here. But now my sons are grown and all but gone. And the housing market has recovered. And I’ve remarried; my new wife and I would like to share a roof. This one is too small and would take her youngest son out of his school, so now I’m preparing to put my house on the market.

I’m thrilled to move into the next part of my life, but sad to leave this home behind. I’ve been so content here. Preparing to leave has me in a reflective mood, which drove me to look through my photographs. I was surprised by how many I’ve made around the neighborhood. Could this be the most-photographed neighborhood in Indianapolis? Let me share it with you.

The homes are spaced wide and set back deeply on broad streets. Lots are about a third of an acre.


In the late autumn and early spring, when the trees are bare, the neighborhood looks dingy and tired. That’s in part because so many houses here have become rentals and receive minimum care. Strangely, all corner houses here are duplexes and have always been rentals. And during the worst of the housing crisis a good number of these modest homes went abandoned into foreclosure.

My front yard
1967 Ford F250
In my neighborhood

But the neighborhood wakes up in the spring, thanks to so many flowering trees the original owners planted.

Spring flowering trees
Spring flowering trees
Spring flowering trees

And a few owners have taken great care in their landscaping, which looks best during the summer. And even now, after so many dead ash trees have been removed here, the neighborhood remains heavily wooded and deeply shaded all summer.

Home in my neighborhood
Home in my neighborhood
Home in my neighborhood

Because of the tree cover, autumns here can be spectacular.

Neighbor's house under the yellow canopy
Neighborhood trees
Autumn leaves
Autumn Street

Even the wintertime has its charm as the snow hangs in the tree branches. However, the city has plowed our streets but one time that I can remember, making it challenging to get in and out. One snowstorm a few years ago stranded me at home for a week — the snow was simply too deep for my car to cut through.

Snowy day
Mild winter in old suburbia
Snowy day
Snowy neighborhood scene
Down the street

It’s quiet here. Neighbors mostly keep to themselves; I know few of them. But I guess that’s the age. It’s also safe here — crime is very low. About once a year I drive to work and forget to close the garage door. Never once have I found anything missing or even disturbed upon return.


I won’t miss a few things. The houses that need upkeep but never get it. The one fellow who parks his giant trailer on the street; it’s so hard to see it at night. The neighbors who forget to keep their storm-sewer grates clear, leading to flooded streets under heavy rain. I certainly won’t miss going out in my raincoat and waterproof shoes to rake the drains clear in front of their houses. But I’ll miss a lot of the rest.


29 responses to “Happy life in a modest neighborhood”

  1. kidmc2014 Avatar

    I can sympathise with you leaving your home and neighbourhood.
    I live in the same neighbourhood I spent a great deal of my childhood, at least four almost five years felt like a longtime.
    I made a point of returning to the area once I gained independence from my parents, school, the armed forces, then more school.
    What drew me back were the happy times, the sparse population, but most of all, the quietude, which lasted up until 1996, or so.
    Now the homes are one million+ which requires a $300.000 down payment, all but a few of the 400 hundred intersections are jammed up during the rush hours, and if you don’t have a parking space provided with your dwelling,,,you can spend a lifetime trying or waiting to find one within five or six blocks.
    My apartment building was the pre-cursor for what eventually happened through out the neighbourhood.
    My quiet sleepy abode became a defacto frat house or dorm, with parties that lasted until 2am on week nights, and 5:30-6am on weekends.
    It’s what used to be a hard working blue collar district, which was home to many of the city’s policemen, has become a bedroom community or playground for “transient” computer programmers, the trust funded, who don’t get up until ten, or get to work, if they even go to work, before 11am.
    Yes, I would have to say; that C-H-A-N-G-E over the last 20 years has not been a positive. So I can definitely sympathise with you on the changes there, and your angst regarding your neighbours.
    In almost twenty years, I’ve been the only registered voter in my building, however, because they are now using a shoehorn to fit more and more people into the old neighbourhood; for the first time in 30 years, I had to wait in line to vote in this last general election.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      As new generations enter adulthood, our worlds change. Where I live there are some of the same changes afoot. Soon I’ll share some photos I took recently in the Broad Ripple neighborhood, always a quaint throwback with delightful little homes. But it’s becoming a hot property again and they’re building high-rise apartment buildings and it’s changing the entire look and feel.

