The French provincial style house at 5260 North Meridian Street was constructed in 1929 and 1930 by architect-builder Henry L. Simons as a speculative project. For a two-story house with basement, four bedrooms, and servants’ quarters, Simons estimated the cost of construction at $100,000, the upper end of the Indianapolis home market at that time. From the 1920s to the 1940s, Simons built numerous homes in the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood, as well as in Williams Creek, Arden, and the area west of Kessler Boulevard, North Drive.
A 1930 Indianapolis Star article describes the 5260 North Meridian H. L. Simons home in considerable detail. According to the newspaper description, the exterior is covered with sandstone from Briar Hill, Indiana, and limestone from Bedford, Indiana, was used for the surrounds of the entrance, windows, and a balcony on the façade. Delicate bas relief sculpture depicting festoons and swags, coats of arms, and animals are found above the front entrance, rear library entry, the balcony for the master bedroom, and the front window overlooking the inside main stairway.
The article also states that the house consists of four inter-connected pavilions. All four pavilions have pyramidal roofs with heavy slates of varied colors. The second story of the pavilion to the north of the entrance is covered with stained half-timbers and brick nogging. The original steel casement windows with leaded grooved bars dividing the individual panes are found in the façade.
Inside, visitors find themselves in a handsome stair hall, circular in shape. A curving stairway with landing leads up to the second floor. The stairway is lined with a wrought iron balustrade ornamented with bronze figures representing seahorses and lions, created by Giosco & Company, artisans in metals. The floor of the stair hall is travertine stone from Italy. The floors of the living room, library, dining room, and north corridor are oak with walnut pegs. Throughout the house, the doors and all of the wood trim are solid walnut.
The living room is a rectangular space with an Adam-style marble fireplace mantel, plaster crown moldings, and a frieze of fleur-de-lis and urns. French doors lead to a terrace overlooking the front lawn. The library is paneled in walnut with a classical cornice and built-in book shelves. French doors open out into what is now an enclosed terrace, overlooking the back yard.
The dining room walls are adorned with rectangular plaster moldings and a chair rail. The butler’s pantry adjoins the dining room and the kitchen.
On the second floor, the circular stair hall provides access to the master bedroom, as well as three other large bedrooms. The master bedroom is adjoined by a dressing room and bath. All four bedrooms have private baths with original ceramic tile in different colors. An impressive walnut wardrobe lined with cedar and matching linen closet lines the upstairs corridor. Above the garage is a suite of former servants’ bedrooms and a bath. The basement, accessed from a vestibule just inside the front entrance, was originally a completely finished social hall.
At the rear of the property stands what was originally a garden house with an exterior of Briar Hill sandstone to match the main house.
This lovely, historical home has not changed much architecturally from when it was built. However, since the 1930 article was written, a spacious glass-enclosed conservatory was added to the back of the house. In addition, a swimming pool and pool house were built in the large back yard of the home in the late 1960’s.
In 1930, Simons sold the completed residence to Robert A. and Pearl Sebel MacGill, who were from Chicago. They occupied the home by early 1931. Robert (1877-1933) worked for the Crane Company, manufacturers and wholesale dealers in heating, plumbing, water, gas, and steam supplies and eventually became manager of all of Crane’s Indiana branches. The MacGills had three sons – Robert, David, and Richard. Unfortunately, only two years after moving into 5260 N. Meridian Street, Robert MacGill died of a heart attack at age 56. His widow, Pearl, lived in the residence for a short while longer, selling it in 1934. Coincidentally, Dorothy (Dee) MacGill, wife of MacGill son Richard, is a St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild Life Member who served as the Decorator Chair for the 1977 St. Margaret’s Decorators’ Show House & Gardens.
Taking up residence in 1934 were William H. and Marie E. Wemmer. William (1903-1949) was a distinguished attorney and the 1947 Republican nominee for Mayor of Indianapolis. The Wemmers had three daughters -- Gretchen, Barbara, and Hildegard. William Wemmer died in 1949, at age 45. Marie Wemmer (later, Davies) and her teenage daughters continued to live at 5260 North Meridian Street until 1953.
The next residents were Gilbert W. Gerald (1907-1994) and Helen Trusler Gerald (1912-2004). Gilbert was one of the top salesmen for the Lilly Varnish Company (later called Lilly Industrial Coatings). Mrs. Gerald was a member of St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild and served as a vice president in 1958. The couple and their three children -- Judy, Sara, and Gil Jr. -- lived at 5260 North Meridian Street from 1953 until 1966.
Following the Geralds were Murray E. (1917-1968) and Loretta T. Dulberger. The couple had four children – Philip, Holly, Kellie, and Leslie. The family lived in the home for only about two years, as Murray suffered a fatal heart attack in 1968 at the age of 51. The property was tied up in his estate and was vacant until early in 1972.
The next owners were John F. and Lynn Clippinger Neff. John Neff was a bright young attorney with a promising future in politics. He was the 1971 Democratic candidate for Mayor of Indianapolis. Tragically, he was killed in a plane crash in 1974, at the age of 36. Lynn Neff (later, Fechtman) remained in the property until 1984, rearing the three Neff children – Andrew, Jill, and Matthew – in the home, as well as her stepchildren from a later marriage.
John D. and Shirley Noel purchased the residence in 1984. John was Chief Financial Officer at the Ransburg Corporation of Indianapolis, manufacturers of industrial coatings. The Noels lived at 5260 North Meridian Street from 1984 through 1988.
From 1989 to 2014, Anthony W. and Marla Smith owned 5260 North Meridian Street. Anthony, a certified public accountant, was with the national accounting firm of Ernst and Ernst (now Ernst and Young) for 42 years, becoming a partner in 1983. Marla worked with entrepreneur Michael S. Maurer for 31 years. The Smiths added the glass conservatory to the back of the house.
St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild extends our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the present owners for partnering with us in the 2016 Decorators’ Show House and Gardens.
St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild wishes to express our gratitude and appreciation to James A. Glass, Ph.D., Historic Preservation & Heritage Consulting LLC, for researching the history of this year’s show house. Our thanks also goes to guild member and historian Sharon Butsch Freeland for her research into the history of the 5260 North Meridian residence.