Woodruff Place

Woodruff Place- you should visit every season! (photo: Tiffany Benedict Browne)

One week from tomorrow, one of Indy’s keystone historic neighborhoods throws open many a door of hospitality, showcasing the beauty and variety of Woodruff Place. Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30 from 12-5, see one of seven homes, three gardens and the restored old Town Hall in the Woodruff Place semi-anual Home and Garden Tour.


Look to see if you recognize any of these while in Woodruff (courtesy Lloyd-Jones Family)

Dear Woodruff, always a go-to destination for visitors to Indianapolis–showing variety of style, scale and levels of restoration. Remnants of yesteryear: fountains, statues, a petite gazebo–all tickle the imagination.

Originally purchased and platted in the early 1870’s, the park-like neighborhood was the vision of James O. Woodruff, who didn’t make the money he’d anticipated by the speculations here. Between the $5000 per lot he was initially charging and the big price-tag commanded by famed Chicago architect, William LeBaron Jenney, who constructed the extravagant 17-room English style home at the corner of West and Cross Drives, Woodruff filed bankruptcy. In the early 1890’s, the home sold for a mere $10,000.

James Woodruff's home

Upper Left: former home (designed by William LeBaron Jenney) of James Woodruff, and various interior views.

It’s hard to believe this was once a ‘town within a town,’ managed by a board of trustees, elected from each ward–West Drive being the 1st Ward, Middle, the 2nd Ward and East Drive the 3rd Ward. The place was also an inspiration to Booth Tarkington in part for “The Magnificent Ambersons.”

James Woodruff Home

More interior views of James Woodruff Home in Woodruff Place


Anyone know when this fella disappeared? (courtesy Lloyd-Jones Family)

Even the  Feast of Lanterns  (save the date, August 13, 2013) started in Woodruff Place over 100 years ago. In 1906 (though not the first Feast), there were more than 12,000 visitors to the event, much like the attendance at today’s Woodruff Place Flea Market, or–dreaming big–perhaps for the Home Tour?

8 responses to “Friday Favorite: Woodruff Place Home Tour”

  1. Debbie says:

    I didn’t know The Feast of Lanterns started in WP. Thanks for the education. Is there somewhere I can learn more about that?

  2. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    I’ve found a few articles about some of the earliest “Feast of Lanterns.” The 1906 article notes that they had taken a break from the event for 5 years, and had been an annual event prior to that discontinuation, had formerly raised money for the free kindgergarten. Not much more info than that, but come across these old articles every now and then….

  3. d mikels shea says:

    IN THE POW5-WW2 LOCAL media, there was a recurring controversy as at that time Woodruff Place was a totally separate city from Indpls., “a city within a city” with rigid zoning, etc. And recurrently different administrations moved to incorporate it into city while residents and advocates loudly resisted–in print and in court. During that time as reporter-columnist at Indpls Times, my assignments and columns included many stories–including one that stands out in some forgotten zoning discussion that there was a long-established “secret” commercial business within hallowed precincts of Woodruff Place–and there was

    I remember going there–on city bus back when we had such–walking to a Victorian residence, to all appearances a home, and doing story on the woman who staffed and ran a hidden business which everyone was OK with–a 24 hr. answering service for medical society as I remember. Just a random memory.

  4. Joan Hostetler says:

    Tiffany, I’d love to get copies of these early Feast of Lanterns articles. We (NESCO’s History & Preservation Committee) estimated that the Feast of Lanterns (the one in Spades Park) started in 1908 or 1909 by 1910s articles that mention how long it had been around, but I’ve never seen proof of the first year. I have many Feast articles, but am still seeking historic photographs of Spades Park or the surrounding houses decorated for the event. Also, are you sure that the Woodruff Place “Feast of Lanterns” was connected to the event in Spades Park with the same name? I’ve found that Feasts and/or Festival of Lanterns were held in Broad Ripple, on White River (canoeists traveling down the river in Chinese costume while holding lanterns), and other neighborhoods in the late 1890s and early 1900s. The idea was popular all over the country and I’m not sure that any of these earlier festivals were directly connected to the Feast of Lanterns in Spades Park which was hosted by the Brookside Civic Association to raise money for neighborhood improvements. But we’re still collecting the history and would like to connect the dots if you have documentation that we missed.

  5. Joan Hostetler says:

    Oh…and here is a brief written history of the Feast of Lanterns. I’d be happy to share other articles with you, Debbie (email me at

  6. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    I didn’t mean to say that the Woodruff Feast of Lanterns is certainly the Brookside one, but it certainly went by the same name and preceded 1908. It is plausible that the Woodruff feast ended, giving way to the Brookside one OR that there were multiple events by the same name. It appears, though, at the very least that the WP one preceded the others. Sent you an article I found. Thanks for raising the questions/ clarifying.

  7. Norm Morford says:

    Our youngest, Jill Patterson Morford, a 1981 grad from Shortridge H.S., and a 1985 grad from Brown U., had her first job as a house parent at the Deaf School. For much of that time [almost two years] she lived in one of the very large houses in Woodruff Place with a number of other people. She later earned a Ph.D. at U. of Chicago in Cognition, did a post-doc at McGill U. in Montreal, and has taught ever since at the Univ. of New Mexico. She and her husband Joachim Oberst, also a faculty member at UNM, have three kids. Jill reached the half century mark this past Tuesday. They are active at Albuquerque Mennonite Church.

  8. Jennifer Mahern says:

    Not sure about the history of Woodruff and Feast of Lanterns. I do know that I grew up in woodruff and lived there from 1976 to essentially 1998 and family still lives there to this day. We never had any Feast of Lanterns when I was living there. Is this something that started there and then moved elsewhere or died out for a while?

    I have many fond memories of Woodruff and seeing this picutres makes me long to come back and visit. Alas I live in Seattle now and can only dream of being there again.

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