HETRICK: In Pendleton, living the good life on the edge of an edge city

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Bruce Hetrick
Several years ago, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard introduced me to a concept called “edge city.”

The term, I’d later learn, was first coined by author and former Washington Post reporter Joel Garreau to describe places like, well, Carmel—suburban centers where people live, work, shop and play on the edge of bigger cities, such as Indianapolis.

If Carmel epitomizes edge city in central Indiana, then I’m now living on the edge of the edge.

As of this month, when two moving trucks and assorted delivery vehicles unloaded old stuff and new at our home in historic Pendleton, my wife and I are officially denizens of small-town America. Think: exurbia in excelsis Deo. The outer edge of not-so-edgy places called Fishers and Noblesville.

Our new home is an island.

Its five acres are lined by a wooden fence worthy of a Kentucky horse farm.

The tall wooden gate would fit the front entrance of a Wyoming ranch.

The long driveway that winds its way to our house and barn smacks of your favorite Brown County lane (minus the scenic overlooks, of course).

And the trees! By the scores, the oaks, maples and sycamores tower over the place, while the pines provide year-round privacy and greenery.

Then there’s the front walk, crafted from river rock and surrounded by tulips, irises and other lush landscaping. On either side, stone paths wind their way through the gardens. It’s like walking up a Smoky Mountains streambed lined by wildflowers.

The town of Pendleton is picturesque, too.

In the small downtown (there are two, count ’em, two stoplights!), we’ve tried out 1820 Pizza (named for the year Pendleton was founded), the high-end restaurant (Puzzles) and the wine bar/brew pub (The Stable) that recently featured the band The Why Store.

We’ve also become semi-regulars at the Mexican place, the Chinese carryout joint, the diner, the doughnut shop and the hardware store.

Small-town service is exceptional, too.

When we went to the license branch last week—during lunch hour, no less—the two of us were greeted by all three available employees. That’s quite a change from the jam-packed branches we encountered in Indianapolis.

Walking along the main street in downtown Pendleton, we learned from a shopkeeper about an artists’ association that’s gaining steam. It seems they want to turn the place into a creative colony.

And on the website of the Pendleton Business Association, we learned one reason (besides architecture and a waterfall) the town is considered historic.

Back in 1824, says the site, “a Native American family was murdered by five white men several miles east of Pendleton. Four of the five men were found and brought to justice. … Of those, three were sentenced to death and hanged within sight of the falls. It was the first time in the history of the United States that whites received capital punishment for the murder of Native Americans.”

Murder: shameful. Justice for all: right on.

But make no mistake, despite the long community history and scenic personal surroundings, we live on the edge.

Across the street from our little retreat, there’s a new middle school and a long-established high school that’s home to the Pendleton Heights Arabians.

Some nights, the stadium lights shine bright and the announcer tells us over the loudspeaker who’s won the 440 relay or who scored a run in the seventh inning.

A half mile away, there are strip malls and outlots with a big Marsh grocery, fast-food places, gas stations and other retailers.

The farm field next door to us is listed with a commercial broker—allegedly for a community of senior-citizen duplexes (but, hey, after we win Powerball and buy the land, that’s not gonna happen!)

In the biggest sign of all that we’re living on the edge, we’re watching out our back deck as construction crews build Madison County’s first roundabout, a $1.3 million me-too memorial to my friend, the champion of edge cities and the king of roundabouts himself, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard.

Now, I realize this isn’t the edgy stuff of the FBI raiding city hall, or public officials ripping off taxpayers with bribes and kickbacks, or elected representatives getting shipped off to prison for peddling the public trust, or shootings and stabbings that lead the local news, or middle-of-the-night sirens as ambulances race to level-one trauma centers, or panhandlers hitting folks up for cash at street corners and convenience stores, or any of the other things I already miss about Indianapolis.

But 20 miles away, I can feel it happening: The suburbs want to be edge cities and the exurbs want to be suburbs.

I think I’ll close the gate now, walk up the drive, and hide on the island.•


Hetrick is an Indianapolis-based writer, speaker and public relations consultant. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.


  • Sounds familiar
    Sounds a lot like a description of our area, when we moved here in 1984. But then, things got aggressive around here, and changed dramatically. More so when your favorite Mayor you mentioned was elected, and our area was annexed. Our peaceful neighborhood is quickly being surrounded by over zealous commercial projects. Your one roundabout? We will soon be within a stones throw of 5 of them.
    I think it commemerable that you highight Pendlton, IN. But who really cares about your personal residence. I mean come on if the IBJ wrote articles on neat houses around Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel etc. that would be all reader would see. Play up the little town---Keep your personal business well, PERSONAL!
  • Pendleton House
    I know exactly what house you are talking about. My sister is the person you purchased the from. It is a beautiful place and I enjoyed being there and helping with some of the work that you described. It has such beautiful surroundings and the view is breath taking each season.
  • welcome
    Thanks Bruce. It was great to see you and Cheri last week. Welcome to our community. Thanks for all the comments on our small town. Much appreciated. Connie
  • Small Town
    I too know which house you live in. I know the daughter of its previous owner. One of the downsides to living in a small town..hard to be anonymous. :) Welcome to our awesome small town and thanks for sharing your story.
  • More proof...
    You're living in a small town if, without knowing you and by description only, I can figure out which house you live in. Wait til homecoming - Pendleton really does it up then! A friend of mine is in real estate and had clients comment to her recently that they loved the 'Pendleton nightlife'...! It really is a great place to live.
  • Deck
    Oh and the deck was awesome too since it went almost all the way around the house and had many doors to go in and out of. Made for some fun games of hide and seek.
  • My old house growing up
    I'm pretty sure you bought the house I grew up in. It has totally been remodeled since we lived there. We loved that house and have a lot of awesome memories of the barn, basketball court and woods. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
    • thanks!
      Thanks for featuring my beautiful town. My office is in downtown Pendleton right beside the police station and fire station which features the antique fire truck. There is much talen in our wee town and I'm proud of that.

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