The Morris-Butler House Museum is an Indianapolis monument to the Victorian Era and a uniquely preserved treasure for the people of Indianapolis to learn from. The Morris-Butler House is located in Indianapolis history’s Old Northside, which is bound by Pennsylvania Street, College Avenue, 16th Street, and Interstate 65. In its heyday, the Old Northside of Indianapolis was a veritable who’s who of Indianapolis‘ rich and famous. President Benjamin Harrison, writer Booth Tarkington, Mayor Thomas Target, and department store owner Lyman S. Ayres all called the neighborhood home at some point in their lives.
According to Indianapolis history, during the nineteenth century as the homes lining Meridian Street began to fill, the wealthy of Indianapolis expanded east into what is now the Old Northside. As time wore on and Indianapolis business boomed, commercial industry invaded the neighborhood. The advent of the automobile caused the neighborhood residents to move even further north near Fall Creek. A housing shortage following World War II led to the subdivision of old Victorian mansions into apartments. And with the 1960s and 1970s landlord neglect and vandalism made the former beauty of the neighborhood a thing of history.
After some time the grandson of the founder of Eli Lilly and Company encouraged the restoration of the area, and particularly the Morris-Butler House. History has it that Eli Lilly lived with his first wife one block away from the Morris-Butler House during the 1920s. In the evenings they could hear the soft music of Morris-Butler House resident, Florence Butler’s, music lessons wafting through their windows. Eli Lilly’s interest in history often led him and his heirs to look for ways to restore historic buildings in their beloved city. It was Colonel Eli Lilly who urged the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana to purchase the Morris-Butler property and restore it to a museum of art and history.
Viewing the house as a good investment, the Historic Landmarks Foundation, with financial support from Eli Lilly and Company, bought the house for $22,500. However, the Morris-Butler House was in need of a great deal of renovation, as time had worn its beauty down to virtually nothing. Lilly poured money into the project.
The restoration team found a golden opportunity in a perceived tragedy. With construction on Interstate 70 leading to the demolition of many Victorian Era residences in the Old Northside, the restoration project was allowed the opportunity to pirate fixtures and hardware from houses made in the same era. The historic Morris-Butler House Museum was opened to the public in 1969.
Today the museum ranks high not only in Indianapolis history but also among Indianapolis museums. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and accredited by the American Association of Museums; the museum deep rooted history is comparable to the Benjamin Harrison Home. The staff offers guided tours on a regular basis. And Indianapolis events are enriched by events offered at the museum such as holiday performances, Victorian teas, and educational programs. In addition, the space is available for rental, and in recent history has been used by many Indianapolis arts and Indianapolis performing arts organization as a performance space. The museum also brings in seasonal exhibits.
The experience you’ll have visiting the Morris-Butler House Museum one of storytelling and history. Tours are geared toward creating a picture of life for an upper middle class family with servants. Take a walk through the formal parlor, private living quarters, and Victorian era kitchen and washroom. Marvel at the history of rare furnishings, stenciled ceilings, and elaborate wallpapers and plasterwork. Seize the opportunity to appreciate Victorian era sculptures, paintings, and lithographs from all over the world that rival collections at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The museum is a great keeper of the history of Indianapolis. The next time you’re looking for fun things to do in Indianapolis, consider time traveling back to the Victorian era, and visit the Morris-Butler House Museum.
Learn more about the Morris-Butler House Museum, visit their website.
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The Morris-Butler House Museum
1204 North Park Av
Indianapolis, IN 46202