W.B. Yeats in 1903, just before he visited Irvington. Photo by American photographer Alice Boughton.
It’s fascinating to reflect on the list of world-famous artists, writers and performers who once walked down Indy’s own streets. The trail they left behind in the newspapers is often frustratingly small, but here’s a few visits that might surprise you.
In January 1904, the Irvington Athenaeum nabbed a visit by one of Ireland’s rising young poets, 36-year-old William Butler Yeats, who was on a two-month trip to America. Yeats began his tour in late 1903 in New York, then spoke at various East Coast universities before heading out to the Midwest. His Indiana stop came en route to Minnesota, where the appropriately-named Archbishop of St. Paul, John Ireland, had invited him to speak a local seminary. The archbishop’s choice to invite the young poet was slightly unusual, since Yeats’s own religion was a mixture of Spiritualism inspired by Irish folklore, astrology, and mysticism.