In 1875, Benjamin and Caroline Harrison relocated their family from downtown Indianapolis to the Old Northside. While campaigning for president in 1888, he gave speeches outside the house. After leaving the presidency, Harrison married Mary Lord Dommick after his first wife’s death and resided at the house until his death in 1901. Eventually, Mary Dimmick Harrison sold the house on the condition that it remain a memorial to her husband. In 1974, the Arthur Jordan Foundation renovated the house and opened it as a historic house museum. The home is now known as the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site.
Arriving at the museum
The museum is at the intersection of North Delaware and East 13th streets as I-65 turns west through the city. There is limited street parking near the museum, but there is a parking lot by the property’s former carriage house. The parking lot is accessible from North Talbott Street and East Alley 1200 North. Admission to the house museum is at the former carriage house, which is adjacent to the parking lot. Visitors then proceed to the front of the house where a docent meets people for tours on the hour and half hour.
The first floor has multiple rooms. Many rooms have original pieces, although their location in each room may not be specific to when Harrison and his family lived here. For example, the bronze statue of a sailor in the office never sat at that location. However, one particular piece that is original to the house is the rug in the front parlor.
The second floor consists of multiple bedrooms. However, only one bedroom is decorated as it appeared when the Harrison family resided at the house. The bedroom where Benjamin Harrison died is the only bedroom setup to resemble its previous use. Curators do not have enough information to know definitively who used the other bedrooms. One bedroom is setup to resemble a young woman’s bedroom from the late 1800s.
The third floor of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site was once a ballroom. The Harrisons used it for entertaining guests and hosted wedding receptions here. The space currently houses special exhibits, which change each year. In 2019, one exhibit focused on presidential humor (read more here) and another highlighted glitz and glamour in the White House (read more here). “Glitz & Glamour in the White House” included several gowns worn by the first ladies at inaugural balls, including that of Caroline Harrison.
Getting to the museum
The museum is about a 5-minute drive from downtown Indianapolis. Visitors should turn onto East Alley 1200 North and proceed onto North Talbott Street, as the parking lot sits behind the house next to the former carriage house. Alternatively, you can reach North Talbott Street from East 13th Street if you miss the alley. People taking public transit can take IndyGo routes #4 or #5, which both travel north on Delaware Street and stop at the intersection of Delaware and 13th streets.
Address: 1230 North Delaware Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Sunday 12 to 3:30 p.m.
Accessibility: The 2001 installation of an elevator and elevette made the house fully accessible.
Disclosure: I received complimentary admission to the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site courtesy of Visit Indy. However, all words and opinions are my own.