Steve Barnett is no stranger to history. In fact, it’s widely known that if you need to find out something about your Irvington home, Steve’s the man to ask. He has meticulously created a database of the homes east of Linwood Avenue, south of 10th Street, north of Brookville Road, and west of Kitley Avenue.
Steve was a member of the community group that created the Irvington Historic District, and he also helped in getting nearby neighbors on the National Registry. He serves as a regular columnist on the Weekly View, sharing a variety of historical information ranging back as far as 100 years ago. Steve contributes house histories for homes that are on the annual Benton House Tour of Homes.
In fact, the History Channel consulted with Steve for their upcoming series H.H. Holmes: American Ripper. From the History Channel website: “In American Ripper, Holmes’ great-great-grandson, Jeff Mudgett, sets out to prove a controversial theory: that H.H. Holmes and Britain’s most notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper, were the same man.” This series began airing Tuesday, July 11, and Irvington is slated to be featured in upcoming weeks.
When Steve was president of Irvington Historical Society in the 1980s, artifacts and artwork were stored in the History Room in the basement of the former Brown Branch Public Library. The move to the Bona Thompson Memorial Center began in the late ’90s, but the doors were not opened to the public until all 2002 due to construction and repairs. Each week you can find Steve offering tours of Irvington Historical Society’s museum and exhibits during regular operating hours.
How long have you lived and/or worked here in Irvington?
Steve can trace his family’s Irvington roots all the way back to 1927. Between his father and himself, there’s at least one graduate from IPS School 57, IPS School 85, Howe and Tech. His grandfather worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad and moved to Irvington to be closer to his work at Hawthorne Yards. His father worked at International Harvester and was in the Navy during World War II. Steve served in the National Guard with Dan Quayle during his college years. He and his wife Sue spent a few years on Capitol Hill before moving back home where Steve worked with first Andy Jacobs, then Julia Carson.
What do you do for fun?
Steve enjoys playing with his grandkids and studying genealogy to understand his family’s history. His mother was Canadian, so he and Sue like to travel to the Georgian Bay region.
What’s your favorite walk, bike ride, block, or view in the neighborhood?
There are too many options for Steve to have only one favorite. When he walks through the neighborhood, he finds his favorites are those areas he frequented as a child, namely University Avenue and Irving Circle Park. Also Bonna Avenue and the area around the George W. Julian House are still among his favorites. He still likes Ellenberger Park, but commented that it is vastly different from his childhood days; the wooded western half of the park was so heavily forested it was like night and very mysterious. He enjoys the Kile Oak tree, which he visited for the first time as an adult.
If you were Mayor of Irvington for a day, what would you do first?
After careful consideration, Steve said he would build a parking garage. Steve realizes street parking and limited surface lots are not the solution, and he doesn’t want to go to permit parking along some neighborhood streets. Currently, during special events, some residents can hardly drive from their homes due to problems with parking and automobile congestion created by outsiders looking for parking options. Additionally, Steve believes we must continue to welcome and encourage visitors from outside Irvington, but many end up as frustrated guests because of the difficulty in finding parking; they leave with a negative impression and may not return. He acknowledges that there are pockets of surface parking, but those areas should be made more inviting and have better signage at eye level directing visitors to them. In addition, consideration should be given to marking spaces around the north circle and adjacent streets to maximize existing street parking.