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Oldfields Lilly Home and Gardens
A Leisurely Sunday Visit to the Country House
A Leusurely Sunday at theCountry House
Last week we announced a readers' survey and got some great responses that we will share with you on August 21st. I have included a copy of the survey at the end of this week's newsletter. If you have not responded yet, you still have until August 16th! And, speaking of the survey, we had one of those "close to home" Sunday afternoon getaways last week that is certainly worth sharing. We started by visiting the newly restored Oldfields Mansion on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and finished with a late lunch at Oh Yumm bistro at 49th and Illinois.
The Oldfields Lilly Home & Gardens
We have always wondered what the inside of the Oldfields / Lilly mansion looked like. We would visit the Penrod Art Festival on the grounds of the Art Museum and wonder aloud about the stately mansion sitting grandly at the end of the long green lawn. Well, last Sunday we found out. The home was built by Hugh McKennan Landon in 1913 who named it Oldfields. It was purchased and extensively remodeled by the J.K. Lilly family in 1932, who occupied the home until it was given to the Art Museum in 1967. We began by walking the gardens that have been meticulously restored to closely resemble the finished product that Percival Gallagher, of the Olmsted landscape firm (whose other famous work includes The Biltmore Gardens and Central Park) completed in 1921. You enter on a path south of the house across from the new parking lot. The path first takes you to the formal rose garden centered around a fountain and laid out in precise geometric symmetry. Beyond the formal garden, the Ravine Gardens meander down the hill all the way to the Water Company canal using multiple stairways and paths to allow you to enjoy wonderful plantings and a beautiful view. The gardens finish next to the home with a water feature that begins in a pool next to the formal garden and tumbles all the way to the canal at the bottom of the hill.
The entrance to the Mansion is on the lower level, next to the garages on the northwest corner of the building. Admission is $5 and the tour is enhanced by the use of headphones that use numeric codes to activate informative, but not-too-long narrative segments in each room. This also allows you to cut short the tour in any given room if you wish to move on, or even access additional information if you desire. The tour began with a 12 minute film that we would also recommend since it does an excellent job of explaining the history of the home and the two families that owned it. The film also does a nice job of explaining the entire "Country Home" period of the early 20th century and where the Lilly home fits into the picture.
After touring so many historic homes where they show you three rooms and consider it a tour, it's refreshing that this restoration includes the entire house. The rooms on the first floor have been restored and furnished to various periods of the home's lifespan. The Library, with busts of famous authors and window overlooking the formal gardens was my favorite, but the butler's pantry with its cases of antique china is also worthy of a very close inspection. Linda really liked all the rooms, but especially the dining room. The vibrant, but sophisticated blue color scheme made it very inviting, and it was just fun to imagine the notable Indianapolis folks who might have joined the Lilly's for dinner there! The second floor remains unfurnished, but is filled with displays and photos that chronicle the families who lived there, as well as more "country home" living information. And the display of J.K.'s massive collection of coins, toy soldiers and firearms make you realize what an interesting and eclectic guy he must have been. From most of the photos, you can tell that the bedrooms were last decorated in the late 50's, so it would have been fun to see them restored to such a nostalgic period of home decor. Even the garage is open for inspection, complete with a 1925 Dussenberg Touring Car to set the mood. And, while J.K. Lilly never owned the car on display, they do have a photo of his 1934 Dussenberg V-12 Coupe with custom coach work that made it look like a Buck Rogers movie prop. I guess we have to assume that the conservative J.K., who was best known for his rare book and antique coin collections, must have had a mid-life crisis at some point and purchased the car.
Lunch at the Oh Yumm Bistro
After spending a couple of fascinating hours at Oldfield, we took the scenic route through the Butler University campus to Oh Yumm Bistro at 49th and Illinois for a leisurely lunch. They are now open on Sundays and have plenty of outdoor seating under a large red awning. Unfortunately, it was 95 degrees and we were already pretty wilted from the gardens, so the air conditioned view of the outdoor seating was just fine. If anything, Oh Yumm has hit their stride since we wrote of review of them last December. The lunch menu had plenty of salads, but still boasted a full compliment of appetizers and sandwiches. The important issue for a proper laid back Sunday lunch is still the wine list and their's is still little short, but well-chosen and fairly priced. I choose a glass of the King Estate 2000 Pinot Gris and the special of the day, a lamb burger, while Linda opted for the Edna Valley Chardonnay and the chicken quesadillas. The lamb burger was perfectly done on a toasted bun with caramelized onions and Swiss cheese and Linda's quesadillas were excellent, accompanied by both home made guacamole and fresh pico de gallo.
A little sightseeing, good food, good wine... All in all, a pretty nice way to wile away a Sunday afternoon!