The Old Northside has few houses still in need of restoration–but none more eagerly anticipated than the Horace McKay Mansion at 13th and Broadway Streets.


Photo courtesy Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (date unknown)


Photo courtesy Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission


Photo courtesy: Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission

We understand that this home sold last year and all wait in breathless anticipation to see exactly what is to become of this much beloved beauty. The potential here is extraordinary, but is going to take immense talents and resources to love it back to the life it deserves. After the recent grand opening of the Indiana Landmarks Center, we have greater reason to believe in the possibilities–especially when combining the right property with and right steward.



Pre- porch removal. Photo courtesy: Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission

Surely, it’s happened to you, too. You’ve passed and re-passed an historic and/or boarded up home and it captures your imagination. It possesses that certain ‘je ne sais quoi.’ For many old home lovers in Indianapolis, this is one of those captivating locations. This regal brick Queen Anne on the corner of 13th & Broadway Streets, nestled in the heart of the Old Northside was built by the Horace McKay Family in 1886. Boarded up for more than 30 years! Looking through the files, someone owned this house for many years, seemingly trying to demolish it by neglect. Thankfully said person is no longer associated.

Clearly, it’s been awhile. See pictures from the IUPUI Digital Collection–Here from 1982:

And here from 1979:

An Agnes M’Culloch Hanna article from November 1929 featured this breathtaking home and provided a great deal of information on the home and its residents. Seems there were a multitude of artists in the family, so it would be fitting for this architectural gem to be once again inhabited by artists or at least those deeply appreciative of art. McKay daughter and artist Cornelia, carved three of the original mantelpieces from quartered oak, which Mr. McKay ordered from the same firm that furnished wood for the Indiana State Capitol. Her handiwork was also found on the doors to the bookshelves and window and door casings in the library and other rooms of the home. Might any of this remain within?


Did Cornelia McKay carve this door? Inquiring minds want to know.

While imagining the interiors of the McKay home, one wonders if daughter Helen McKay, was still wearing this dress when she took up residence here.

Helen, also a burgeoning artist, and local artist Virginia Keep, were two of the first five teachers at the John Herron Art Institute–they instructed children’s classes. Helen McKay may be better known to some by her married name, Mrs. Brandt Steele. As in: Brandt Steele, well known arts and crafts designer, potter and architect– and son of Hoosier group artist, T.C. Steele. In fact, the wedding reception of the newlyweds Mr. & Mrs. Brandt Steele was held in this very home.

When the family resided here, it was replete with the art work of family members, each member of the famed Hoosier Group and various others. Mr. & Mrs. McKay were staunch supporters of art and charter members of the old “College Corner Club,” one of the first clubs in the city and focused on intellectual and artistic interests.

Within the context of time and place, the McKay family were considered very progressive. Mrs. McKay wrote a book about the 54th Massachusetts regiment of black soldiers during the Civil War “as a result of many years interest in the subject.” Does the movie “Glory” ring a bell?–that is the regiment she wrote about. What would have precipitated this interest in an upper-middle class Midwestern housewife in the late 1800’s? She had previously published a book reporting on the accomplishments of women’s clubs in Indiana. As of 1929, when Mrs. McKay still resided in the home, this reference book was still available in reference libraries.

“An outstanding quality of this house has been its hospitality through many years,” says Agnes M’Culloch Hanna. “…for the most part Mr. and Mrs. McKay preferred informal dinners, after which some friend of the family would read aloud a paper on some cultural subject, and share it with his friends in this pleasant way.” One can well imagine this scenario played out in this grand home in its past and future.

If you seek further connecting of dots, ponder this: the Brandt Steele family making their way from their shady corner of the world in Woodruff Place (811 East Drive) to visit the McKay family homestead in College Corners. Also consider how relatively close their mortal remains rest in glorious Crown Hill Cemetery.

Finally, here is the one lonely interior photo of this home from the IHPC file. We can only hope all that woodwork is still there.