Holidays for History Lovers
On Friday, December 8, our annual Holiday Open House in Indianapolis features two striking properties in the Old Northside Historic District. We invite Indiana Landmarks’ members to join us for food, music, friendly conversation, and tours of vintage interiors at the Indianapolis Propylaeum and the nearby headquarters of Indiana Humanities.
Taking its name from the Greek word for “gateway,” the Propylaeum was established in 1888 to advance education and cultural opportunities for women. The organization’s founder, May Wright Sewall, also started the Girls Classic School (later incorporated into Park Tudor School), the Indianapolis Council of Women, and Indianapolis Women’s Club. Today, the organization continues to promote women’s issues while also accepting men as members.
Between 1891 and 1923, the Propylaeum operated in a building at 17 East North Street, which the City of Indianapolis demolished to make way for the World War Memorial Plaza. In 1924, the organization reopened in the palatial Queen Anne home at 1410 North Delaware Street, built in 1890 for beer brewer John Schmidt. The building also served previously as the home of George McCulloch, founder of the Indianapolis Star, and Joseph Schaf, another prominent Indianapolis brewer. The Indianapolis College of Music and Fine Arts occupied the building between 1921 and 1923.
With only five owners over 117 years, the Propylaeum remains remarkably unchanged. Inside and out, it’s an artful mélange of styles and elements.
Outside, the house sports Neo-Jacobean chimneys, terra cotta reliefs, friezes, a Georgian front entrance, a Greco-Roman pediment over the porte-cochere, and Romanesque columns supporting a wraparound front porch. Inside, the Propylaeum’s Club Room combines the original main parlor and the billiard room. Be sure to look for paintings of literary giants on the ceiling, including Shakespeare, Shelley, and Walt Whitman.
Three Rookwood fireplaces add a Craftsman touch to rooms on the first-floor, including the Tea Room (originally the dining room), which features hunting-themed murals of fish and fowl above richly molded wood paneling and a built-in sideboard. A hand-carved staircase leads to the second-floor sleeping rooms, where guests can spend the night. Open House attendees will also be able to visit the property’s grand carriage house.
Indiana Humanities, a statewide nonprofit, makes grants and offers a range of activities to stimulate the cultivation and exchange of ideas. The organization occupies the home of writer and diplomat Meredith Nicholson, at 1500 N. Delaware Street – known as “The House of a Thousand Candles” after Nicholson’s novel of the same name.
The elegant Georgian Revival 1905 residence will be open during our Holiday Open House on December 8, following an interior and exterior restoration completed in part with a grant from our Marion County Historic Preservation Fund.
Register for the Holiday Open House at Eventbrite.com. The gathering is free to members. Not a member but want to attend the Open House and gain other benefits? Join Indiana Landmarks online, or contact our membership department at 800-450-4534, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks to the sponsors of this year’s Holiday Open House in Indianapolis: Ambrose Property Group; AXIA Urban; Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf, Architects; Buckingham Foundation; Jim and Marjorie Kienle; Odle McGuire Shook Architecture; Old National Bank; R.E. Dimond and Associates; RJE Business Interiors; Van Rooy Properties; Wiss Janney Elstner & Associates; Conrad Schmitt Studios, Inc.; CSO Architects; and Historic Preservation & Heritage Consulting LLC; with special thanks to the Indianapolis Propylaeum and Indiana Humanities.
Feel like traveling? You’re welcome to attend our other Holiday Open Houses: Dec. 1 at Veraestau in Aurora, Dec. 2 at Kizer House in South Bend, and Dec. 7 at Grant and Carolyn Thieman’s home in Madison.
Stay up to date on the latest news, stories, and events from Indiana Landmarks, around the state or in your area.