University Heights is a southside community roughly bordered by Hanna Avenue, State and Lawrence streets, and Madison Avenue. It began as a business deal between the Church of the United Brethren in Christ and William Elder, an Indianapolis realtor. 

Exterior view of a church building on the corner of a block.
University Heights Evangelical United Brethren Church, 1964 Credit: The Indiana Album: Evan Finch Collection View Source

In 1902, Elder offered to donate eight acres for a church-affiliated university and to construct a campus building if church members would buy lots in his nearby Marion Heights subdivision. Investors were to recoup their money when homesites located immediately south of the campus were developed. By 1904, the lots were sold and Elder erected the first Indiana Central University building, now known as University of Indianapolis.

Although the college opened the following year, development of the 446-lot subdivision proceeded slowly. In 1907, when the Marion Heights subdivision was incorporated as University Heights, there were seven homes. The 1910 census counted 100 residents and, the following year, the president of the university reported 70 homes had been constructed. 

By 1920, the population had grown to nearly 500. Houses were built in a variety of architectural styles reflecting middle-class tastes from the early 1900s to the 1950s. Streets were originally named for bishops in the Church of United Brethren—Edwards, Mills, and Bowman, among others. In 1923, the neighborhood successfully sought annexation by Indianapolis.

Over the last 70 years, University Heights has retained its residential character with few commercial intrusions. Most homes were built by the 1960s when there were an estimated 1,000 residents. The community remains closely linked to the school, though the neighborhood has achieved popularity simply from its proximity to the University of Indianapolis. 

The community remains tied together by a neighborhood association which formed in the 1990s. The University and Community Hospital South partnered in 2018 to enhance the neighborhood by working on a community garden to provide access to fresh produce. The partnership also provides health-and wellness-related opportunities to the southside neighborhood through cooking classes, health assessments, a farmer’s market, and art displays.

Revised April 2021

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