'Wedding cake' house gets new residents after long vacancy, suspected arson

November 21, 2013
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The historic Kemper House on North Delaware Street is no longer vacant, occupied by a couple who would seem to be ideal residents.

kemper house 225pxMarsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks, and his wife, Grace, moved into the home in September and are getting acclimated to downtown living after arriving from the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood.

The Kemper House, or affectionately known as “the Wedding Cake House” because of its unusual Victorian architecture, was built in 1873. After a series of owners, Eli Lilly, the grandson of the founder of the pharmaceutical company, bought and restored the residence in 1962, and donated it to the Episcopal diocese.

“His hope was that one of the clergy would live in the house,” Davis said. “That never happened.”

So it became a quasi house-museum, a concept popularized in the 1950s and 60s, to showcase pieces from the Victorian era.

When Lilly died in 1977, the church handed the home to Indiana Landmarks, whose Central Region used it as an office until 2007, when it consolidated offices with the state headquarters. Indiana Landmarks now is located at 1201 Central Ave. in Indianapolis.

Indiana Landmarks attempted to sell the home, listing it for $350,000, with no luck.

“My hunch is that it’s because it’s not really in a neighborhood,” Davis said. “It’s surrounded by asphalt and commercial buildings.”

The home is just south of Interstate 65, at 1028 N. Delaware St.

The house was empty for about five years before the Davis family moved in. Davis described the arrangement as a “parsonage in a way.”

The couple plans to use the home to host receptions for Indiana Landmarks events. Davis ultimately hopes to remove the asphalt parking area and convert the land to green space or a community garden.

A two-story addition was added to the rear of the building at some point. Davis’ predecessor at the not-for-profit, Reid Williamson, lived in the apartment for a time until he retired in 2005.

A fire believed to be arson damaged the rear of the home in 2011.

  • Thank you
    What fitting residents for this lovely home!
  • The other Eli Lilly
    Nice story. But the Eli Lilly who restored the house in 1962 wasn't the founder of the pharmaceutical company. He was the founder's grandson.
    • yes...
      Yes, he was the grandson. That is what the article says.
    • Grandson of Eli Lilly
      Bill, it does say grandson, See below. After a series of owners, Eli Lilly, the grandson of the founder of the pharmaceutical company, bought and restored the residence in 1962, and donated it to the Episcopal diocese.
    • Yeah, the grandson
      Bill, would you mind saying "oops", or "my bad" or something?
    • Eli Lilly
      Bill: Thanks for pointing out the mistake. It's been corrected.
      • You're up Balthazar
        Balthazar, I think you might owe Bill an apology? It appears he spotted a mistake which Scott quickly corrected. Why were people so quick to jump on him?

      Post a comment to this blog

      We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
      You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
      Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
      No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
      We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

      Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

      Sponsored by
      1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

      2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

      3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

      4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

      5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...