|After purchasing the Morris-Butler House in 1964, Indiana Landmarks restored it from top to bottom.|
Saving the Morris-Butler House
Grandson of the founder of the Indianapolis pharmaceutical firm, Eli Lilly & Company, Eli Lilly’s interest in history led him to look for ways to preserve the past through the restoration of historic buildings. In fact, it was Eli Lilly who asked Indiana Landmarks to consider purchasing the Morris-Butler House.
Eli Lilly had lived a block away from the house at 1220 North Broadway when married to his first wife in the 1920s, and from his patio he and his wife heard the music lessons conducted by Florence Butler at the Morris-Butler House.
Indiana Landmarks decided the house would be a good investment, and it became the Foundation’s first property when Lilly provided $22,500 for the purchase of the house in 1964. By the time Indiana Landmarks purchased the house, the roof leaked, the floors were warped, and a century of air pollution had turned the brickwork black. Electricity had never been installed above the first floor, and the coal gravitational heating system was still in use.
|Analysis revealed elaborate decorative painting—long covered by coats of white paint—on the parlor ceiling.|
Lilly provided funds for the restoration as it progressed. To stabilize the house a restoration architect began with repairs to the exterior of the house. This included adding a new slate roof, sandblasting the exterior, and repointed the bricks. After tearing down the structurally unstable summer kitchen and attached privy, these buildings were meticulously rebuilt using the same bricks and design.
The construction of Interstate 65, which passed just south of the Morris-Butler House, led to the demolition of a number of Old Northside residences. Fortunately, the city allowed the restorers of the Morris-Butler House to remove and use window glass, hardware, and doorknobs from the condemned houses. Although the Morris family never had enough money to complete the interior of the house as it was originally designed, Indiana Landmarks decided to restore the house as if it had been completed. After several years of restoration, Indiana Landmarks opened the Morris-Butler House to the public in 1969.