Clark-McKinley Historic District

Clarksville Town, Clark County, IN

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East side of McKinley Avenue

Photo: Looking southeast on the east side of McKinley Avenue in the CLark-McKinley Historic District, Clarksville. at the north end of the district. The District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2022. Photo by Kurt West Garner, 2021, for Clark-McKinley Historic District, National Register nomination document, accessed June, 2023.

The Clark-McKinley Historic District is composed of approximately two dozen compact houses constructed during the 1940s in the southwest corner of the Greenacres Subdivision first platted in 1928. The one-block section facing Clark Boulevard on the west and McKinley Avenue on the east was tapped for development of affordable housing in response to a demand for housing during and after World War II. This section of the 1928 plat had previously gone undeveloped and with the reconstruction of Clark Boulevard and Brown's Station Way, it was cut off from the original development to the north and northeast.

After suffering from a devastating flood along the Ohio River in 1937, Clarksville lost much of its housing stock. Compiled with the expansion of industry in the area due to World War II, and then the need to house returning veterans after the war, a substantial demand for housing was realized in the town. A survey of existing housing and potential housing sites was completed in 1941 and it was recommended to the National Defense Commission that Clarksville was in need of 200 housing units. A few new subdivisions were created specifically for this purpose, like Victory Court and Fairlawn in the north part of the village. However, there were also previously-platted neighborhoods in Clarksville that had gone undeveloped due to the onset of the Great Depression, or could be redeveloped after the flood, like the Francis Street development in the west part of town. The development that composes the Clark-McKinley Historic District is the former, the very south end of Greenacres Plat Unit One, which is a two-block wide, long subdivision essentially lining Clark Boulevard's east edge. The 1940s build-out of the south end of Greenacres lined Clark's east side and McKinley's west side, with two lots on the east side of McKinley with matching house designs for a total of 23 houses of very similar design and materials. The compact house plans responded to the need to make them affordable, and hence, a neatly-cohesive neighborhood was born. The houses were subsidized through the Federal Housing Administration's loan program. A 1958 advertisement for new homes constructed in Clarksville featured three-bedroom brick and stone houses, very similar to the housing stock in the district, qualifying for FHA loans marketed at $13,700 with a down payment of $900.00. See the section on housing development in Clarksville for further context on planning and subdivision development.

During the late 1930s to about 1950, a housing type emerged in America due to the same economic and social factors that Clarksville realized. Not only was the demand for housing acute because of servicemen returning from World War II, a shift from farm/rural living to urban settings was growing more intense with expansion of the nation's industrial base. This created the need for quickly-built, economical housing for young families. The American Small House, also labeled Minimal Traditional, was born out of this need. Virginia McAlester, who defines the type as Minimal Traditional, describes the common side-gabled subtype as "being a beloved early New England folk-house form and symbol of colonial America, the Cape Cod provides some of the most economical cubic space that can be built." The Clark-McKinley District is replete with this subtype. McAlester further explains that the house was a preferred type for Federal Housing Authority loans, which frequently came into use in neighborhoods being developed in the 1940s. Probably the most unusual feature of the district's houses, as compared to other American Small House or Minimal Traditional design, is the nearly-exclusive use of brick for construction. That factor has likely led to the better-than-average condition of the district's homes than what is often experienced in neighborhoods composed of this type.

The development of houses during the short time frame of the district (1942-1950) and likely by the same developer resulted in variations of similar, compact designs. Of the 23 houses, only two are front-gabled designs and the remaining 21 are variations of side-gabled design. These include several that feature off-centered, lower cross gables on the front ( as well as those with lower central gables , and Cape Cod-like versions with dormers. Most of the houses are also one-and-a-half stories, though several are a single story, and all but four are composed of brick. One is composed of flagstone and the other three are covered with vinyl siding.

Other than the three side-gabled houses with dormers more distinctive of the Cape Cod style, only two other houses have features that may be categorized in architectural styles popular during the time the district was developed. The house at 440 Clark Boulevard features a istic gabled roof and a Tudor-arched entry, hinting at the Tudor Revival style. Both houses are variations of the side-gabled houses found throughout the district but have more refined features. See the following section on the history of housing development full-round arched entryway to its porch, 6/1 windows, and an interesting projecting bay of windows trimmed with wood, giving hints at the Colonial Revival style. The house at 445 McKinley Avenue, which is the one covered with flagstone, features an entry bay with stylin Clarksville for further context related to housing types and styles.

† Kurt West Garner, Clarksville Historic Preservation Commission, Clark-McKinley Historic District, nomination document, 2022, National Register of HIstoric Places, Washingotn, D.C.

Street Names
Clark Boulevard • Francis Avenue • McKinley Avenue

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