Ed is the current president of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association and an attorney with the Indiana Department of Insurance. He is also an Indianapolis historian and authors a blog dedicated to the history of the Circle City. His first history book about the city, Vanished Indianapolis, explores the history of lost sites across the city and how they are used today. When he is not researching local history, Ed enjoys being a subpar fisherman and going kayaking on the White River and Fall Creek.
Welcome to Butler-Tarkington: The Historic Neighborhood Around Butler University
Whether you’re a world traveler or a lifelong Hoosier, chances are you’ve heard of Butler University and the famous Butler Bulldogs. In fact, Butler is consistently ranked the #1 University in the Midwest thanks to their exceptional athletics and even better academics. But you probably haven’t heard much about Butler-Tarkington—the friendly, historic neighborhood that surrounds the Butler campus.
Butler-Tarkington is nestled on the southern side of the Central Canal, a few blocks north of Meridian Park and just south of Rocky Ripple. The area feels quiet compared to the bustle of downtown Indianapolis, but we’re only five miles north of Monument Circle.
My partner and I moved to Butler-Tarkington in January of 2008, after living in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. We’d explored many other neighborhoods around the city, but we settled on Butler-Tarkington and never looked back. Now, over 15 years later, we still love our home and its classic neighborhood feel—with beautiful wooded roads, friendly neighbors, and numerous things to do.
Our neighborhood has a storied and impactful history.
Butler-Tarkington didn’t have a “founding” per se, but the neighborhood began to naturally emerge from the town of Mapleton in the mid-1800s. The area was predominantly rural at the time, until Fairview Park was founded where Butler University sits today. The park remained a popular attraction for decades, driving more people to the area and eventually leading to the development of the neighborhood in the early 1900s. Then, Butler University purchased Fairview Park in 1922—and their subsequent relocation in 1928 marked a period of rapid expansion for the neighborhood.
Despite this, the name “Butler-Tarkington” did not come about until the 1950s, as people began recognizing the neighborhood for its anchor institutions. Obviously, “Butler” comes from the university itself. But the “Tarkington” portion of the name is a nod to one of the neighborhood’s most distinguished residents, Booth Tarkington. Tarkington was a famous American writer who lived and worked in Indianapolis, right here at 4270 North Meridian Street. Since his death, the neighborhood has been widely known by its two claims to fame: Butler-Tarkington.
The Butler-Tarkington neighborhood has always had a significant African American population, but redlining made it difficult for many Black residents to purchase homes north of 42nd Street. That changed in the 1960s, when a series of judicial cases struck down race-based housing restrictions and opened predominantly white neighborhoods to more diversity. Around that time, the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association (BTNA) was formed to promote the peaceful integration of the neighborhood and help combat racist realty practices.
Now, BTNA is one of the longest continually-operating neighborhood associations in the country. To this day, they still strive to maintain a peaceful and diverse neighborhood, while working to address problems and issues as they arise.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Booth Tarkington lived in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood from 1923 until his death in 1946.
Butler University was named after Ovid Butler—the lawyer and philanthropist who founded North Western Christian University (now known as Butler).
The Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association is one of the longest continually-operating neighborhood associations in the country.
Butler-Tarkington is home to the legendary Butler University.
Our neighborhood is best known for Butler University—a world-class Division 1 school right in our backyard. With just over 5,000 students, Butler is a relatively small university, but they have over 85 graduate and undergraduate programs to choose from. The Bulldogs also maintain a strong sports community with athletic teams that prove year after year that they’re among the best in the nation.
Living in Butler-Tarkington, you can clearly see how the campus shapes the overall atmosphere and culture of our neighborhood. Butler University offers a wealth of activities that are open to the community, including public performances and sporting events. The renowned Clowes Memorial Hall hosts dozens of shows per year, ranging from Broadway shows and rock concerts to guest lectures and author readings.
Butler also provides year-round entertainment for the sports fan in everyone. You can catch a football game in the fall, a swim meet in the winter, or a baseball game in the spring—and people come from miles around to experience a basketball game in the legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse. No matter which sport you prefer, these athletic events are a great way to spend an evening in the neighborhood.
With so much to do within walking distance, the Butler-Tarkington real estate market can be hot. Homes are often priced at a premium and sold in a matter of days instead of weeks. But if you’re looking to rent, there are a variety of options available in the neighborhood. Just keep in mind that you’ll be competing with Butler students for these properties, so it’s best to plan ahead and take advantage of the lulls in the school calendar.
We love living in a bikeable, walkable community.
One of Butler-Tarkington’s biggest selling points is its close proximity to local dining and shopping destinations. My partner and I love being able to ride our bikes—or even walk—from our house to the different neighborhoods around the area. In the spring, we ride our bikes up to Broad Ripple for dinner. And when that’s not an option, the Glendale Mall gives us easy access to essential shopping and grocery needs.
Butler-Tarkington is also only a short drive away from the restaurants and amenities in downtown Indianapolis and the College Avenue corridor. Our midtown location makes it easy to travel just about anywhere in the Indy region, and if you don’t have a car, Butler-Tarkington is served by two IndyGo bus lines with nearby access to the Rapid Transit Red Line, as well. I often ride the bus to work during the week, which certainly helps save on gas.
