The Butler-Tarkington neighborhood lies within the northwest quadrant of the old city limits of Indianapolis, bordered by 38th and Meridian Streets and the old Central Canal. It draws its name from Butler University, which relocated to the district in 1928, and Booth Tarkington, a well known Hoosier author who, at one time, maintained his home in the area on Meridian Street.
The founding of the Butler Tarkington Neighborhood Association was rooted in the racial integration of the neighborhood which took place during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1956, a multi-racial group of neighbors formed the Butler Tarkington Neighborhood Committee (“BTNC”), with the intent to facilitate the peaceful integration of the Butler Tarkington neighborhood. The organization was formally incorporated in November of 1960 as the Butler Tarkington Neighborhood Association. BTNA sought to ensure the integration of the neighborhood would proceed in a peaceful manner and to address racist actions within the neighborhood an encouraging peaceful and productive co-existence. The neighborhood association with its membership cut across racial, social, and economic boundaries.
The articles of incorporation stated the purpose of the BTNA:
“The central objective of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association, Inc. shall be to conserve and improve the neighborhood by promoting cooperative efforts among residents, schools, churches, and civic groups. This inter-racial Association shall actively foster better communication among the residents, with the view to preventing intergroup conflicts and to promoting the idea of democratic living.”
To understand the purpose of the BTNA, and its predecessor, the BTNC, it helps to look at the racial makeup of Butler-Tarkington in the 1950s and early 1960s. Nationally, segregation policies, including redlining, which had limited housing options for Black families were beginning to be phased out through judicial and legislative actions. Butler-Tarkington was primarily a white, middle to upper-class area in the 1920s through the 1940s.
As integration gained momentum in the 1950s, there were instances of violence and opposition to these efforts in Indianapolis and other areas. The rapid turnover in population alarmed area residents who in response organized the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association (BTNA) in an effort to stabilize, integrate, and adapt the area to change. BTNA sought to ensure the integration of the neighborhood would proceed in a peaceful manner and to address racist actions within the neighborhood an encouraging peaceful and productive co-existence.
The neighborhood association with its membership cut across racial, social and economic boundaries. The success of the association has fostered a sense of stability in the area. Newsletters, community workshops, land-use planning and code enforcement have all become tools utilized by BTNA in their efforts at furthering these ends. TO further explore the history of the neighborhood, take a look at the two-part Youtube documentary about the neighborhood below, or check out our new online archive with historical newsletters and other items.