  2. Grace Colette Avatar
    Grace Colette

    Jim, I live in Saddlebrook and my guess is you’re talking about that neck of the woods. Everything you said is true about the area! Good and not so good. If you haven’t chosen a realtor yet please contact me. I’ve built my business in this area and have represented more sellers than any COMPANY has, both in Saddlebrook and in the surrounding older areas. I believe in this “gem” of Pike township and I know I can represent your interests well.

    Also, did you have a write up on the traders point area? I can’t find it and I loved the historical facts that were in there.

    So glad I came across your blog!


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Grace, I live in a neighborhood adjacent to Saddlebrook. My house backs up to the 14th fairway. I’m actually just over the line in Washington Township! If I step over my back fence I’m in Pike.

      I’m already speaking with a Realtor, one my wife knows and who coincidentally has sold two homes in this little neighborhood in the last year or so. It’s nestled oddly between Saddlebrook on the west and the distressed properties south of the megachurch to the east. It makes appraisals a roll of the dice, as I found when I tried to refi a couple years ago.

      Wish me luck as I ready the house for sale. There’s lots to do yet.

      Here’s a link to my Traders Point article: https://blog.jimgrey.net/2016/03/02/whatever-happened-to-traders-point/

  3. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    From a guy who has moved from several neighborhoods…most willingly, one unwillingly…it is good that you took these photos, saved them and wrote this now. 10, 20 or more years “down the road” you’ll be happy you did.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m already happy I have these photos. Most of them were just quick snaps I made while testing a new-to-me old camera!

  4. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I’m sure you’ve thought it through, and if you need, can afford, or would just like to move, then bully for you!

    I’ve been in Indianapolis for about 3 years now, and am very uncomfortable with most of the city. Virtually none of the neighborhoods are like my neighborhoods in Chicago and Milwaukee, so it’s been difficult to find a psychic place to be. Either an area is massively expensive, and way too suburban looking, or in the city, and “if” affordable, too run down and too crime ridden (as to your “won’t miss” paragraph, compared to “Germanic” Milwaukee, Indianapolis has a whole lot of people not taking care of their houses, and people don’t seem to have the sociology or upbringing to look at that as a “need” Still lots of “working class” affordable neighborhoods in Milwaukee you could eat off the street in, and BTW, all city streets get plowed during a snow storm).

    I was amazed that the rental companies in Indy raise rates every lease period, far in excess of almost any other area I’ve lived in (including Washington DC and Chicago!), resulting in renters moving a lot. I’ve lived up to ten years in other places where people wanted to keep me as a renter, and my rent might have gone up maybe 25-50 bucks every 4-5 years. I have people in my office that have moved 3 times in three years, and others that moved 4 times in 5 years. This limits your ability to set up a household, and start thinking about a neighborhood as “yours”.

    This is also part of the “myth” of Indy affordability. Even the Sunday paper had a story a few weeks ago about the “lie” of Indy affordability; saying in the last decade, cost of living in Indy has risen 60%, while incomes have only gone up 9%!

    After getting priced out of an apartment around 56th and Lafayette a year ago, I moved to a more affordable one in “old town” Zionsville, I couldn’t afford that either, but it was cheaper than what my old place went up to. What was amazing to me, is that although my new area was a small, upscale historic town, it was really like my last old neighborhood in Milwaukee. People were sitting out on their porches and reading library books, and you could stop and chat and pet their dogs while you were walking around. In addition, the town was much like Chicago, and Milwaukee, where you could walk a couple of blocks from where you lived, and find restaurants and little stores and cafes. Indianapolis is so unlike a “real” city, in that it seems to be a cobbled together bunch of suburbs, where even tho you are in the city, you have to get in your car to do anything! In a real city, every major cross street is like Broad Ripple.

