Lockefield Gardens was the first public housing built in Indianapolis. Built during the years of 1935 to 1938, it was built exclusively for low income blacks in Indianapolis. The complex was closed in 1976, and a number of structures were demolished in the early 1980s. Today, the only original structures remaining are those along Blake Street.
Three million dollars was spent on the Lockefield Gardens project, which opened in February 1938. Twenty-two acres along Indiana Avenue were chosen to become 748 separate housing units, under the direction of the Russ and Harrison architecture firm, built by N. P. Severin Company of Chicago, based on European prototypes. The twenty-four buildings which made up the complex ranged from two to four stories. "Corner", "strip", and "tee" models used by the Public Works Administration in other projects were used here. Among the amenities of this housing were a central mall, four playgrounds (with thirteen smaller play areas), a school (William D. McCoy Public School #24), and a small shopping arcade. It featured plenty of ventilation, abundant natural sunlight, and pleasant views of the area. Rents ranged from $20.80 to $30.10 a month. Lionel Artis was chosen as the original apartment housing manager, a position he held until his retirement in 1969, a span of over thirty years. After construction, it was considered one of the best of the New Deal housing projects. The spacial, wide-open areas of Lockefield Gardens were an oddity; other New Deal housing projects were cramped.
When it originally opened, Lockefield Gardens was racially segregated, but it allowed blacks something they rarely had: a community-oriented residence. Lockefield Gardens became the nucleus of black community located immediately northwest of downtown Indianapolis. In the 1950s, the guilt of some whites on a national level led to many blacks moving to what were residential areas mostly habited by whites. Due to income restrictions and more prosperous blacks leaving for the white residences, Lockefield Gardens began its decline. A redevelopment plan in the 1970s was hoped to revitalize the district, but federal judge S. Hugh Dillin thought it would lead to continued segregation of an educational and residential level. As a result, the apartments closed in 1976.
In 1980 it was decided that part of the Lockefield Gardens area would be used for the expansion of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), a campus of both the Indiana University and Purdue University systems. In 1983, after demolitions, only seven of the original twenty-four buildings remained, all along Blake Street, despite protests by Indianapolis preservationists. Even still, the remaining structures were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Eleven new buildings were made, and the seven original buildings were renovated. The new total housing units of the complex was 493, with 199 of this total being within the original seven structures.