Do you know where I could locate a photo of an upside-down house that was located at the intersection of West Washington St. and Rockville Rd.? ~ Roberta Lakin Swisher, Indianapolis
In the mid-1960s, a local builder named Chester B. Weedon conceived of an advertising promotion to attract people to his place of business. He got the idea after he and his wife vacationed in Florida, where someone had built a small upside-down house. The Florida publicity stunt had received about 400,000 visitors and had garnered a photo spread in Life Magazine. Weedon thought erecting an upside-down house in Indianapolis would draw potential home buyers to his west side company, as well as obtain a little free publicity for his enterprise. The office of C & B Builders, Inc., was located at 3508 Rockville Road, at the intersection of West Washington Street and Rockville Road. To see what’s there today, click here.
The upside-down house was a full-scale, comfortably furnished, three-bedroom brick ranch with an attached garage. All of the home’s furnishings — from sofas and chairs, to tables and lamps, to beds and nightstands, to books and toys — were mounted on the overhead “floors” of the rooms. A furnace and water heater were mounted on the “floor” above a utility area. There was even a 1964 Ford Mustang mounted upside down in the garage. Too bad Lionel Richie’s song, “Dancing on the Ceiling,” wasn’t written yet; it would have been an appropriate tune to play in the background while people toured the upside-down house.
Next to the upside-down version of the house was a right-side-up version of the house, which was the plan C & B Builders would actually construct for a buyer. The same blueprints were used for both structures, with modifications for the upside-down house’s inverted orientation. Due to the extra support and bracing needed, the construction of the upside-down house cost about three times the cost of the conventionally built house, according to an interview Weedon gave to The Indianapolis Star. The normally built model was offered for sale for $11,290 (plus the cost of a lot on which to build the house).
The models adjacent to C & B Builders’ office opened to the public on March 21, 1965. Photos of the home went out via the United Press International (UPI) Telephoto wire service, which resulted in articles about the unusual property appearing in newspapers around the country. In 1966, it was reported that more than 50,000 people had toured the upside-down house in its first year.
Apparently, Chester Weedon did well in the home building business. Prior to the time the upside-down house was built, Chester Weedon, his wife, and their daughter lived in a modest home on the west side, not far from the location of the upside-down house. In subsequent years, the Weedons lived on Spring Mill Road, near Meridian Hills Country Club. After their retirement, the couple moved to Naples, Florida. Chester died in 1992, and wife Marie (Young ) Weedon died just a year later, in 1993.
According to public records, the Weedons had one child, a daughter named Betty J. Weedon, who married Kenneth J. Fruits in 1955. I found a phone number for them online, but when I dialed it, the number was disconnected. As I was unable to locate the Weedons’ daughter to ask if she knew where I might find an original photo of the upside-down house, the above images from newspapers of the day are all that I am able to provide at this time. Thanks go to Monique Howell, Indiana Collection Librarian at the Indiana State Library, for her assistance in locating the newspaper images shown here. If any reader has a photo of the upside-down house, please let us know by leaving a comment after this article, and/or send Historic Indianapolis a high res scan of it.
If you have a question about Indianapolis history, please send it to historicindianapolis (at) yahoo (dot) com, with “HI Mailbag” in the subject line, and I will do my best to answer it. ~ Sharon