317 Project: Indy's hidden oasis rumored to have inspired a Humphrey Bogart film

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Eight miles northeast of downtown is Brendonwood, a hidden oasis considered by some as Indianapolis’ best-kept secret.

Rain or shine, Brendonwood veteran groundskeepers Michael Copeland and Andrew Hast are there to maintain it.

Plowing, paving, mowing and trimming, they tend to the common grounds – roughly 90 of Brendonwood’s 350 acres – which includes roads, ditches, ravines, a tennis court, swimming pool and nine-hole golf course.

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Remaining acreage is comprised of 110 lots, each with a house, some dating to the early 1900s, uniquely identified by names like Bark-a-boom and Peak-a-moose.

Although they’ve heard about them, Copeland and Hast weren’t there for many of the historical moments: like Brendonwood’s establishment in 1917; or when Walter Marmon, co-creator of the first car to win the Indy 500, lived there in the 1930s; or when the golf course was converted into a vegetable garden during WWII; or when rumors originated that Brendonwood inspired a 1950s murder mystery novel later adapted into a Humphrey Bogart film.

But they were there in 2006 when Brendonwood received its historic designation.

And again when iron gates emerged along Brendonwood’s southern boundary – East 56th Street – in 2012, enclosing the towering trees, flowing ravines and steep hills that stretch up to its northern boundary, Fall Creek.

They were there in 2014, after a record-breaking snowstorm.

Groundskeeper Michael Copeland drives a cart through the historic Brendonwood neighborhood on Thursday, April 7, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Groundskeeper Michael Copeland drives a cart through the historic Brendonwood neighborhood on Thursday, April 7, 2022, in Indianapolis.

“There’s nothing worse than finishing a 20-hour shift plowing snow,” Copeland said, “then watching the snow keep falling.”

They were there years later, on a day “the sky was divided,” seconds before a tornado struck and toppled trees, blocking nearly every street.

“That was like three weeks of 14–15-hour days,” Hast said, “just chainsaw work.”

But on most days, the good days, they see bald eagles flock in blue skies, deer frolicking below, while snapping turtles shelter in the creek nearby.

“My favorite thing is being out here,” Copeland said. “You don’t even know you’re in the city.”

Contact IndyStar reporter Brandon Drenon at 317-517-3340 or BDrenon@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrandonDrenon.

Brandon is also a Report for America corps member with the GroundTruth Project, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of journalists in the U.S. and around the world.

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This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: 317 Project: the caretakers of Indianapolis' hidden oasis Brendonwood