February 11th, 2016
The Kuhns Family in Herron-Morton Place
by Amy Sheldrake Eddy
How they found a new home in a historic neighborhood with plenty of garden space.
Pete and Mary Kuhns were born and raised in and near Indianapolis, but they didn’t really know much about Herron-Morton Place until they moved into the neighborhood with their two young children in the summer of 2014. Here’s the story of how they ended up in a place that surprised them with its vitality, neighborhood events, and community spirit.
Pete had lived in his house on the near southside for 10 years, in a neighborhood known as Babe Denny, which is a mix of residential, commercial and industrial properties, including Lucas Oil Stadium and Shapiro’s Deli. Both Pete and Mary loved their small house and fun neighborhood, and it was an easy walk to anything in the Mile Square. Mary said, “Living right downtown . . . wasn’t a problem when our daughter was little and in a stroller. I walked everywhere downtown. I used to push the stroller up to the Circle several times a week.” But Babe Denny is a very small neighborhood, with only 11 houses and no other kids. Pete is an urban gardener who loves to grow food, and he packed a lot of vegetables into their ‘postage stamp’ yard. But he always hoped for more gardening space in the future. (He has organized an annual seed-swap event for Indy gardeners the past 3 years, on the last Saturday in January.) Then Pete and Mary realized they would outgrow their house when their second child was born, so it was time to consider moving out of their old neighborhood. “Pete really wanted a bigger yard for his garden,” Mary said. “And I wanted a bigger yard so there would be room for the kids to play.”
“We were looking all over town,” Pete said. “We love Irvington and of course Butler Tarkington and Fletcher Place and Bates-Hendricks etc. . . . I didn’t really know much about Herron-Morton, to be honest. Moving to HMP was probably the luckiest break I’ve received in the last 10 years (besides marrying Mary of course!).” Mary added that they considered Fletcher Place, but didn’t find the bigger yard they wanted, and thought about building a new house in Bates-Hendricks, but didn’t feel it was right for them. They also bid on houses in Meridian-Kessler and Irvington, as well as a fixer-upper on a large lot south of Castleton. Mary said the things they cared about most were “a big lot, old house, layout that worked for two kids, family-friendly neighborhood.” She also added that, unsurprisingly, they were influenced by school options: “Since we were house hunting the year before our daughter started school, I became an expert on schools all over town.” She compared and contrasted township schools – Washington, Franklin, & Perry – and also IPS. She researched and weighed the pros and cons of charter vs. magnet vs. private schools. “I realized we had more choices staying downtown than moving away.”
Mary doesn’t remember many details from the day they first saw their new house in Herron-Morton Place—they looked at 4 houses in the neighborhood that day, and she was almost 9 months pregnant. But Pete recalls, “I have always wanted a grand dame to replace the one [my] family fled in 1973.” His earliest memories are of life in a historic home in Mapleton-Fall Creek in the early ‘70s, before ‘white flight’ motivated his family to relocate to Greenfield. He has lived in cities his entire adult life, although as a gardener he has always felt the pull toward having land and space, out in the country. That day in 2014 when he walked into a big Victorian house with beautiful woodwork on Alabama Street, he says, “The right grand dame just smacked me when I saw it.”
What do they love most about their new neighborhood? Mary remembers going to an event at the park (possibly Oktoberfest), with food and live music, right before they moved in. “We loved that this was a neighborhood that was so much fun, with such a diverse and cool crowd of people, wonderful neighborhood festivals, and so many kids. . . I love that [it] is so family friendly. The first day of school they had coffee and donuts at the park and we all walked to school (CFI), twenty-something kids, it was such a great way to start kindergarten, for all of us. And on Halloween they have a pizza party and the kids trick or treat together, and it might be even more fun for the grown-ups. This seems like such a great place to raise kids.”
Pete jokes that what he appreciates most so far is the property value increase. According to the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors (MIBOR), Herron-Morton Place and Holy Cross were two of the ‘hottest’ neighborhoods in Indy real estate in 2015. “Aside from that, SUNLIGHT. Lots of glorious, unfiltered, unobstructed sunlight.”