I begin this column with an afternoon jaunt in the neighborhood I call home: Meridian-Kessler, otherwise known by it’s hip moniker: Sobro. I tied up my boots, buttoned up my coat, and walked out into another godforsaken, Midwestern, winter afternoon. The sky was grey, the wind was biting, and nobody appeared to have shovelled their sidewalks. But onward I walked.
First, a bit of history. Roughly bordered by Kessler Ave. and 38th St. on the north and south, and Meridian and the Monon Trail on the west and east, the neighborhood was first established with its annexation into Indianapolis in 1905. Much of the land was first developed by the city’s wealthy elite. When walking along Meridian, Pennsylvania, and Washington Blvd., you can view these impressive mansions in all their Neo-Classical and Colonial Revival majesty.
But if you’re like me, and monuments to “old money” aren’t really your thing, don’t worry. East of Central avenue, the neighborhood is largely comprised of charming bungalows, duplexes, and craftsman homes. My personal domicile, for instance, is a quaint, albeit rather “rustic”, American Foursquare duplex. It’s cold and drafty, the paint’s chipping off, and those damn raccoons keep on getting in the attic, but on the plus side I never have to decorate it for Halloween. And the rent is cheap.
I walked north on College Ave and crossed to the west side of the street at 52nd St. It was at this point that I made a curious discovery. Juxtaposed against the ice and snow was a lonely cactus growing outside the Aristocrat Pub. Given the time of year and the fact that this is Indiana, this was quite a surprise. But strange as it might sound, after doing some research, I found that prickly pear cacti do grow naturally in Indiana, being the sole native cactus in the state. Now, I’m not so dumb to believe that this specific cactus is growing as a volunteer, it was obviously deliberately planted, but it’s still a neat find nonetheless.
One reason why I love walking in old neighborhoods like Sobro is the abundance of mature trees. While walking along the streets, you can admire some exceptional tulip trees, oaks, and maples towering over the adjacent houses. And once spring is in bloom these yards will be resplendent with flowering dogwoods, eastern redbuds, and bradford pears.
Not to kill the mood, but I should make something of a public service announcement by mentioning that an awful lot of residential intersections are two-way stops. As in, not all directions of traffic come to halt. I bring this because I cannot tell you how many times in a state of total oblivion I’ve wandered into the middle of oncoming traffic, angering motorists and almost getting myself killed. So good god, use prudence.
I would of course do a major disservice to the neighborhood if I failed to mention that a major advantage to walking in Sobro is that if I ever get the itch for a libation there is always a bar nearby. Within six blocks on College Ave., there’s the Upland Taphouse, Sinking Ship, Red Key, Aristocrat, Moe & Johnny’s, 20 Tap, and Fat Dan’s. Top that off with the recent opening of Bent Rail Brewery on Winthrop Ave. And if you aren’t in the mood to sit down, and don’t mind breaking a few open container laws, there’s a liquor store as well.
I arrived back home just as the weak March sun began to set. The gloomy streets began to light up in a warm glow from the iconic Red Key neon sign and I reflected on the great things about Sobro. The streets are all walkable, the residents are friendly, and the Monon Trail is always near by. Throw in some neat old houses, and an eclectic assortment of shops, bars, and restaurants and you’ve got a neighborhood with an exciting bohemian charm unique to the city.
Written by: Kevin Schmoll