Historic Preservation graduate students have created a treasure trove of material for Muncie’s Riverside Normal-City neighborhoods. Two classes – both led by assistant professor of historic preservation J.P. Hall – worked in the area fall semester 2020.
Students in ARCH 441/541 crafted design guidelines to aid in preservation of the neighborhoods where the oldest structure dates to 1895. Their 62-page document is chock filled with photographs to help property owners identify historic elements in their neighborhood and make decisions about maintenance and repairs. The guidelines will also help the Muncie Historic Preservation and Rehabilitation Commission make recommendations in the community.
The neighborhood northwest of downtown Muncie includes 91 structures representing a variety of vernacular styles. The neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 “for its significance in the development of suburban living in Muncie and the exemplary architecture represented in the houses.” Most of the houses are built on a small berm and include a detached garage accessible via an alley. Wide porches and mature trees are among other features.
After a walking tour, Hall’s ARCH 626 Preservation Research Methods class dug deep into the archives, using historic maps, aerial images, historic photos, online newspapers, and archives both at Ball State Libraries and at Muncie Carnegie Library. Students found that despite modern upgrades such as new windows and siding, most houses have retained their architectural integrity.
They were able to track through the county assessor’s records and home loan ads in local newspapers how the neighborhood near White River became a highly desired suburban location for families in the 1920s. Of 91 structures, they recorded that 18 are notable, 54 contributing, 18 non-contributing, and 1 outstanding property in the district.