Column: A Visit to Oldfields

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Shortly before 1909, Hugh Landon and Linnaes Boyd, Indianapolis Water Co. executives, acquired 52 acres of rolling farmland just west of Michigan Road and north of Maple (38th) Street to develop an exclusive neighborhood they named “Woodstock.” Boyd divided his half into residential lots. On his 26 acres, which he called “Oldfields,” Landon built a 22-room concrete and stucco Châteauesque house, designed by his architect brother-in-law. When completed in 1913, Landon’s house, overlooking the White River, featured a music room, library, living room and dining room on the first floor, sleeping rooms and servant quarters on the second floor and an elegant ballroom on the third floor. In 1920, Jessie Spaulding, Landon’s second wife, engaged the Olmsted Brothers, nationally renowned landscape architects, to expand the estate’s gardens. The five-year project added a ravine garden, a formal allée flanked by Dutch elm trees, a fountain and a rendition of the “Three Graces” sculpture. When Jessie died in 1930, Landon sold Oldfields to J. K. Lilly Jr., the grandson of Eli Lilly, and himself a noted philanthropist. Landon donated the proceeds to Riley Hospital.

The Lilly family made a number of improvements to the property, including adding a larger library to the house and a new vestibule aligned with the allée. Murals inside the house reflected the gardens outside. After J. K. Lilly Jr.’s death in 1967, his children donated Oldfields to the Art Association of Indianapolis. Oldfields is now a part of Newfields, which includes the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The Landon/Lilly mansion, known as the “Lilly House,” has been restored to its 1930s appearance, furnished primarily with possessions of the Lilly family. Oldfields was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2003 because of its authentic representation of country estates of wealthy American industrialists. Tours of Oldfields, including the Lilly House, can be arranged at discovernewfields.org/do-and-see/places-to-go/lilly-house.

  


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