Residents of Flanner House Homes Share History; Vow To Fight Plan To Raze Their Historic Neighborhood

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Residents and supporters of an historic Indianapolis neighborhood, one that played a significant part in Indianapolis’ African-American history, are vowing to fight attempts to raze part of their neighborhood for a retail development.  The Flanner House Homes, located just north of historic Crispus Attucks High School, between Fall Creek and Dr. MLK Street, is endangered because a developer wants to develop a vacant city-owned lot the intersection of 16th & Dr. Martin Luther King for a large “big box” department store, rumored to be a Meijer. And up to thirty-five of these historic district homes could be razed.

Anther view of historic Black neighborhood

Another view of historic Black neighborhood

On Afternoons with Amos, listeners and the community learned much about the history of the Flanner House Homes and the neighborhood they were located in from Samuel Hatton, an 85-year-old Flanner House Homes resident who told Amos and listeners about how he built his home with “sweat equity” in 1957.  Joining Hatton was Mark Dollase, Vice-President, Preservation Services of Indiana Landmarks.  Last week, Indiana Landmarks cited Flanner House Homes and the neighborhood Phillips Temple Church as “endangered” historical landmarks in Indiana that must be maintained and preserved.  Dollase told Amos and Listeners that the neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places. One classification of an historic area. But the least protected against encroachment.

Dr. Cleo W. Blackburn, who created Flanner House Homes

Dr. Cleo W. Blackburn, who created Flanner House Homes

Also appearing was Disa Watson, a Flanner House Homes resident who’s helping to lead the fight by residents and concerned citizens fighting to keep all 180 homes intact. Flanner House Homes is an important part of Indianapolis’ history.  After World War II African-American servicemen returning to Indianapolis couldn’t obtain mortgages to buy homes.  New housing developments for returning veterans in neighborhoods like Eagledale and the Meadows were for white veterans only.  Faced with a lack of home ownership, Dr. Cleo W. Blackburn, Executive Director of Flanner House, the Black community’s settlement house and community center, came up with an ingenious idea for home ownership.  Blackburn created a system where Black vets, Black men, were able to own a new home, provide they spent a significant amount of time in actually helping to build their home and others in a designated neighborhood.flanner hsa homes 2Blackburn’s idea created Flanner House Homes, built between 1950 and 1957 on a former city dump in the heavily segregated Black neighborhood near Attucks and historic Indiana Avenue.  The self help Flanner House Homes idea garnered Blackburn, Flanner House and Indianapolis lots of national publicity, including a visit from former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Blackburn’s Flanner House Homes and the concept of sweat equity were later adapted by Habitat for Humanity in its home building and home ownership efforts. Click the Link Below to Hear Amos’ Interview with Flanner House Homes Residents and Supporters. Runs 65 Minutes. ©2013 WTLC/Radio One.

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