Oliver Johnsons Woods, Indianapolis Homes for Sale

Bordered by 44th and 46th Streets and Central and College Avenues, Oliver Johnson's Woods may be small, but it packs a lot of history. Jeremiah Johnson and his family settled in an 80-acre area just north of the new state capital in 1821; the land they owned is now home to the present-day Indiana State Fairgrounds. His grandson Oliver purchased his own plot west of the family's in 1846. The farmhouse Oliver Johnson built in 1862 still stands today, although it now faces Park Avenue rather than Central.

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The house, and indeed the entire district, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but Oliver Johnson's cultural contributions to the city go well beyond buildings and land. In 1951, his grandson Howard Johnson published A Home in the Woods: Pioneer Life in Indiana, an oral history of his grandfather's early frontier stories. Lush with descriptions of untamed forests, rampant wildlife, and secluded cabins leagues away from any neighbors, the book is still one of the few resources about the lives of early Indiana settlers from the 1820s to the 1840s.

Throughout Oliver Johnson's life, Indianapolis grew exponentially and expanded north toward his family's land. A shrewd businessman, he and his sons decided to subdivide and sell their property in 1909. Within a decade the area began attracting wealthy merchant families, business owners, and auto industry leaders.

Today, the neighborhood still stands out as an architectural gem. Local builders Charles Byfield and William F. Nelson designed a number of homes in the area in the early 20th century, many of them in the styles of Colonial Revival, Arts & Crafts, and Prairie School. Just as the area was once covered by wild forests, the neighborhood today features some of the city's oldest and largest trees.