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Garden Hill Historic District

Bloomington City, Monroe County, IN

Cottage Grove [1] is a locally-designated historic district.

Because the Garden Hill neighborhood is located well over a mile from downtown Bloomington, dates of initial land subdivisions were surprisingly early—in 1906 and 1907. Well-known names such as William A. Fulwider, William N. and James D. Showers, S. Rhorer and Sanford Teter are associated with its development. Many of these same names occur in the land subdivisions of Prospect Hill in the early 1890s.

Before many Garden Hill homes were built, the neighborhood boasted Showers Park, a roughly four-block area between Dunn and Lincoln and 14th and 16th Streets where Bloomingtonians flocked for baseball games at the turn of the 20th century. This spot was the highest point in the area and equipped with playing fields, fences, and bleachers. Residents came out to see the "Showers Specials," a company team sponsored by the Showers Brothers' Furniture Company. This ballpark was later subdivided for Garden Hill's first homes.

In 1907 the city's edge, Seventeenth Street, was populated only by a few scattered houses. Some homesteads, such as the Free Classic pyramidal cottage at Dunn and 14th, probably pre-date subdivisions. Garden Hill is distinctive because the range of its contributing architecture covers more than 70 years, making it unique among city historic districts. Construction took place over a longer time frame and incorporated a broader range of styles than in other core neighborhoods.

A small African-American community prospered near the Pentecostal Mission in the 1920s, made up mostly of Showers factory workers. They called their community "Cherry Hill," and as they grew, the name Cherry Hill Christian Center was given to the church. The local black baseball league had a field nearby where George Shively played. Shively, who resided in Bloomington, was later a fixture with the Indianapolis ABCs.

City directories show early residents of the neighborhood to have been largely working-class carpenters, laborers, teamsters and mechanics. But the architecture of Garden Hill belies its modest beginnings, displaying a complex diversity, ranging from small working-class cottages to a single majestic brick four-square built by Stephen Hupp (who was identified simply as a carpenter). The neighborhood's diverse range of architectural forms, from early gabled-ells to 1950s limestone ranches, share a common denominator of smaller scale.

With time, Garden Hill's residential character, relative affordability, and proximity to IU and downtown attracted a diverse mix of young families seeking starter homes, older couples appreciative of its small-scale historic charm, and many others drawn to its ambience.

Beginning in the early 1970s, however, much of the neighborhood was up-zoned to multifamily, facilitating development of high-density apartment complexes. Many serviceable, affordable homes were demolished or carved into rentals.

Over the next twenty years, residents of Garden Hill witnessed the loss of homeowners and families, and ever-increasing levels of noise, trash, vandalism, and other crimes.

In response, a core group of homeowners resolved to save their neighborhood. They renamed it Garden Hill, and in 1999 formed the Garden Hill Neighborhood Association. GHNA works to protect the neighborhood from incompatible development and destruction of historic homes and landmarks, while promoting a safe, livable environment for all.

  1. City of Bloomington, Indiana, Garden Hill Historic District Guidelines, 2015, www.bloomington.in.gov, accessed May 2016.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
14th Street East • 15th Street East • 16th Street East • Dunn Street North • Grant Street North • Lincoln Street North • Walnut Street North • Washington Street North

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