The exterior of former President Benjamin Harrison's house in Indianapolis.

photo by: Lee Lewellen

Preservation Magazine, Summer 2023

Presidential History Shines Anew in Indiana With Harrison House Restoration

The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site in Indianapolis unveiled a multiyear restoration to the public in May. A 2019 historic structures report paved the way for the project, which focused heavily on the site’s centerpiece: the 23rd president’s 1875 Italianate house.

Aided by a $6 million capital campaign, the efforts took a holistic approach that sought to re-establish the intent of the 10,000-square-foot National Historic Landmark’s original design. The site’s president and CEO, Charles A. Hyde, says his team wanted to “revisit some of the choices that have been made over the last 150 years,” particularly during a major 1974 renovation. Crews repaired the slate roof, repointed about 10 percent of the structure’s 380,552 bricks, and shored up the four chimneys. Interior work involved repairing plaster throughout the house and adding custom wallpaper, handprinted by Bradbury & Bradbury, that matches Harrison’s wallpaper from the late 1800s.

The team also removed offices that had been added on the third floor, restoring visual continuity to the space that once served as the house’s ballroom. A new glass wall separates a portion of the area that now holds the Harrison Family Presidential Research Library. “It was important to us to make sure that historians were aware of the tremendous resources that we had available,” Hyde says.

Tim O'Donnell is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He spends most of his time reading about modern European history and hoping the Baltimore Orioles will turn their fortunes around. A Maryland native, he now lives in Brooklyn.

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