1906. Courtesy of the Herron Art Library, Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission Collection
Indianapolis was past the Victorian era of architecture with its turned posts, gingerbread trim, and Queen Ann details by the time the Reid house was constructed in 1906 on the stylish North Delaware Street. The wealthier folks favored Tudor and revival styles, but this castle-looking house was unique for Indianapolis and inspired by a vacation to Italy.
The Old Northside Historic Area Preservation Plan (1979) states:
This house, in all its exotic splendor, reflects the desire for the unusual, which was popular in the late nineteenth century. Many houses had “Persian rooms” complete with decorative tiles, carpets, brassware and sometimes fountains. Here the exoticism is on the exterior with its unusual battlemented parapet, trefoil window details and stone trim. It was designed by Herbert W. Foltz and modeled after a Florentine villa seen by the builder, William J. Reid and his wife, on a trip to Italy.
Reid was an executive in the Kingan Company, a large pork packing firm in the city. He and his wife lived in this house until 1909, when it was purchased by Fred C. Dickson. Early in his life Dickson (1876-1936) was involved in the theatrical business with Henry Talbott. Their firm, Dickson and Talbott, operated a chain of theaters. The last 30 years of his life were involved in banking. He retired as vice-president of Union Trust Company in 1923 to become president of the Indiana Trust Company in 1925. He also served as director of Merchants National Bank and the Indiana Hotel Company. Dickson left this address in 1930.
The Reids decorated the home, seen here is 1907, in an eclectic style with tufted and carved wood furniture, paintings, Persian rugs, and even the armor of a medieval knight. They likely displayed souvenirs from their travels abroad. By the time the Dicksons lived there in the 1920s, the house was also home to three African-American live-in servants, including a cook, maid, and chauffeur.
The home has primarily seen commercial use since the 1940s, including offices for the Army Corps of Engineers in World War II, Indianapolis Construction League offices, a bed and breakfast, catering space, and a concert hall. In 2001 Ben and Elaine Life and their daughter Jeneane purchased the home and began four months of restoration. Today the remarkably intact and beautiful home is open to the public as The Villa, a spa, inn, and restaurant (limited days, reservations only).
Thanks to Jason Pearce for allowing the use of his 2008 photographs of The Villa.