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Oldfields - Lilly House & Gardens, An American Country Estate in Indianapolis


The Lilly House, a 22-room mansion located on the historic Oldfields’ estate, along with the gardens, is now part of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Oldfields - Lilly House & Gardens is noted as one of the Midwest’s outstanding examples of an intact American country place estate.

A French Chateau-Style Home
Oldfields, named for the former farmland on which the estate is situated, began with the construction of a house for Indianapolis businessman Hugh McKennan Landon and his wife Suzette Davis Landon. Construction of the French chateau-style house began in 1911 and was completed in late 1912 or 1913.

The Gardens & Grounds
Inspired by a garden the they visited in Maine that had been designed by the landscape architecture firm Olmsted Brothers, Hugh Landon and his second wife, Jessie Walker Landon, began to develop Oldfields’ landscape and gardens in 1920 with designer Percival Gallagher.

Gallagher’s vision transformed Oldfields into a fully developed American country estate, anchoring the house firmly in the landscape and providing dramatic views and pleasant garden walks. The ravine garden, spread upon a hillside between the house and the waterway canal, was one of Gallagher’s most significant contributions to the estate’s landscape. Located just south of Lilly House, the formal garden, with its walled enclosure and geometric planting beds, is a major feature of the 1920s-30s landscape design of the Oldfields estate.

Among Gallagher’s designs were the allée of trees at the front of the house and the estate entrance and redesign. The allée and border gardens bring a combination of panoramic formality and small-scale intimacy to the landscape of the Oldfields estate. The sweeping lawn lined with 58 red oak trees culminates with a circular pool and fountain. On each side are border gardens perfect for a relaxing stroll, as they feature many interesting and unusual combinations of bulbs, perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees.

Like many American country estates of the early 20th century, Oldfields included a greenhouse to support the needs of planting beds and to supply flowers and vegetables for use in the home. Renovated and expanded in 1994, the greenhouse is located adjacent to Lilly House and offers houseplants, herbs, annuals, perennials and gardening gifts for sale.

The Lilly Family
Josiah K. Lilly Jr. was a grandson of Colonel Eli Lilly, founder of the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Company. A member of the third generation of the Lilly family to lead the company, J.K. Lilly Jr. joined the firm in 1914, the same year he married Ruth Brinkmeyer. They purchased the 26-acre Oldfields estate in 1932 and hired Indianapolis architect Frederick Wallick to oversee changes to the house. Wallick enhanced the symmetry of the facade by reducing the number of dormers and windows and by moving the entrance from its original off-center position. Wallick also designed an addition to the house, built at the southern end, which featured a grand library for Mr. Lilly’s growing collection of rare books.

After the initial remodeling of Oldfields, the Lillys continued to expand and make improvements to the property. In 1939, they chose a site to the southeast of their residence to construct a house called Newfield for their son J.K. Lilly III and his new wife Jean Heller. The next year, they constructed a recreation building to the north of Newfield that featured indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a garden with a four-seasons theme.

Lilly House features eight rooms on the main level restored to the 1930s period of the Lilly family’s occupancy. Approximately 90 percent of the furnishings and decorative arts objects featured in the house belonged to the Lillys and were used in the home.

The upper level of Lilly House includes historical and interpretive exhibits, and invites visitors to learn more about interior and exterior design and planning of the estate, the Lilly family, the history and lifestyle of the American country place era, and Indianapolis in the early 20th century. Samples of Mr. Lilly’s world-renowned collections of books, gold coins, military miniatures and nautical items are displayed. The upper level also offers expansive views of Oldfields’ magnificent landscape and gardens.

Now Part of the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Ruth Lilly and J.K. Lilly III (the children of J.K. Lilly Jr. and his wife Ruth) gave Oldfields to the Art Association of Indianapolis. In 1970, the newly renamed Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) opened at its current location and subsequently underwent an extensive renovation of public space, galleries and visitor amenities.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is among the largest general art museums in the United States. Situated on 152 acres, it features significant collections of African, American, Asian, European, contemporary and decorative art, including paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings and photographs, textiles and costumes.

Visitors enter Lilly House through an orientation area located on the northwest side of the building. Following a 10-minute video introduction to Lilly House, visitors begin their tour using an audio guide.



The Indianapolis Museum of Art
Oldfields - Lilly House & Gardens
4000 Michigan Blvd.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
(317) 923-1331
Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association
One RCA Dome # 100
Indianapolis, IN 46225
(800) 323-INDY

Photo Courtesy: Oldfields Gardens; Lilly House - Indianapolis Museum of Art