The Herron-Morton Place Historic District is significant for its outstanding collection of late 19th and early 20th century residential architecture. The area is also significant for its association with some of Indianapolis' most prominent business and political leaders, as well as for its role in the development of the city's heritage in the fine arts. Historically, the area is notable as the first permanent location of the Indiana State Fairgrounds, and as the site of the Union's third largest Civil War prison camp. Although much of the area had deteriorated to near-slum conditions after the 1940's, the neighborhood is currently being revitalized, with numerous homes the recipients of extensive renovation work.
The area known as Herron-Morton Place was originally part of a 160-acre land patent granted to Thomas O'Neal in November, 1822. Thirteen years later, O'Neal sold the land to Samuel Henderson, Indianapolis' first postmaster and later its first mayor (1847-1849) Except for improvements made by the State to remedy drainage problems in the area in 1839, and thus prevent the repeated flooding of some parts of Indianapolis a mile farther south, the area remained largely undeveloped. However, a 36-acre wooded tract, now bounded roughly by 19th Street, Talbott Street, 22nd Street, and Central Avenue, known at the time as Henderson's Grove, became a popular picnic spot around the middle of the 19th century. Henderson sold the land in 1850; approximately 80 acres,west of what is now Delaware Street was purchased by Elizabeth Tinker, while the rest of the area east of Delaware was purchased by William A. Otis.
In 1859, Otis made his land available for sale. It was purchased by the Indiana State Board of Agriculture for development as a permanent home for the Indiana State Fair, which heretofore had been held at a variety of different sites across the state. The area now bounded by 19th Street, Talbott Street, 22nd Street, and Central Avenue was designated the new State Fairgrounds, being considered far enough from the city so as not to interfere with Indianapolis residents, while close enough to allow easy access. Several buildings were constructed on the site, including an exhibition hall, office, and a number of livestock barns. When the Civil War began in 1861, however, the area was requisitioned by Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton to fill another pressing need.
Answering Lincoln's call for volunteers, Morton initiated a recruiting campaign and arranged to use the new State Fairgrounds as an induction encampment. The fairgrounds buildings soon served as-the living quarters for some 5,000 new soldiers, and the encampment was named Camp Morton. -In early 1862, Camp Morton was enclosed with a stout oak palisade and became a prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers. By the war's end, 15,000 rebel troops had been interred at the camp, with a peak population, occurring in July of 1864, reaching approximately 5,000 men. To guard these prisoners, Union troops were stationed in an encampment known as Camp Burnside, extending south of Camp Morton to what is now 16th Street. After the war, the land was returned to the State Board of Agriculture.
Alan Goebes, Herron-Morton Place Neighborhood Association, Herron-Morton Place Historic District, 1983, nomination document, National Park Service, Natonal Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.; accessed September, 2021.
19th Street • 22nd Street • Alabama Street • Central Avenue • Delaware Street • New Jersey Street • Pennsylvania Street • Talbott Street