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Reader’s Question:

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

HI’s Answer:

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.

Red pin indicates the location of the upside-down house at W. Washington St. and Rockville Road       (map courtesy of Google maps)              CLICK TO ENLARGE

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.

Image of upside-down house as it appeared in The Indianapolis Times on 3-21-1965   (photo courtesy of Indiana State Library)

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).

Builder standing on the “ceiling” of the garage under the car mounted on the “floor”  (photo courtesy of Indiana State Library)

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.

31 responses to “HI Mailbag: Indianapolis’ Upside-Down House”

  1. Norm Morford says:

    Sharon — Thank God for you and the Indianapolis Times — can we bring it back? Monday’s Star was mostly useful for the bottom of one’s bird cage and so FEW pages at that!

    There are two free papers at the downtown Marsh store — but the one on better paper is not published often enough — someone keeps putting out more of the same old pre-Dec. 25 issue!

    And the Broad Ripple rag is just that — boring as can be! When will someone with a sense of what a newspaper needs get involved there?

    NUVO exists, but needs a better sense of its overall mission.

    Complain, complain, complain! I know, but until enough of us complain loudly enough, we’ll still be stuck with the present dumb state legislature and a governor who wants us to think he is now all sweetness and light!

  2. Joni Curtis says:

    I am so happy to see this. I am NOT crazy. I grew up in Cumberland, and my Grandparents lived in Bellville. I remember seeing the upside down house on my way “Over Home” to visit. I asked my Mother about it a few years ago, and she said I must have dreamed it.

  3. Roberta Lakin Swisher says:

    Thanks so much for finding this! I really appreciate it.

  4. Donna Winsted says:

    Great article!! I took my daughters to see and explore that house sometime in the late 60s and they LOVED it!!!

    There was another upside down house on the east side of Indy in the 70s I believe. You could see it from I-465, and I believe it was 56th St.

    😀

  5. Kevin J. Brewer says:

    We went by the upside-down house a few times when I was a child. I don’t think we ever went in though. It was always so brightly lit up at night. It really shined brightly.

    I’m trying to think if I remember or not an upside-down house near I-465 and 56th St. that Donna Winsted spoke of. We were “always” driving past that area.

  6. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Glad to confirm that you are not crazy. You can also report to your mother that you were not dreaming. The upside-down house was real. I can just picture your route from Cumberland, Indiana, to Belleville, Indiana. It’s probably a 25 – 30 mile trip. Undoubtedly, the most direct way was via Washington Street aka US 40. It would have taken you from the far east side of Marion County, straight through the center of town, then to the west side of Indy, and on into eastern Hendricks County. Rockville Road would have “veered off” from W. Washington Street at a northwest angle, roughly halfway through the trip.

  7. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    I’m not acquainted with an upside-down house near E. 56th Street and I-465, but I’ll check into it. Was it east or west of the Interstate? Can you recall any other landmarks near it?

  8. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Thanks, Norm. As you may recall from our previous communications, my father worked at The Indianapolis Times until the day it ceased operation. Our family has the proof of the front page of the final edition, which was on October 11, 1965. It was a sad day when the city lost that newspaper, after nearly a century of providing another point of view from the other Indianapolis dailies. I always think of the old Times building, whenever I am driving on Maryland Street between Senate and Capitol Avenues. What was once 214 W. Maryland Street in years past is now a part of the Indiana Convention Center.

  9. Norm Morford says:

    Anyone else out there who can remember riding a Trailways bus through Belleville — and some went by different routes through some of the other small towns in Hendricks County, on the way to Greencastle and ultimately to Terre Haute. Particularly on the old road from U.S. 40 into Greencastle from the east, maybe State Road 340, the bus would pitch and jump and rattle so, one wondered if it would stay together. Also, coming back to the DePauw campus after some time in the “big” city of Indpls was always a unique experience.

  10. Donna Winsted says:

    Sharon – the upsidedown house at I-465 and 56th St was on the west side of I-465 and was up higher than the interstate. But my memory being what it was, that house could have been at any of the intersections between 71st St and 16th St. Sorry to be so vague!

  11. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Might you be thinking of the Skiles Test property, commonly referred to as “The House of Blue Lights”? It was the only unusual property along that stretch of I-465 that I can recall, but it was not an upside-down house. Originally, Test owned about 700 acres in Lawrence Township. At the time of his death in 1964, he owned about 100 acres near Fall Creek Road and Shadeland Avenue. There were a number of structures on the Test property besides his residence, and maybe one of them had an inverted appearance. I recall reading that the bathhouse adjacent to the swimming pool was unusual in its construction. The house and all of the outbuildings are gone now. The land was bequeathed to IndyParks by Skiles Test’s heirs, and it became the Skiles Test Nature Park.

  12. Donna Winsted says:

    No, I know about the House of Blue Lights! That house can’t be seen from I-465 and believe me, the house I’m talking about really was upsidedown!!!

