Museum to accept landmark Miller home

November 18, 2008
Indianapolis Museum of Art has decided to acquire the landmark home and gardens of late Cummins Inc. Chairman J. Irwin Miller and his wife, Xenia.

The Columbus house, designed in 1957 by architect Eero Saarinen and considered one of the best examples of the international Modernist aesthetic, will be donated to the museum by the Miller family and the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation. Some furnishings will be donated, as well.

The family and foundation also have committed $5 million toward an $8 million endowment to maintain the property. The museum is raising the $3 million balance and an additional $2 million for a renovation that will restore some period details.

"It's bittersweet in one sense," Will Miller, the youngest of five Miller children, said of giving up the house where he was raised. "It was a warm place to live. I didn't think of it as a work of art. I thought of it as home."

Miller, CEO of Columbus-based Irwin Financial Corp., said several institutions were interested in the house, where his mother Xenia lived until her death in February.

He said he and his siblings chose the IMA because of its experience maintaining the 26-acre Lilly House and Gardens, plus museum Director Max Anderson's embrace of architecture and design.

The museum said it will work with the Columbus Area Visitors Center to offer public access to the house and gardens. Museum officials, who have been anticipating the acquisition, said in September that they planned to open the house on a limited basis; visitors would have to sign up for tours months in advance.

J. Irwin Miller, who died in 2004 at age 95, built the former Cummins Engine Co. into a Fortune 500 company. He also established Cummins Foundation, which paid architects to design public buildings and transform the town of Columbus into a showcase for modern architecture.

Saarinen also designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The landscape design was by Daniel Urban Kiley, and interiors were designed by Alexander Girard.

For more about the home, click here.

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