The Tudor Revival residence at 4140 North Illinois Street was built in 1925 by Guy Alwyn Wainwright (1889-1956) and Jeanette Harvey Wainwright (1894-1949). At the time the recently-wed couple built their new home, Guy Wainwright was vice president and general manager of the Diamond Chain Company. He became the president of Diamond Chain just a few years later, upon the death of his father, Lucius Morton Wainwright (1860-1931), and became chairman of the board, later still. The Wainwrights owned the property for 32 years. Their three children, William, Thomas, and Stephen, grew up in the home. Their youngest son, Stephen, a noted biologist and retired Duke University professor, is still living.
The land accompanying the residence is comprised of four lots that were originally intended to have homes built on all of them. However, the Wainwrights purchased three lots adjacent to the lot on which the home stands, making a combined total of almost two acres. As a result of the additional land, the property extends from Illinois Street on the east to Capitol Avenue on the west. It has has entrances/exits on both thoroughfares. Because the property had more footage fronting on Capitol Avenue than it did on Illinois Street, the City of Indianapolis originally assigned it the address of 4139 North Capitol Avenue. It was known by the Capitol Avenue address through-out the Wainwrights' ownership and well into the second owners'. In recent years, the address was changed to 4140 North Illinois Street, which is a more logical approach to the home for visitors. The long driveway at the east entrance to the property ascends to the home on the hill through a stunning wooded lot.
Construction of the home began early in 1925 and was completed by the end of that same year. The architectural firm hired for the project was Osler and Burns. Willard Osler and Lee Burns were known for designing churches such as Trinity Episcopal, First Congregational, and Second Presbyterian, as well as designing commercial buildings like the English Foundation, Broad Ripple Branch of Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers, and several buildings at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. They also designed the former Marmon house downtown, now home to the University Club, as well as another former Marmon home in Brendonwood.
In December of 1924, the application for the building permit described the proposed construction as a 2-story residence with basement and attached garage. It was estimated that the materials and labor would cost about $50,000. The projected figure was only for the construction of the home; it did not include the cost of purchasing the land prior to improvements. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator, the cost to build the house in 1924 would be equivalent to almost $713,000 in 2017 dollars.
According to the city's property tax records, the total area of the home, including the basement and attached garages, is 7,113 square feet. A considerable portion of the home’s exterior is brick, laid in the Flemish Bond style of alternating the long sides of the bricks and the short ends of the bricks. The remainder of the home’s exterior is stucco with false half-timbering. The roof is slate, and the gutters are copper. An unusual feature protruding from the east façade of the home is a rounded structure that made is primarily glass, which was added some years after the original home was built. Subtle personalized decorative touches appear around the home, such as the year "1925" carved in wood above the front door and the initials "G W" stamped in copper at the site of a scupper near the northwest corner of the house.
Within a few months after Guy Wainwright’s death, the property was purchased from his estate by Richard Austin Cochran (1915-2001) and wife Jessie Hall Cochran (1923-1967). Dick was president of the A. B. Cochran Construction Company. Among the many projects his firm built over the years were the Indianapolis Day Nursery, Hendricks County Hospital, and Mount Comfort Airport Hangar. A. B. Cochran also constructed additions to Broad Ripple High School and Carmel High School and made upgrades to the Indiana Governor’s Mansion after it moved to its present location at 46th and Meridian Streets.
Two years after Mrs. Cochran’s death, Richard Cochran married Patricia Jameson Acheson (1919-2016). Patty was the great-great-granddaughter of Ovid Butler (1801-1881), the man for whom Butler University was named. She was also the grandniece of author and playwright, Newton Booth Tarkington (1869-1946). For the remaining years of Patty’s life after her marriage to Dick Cochran -- which was nearly half-a-century -- 4140 North Illinois Street was the site of many family gatherings and social events.
After Patty passed away in December of 2016, the property was inherited by the widow of her older son, John Huyler Acheson (1942-2014), and her younger son, Donald Jameson Acheson. Don purchased his brother's half of the estate from his sister-in-law, thus making Don the sole owner. The extended Cochran family has now owned the property for 61 years. In the summer of 2017, Don and his wife, Clare Fox Acheson, graciously agreed to allow St. Margaret's Hospital Guild make the property its 57th Decorators’ Show House and Gardens.
An interesting backstory to the 93-year history of the Wainwright-Cochran House is that neither it nor any of the other houses that now surround it was the first home to be built there. For more than four decades, the home of a respected pioneer family had a commanding presence there. In 1882, William Alexander Ketcham (1846-1921) and Flora McDonald Ketcham (1846-1938) bought 13.8 acres of land in Washington Township, bounded by what would later become 41st Street on the south, 42nd Street on the north, Illinois Street on the east, and Senate Avenue (now Boulevard Place) on the west. At that time, the area was considered to be out in the country.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Ketcham were from families that had been among Indianapolis' earliest settlers. William Ketcham's paternal grandfather, John Ketcham (1782-1865), came to Indiana in 1811, was a colonel in the state militia, and was a founder of Indiana University. William Ketcham's maternal grandfather, Samuel Merrill (1792-1855), came to Indiana the year it became a state, 1816, and was Indiana's first treasurer. Sam Merrill was the man who led the 1825 wagon caravan from Corydon to Indianapolis, moving all of the state's records, office equipment, and funds from the old capitol to the new capitol. Mrs. Ketcham’s father, David McDonald (1803-1869), arrived in Bloomington in the 1820s, was a United States District Court Judge, and the first professor of law at the Indiana University School of Law. William Ketcham himself was an officer in the Civil War, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic after the war, and served two terms as Attorney General of Indiana.
Atop the knoll between what is now the west side of the 4100 block of Illinois Street and the east side of the 4100 block of Capitol Avenue, William and Flora Ketcham built a 19-room mansion. Locals referred to the family's property as "Ketchams' Hill" and "Ketchams' Woods," which were obvious references to its physical setting. The family called the house "Robin Wood." The Ketchams reared seven children there: Flora, Agnes, Jane, Lilla, Henry, Lucia, and Dorothy. They all became doctors, lawyers, or teachers.
Robin Wood might still be standing today, had it not been destroyed by a devastating fire in the winter of 1923. For about a year after the fire, the Mapleton Civic Association, a fore-runner of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association, lobbied the City of Indianapolis to buy the Ketchams' land and make it into a community park. The nearby 300-acre Fairview Park had for many years been a popular recreational location for Mapleton residents, but in 1922, Fairview had been purchased by Butler College (now Butler University) and would soon become the institution's new campus. The residents of Mapleton were concerned about no longer having a nearby park.
The City of Indianapolis and the 78-year-old, widowed Flora Ketcham could not reach an agreement, and so in 1924, Mrs. Ketcham split the acreage into fourteen building lots. Fortunately, for the Wainwrights and Achesons, four of those lots have been "home" for their families for nearly a century. Fortunately, for St. Margaret's Hospital Guild, the Wainwright-Acheson House will become "home” to the next Decorators' Show House and Gardens in April and May of 2018.
The history of the property and its owners was written by
St. Margaret's Hospital Guild member Sharon Butsch Freeland.