  13. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Okay, I’ll see what I can find out about it.

  14. James Bailey says:

    I went to an auction in Mooresville this past weekend and a box that I bought had an original brochure of the upside down house. It is in really good condition as well. This is a great story, thank you for sharing

  15. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Very cool! Does the brochure have any other information in it that readers might enjoy knowing?

  16. Kevin J. Brewer says:

    “James E. Bailey” (http://www.facebook.com/groups/125814777434955/#!/Baileyns1) said on the Facebook page “Old Time Indy’s long missed businesses, and forgotten history.” (http://www.facebook.com/groups/125814777434955/), “James E. Bailey I have an original brochure, complete”.

    See his picture of the house at http://www.facebook.com/groups/125814777434955/#!/photo.php?fbid=10200547862560789&set=o.125814777434955&type=1&theater

  17. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Good work, Kevin. Thanks for posting the link to James E. Bailey’s Facebook page. I was not aware that he had posted it online. What a strange coincidence it was that James discovered the brochure just a few days after my article appeared. Hopefully, HI readers who were interested in the upside-down house will see this.

  18. Kevin J. Brewer says:

    A layman’s picture of the Upside-Down House on the same Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/groups/125814777434955/#!/photo.php?fbid=4043274974873&set=o.125814777434955&type=1&theater but the picture appears to be flipped horizontally (right to left).

  19. James Bailey says:

    I finally was able to scan the front and the back of the brochure. I didn’t know how to post it on here.

  20. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    In every other image I’ve seen of the upside-down house, the garage is on the left. It looks to me like the negative of this photo was accidentally printed backwards. If the photo were sharper or taken from closer in, there might have been an object or a number that would confirm this fact.

  21. shane says:

    So where is the house now ????

  22. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Good question, Shane. Obviously, the house was disassembled at some point, since it is no longer there. Perhaps some of the materials were re-used to construct a right-side up house somewhere. Maybe there is a follower of HistoricIndianapolis.com who knows the answer?

  23. Steven L. Wilson, Sr says:

    The upside down house is still located at 3512 Rockville Road Bldg E. In the old Eagle Creek Office Plaza. It has been renamed I believe. If you go to where West Washington Street and Rockville Road meet, the office plaza is on the north side of the street. I used to own Indy Unlocks (Shop name A-Discount Lock Service) that was on the corner at the entrance. Just west of the entrance my ex wife owned Pat’s Barber Shop. I also rented space for Action Security Inc. My partner and I own Midwest Alarm Company. He has since passed away. We rented the upside down house during the late 1980’s and all of the 1990’s. If you pull into the entrance and drive straight back, you will see a stand alone building in the middle of the parking lot. That is the upside down house. It was converted to office rental space and an additional garage was added. The inside also has evidence of its original design. Some light switches were down lower and the plug ins were up higher. The garage still had the mounting brackets for the car on the ceiling. In the attic were many heavy brackets to hold things like the bathtub, kitchen sink and etc. Mr. Chester Weedon sold it to a female investor, who sold it to a friend of mine, Vaden Myers from California. Vaden owned it until his death. His wife sold it just shortly afterwards. Robin Carmichael was the Office Manager from about 1985 until about 2000. She may be a wealth of knowledge on the subject. I am still in contact with her on Facebook. The picture you have above is the exact opposite of the actual house. The picture has been showing up on the Internet a few times over the years. Many Facebook pages have the correct picture. If you need one, I can email you the right one. No one seems to know how the one in reverse came about. One of the best ones out there is one with a man named Mr. Phillips with his son standing in front of the upside down house. I hope this clears up many questions or creates more interest. Thank you for all your hard work.

  24. Jeff Congdon says:

    Sharon,

    My office manager is Mickey (Fruits) Hill, whose late aunt and uncle were Betty and Kenneth Fruits. Her brother, Ken Fruits was named after her uncle.

  25. Jeff says:

    Chester was my grandfather’s uncle, and my grandfather David Dodd (Dodd Plumbing) did all of his plumbing work, including the upside down house. I have one of the booklets that they gave out during tours if you’d like to see it, and/or make copies of it.

    Jeff Dodd

  26. Cortnie says:

    My name is Cortnie I am the great granddaughter of Chester weeden. I have the original picture of the upside down house, as well as the blue prints and an original booklet made for him.

  27. Tiffany Benedict Browne says:

    We’d love to see that! Any chance you’d be willing to share?

  28. kenneth loper says:

    I remember going through the upside down house when I was a child it was a impressive attraction to see . it was the same model home dad purchased a year before

  29. Anonymous says:

    4.5

  30. Anonymous says:

    3.5

  31. Jack Leo says:

    Just discovered your site this morning. And the first thing I saw was the upside down house and I went through many times as a child. I drive past that location every and often think of it. Thank you for the article and especially the pic

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