Since 1922, the annual Indianapolis Home Show has introduced the latest trends in home design and landscaping. Many of the centerpiece homes, originally constructed in the exposition building at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, were later rebuilt on lots around the city, including the 1931 model home now located at 3701 Forest Manor Avenue on the northeast side of town.
The home show, then known as the Indianapolis Home Complete Exposition, was celebrating its tenth anniversary in 1931 when this brick Germantown Colonial was constructed as the centerpiece of the show. Since 1922, over thirty of the houses have been moved and rebuilt and can be seen in their new locations, primarily on the north side of Indianapolis. During the first year, the model home was awarded to the winner of an essay “Why One Should Own His Own Home in Indianapolis.” That five-room bungalow still stands at 1302 N. Emerson Avenue in the Little Flower Neighborhood.
In the late 1920s and ’30s, Colonial Revival was at its height of construction throughout the country. Popularized in part by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, the symmetrical style swept the nation and lent itself to grand as well as modest houses then being built in the suburbs. The 1931 centerpiece home, described in newspapers as “Germantown Colonial,” was designed by architect Frederick Wallick, who visited New England to get ideas for the design. The name “Germantown” refers to the less formal type of architecture in the Germantown area near Philadelphia. Wallick explained that this style is “distinguished by lower and more sturdily built houses which avoid the ornament and delicacy of treatment that is often shown in larger city houses or country estates. Roofs are lower and more informal and many of the houses of this period are a story and one-half rather than two full stories in height.” The Walter C. Kelly Construction Company built the home in the exposition building in the spring of 1931.
The house was constructed of red brick with stone trim and a dark asbestos shingle roof. Exterior window shutters and dormer window flower boxes were painted green. Landscaping, designed by Donald Ruh, completed the look of the six-room house.
The house contains a center reception hall, large living room (above) with a library alcove opening onto a terrace, dining room (below), kitchen with a breakfast nook, three bedrooms, and a bathroom. The basement lay-out was shown in a separate display area in the exposition building. It included a social room, heating plant, fuel room, and laundry facilities. Two second-floor bedrooms were not built-out for the home show.
According to an article in the Bulletin of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce (recently digitized by the Indianapolis Public Library and a great resource for business and real estate development history), the William H. Block Company provided the window shades, draperies, curtains, and floor coverings. Furniture was made by the L. B. Mosiman Company of Indianapolis. Colonial touches included built-in cabinets, hooked rugs, and colonial-style wallpaper.
After the home show ended, the house was dismantled and rebuilt at 3701 Forest Manor Avenue (five blocks east of N. Sherman Drive), but city directories show that the house was vacant through most of the 1930s. One wonders if the Depression delayed the completion of the house. By 1945, Ralph H. Edwards, president of Sink and Edwards Company (sheet metal works, furnace, and roofing), owned and lived in the house. After his death in 1949, his widow Bertha B. Edwards remained in the home through at least 1960. Although enlarged with a brick addition to the north and a garage, today the well-maintained home looks much as it did when constructed at the Fairgrounds in 1931.
The current model home and hundreds of home and garden displays can be seen through February 3 at the 2013 Indianapolis Home Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. If you prefer to time travel to see trends from years past, check out these photographs at the Indiana Historical Society. For a more complete history of the show, visit the small but invaluable Library and Information Center at Indiana Landmarks to read a copy of Shannon (Hill) Zuercher’s 2002 Ball State Architecture and Planning thesis titled The Indianapolis Home Show: Its History, Evolution, and Centerpiece Homes.
Do you have a piece of the puzzle? Not all of the rebuilt Indianapolis Home Show model homes have been identified. Do you have information about model homes in Indianapolis or around the state? Please leave a comment so we can locate the missing ones. Thanks!