About the house

Since 1986, the Indiana Humanities office has been located in the Meredith Nicholson House, a historic home in the Old Northside neighborhood of Indianapolis. Named for the original builder, an Indiana author most famous for his novel The House of a Thousand Candles (which he wrote while living in the house on 1500 North Delaware Street), the house was built in 1903-1904 and is believed to be the first Georgian/Colonial Revival style home in Indianapolis. 

Architect Anton Scherrer (whose father designed the Indiana statehouse) submitted a short piece titled “The Three Best Houses in Indianapolis, Indiana” to House Beautiful in June 1920. In the article Scherrer writes: “Mr. Meredith Nicholson’s home has personality. Indeed it would be difficult to conceive of Mr. Nicholson living in any other kind of house. Colonial, in architectural style, its lines are calm, and its general tone is dignified and serene. Formal as it is, it has an air of graciousness. I never pass it but I am grateful for the well-disciplined battalion of its second-story windows.”

When the house was built, the Old Northside was home to some of Indianapolis’ most prominent citizens. Now, the active neighborhood includes residents, nonprofits and businesses that have a profound interest in protecting the quality and aesthetic character of this historic district.

Since Nicholson sold the house in 1923, a variety of families and businesses have called it home, including: the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music, a doctor’s office, a restaurant (Meredith Manor Dining Room) and an apartment building. Bob Beckmann, Jr., purchased the house from the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indianapolis (now Indiana Landmarks) in 1979 and extensively refurbished the property before Indiana Humanities acquired it.

Today, we regularly welcome other nonprofits in for meetings and discussions, host lectures and conversations, and open our doors for humanities-inspired programming.

To help preserve this important landmark and ensure it remains a vibrant cultural center, this summer and fall Indiana Humanities will conduct a major renovation of the house. Work will include exterior projects to restore its original grandeur (including re-creation of original architectural features) and interior updates to increase the functionality of the space as an office and humanities hub. 

Meredith Nicholson House ca. 2009
Meredith Nicholson House ca. 2009
Meredith Nicholson House ca. 1905
Meredith Nicholson House ca. 1905
About the author

Nicholson was born in 1866 in Crawfordsville, and moved to Indianapolis at age five. Except for three years in Denver and 10 years in diplomatic service, he spent most of his life in Indianapolis, where he died December 20, 1947, at age 81. A high school dropout, Nicholson was largely self-educated, fluent in Latin, Greek, French and Italian. He worked at odd jobs– as a drug store clerk, a gofer in a print shop, and as a law clerk, which led him to study law briefly.

Abandoning a law career, he worked as a reporter at the Indianapolis News for 12 years. During his literary career, he wrote approximately 30 books, plays and essays before retiring from writing in 1929 to pursue a career in diplomatic service. A staunch Democrat, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933. A year later he was transferred to Venezuela and, in 1938, to Nicaragua. Nicholson returned to Indianapolis in 1941 and lived in retirement at the Indianapolis Athletic Club until his death.

Nicholson would likely enjoy the state of the house now. He was a great believer in community service, a man of letters, who was happiest when he was in his native state of Indiana. Nicholson often said that the key to success is to stick close to home. In one of his better-known works, The Hoosiers, Nicholson commented on the social and cultural history of Indiana. In 1941, the Indianapolis Times reported that he loved to reminisce, allowing listeners the opportunity to live through his era.