About the House

Since 1986, Indiana Humanities has operated out of the Meredith Nicholson House at 1500 N. Delaware St. in Indianapolis’s Old Northside neighborhood. Local architect Herbert Foltz designed the house for prominent Indiana author Meredith Nicholson and his wife Eugenie, and in late 1903 the Nicholson family moved in. Nicholson wrote his best-selling book The House of a Thousand Candles in the third-floor study, and today the house has taken on the book’s title as a moniker.

The house, purportedly the first Colonial/Georgian Revival home in Indianapolis, made an immediate impression, and in the years since it has continued to draw attention for its beauty and style. In a 1920 House Beautiful article, architect Anton Scherrer (whose father designed the Indiana statehouse) called it one of the three best houses in the city, noting that “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.” More recently, architectural historian James Glass named it one of the best examples of Georgian Revival architecture in the state of Indiana.

The Nicholsons sold the house in late 1920 to the family of Carl A. Taylor, who used it as a private residence. Then in the early 1930s Mary Keller purchased it and christened it Meredith Manor. For the next few decades she operated it as a boarding/apartment house, and for several years her brother also operated a doctor’s office from the site.

Indiana Landmarks, a statewide preservation organization, bought the deteriorating house in 1978, extensively rehabilitated the exterior and sold it to Bob Beckmann, a well-known figure in Indianapolis’s civic and arts communities. Beckmann restored the interior and lived in the house for seven years before selling it to Indiana Humanities.

From our home today, Indiana Humanities develops and implements award-winning programs with the goal of encouraging Hoosiers to think, read and talk. At 10,000 square feet, the house also offers office space for tenants and meeting rooms for the public, which enhances its role as a vital community center. 

Meredith Nicholson House, 2018
Meredith Nicholson House, 2018
Meredith Nicholson House, ca. 1905
Meredith Nicholson House, ca. 1905
About the author

It’s fitting that Meredith Nicholson’s former home serves as a center for public humanities in Indiana. Nicholson, who gained national prominence as an author in the first three decades of the 20th century, was fiercely proud of the Hoosier State. Many of his novels were set in Indiana, and he advocated for the state in books, essays and speeches.   

Nicholson was born in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 1866 and moved at age five to Indianapolis. Struggles with math led him to drop out of high school in his first year, but his passion for reading and learning opened other doors. He eventually took up a writing career, working for the Indianapolis Sentinel and the Indianapolis News.

Nicholson released his first book, a collection of poems, in 1891, but his real break came in 1900 when he was asked to write The Hoosiers, a cultural history of Indiana, as part of a book series highlighting the American states. Nicholson was living in Denver at the time, but with publication of The Hoosiers (and with his wife Eugenie’s family money backing him up), he decided to return to Indiana and take up writing full time.

For nearly three decades Nicholson produced a book a year on average, and he had a number of best-selling novels early on in his career. His runaway success was The House of a Thousand Candles, which sold more than 250,000 copies, was translated into several languages and was adapted for both stage and screen. Essays and book excerpts in popular magazines such as Collier’s, Cosmopolitan and The Saturday Evening Post also earned him a wide readership. By the late 1920s, however, his popularity had faded, and with the onset of the Great Depression and his wife’s death in 1931, Nicholson gave up writing altogether.

A lifelong Democrat, Nicholson undertook a new career in 1933 when President Franklin Roosevelt appointed him American minister to Paraguay. He continued serving as a diplomat (with additional assignments in Venezuela and Nicaragua) for eight years, until he resigned in 1941.

Nicholson lived out the remaining years of his life in his beloved Indiana, as a resident of the Indianapolis Athletic Club. He died in 1947 and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.