Driving up historic North Meridian Street offers a veritable feast of beautiful homes. With some of the most impressive Indianapolis real estate throughout the entire city, it is hard not to admire these magnificent mansions. But what would it be like to actually walk through the front door and take a look around the stunning houses of this historic Indianapolis neighborhood? Tour Meridian Street mansion at St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild’s Decorator’s Show House and Gardens thru May 9, an annual Wishard Health Services fundraiser. A historic house, once owned by famed Indiana author Booth Tarkington, sets the scene for a host of Indianapolis events ranging from $30.00 to $50.00. Help fund better Indianapolis health as you live a little piece of Indianapolis history.
Each year St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild, an all volunteer organization, creates a Decorator’s Show House and Gardens to raise money for Wishard Health Services. Founded in 1907, St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild is committed to supporting Wishard in its mission to “advocate, care, teach and serve with special emphasis on the vulnerable populations of Marion County.” Now in its 49th year, the Decorator’s Show House and Gardens has helped to raise more than $10 million dollars for this noble cause.
Guild members, designers, landscape architects, financial sponsors and donors of in-kind services volunteer their help to transform a historic house in Indianapolis. The home owner agrees to move into temporary housing for the length of the project, as their home is entirely revamped. By late April, the house is ready to be viewed, and hosts a series of fundraising tours and events. This year, the historic house that acts as the centerpiece for the Decorator’s Show House and Gardens is located at 4270 North Meridian Street, and once belonged to the Hoosier author Booth Tarkington.
The home was built in 1911 by Mrs. Marie Fletcher Hare, giving it the title of oldest existing residence in the historic Meridian corridor. Originally, the property on which the house sat extended from Meridian Street to Illinois Street between 42nd and 43rd Streets, which included stables in what is now the rebuilt carriage house with a paddock on 43rd and Illinois. In 1923, Booth Tarkington purchased the house from Mrs. Hare, a close friend of his, for only $37,000.
By this time, Tarkington was already a well known author and respected gentleman in the Circle City. His first novel The Gentleman from Indiana was published in 1898. Over 100 years later, the Indiana Repertory Theatre commissioned an original script based on Tarkington’s debut work. His novel The Magnificent Ambersons was not only made into a film but also won him a Pulitzer Prize. His second Pulitzer Prize came for the well known book Alice Adams. In fact, Indianapolis nonprofit organizations like the Penrod Society, who produces the Penrod Art Fair at the Indianapolis Museum of Art each year, take their name from the title character of one of Tarkington’s novels. He did all of his writing in the third floor study of this house.
In addition to being the landmark where Tarkington penned most of his well known works, his home on North Meridian Street was a gathering place for many of his artistic and famous friends. He was visited by not only his close friend James Whitcomb Riley, but also Helen Hayes, The Marx Brothers, Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fountaine, George Ade (of Purdue, Indiana), Otis Skinner, Alexander Woolcott, Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin.
The Tarkingtons remodeled the house extensively, relocating the front steps and making many other changes to accommodate their fine collection of European art and antiques. They replace Fireplace mantels, added marble floors and balustrades, removed doors and enlarged doorways to create an airier space. When Tarkington died in 1946, his widow Susanah could no longer keep up the house, selling it four year later to Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Willkie.
Mr. Willkie was an inventor and businessman and also brother to the 1940 presidential candidate Wendell Willkie of Elwood, Indiana. Their family also renovated the house extensively, changing mantels, doorways and landscaping. They sold the house in 1960. In 1985, the home served as the Decorator’s Show House, since then it has been a family home. It currently belongs to Tim and Doris Anne Sadler and their two children.
As part of the Decorator’s Show House and Gardens event, the St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild is hosting several events. Though some have already past, and more than few have already sold out, here are the remaining fundraiser events.
Flowers You Can Live With
Enjoy a catered breakfast from Maggie’s Cafe with a focus on tips and insights into Indiana gardening. Living materials like flowers and plants are the final touch to any design. The join a decorator led tour with one of the dynamic Show House Designers, followed up with a stroll through the beautiful gardens and a stop at the Show House Shops.
Wednesday, April 28
10:30 am to 11:15 am
Cinco de Mayo and Girls’ Night Out
The Decorator’s Show House throws a fiesta in honor of Mexican independence. Grab your girls, family, friends or neighbors for some margaritas as the Decorator’s Show House celebrates Mexico’s culture, music and food. Arthur Murray Dance Studio will be on hand to help participants brush up on their Latin dance skills. Indianapolis people of all ages are welcome to enjoy this fiesta before touring the house at their own pace. Designers will be on hand to field questions. Catered event by Qdoba.
Wednesday, May 5
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Decorator’s Show House and Gardens
Now through May 9
Historic North Meridian Neighborhood
4270 North Meridian Street