Carving Out a Community Space: Herron-Morton Neighborhood

History

Between the mid-1970s and late 1980s, the Herron-Morton Neighborhood located between Talbott Street and 22nd Street, was a center of the LGBT+ community in Indianapolis. The Herron-Morton neighborhood takes its name from the John Herron School of Art, originally located on 16th Street, and Camp Morton, a prisoner-of-war camp established during the Civil War. The neighborhood, then known as Talbott Village, developed in the 1880s.

In its prime, between 1890 and 1930, the area was home to nationally known artists, mayors, governors, and business tycoons. As a result of suburbanization and the demolition that went along with urban renewal, the neighborhood deteriorated by 1970 and about one-third of original residences were lost to fire, neglect, or demolition. Talbott Village gained a reputation for crime and drugs, but also as a refuge for Indianapolis’ bohemian and counter culture communities.  

Preservation

In cities such as Providence, New York City, Charleston, and San Francisco, gay men have been credited with preservation and gentrification efforts. Indianapolis’ oral tradition upholds that gay men, rehabbing the large Queen-Anne style homes just off the main arteries near Talbott Street, accomplished much of the early preservation efforts. By the mid-1980s, a large number of LGBT+ people lived, socialized, and did business in this up and coming area.

Talbott Street

By 1981, two of the city’s largest LGBT+ clubs, Talbott Street Disco and the 21st Club, opened in the vicinity. On a given Saturday evening in the mid-1980s, hundreds of people would flock to the area. These social spaces spurred other retail businesses, on the 21st and 22nd blocks of Talbott Street. Particularly significant was The General Store, which owner Tony DiNinno called his “own little niche in the gay community,” selling records, greeting cards, clothing items, artwork, magazines, “all of interest to the gay consumer.”

Images

Indiana State Fair Poster, 1885

Indiana State Fair Poster, 1885

This poster is from the 1885 Indiana State Fair, located in the area bounded by 19th Street, Talbott Street, 22nd Street, and Central Avenue. The fairgrounds were first located here in 1859. Around 15,000 men were detained in this area when it was used as Camp Morton, a prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War. In 1873, a new exposition building (pictured) was constructed. Image Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Indiana Historical Society | Creator: Indiana State Board of Agriculture View File Details Page

Talbott Theater, 1926

Talbott Theater, 1926

The Talbott Theater first opened as a silent movie theatre in the mid-1920s. In the late 1960s, the Black Curtain Dinner Theater, Indianapolis™ first professional dinner theatre, opened at this location. It operated as Talbott Street Disco, a gay bar, from 1980 to 1986, and reopened in 2002. Talbott Street announced its plans to close permanently in June 2016. Image courtesy of W.H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society. | Source: W.H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society. | Creator: W.H. Bass Photo Company View File Details Page

Talbott Street Theater

Talbott Street Theater

Situated in the Historic Herron-Morton District, the Talbott Street Theater still possesses decorative brickwork and flanking piers. Like other LGBT+ buildings, the Talbott Street Theater is shuttered and lost its original marquis. The Herron-Morton District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Photography by Kurt Lee Nettleton '© 2015. | Source: Kurt Lee Nettleton | Creator: Kurt Lee Nettleton View File Details Page

Quaker Meeting House

Quaker Meeting House

Located at 1710 Talbott Street, the Quaker Meeting House was a longtime supporter of marriage equality. The first gay marriage ceremony in Indianapolis was performed here in 1988. According to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission™s Herron-Morton Preservation Plan, the double residence was constructed circa 1895. Photography by Kurt Lee Nettleton '© 2015. | Source: Kurt Lee Nettleton | Creator: Kurt Lee Nettleton View File Details Page

Art Fair

Art Fair

The Talbot Street Art Fair began in 1955 as a street exhibition of Herron School of Art students and recent graduates. This annual event acted as a stabilizing factor for the neighborhood, providing neighborhood pride. The fair has grown to span four city blocks and is still a major community event in Indianapolis. Local tradition says the art school™s proximity to the Herron-Morton neighborhood helped it to become a gathering space for the LGBT+ community. Image courtesy of Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Indiana Historical Society View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Callie McCune, “Carving Out a Community Space: Herron-Morton Neighborhood,” Discover Indiana, accessed March 28, 2017, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/88.

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