10 Things We Love About Cottage Home
It sounds really corny but whenever I’m in Cottage Home I get the feeling something magical is taking place. Maybe I’ve been to one too many Halloween Block Parties or maybe I only visit Cottage Home at dusk. Nevertheless, I cannot shake the feeling that I’d be missing out on something unique and amazing if I didn’t take-up permanent residence here. Cottage Home is the sort of place where you’re bound to meet someone interesting and see something exceptional. It has the underpinnings of an earlier era that matches the ages of the houses where friends and neighbors stop by unannounced. It’s a place where dog walkers pause to offer advice on growing veggies and where dads randomly bust into games of unorganized soccer with neighborhood kids. It’s a place where families share their sand toys, garden water and their books. The friendly faces you meet in Cottage Home are a quirky bunch of open-minded and caring people. Unlike many neighborhoods filled with the same types of people, this neighborhood is home to a diverse and interesting population from many different walks of life each bringing something unique to the table. However different these individuals may be in age, ideals, or world views, they all have in common a communal sense of place and pride that is not often found in America today. We certainly want to be a part of that!
Sometimes we find ourselves fielding comments and responding to inquiries about why we would want to live downtown- especially since we work in the suburbs and also have kids. There are many well-meaning folks who truly believe this is a bad idea.
Here is a link to a great article by Indianapolis Star columnist Robert King about his family’s decision to leave the suburbs and move to the Near Eastside:
…and an article one year later:
We’ve have actually been warned, “Downtown is no place to raise a child!” To help explain why we wholeheartedly disagree, here are the top 10 reasons why we love living downtown and why we think Cottage Home will be a great place to live and raise our kids!
#1. The Community Space
Many new suburban housing communities today have large backyards with private swing sets, tall privacy fences, and a well organized layout of mailboxes, garages, driveways and cul de sacs. Cottage Home, by contrast, is a community of distinct smaller houses in a variety of styles, close together with one large multi-use communal “backyard” in the heart of the neighborhood – the Cottage Home community space. What I love most about this space is that it wasn’t some pre-planned fabrication by a national real estate development corporation trying to fit some cookie-cutter idea into another bland subdivision. It developed naturally and organically from the community of people living in Cottage Home. They worked together to raise the money to build a resource for the community that is unique and specific to the needs of the people that live here. The shared green space is the backdrop for many gatherings large and small and is by far my favorite place to be. The community space boasts a laundry list of amenities that we enjoy.
The most frequently utilized part of this area is the playground.
We almost always run into kids and parents every time we stop by. My kids are almost sure to come home tired and dirty. This is, by the way, a fabulous way to make fast friends young and old. Why aren’t more neighborhoods doing this?
Next to the playground is an area known as the Urban Prairie. Here you will find plenty of green space to kick a soccer ball or throw a Frisbee.
A large circular path surrounds a fire pit and open green space. On the outside of the path there is a shelter, micro-library, urban garden plots, and a bee hive. The shelter is used for picnics and also for bands during neighborhood and community events.
The roof of the shelter catches rainfall that is connected to a large cistern used for watering the community urban garden plots.
Anyone visiting the urban prairie is also sure to also notice the buzzing of BEES! I have been obsessing about bees this year and over the winter read everything I could get my hands on. We recently had the fortune of witnessing (along with the other families that were at the playground at the time) a fellow Cottage Homie introducing his first box of bee’s to a new beehive in the community space. I was ecstatic. Maybe too much.
Near the buzz of bees also resides the micro-library. Just as the name implies, it is a small library built and maintained by Cottage Home dwellers. The books are free to borrow and even categorized into sections. How awesome is that!? Also, it looks very cool. Well done to you- whoever you are that designed it.
#2. The People
We appreciate the eclectic mix of individuals and characters who call this neighborhood home. We have felt warmly welcomed by their friendliness and we haven’t even moved yet. People stop to shake our hands and offer a thumbs-up when they see us in the yard. Neighbors don’t hide away in their houses, they come out to meet you. Or, if you’re Steve-the-alley-neighbor, your head randomly appears over the fence top to say hello. The people in the neighborhood are valued for their differences and bring to the table a servant heart of skills that range from cooking and food trucking, to art making, graphic design, and carpentry (just to name a few). We look forward to being a part of this active community where neighbors gather spontaneously and people look out for one another.
Here is a great article we found that shares a similar experience of Cottage Home:
#3. The unique aesthetic
You won’t find meticulous lawnmower lines on the lawns in Cottage Home. Not everyone has an edger either. We like that. You won’t find matching mailboxes or lost party guests trying to find the right beige on beige house. What Cottage Home does have is a whole lot of uniqueness and individuality in the way of antique pianos on front porches, colorful painted doors as neighborhood signage, and signs that say interesting things like “Bees for Sale”. There are twinkle lights on front porches (year round!) and more than a few yards with wildflowers as their primary motif. Yes, Cottage Home is not all quaint beauty and is intermingled with light industrial buildings, but that is the historic reality of the neighborhood. I’m sure there will be moments when we miss the Disney park-like atmosphere of our old neighborhood, but what we’ve found in Cottage Home is permission to be a little more creative, a little more real and organic, and a little more us. So, if we want to let our chickens roam around the yard- so be it. Want to paint the house funky colors- go for it! 20 wind chimes and a gnome- no problem.