    Anyway, what’s also amazing to me, is that Zionsville has a lot of similarities to my past neighborhoods, but the financial bracket is massively larger than those other neighborhoods. My past neighborhoods were basically lower middle class and below, so why do I have to move to a neighborhood where the average person is upper middle class and above to get the same “neighborly sociology”? It’s a puzzlement!

    I guess the result of all this writing, is that we are all looking for a place where we belong. I’m actually sad that in my early 60’s I seem farther away from that than ever before, but at least I’ve found a little peace in Zionsville.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Indianapolis is odd, for sure, compared to more traditional cities. Within the old city limits, where the neighborhoods are on the grid and were once traditional, it’s mostly places you wouldn’t want to live or places that have gentrified and you can’t afford. Outside the old city limits it’s all this sprawling 50s/60s suburbia like what I live in.

      My neighborhood is one of the least-expensive ways to get your kids into Washington Township schools as a homeowner. My little house is worth less than $100k.

      I’m very sorry you haven’t been able to find contentment in Indianapolis.

  5. kidmc2014 Avatar

    “NEW”generations, I think is key.
    If I wasn’t so long in tooth, and so sparse of hair now, I might just agree that each new generation has brought with it, large scale transition, but I don’t remember that, not like this anyway.
    Most of my generation and the previous, didn’t like this area, because of the far distances to everything else, the lack of sunshine, especially in June and July, and it was too quiet for most young people.
    As late as the end of the 1980’s, I was one of only three in a company of about 150 employees to live in the district, (the other two were “tourist” not looking stay very long) while the others lived in, wanted to live in or near the areas that were once subjects of city lore or nouveau funky/chic or “upcoming” like I said, this popularity has just been over the last 20 years.
    Some say it’s because of Google, and Cisco, and Air BnB etc. and there unceasing acquisition of properties to rent out to their staff.
    All I know is, as one of a handful of baby boomers (class B) that lived here, I wanted things to stay quiet.
    I fear that there will be blocks and blocks of the sturdily built matchbox stucco homes, and store fronts torn down to put up condominiums too.

    1. Andy Umbo Avatar
      Andy Umbo


      I grew up in large cities with big working class industries and neighborhoods, and I guess the problem is that there IS no “middle class” as it used to exist. When the middle class went away, so did the long term stabilized apartments and the lower middle class to middle class housing construction in easily accessible and relatively safe neighborhoods. I’ve been single all my life, working in media, and I’ve NEVER had a “house buying” paycheck, unless I wanted to buy a “fixer-upper” in an area where I would be guarding my house every night with a shot-gun! Hence, I’m an apartment dweller…

      As you can see from my post above, I moved to Indianapolis about 3 years ago, and Indianapolis is truly a city where that has been virtually zero middle-class construction or development over the last number of years. There are wealthy developers getting tax breaks to build 1500-2000 dollar a month apartments for people from some of the few wealthy companies in town. No one builds efficiency apartments at all. No one develops anything for anyone making 35-45K a year.

      There HAVE been changes with almost every generation that has come along, but the massive changes you see today, are not a result of the next generation of people coming into the market, they’re a result of the reduction of the middle class! Everyone I know is either making 95K a year, or 28K a year. No one is making 45K!

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      Change is a certainty.

      I predict that the old-suburban neighborhoods like mine is where poverty will go when the current poor neighborhoods gentrify.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Interesting you should say this…in Chicago, a lot of the “first ring” of suburbs that were working-class pre-war, are now high-crime and poverty, especially in some of the west and southwest areas. It was a shock for me to see this when I was living in Chicago in the 80’s, and in my brain, I always automatically equated “suburbs” with “upper-middle-class”. This will not only happen if the inner city starts gentrifying, but also if those inner suburbs just get beat up enough and dangerous enough that people don’t want to live there any more.

  6. Photography Journal Blog Avatar

    It looks like a nice spot. Best of luck with the move.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! So much to do to get ready.

