Historical society to operate former Ruth Lilly estate

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The Indiana Historical Society will entertain its members in Ruth Lilly's former Indianapolis estate, Twin Oaks, under a contract with owners William and Laura Weaver, the society announced Tuesday.

The local not-for-profit signed a seven-year contract for the 17-room house and grounds at 555 Kessler Blvd. Several IHS members have stepped forward to pay for new furnishings, and the society has received donations of furniture and carpets that are appropriate for the historical period, President and CEO John Herbst said.

The house was built by department store magnate Lyman S. Ayres II in 1954. Ruth Lilly took up residence in 1987.

The Weavers bought the 22-acre gated estate in January to keep it from being subdivided after Lilly’s death in late 2009. It was listed for sale at $2.9 million in mid-2010.

"Laura and I are very glad the society will be able to use the Lilly house, with its connection to two great Indiana entrepreneurial families, to strengthen its mission of broadening appreciation of Indiana's rich history," Weaver, chief operating officer of Weaver Popcorn Co., said in a news release. "The society's participation helps us exceed our more limited initial plans for simply preserving a beautiful piece of Indianapolis by growing the numbers of people who will use and appreciate it. We couldn't be happier."

The Weavers will maintain the 22-acre property and use the lawns, woods and a 2,000-square-foot “hobby house,” which was used by Ruth Lilly’s father, J.K. Lilly Jr. They’ve already updated the interior of the 7,726-square-foot main house in preparation for the historical society taking over as manager.

The historical society plans to use the first floor of the main house for its various events and host out-of-town trustees, lecturers and consultants in the second-floor guest rooms. The society also plans to display more than 30 works by Indiana artists, including T.C. Steele and Frank V. Dudley.

Under the contract, Herbst will live at Twin Oaks and serve as resident curator.

The historical society likened the plan to arrangements by Indiana University and the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which use historic homes to house top executives and entertain patrons.

"We are very grateful to the Weavers for their generosity and allowing the IHS to utilize Twin Oaks," said Thomas G. Hoback, chairman of the IHS Board of Trustees. "We are very excited about the opportunities to welcome our members and supporters to this lovely home through John's hospitality. Our mission is to share Indiana's history, and we have new ways to do this at Twin Oaks."

Previously, Herbst used his own Victorian home and garden downtown to entertain on behalf of the historical society.

Spokeswoman Amy Lamb said details of the contract would not be disclosed, but “the Weavers have been very generous, and the cost to the I.H.S. on this agreement is minimal.”

Herbst put his own home on the market in October.


  • Live-in resident
    One would be crazy not to have someone (anyone) live in the property full time. Having a stakeholder is all the better. Congrats to the historical society and many thanks to the Weavers. Indy needs a venue such as this.
  • Yeah for the Weavers!!
    I am grateful the Weavers could save the L.S.Ayres/Ruth Lilly Estate. Indy has a rich history with many old families still here. Thank for sharing it with the public through your lease efforts.
  • Guess You Don't Understand A Lease
    Sweet Deal, you are quite free yourself to enter into a lease of your own home with either a non-profit or for-profit organiztion to use. There is nothing illegal, unusual or unethical about this arrangement, despite your attempt to make it seem suspect by saying meaningless comments like "let me get this straight."

    The Weavers own the house as their private property and they are free to enter into any arrangement with any party to use it in any manner they choose. Also, I didn't see any reference in the article stating that the "hobby house" would be maintained by the Historical Society (to the contrary, the article states the Weavers will maintain the grounds and the "hobby house"), but even if the Historical Society were to pay for all the maintenance for everything that would be perfectly acceptable, as it would simply be considered an additional form of payment in lieu of the Historical Society simpy paying more rent under the lease for the main house.

    As for who benefits? The Historical Society. The organization gets the use of a pretty lavish home for events, entertaining donors, and housing their Chief Executive at a rent they would probably not otherwise be able to afford.

    It must be tiring to have conspiracy theories swimming around in your head, but there is not anything mysterious or sinister going on in this particular circumstance.
  • You Didn't Learn Much On Your Board
    Be Nice, as a non-profit board member, you should understand the difference between a CEO/President (hint: EMPLOYEE) and a board director/trustee (hint: UNPAID VOLUNTEER).

    Perhaps, you think his compensation and benefits are too lavish for a non-profit employee, but since he is NOT a board member, your reference to your own board membership is irrelevant.
  • Here's an Idea
    Since this not profit CEO would be homeless without this deal, why don't we let him live in the Governors mansion since it is empty.

    Heck just give it away like Mitch plans to do with public schools.
  • kanthom
    I worked for IHS for several years. Sounds like something they would do. What a waste of donor's money.
  • Sounds strange
    Gee I'm on a board of a not profit, and they don't pay for my housing or accept government funding.
    • Did you even read the article?
      The Weavers will maintain the 22-acre property and use the lawns, woods and a 2,000-square-foot â??hobby house,â?? the IHS will use the main house and grounds for entertaining, hosting functions and housing for Mr Herbst and out of town guests.

      Read Indiana Read!
    • Sweet Deal
      Let me get this straight, Bill Weaver bought the Lilly property and now is leasing the main house for seven years to the Indiana Historical Society who's CEO will now live in it. In addition, Mr Weaver will keep a second home on the property for himself while the not profit pays for all maintenance?

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