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History of the 2021 
Decorators' Show House and Gardens


        The residence at 5417 North Meridian Street is located on the main north-south thoroughfare of the City of Indianapolis. Homes along this two-mile long, boulevard-like stretch of North Meridian Street are part of several organizations that seek to maintain the area’s history, appearance, and quality of life. Those nonprofit groups include the Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood Association, the Meridian Street Foundation, and the Meridian Street Preservation Commission. The North Meridian Street Historic District is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

        The real estate firm that both designed the home and constructed it, the Schoen-Morgan Company, was founded by Effie Schoen-Morgan (1873-1960). She was the company’s owner, president, and driving force, which was an unusual position for a woman in the early decades of the 1900s. Her first husband, John Schoen, had died in 1910, and her second husband was named Morgan, hence her hyphenated surname. Effie's son, Robert Schoen, was the designer of the homes, and her son, Joseph Schoen, was the sales manager. Schoen-Morgan built hundreds of homes over the years, many of them between 46th and 86th Streets and a few blocks on either side of North Meridian Street. After her retirement, Mrs. Schoen's grandson, Robert Schoen Jr. (1932-2008) served as president of the company.  

        Construction of the house and garage began in 1929 and was completed in 1930. They were erected on a typical Meridian Street lot, with a frontage of 100 feet and a depth of 300 feet. At the time the home was built, there were fewer structures west and north of it than there are today. Sitting on the crest of a hill, the home originally had a view of the White River, just a few blocks away. The exterior of the two-story Colonial is red-brick veneer with Bedford limestone trim. A Southern-style open porch with eight immense Corinthian columns extends across the front of the residence. A long driveway winds its way up the hill from Meridian Street below to the original 3-car garage at the rear, which had an addition constructed on the south end of it by the home's eighth owners. The five-bedroom, five-and-a-half bath home contains 5,536 square feet on the main and upper levels and 2,110 square feet in the basement, for a total of 7,646 square feet. Construction of the home began in 1929 and was completed in 1930. However, it did not sell for several months, possibly due in part to the stock market crash in September of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression.   

         The first owners of 5417 North Meridian Street were Willis Meredith Nicholson Sr. (1866-1947) and his wife Eugenie (Kountze) Nicholson (1867-1931). They moved into the residence on October 8, 1930, according to newspaper articles in both The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star. They had resided in the Golden Hill neighborhood for about six years prior to the move. Meredith Nicholson was a poet, author, journalist, and diplomat. Born in Crawfordsville, Indiana, he moved to Indianapolis with his parents and sister when he was five years old. Along with Booth Tarkington, George Ade, and James Whitcomb Riley, Nicholson helped create a period that's often referred to as the Golden Age of Literature in Indiana. He authored twenty-eight books, the best-known of which were The House of A Thousand Candles, The Port of Missing Men, and A Hoosier Chronicle. Mrs. Nicholson passed away only a year after the couple moved into the house. The Nicholsons' children -- Elizabeth (Nicholson) Claypool Brown, Willis Meredith Nicholson Jr., and Charles Lionel Nicholson -- were grown, married, and living in homes of their own, so Mr. Nicholson was then all alone in the large home. In 1933, the widowed Meredith Nicholson married Dorothy (Wolfe) Lannon (1895-1951). That same year, Nicholson was appointed United States Minister to Paraguay by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Nicholason sold the home, just prior to moving to Paraguay. He subsequently served as Minister to Venezuela and Minister to Nicaragua, as well. The Nicholsons eventually returned to Indianapolis, where he died in 1947.       

         The second owners of the property were Warren Charles Fairbanks (1878-1938) and Helen Ethel (Cassidy) Fairbanks (1883-1944). Born in Indianapolis, Fairbanks was the eldest son of United State Vice President, Charles Warren Fairbanks. In 1898, he served as a captain in the Spanish-American war. Warren Fairbanks was the state director of President Herbert Hoover's unemployment relief commission in the early 1930s. He served on the Board of Directors of several companies and was a trustee of the McKinley National Memorial Association. Mr. Fairbanks was President of The Indianapolis News from 1922 until his unexpected death in 1938. The couple’s two daughters, Edith (Fairbanks) Modrone and Cornelia (Fairbanks) Poole, were grown and married by then, so Mrs. Fairbanks sold the property the following year. Mrs. Fairbanks passed away in Chicago in 1944. 

