The neighborhood began in the mid-1800’s as a home to those working in the shipping trades. The buildings survived the great fire of 1904 and the area became a destination for European immigrants. Following a gradual decline in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the neighborhood was renewed beginning in the late 1970’s.
In the summer of 1975, 104 houses in varying degrees of disrepair were raffled off by the City for $1.00 as urban homesteads. They were bordered by Barre and Hughes Streets on the north and south, and by Hanover and Sharp Streets on the east and west. The odds of winning one of these properties varied depending on the number of applicants who were approved by the City for a particular property. From the day of the first awards to the completion of the last property, it took 10 years to create Otterbein.
All homesteaders were involved in planning Otterbein, from the Exterior Design Standards to the brick and lampposts for the sidewalks. The Otterbein Association’s publication, The Mullion, is a reminder of the night when after four hours of discussion the homesteaders were deadlocked over the standard regarding window mullions.
Homesteading involved demolition, planning, an Architectural Review Committee process, a City review process, the REAL Loan Committee process, the Home Ownership Program process, the house construction and renovation phase and site development. All of Otterbein, including the new infill housing, was designated an historic preservation area in 1983. From 1978 to 1986 all the property on the east, north, and west boundaries of Otterbein was developed with houses, a high rise, condominiums, and the Federal Reserve Bank, respectively. The Harbor Walk Townhouse Association includes about 100 infill homes adjacent to the restored Otterbein houses.
Today, the community offers a mix of old and new homes that are convenient to the central business district, to public and highway transportation, to two major league stadiums, and to the arts and entertainment venues of adjacent neighborhoods.
For more information about the redevelopment of Otterbein, please see:
article on Otterbein history (pdf 3.5 MB)