Have you ever passed by a grand old home and wondered what it looked like inside? I recently got to tour one I’ve admired as long as I’ve lived in Indianapolis — the Glossbrenner Mansion, at 32nd and Meridian Streets. I first noticed it because it reminds me of where I attended elementary school. I am especially drawn to its arches, which lend a stately air. I count eight from the carriage port to the main entry.
It takes a wealthy man to build a home such as this. Alfred Glossbrenner (1869-1938) certainly qualified, having made a fortune in printing. As you drive by, it seems odd to see such a grand manor surrounded by other buildings deep within the city. But in 1910, when the home was completed, 32nd Street was pretty far north in Indianapolis. In this old photo, the house appears to be way out in the country!
In 1949, physician Joseph Walther (1912-2005) bought the mansion and practiced medicine in it. Walther founded Winona Memorial Hospital in 1966; I’m under the impression it operated here for some number of years before moving to a larger building. He sold the hospital in 1985 and used the proceeds to fund cancer research. His Walther Cancer Foundation operated out of the mansion for many years.
After Walther’s death, the foundation donated the mansion to Indiana Landmarks hoping to see it preserved. Indiana Landmarks had its annual Indianapolis holiday open house here, which is how I got to see it. Much of the house is in fine shape, but there are a few rough edges, especially in the stairwells leading to the third floor. Also, a few windows provide a view to a wall, as a 1950s addition blocked them. I took my camera along and took a whole bunch of interior photos, the best of which are in this slideshow. They’re not my best work, but my excuse is that I was shooting handheld in available light in a crowd. Still, they show you the home’s inner beauty.
It’s funny how I came to have an interest in historic preservation – I trace it to my interest in roads. When I started to tour the old roads, my interest was solely in exploring former highway alignments. But soon I started to notice the structures on and along the roadside, first old bridges and then old homes. I came to really appreciate the care and attention that goes into maintaining or restoring these structures. Then in 2009, after meeting preservation architect Kurt Garner through his blog, we partnered on the Historic Michigan Road Byway project. Exploring the Michigan Road with him, he began to teach me about historic architecture, and my interest exploded. Thanks, Kurt!