  7. kidmc2014 Avatar

    An accidental travellers in our own neighbourhoods.
    I was union employed 7-3pm five sometimes seven days a week.
    I saw it coming, but not to the degree.
    When I started to hear these twerps coming out of the local watering holes at 2-3am, Whooo! And horse laughing like it was their own private party; I should’ve planned to get out to the burbs.
    But as I said, this district was regarded by many as the suburbs.
    The Hippies were a large part of this community during the 60’s 70’s and even with the changes they were demanding; it didn’t cause long time residents to loose their homes or be absolutely aced out of affordable housing.
    Bring back manufacturing? I don’t know if these people in the workforce could do the work or show up.
    They’d have to build something like solar powered locomotives working out of their living rooms.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I think you’re capturing the societal shift we’re undergoing here. Such shifts always frustrate those for whom life was settled. And past a certain age, life is settled for all of us.

  8. J P Cavanaugh Avatar

    I understand getting attached to your home and neighborhood. I have been in my house for about 24 years now. My neighborhood is of similar age to yours but but was aimed at a higher demographic when it was built. It has withstood the years fairly well, but is certainly not a draw to upper income people anymore.

    It is funny how a 2000-2500 square foot ranch was the kind of house that many of our parents’ generation considered a dream home where it is now suitable only for empty nesters or as a starter. It also occurs to me that with the exception of maybe about 15 years of college/early adulthood, I have spent my entire life in homes of this era. Those modern 4000 square foot houses on teeny lots look so foreign to me.

    Good luck with the sale and transition.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The house I owned while I was married the first time was in a nicer neighborhood, more like yours, except about a mile southeast of where I live now. It was about 1800 sf on a half acre.

      I just can’t imagine living in a 4000 sf house. My little house is 1375 sf and it’s sometimes too much for me.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Just an aside, a lot of the post WWII working class neighborhoods in Milwaukee were substantially built, brick, ranch homes, but the size was 800 to 122 sq. ft.! I knew people growing up in two bedroom ranches with 3-4 brothers and sisters, living in the basement and piled into the half attic and one other bedroom! I never saw a 2000 sq. ft. ranch in a working class neighborhood!

        1. Andy Umbo Avatar
          Andy Umbo

          I meant 800-1200 sq. st.!

        2. Jim Grey Avatar

          The house I lived in until I was 9 was a 900 sf ranch. I know that kind of house well.

  9. DougD Avatar

    Glad for your move, and that you’ll be under the same roof. Maybe less time for blogging then, which could be a good thing :)
    We’ve been in our late ’60s house for almost 20 years. My wife got antsy after 5, in her extended family the thing to do was keep trading up. We opted for some upgrades instead and quite like our mature neighborhood and big trees. No mortgage on our little old house helps manage our daily stress.
    Funny you mentioned your housing bubble, our housing bubble is right now. Prices in our area are up 30% from last year due to overheated Toronto market pushing out to surrounding cities. Just announced a 15% foreign buyer tax and expanded rent controls. We’ll see where this goes….

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I love blogging too much to scale it back! But I don’t know what my new life arrangement will bring in terms of demands.

      Our housing bubble dramatically overvalued houses here and when it burst everybody was underwater. It was a mess.

  10. Sam Avatar

    Hey good luck on the move Jim! It seems like a comfy little place, a place I wouldn’t mind leaving the hurried life of NYC for if I only had the opportunity or the cash! Things happen for a reason and usually work out for the best as can be understood in your story. Best of luck in wherever you’re going to next.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks so much Sam! It has been a comfy little place. I’ll miss it.

  11. DanI Avatar

    Wow. Has it really been 10 years? I remember that day.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Coming right up on it anyway. I think it was the first of October when I moved in.

  12. goodlifeforhalf Avatar

    Jim- I appreciated your pictures and wish you the best in your new journey. I am not from Indy but spend time in Indiana back in 2012-13 and fell in love with fall all over again.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      This is definitely a place to come if you enjoy autumn!

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