The Carey House

Residence of the Carey family

In early 1927 museum founder Mary Carey offered to let the museum use one of her family's residences, a huge old mansion at 1150 N. Meridian Street, until it could find a more permanent place. The museum stayed there for 19 years.
The sprawling three-story brick house at 1150 N. Meridian Street was 30 years old when local businessman John Carey and his wife Mary Stewart Carey bought it in 1903. Over the next 20-plus years their children and grandchildren celebrated holidays under its 16-foot-high ceilings, and the Careys hosted a variety of civic affairs in its mahogany-paneled dining room, third-floor ballroom, and dual front parlors.

Home of The Children’s Museum

But following her husband’s death in 1926, Carey spent most of her time at Haverway Farm, a property they owned on the northwest side of Indianapolis. Though still fully furnished, the Meridian Street house was devoid of life—until The Children’s Museum opened for business there on April 16, 1927.

Initially the museum used only a few first floor rooms. “The possibilities for display of material and the developing of special exhibits is limited only by time, help, and funds,” curator Arthur B. Carr wrote in a report to the museum board.

With the addition of staff and volunteers, the time, help, and funds available to create and mount exhibits increased over the years—as did attendance. The museum gradually began appropriating more rooms and using some of the wide hallways and small closets to showcase its treasures.

Visit by Eleanor Roosevelt

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt paid a visit to the Carey house in August 1937. Learning of Mrs. Roosevelt’s impending arrival less than 12 hours ahead of time, Carr’s assistant Grace Golden spearheaded a top-to-bottom museum cleaning. Exhausted and thinking she had plenty of time to spare, Golden decided to lie down in the central hallway for a quick nap. And that’s where she was when Mrs. Roosevelt walked through the museum’s back door, more than 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Still the visit was a great success, prompting the First Lady to praise the museum in her nationally syndicated newspaper column.

Search for a new home

As it continued to build its reputation and visibility, The Children’s Museum struggled to maintain the aging structure of Carey house, which needed ongoing repairs. While Carr did as much as he could himself, he couldn’t do anything about a malfunctioning furnace and a leaky tile roof—both of which required expert help.

As World War II wound down, the museum board began searching in earnest for a new location. In 1946 it found one a couple of miles north at the St. Clair Parry house at 30th and Meridian Streets. After 19 years, the museum’s “temporary “stay at Carey house ended. The Carey family (Mary had died in 1938) later sold the house; it was demolished in 1948 to make way for a parking lot.