But most of the time, we don’t have to leave the neighborhood for our dining and shopping needs. Butler-Tarkington has long been home to small commercial districts around important intersections—including 40th and Boulevard, 42nd and Boulevard, and 56th and Illinois.
To this day, you’ll find an amazing selection of local businesses around these intersections, including hair salons, convenience stores, sandwich shops, breweries, dog groomers, and more. Some of the neighborhood favorites include Graeter’s Ice Cream, Kincaid’s Meat Market, Byrne’s Pizza, Kids Ink Bookstore, and the Illinois Street Food Emporium—just to name a few.
Meanwhile, on the Butler campus, Chatham Tap offers one of the best pub experiences in town. The Chatham Tap has a large menu, a wide range of craft beers, and a fantastic outdoor patio with a view of Hinkle Fieldhouse. Chatham also hosts soccer watch parties throughout the season, which goes perfectly with its traditional English pub atmosphere.
- Butler University
- Center for Inquiry 70
- International School of Indiana
- Chatham Tap Butler
- Hoagies and Hops
- Apocalypse Burger
- Butler Spirit Shop
- The Fresh Market
- Hinkle Fieldhouse
- Clowes Memorial Hall
- 20 Miles from Indianapolis Airport
- 30 Minute Drive
- Tarkington Park
- Broad Ripple Dog Park
- Holliday Park
Beautiful parks and recreation abound in Butler-Tarkington.
Butler-Tarkington also boasts several amazing parks and community spaces where residents can enjoy the outdoors. The largest in the area is Tarkington Park—located at 40th and Illinois Street. Extensively renovated in 2017, this park now features an expansive playground, a massive splash pad, and basketball courts, as well as several tennis courts. There’s also a new café building on the park grounds, where Tea’s Me Café serves up a variety of hot and cold tea options. This quaint café owned by former Indiana Fever player Tamika Catchings also offers a selection of light food fare that’s perfect for a day at the park.
Future plans for Tarkington Park include the construction of new playing and practice fields to host youth sporting events and activities. This will be in addition to the various community events already hosted at Tarkington Park, including movies in the park and the neighborhood’s annual Juneteenth celebration.
Outside of Tarkington Park, our neighborhood also has a couple smaller parks with their own playgrounds and shelter areas. Black Park is the most natural green space in our community, featuring massive old-growth trees that make it the ideal spot for bird watching. Ramsey Park offers a small community space surrounded by our neighborhood homes, while Alice Carter Park is being renovated to better serve the kids in our community.
Aside from these city-owned properties, residents can also enjoy a quiet walk, jog, or bike ride through the Crown Hill Cemetery—one of the largest private cemeteries in the country. Crown Hill is renowned for its stunning landscapes, and Hoosiers often travel there to see the view of downtown from the top of the “Crown.” The cemetery even hosts a variety of activities on their beautiful grounds, including historical tours and holiday celebrations.
Speaking of beautiful landscapes, Butler University is a great place to get out and enjoy the outdoors, especially in the Holcomb Gardens. This section of the campus is part manicured gardens, part rolling hills, and a great venue for morning walks along the canal. Butler’s campus also gives you easy access to the Central Canal Towpath, where you can easily explore the city while observing the resident turtles, ducks, and herons.
Butler-Tarkington is the perfect neighborhood for all ages.
Our neighborhood may be centered around a college campus, but Butler-Tarkington is a community built for families, young adults, and older residents alike. There are a variety of public and private school options easily accessible from our neighborhood, including the Center for Inquiry School 70 and the International School of Indiana. Both of these schools offer International Baccalaureate programs to promote greater cultural understanding and help prepare your kids to compete in the global market.
Butler-Tarkington also offers several churches to choose from, including the Meridian Street Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Church, Common Ground Church, Fairview Presbyterian Church, North United Methodist Church, and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.
St. Thomas Aquinas is known throughout the community for their annual Sausage Fest. Every August, this festival features a wide range of grilled brats and other delicacies, drinks from local breweries, and live music from local bands. When they’re not serving up brats, the church also offers a popular private school option for local preschoolers and K-8 children.
These churches are only a few of the institutions and organizations that host community events for the neighborhood. Butler-Tarkington is also home to the Indiana Governor’s Mansion—a 6.5-acre estate purchased by the state in 1973. On Halloween, it’s tradition that the sitting governor will host trick-or-treaters at the residence if the family’s in town. Meanwhile, the Martin Luther King Community Center provides year-round programming for the kids of Butler-Tarkington, including literacy programs, student mentorships, and more.
With friendly neighbors and a supportive community, there’s a reason so many people choose to live here in Butler-Tarkington. For me and my partner, Butler-Tarkington won us over with its central location, diverse community, and classic neighborhood charm. It means a lot to us to live in a place with a strong community and a history of confronting racism, and that’s why we plan to make Butler-Tarkington our forever home.