Pioneer hero: Woman instrumental in turning Herron Morton into prime real estate

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Eighty-two-year-old Jeanne Pontious bought her Delaware Street home in Herron Morton in 1983 for $52,000.

“Well, they called us pilgrims and pioneers — people who got involved in the restoration early on were people who recognized they could buy a house with great value at a lower cost,” she explained.

She likes to call it “sweat equity.” For more than 30 years, Pontious lived in a historic home on Delaware Street. She downsized just last year to, yes, another home in Herron Morton.

“Well, it’s just become my hometown,” she said.

That’s why fellow Herron Morton neighbor, Jon Berg, wanted Pontious to be recognized as a local hero as part of WISH-TV’s Week of Heroes.

“She’s always got her front porch open and sometimes providing adult beverages to get her agenda moving!” Berg said.

Berg says Pontious is crucial is making the urban district feel like a community where people know their neighbors and feel safe.

Along with connecting neighbors, Pontious was also instrumental in preserving the history of Herron Morton.

The neighborhood runs from 16th Street, north to 22nd Street and Pennsylvania Street and east to Central Avenue. It’s been home to the first Indiana State Fairgrounds and Camp Morton, which served as a Confederate POW camp, and hundreds of people who settled the neighborhood in the late 1800s.

When cars entered the picture, a lot of people moved to the suburbs and the beautifully built homes were cut up into multi-family units or forgotten about. When Pontious arrived, she was determined to stop to deterioration.

“We knew that we needed the foundation. Those of us that were on the association board knew that we needed to go this way,” Pontious said.

Forming the Herron Morton Place Foundation gave the neighborhood a 501(c)(3) and allowed for fund raising and grant approvals.

One of the foundation’s undertakings was the Herron Morton Historic Park. Pontious and a group of moms knew there needed to be a green space for children. “It was called the kiddie committee,” she said.

After years of fundraising, planning and construction, the park was completed in 2003.

“And we did all of the care of the park for the first few years. You know, that’s why I still think I have to pull weeds,” Pontious said.

Pontious says it’s likely the biggest reason that more and more families are giving Herron Morton a shot.

Berg agrees. “People have the luxury of Google Street View and they can use this to identify where they want to live.”

Pontious has the fortitude and dedication of a hero that, in her neighbors’ eyes, will have a lasting impact on the Herron Morton Community.

When Pontious learned why we were interviewing her, she wasn’t too keen on the idea because, as she made very clear, she was just one of many people who were instrumental in getting Herron Morton back on its feet.

So, for the record, WISH-TV would like to recognize all of those hometown pioneers who made and are making a difference.

Also, Pontious wanted to add that the Herron Morton Association is making a big push for safety. Pontious says she’s encouraging neighbors to keep their yards open and avoid privacy fences to provide more connectivity. She’s also hoping to soon have one designated person per block be a spokesperson of sorts.

That will also be the person who goes door to door in their designated area to drop off the Urban Times and get to know each neighbor. She said she does not want to call them a captain or a leader, but rather just a person who is outspoken and passionate about keeping the area safe.

Click here for more information about the Herron Morton Place Foundation.