Mid-Century Modern Home Tour Spotlights Indy Southside
Indiana Modern’s annual tour features five Indianapolis homes built in the 1950s, including one repurposed as an events center.
As an architectural photographer, Garry Chilluffo recognizes good design when he sees it. So, when he and his partner Craig Ware noticed a custom Ranch house faced with Brown County stone in Indianapolis’s Homecroft Historic District, he knew they’d found something special. The pair bought the house in 2018, and on July 8 it will be one of five exceptional Mid-Century Modern homes featured on Indiana Landmarks’ Back to the Future home tour, this year highlighting Indianapolis’s southside and Greenwood.
The Homecroft house dates to 1955, when Sarah and Karl Gassert purchased a double lot on Madison Avenue and hired contractor Walter Piepenbrok to build their custom dream home. The couple furnished it in high-end materials, with slate floors in the entry and den, a stone fireplace, and cedar closets. Today, the original vintage kitchen cabinetry and all three original bathrooms remain. Garry and Craig, a program manager for Eli Lilly and Company, have decorated the house with period furnishings, including living room pieces by Paul Frankl and a dining room suite by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings. “This home was built for gracious living, and it is such a comfortable house in which to entertain friends,” says Garry.
Two homes on this year’s tour are located in the Glennwood Homes subdivision, developed in 1949 by a group of chemists from Eli Lilly and Company. Nicknamed “Pill Hill” because of associations with the pharmaceutical company, the 37-acre tract of property also happens to be the second highest point in Marion County.
With 23 houses set among wooded acreage, Glennwood Homes is believed to have been inspired by the Galesburg Country Homes subdivision near Kalamazoo, Michigan. Similarly developed as a cooperative by a group of scientists—this time from Upjohn Company—Galesburg Country Homes garnered media attention in 1948-49 when the cooperative hired Frank Lloyd Wright to design the community.
Jeff and Beth Line own one of the Glennwood tour homes. Situated on a wooded two-acre lot, the house was built by Dr. and Mrs. Charles N. Rice in 1951-52. Its post-and-beam construction, flat roof, and wide eaves give it a distinctly modern vibe. The house’s U-plan layout creates an entrance court, flanked by the garage and bedroom wings.
Inside, a low-ceilinged entry opens to a soaring living and dining room topped by a beamed ceiling. The space includes a large brick fireplace, tongue-and-groove walnut paneling, and large windows overlooking a landscaped yard. “This house is the perfect integration between architecture and the environment,” says Beth. Throughout the house, the Lines display an extensive art collection featuring mostly local artists, including pieces by Robert Berkshire and Doris Vlasek-Hails, and by Beth herself.
Nearby, Jeneene and Gregg West are enthusiastic about their mid-century digs after beating out multiple offers to buy the house in late 2019. Built in 1952 by Tom and Beth Hale, the house is a simpler period design, with floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room that offer a striking view over the ravine nearby. Both realtors, the Wests are avid collectors of Mid-Century Modern furniture and accessories. Their collection began with a family piece: a cedar chest by American of Martinsville that Gregg’s father gave his mother in 1957. The living room showcases two Danish Modern side chairs, an Adrian Pearsall side table, and accessories by Murano. Lithographs by Bernard Buffet and a 1970 “Birds in Flight” wall sculpture by Curtis Jere line the walls.
At one time, the Wrightian-style Mills House in Greenwood was so neglected it landed on Indiana Landmarks’ 10 Most Endangered list. Following rehabilitation by Todd Anthony, owner of DiscountFilters, the 1955-56 house is a showstopper on this year’s tour. After buying the house in 2018, Todd launched a year-long restoration, replacing the multi-tiered, cantilevered roofs, repairing terrazzo floors, installing new interior systems, and overhauling the kitchen and baths while keeping original coral and green fixtures. To honor original architect Harry Cooler, Todd reopened the property as the Harry Cooler Conference Center, which hosts business retreats and small meetings.
Indiana Landmarks’ affinity group Indiana Modern sponsors Back to the Future: A Mid-Century Modern Home Tour, Saturday, July 8, noon to 5 p.m. Advance tickets are $20 for the general public, $15 for Indiana Landmarks members, and $10 for Indiana Modern members, available at midcenturytour23.eventbrite.com. Day of tour tickets cost $25.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Indiana Preservation, Indiana Landmarks’ member magazine.
Stay up to date on the latest news, stories, and events from Indiana Landmarks, around the state or in your area.