In August 1860, at a site beside the Charlestown Road on the northeast side of New Albany, African Americans gathered to celebrate the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies a quarter-century before. Speaking before the group, a Reverend Kelly declared, “I say that you have a duty to perform, if you want freedom you must battle for it, I do not counsel you to open rebellion, but to use every lawful means to abolish slavery from our land.” He added: “All we ask for is our just rights, for the privilege . . . to vote.” On the eve of the Civil War, African Americans expressed their yearnings for freedom and demonstrated the strength of anti-slavery sentiment in New Albany. Today, the site where they gathered is part of Hedden’s Grove, a residential neighborhood named for an early landowner, David Hedden.
A native of New Jersey, Hedden arrived in Floyd County about 1820 at the age of eighteen. He clerked in a store for about a year and in 1829 formed a partnership with the store’s owner, with Elias Ayres, “one of the early merchants of New Albany.” Later he opened the Hedden Dry Goods Company at the corner of State and Market streets. In 1867 he built a house at a cost of $10,000 across from the Floyd County Fair Grounds. He and his wife had at least eight children, with eight surviving into the 1880s. Given that Hedden allowed the 1860 gathering on his property, he almost surely held antislavery sentiments. After the Civil War, blacks continued to hold emancipation celebrations in the area. In September 1886, for example, African Americans gathered near Hedden’s residence to celebrate the cause of freedom and the struggles of their people.
In the early twentieth century, several of Hedden’s children subdivided portions of the property he had amassed for residential development. Improvements to Charlestown Road, the advent of the automobile, and construction of an interurban railway that reached Silver Street by 1924 created demand for houses on the outskirts of the city. In 1905, lots between what is today Hedden Park and Silver Street were laid out and others followed in the 1920s. In 1925-26, Arthur Shoo, a developer, built five Craftsman-style bungalows on Charlestown Road. In 1928, the founding of the David Hedden Realty Company signaled the beginning of efforts to promote house sales in the area. The company created a model home on Hedden Court and began selling handsome residences to eager buyers, many of them prominent figures in New Albany business circles.
Most of the houses in the Hedden’s Grove neighborhood date from the 1920-1950 era. Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, and other eclectic styles predominate. These proved popular with buyers seeking respectability and good taste. The neighborhood encompasses about fifteen acres on two parallel cul-de-sacs, Hedden Court and Hedden Park. Landscape features include mature trees, deep setbacks, and low retaining walls. The neighborhood was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.