        The third family to occupy 5417 N. Meridian Street resided in the home from 1939 until 1961, which was the longest time period of all its residents. David Lurvey (1886-1959) and Frances (Traugott) Lurvey (1889-1942) and four of their five children -- Leonard, Rosalie, William, and Frances -- moved into the home in the fall of 1939. David Lurvey was the president of the Hatfield Electric Company. Fanny Lurvey was widely known in civic and philanthropic organizations, including the League of Women Voters, American Red Cross, and Indianapolis Council of Jewish Women. Mrs. Lurvey died in 1942. Two years later, David Lurvey married Ruth (Hammerman) Levey (1900-1962). Ruth had been widowed by the death of her husband, Lewis J. Levey, in 1943. Over the next two decades, the melded Lurvey and Levey families hosted many activities in the home. Three of the Lurvey children were married in the residence during the years the Lurveys lived in the home. Rosalie married Joseph Rothbard in 1944; Leonard married Mildred Briggs in 1949; and Frances married Samuel Ross in 1957. Two years after David Lurvey's 1959 passing, Ruth sold the home to its next owners. 

        The fourth owners of the home were Clarence B. La Dine (1904-1979) and Veneta (Leonard) La Dine (1907-2002). Dr. La Dine was born in Prophetstown, Illinois. During World War II, he served as an executive officer of several Army hospitals in Iceland, England, and France. He was discharged after the war with the rank of colonel. Mrs. La Dine was from Mount Vernon, Illinois. "C. B." and his wife settled in Indianapolis after he completed his studies at Indiana University School of Medicine. Dr. La Dine was on the staff of Methodist and Community Hospitals and also had an office in the Brightwood neighborhood for many years. Like the Lurveys, the La Dines opened their home to many social, civic, and philanthropic events. The La Dines were members of North United Methodist Church and the Marion County Historical Society. Mrs. La Dine was president of the Indianapolis Council of Women, chair of the Indianapolis Stay-In-School Project, and on the committee responsible for the building of the Indiana Convention Center.  The La Dines had no children, and following Dr. La Dine’s death in 1979, Mrs. La Dine sold the property to its fifth owners.

        Richard R. Hamilton (1941-1997) and Carolyn (Hohl) Hamilton lived nearby on Washington Boulevard when the La Dine residence became available. The couple had begun investing in real estate a few years earlier and were members of a local investment club.  Richard had previously been a salesman, and Carolyn had been a public health nurse. The Hamiltons and their young daughters, Wendy and Jennifer, lived in the Meridian Street property for only a couple of years, 1980-1982. During their ownership, Richard installed an in-ground hot tub in the back yard and built a playhouse in a tree for the girls.  Caroline, Wendy, and Jennifer now reside in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

        The sixth owners of the home were Gerald R. Levin and Rhonda (Solotkin) Levin. Both are Indianapolis natives. Gerald is a dentist with a practice on the northeast side of Indianapolis, which continues today. Rhonda is a school psychologist. The Levins owned the property from 1982 to 1984. 

        The seventh owners of 5417 N. Meridian Street were Robert L. Zerbe and Linda (Rhode) Zerbe. Their children are Anne, Eric, and Sarah. Dr. Zerbe was born in Ohio in 1950. He came to Indiana to attend the Indiana School of Medicine. At the time the Zerbes purchased the home, he was executive director of Lilly Research Laboratories, a division of Eli Lilly and Company. Their residence was on the Crossroads Guild Holiday Home Tour in 1991. Since leaving Lilly and selling the home, Dr. Zerbe has gone on to work at Parke-Davis, Pfizer, and QUATRx Pharmaceuticals.      

        The home’s eighth owners were Kevin M. Kelley and Karen (Sandy) Kelley. They lived in the home from 1996 until 2008. Kevin was a salesman, and Karen was a paralegal. The Kelleys installed the swimming pool and built the addition to the three-car garage to house the pool equipment.          

        The ninth owners of the home were Kenneth W. Rush and Shannon (Alston) Rush. They occupied the property from 2008 to 2012.  Now in her 24th year at Eli Lilly and Company, Ms. Rush has held a number of different positions at the pharmaceutical company. 

        In 2012, Mark A. Graham and Susan (White) Graham became the tenth owners of the 90-year-old home. Mark is an Indianapolis native and the grandson of Thornton F. Graham, the founder of Graham Electronics. Mark's mother, JoAnn Graham, was a longtime member of St. Margaret's Hospital Guild, serving as President in one year and as Show House Chair in another year. Mark serves on the Board of Directors of Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana. Susan hails from Louisville, Kentucky, and serves on the Board of the Meridian Street Foundation. The Grahams' home has hosted numerous events, including Derby parties, fundraising events, and a family wedding in 2020. They are the parents of four children: Caroline, Peter, Katherine, and David.

        It is thanks to the Grahams' generosity, along with the talents of twenty-two interior designers and three landscape architects, that St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild has the privilege of featuring this wonderful property as its 2021 Decorators’ Show House and Gardens. 

The history of the 2021 Decorators Show House and Gardens was researched by
St. Margaret's Hospital Guild member, Sharon Butsch Freeland


 

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