#4. The Kids
Most people know that urban areas are experiencing a continued renewal. The vast majority of these new residents to downtown are young millennials and older empty nesters, but there are also an increasing number of young families choosing to stay downtown instead of follow the path of the previous generation to the suburbs. Cottage Home is a small neighborhood, but it has a good number of kids. We have a 10 year old son and 2 year old daughter. We have been excited to find many new friends for our children in Cottage Home.
One of the first things people notice about Cottage Home is well…the Cottages. Most of the homes in the neighborhood were built between 1870 and 1915 and share characteristics common of Folk Victorian homes. There are also several modern homes which are equally as awesome as the old ones, such as the Bradbury’s yellow home nestled in between little cottages…
and the PreFabulous home development on the north border of the neighborhood.
This area is a testament to the asset old homes can be. Once seen as an eyesore of urban blight, this area is now a protected area of historical integrity thanks to the hard work of dedicated renovators before us. These homes, like many slated for demolition in our city today, just needed someone to love them and bring them back to life. We love that the people in this neighborhood are passionate about their homes and many boast grand stories of historical refurbishment. Do I have a twinkle in my eye?
#6. Proximity to Mass Ave, the Cultural Trail, and the Monon Trail.
Cottage Home resides at the eastern end of the Mass Ave cultural district (a diagonal street known for its local shops and restaurants). Some of our favorite highlights include Homespun, Indy Reads, Mass Ave Toys and Silver in the City. One of our favorite local things to do with our kids is to walk to one of the two ice cream places – Sub Zero or Yogulatte. Mass Ave is fortunate to connect with two major bike trails, the cultural trail and monon trail. The cultural trail is 8-mile urban path that connects all of the city’s major cultural attractions and is an amazing asset to Indianapolis and especially to young families downtown who want to bike with their kids from one location to another. Check it out at http://indyculturaltrail.org/
The southern terminus of the Monon Trail is right at the doorstep of Cottage Home. This trail runs straight north and connects downtown to Broad Ripple and further north to Carmel.
#7. The Block Party
The photographic highlight of the year is the annual Cottage Home Block Party.
This party takes place along a lantern laden Dorman Street. It truly IS the pinnacle of fall… complete with food trucks, hay bales, bon fires, live music, art, Halloween costumes, an animal show, hay rides, sweaty kids, drag queens (yes, drag queens), beer, and dancing. There is truly something for everyone.
#8. Urban Farming
Nationwide, there is a burgeoning scene of local foods and farming in urban areas. Cottage Home is no stranger to this homegrown movement boasting a handful of lot-sized guerrilla gardens and even a full blown CSA complete with chickens, bees and compost.
#9. Access to Downtown
Cottage Home’s close proximity to the very center of downtown means that we are just a short walk or ride from events or places that other families have to plan an entire day or afternoon to visit. It’s nothing for us to ride our bikes to the Zoo just to see the penguins or to swing by the Children’s museum for an hour or so while we’re out running errands. There is always something going on and we are able to walk or ride to it all. Some days we will walk down the street to find an unexpected 5K run or a bike race. Just last weekend we walked to the Indy 500 parade to show Lucy a few of the bands, floats, and balloons. When it was obvious she had had enough, we just walked back home. No big deal. Downtown Indianapolis also has a killer library that we take full advantage of as well as other worthy to be mentioned amenities such as the Canal, White River State Park, and the Indiana State Museum. Other events, such as the Strawberry Festival, Italian Street Festival, and the Indie Handicraft Exchange keep us busy over the summer.
#10. The opportunity to be a part of a neighborhood still developing
We feel passionately about the development of urban neighborhoods. Joe grew up right down the street from Cottage Home and his mom was once a president of NESCO (Near East Side Community Organization). Continued revitalization of the near east side is deeply personal to us.
I think there was a part of us that was a little sad after we originally bought a house that was not in much need of renovation and was in a neighborhood that had been revitalized decades ago. We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we might have to wait until retirement to find a nice little house to renovate. The past few years we have found ourselves looking at houses that most people would see as boarded up examples of urban blight, but we would see nothing but potential. We were also envious of friends and people we met who bought an old house and brought it back to life. There are many reasons (more than just 10) to be excited about moving to Cottage Home, but the fact that we get to be a part of a neighborhood that is still developing and play a very small part in it’s continued growth is right near the top. We certainly can’t claim to be urban pioneers – there are MANY residents of Cottage Home that bought in when it wasn’t so obvious this would be a great place to raise a family. To them, we are so thankful.
For more information and photos of the neighborhood – check out the facebook page at:
Now, about the house we bought…
Follow our story by reading the next post: House Stalkers! How we found our fixer upper.
Read the previous post here: Wait! What? You’re moving? Why?