Garfield Park Shelter House

The community shelter house in Garfield Park, southeast of downtown Indianapolis, was home to the museum from January 1926 to April 1927.
Opened in 1876 and named in honor of President James A. Garfield after his assassination in 1881, Garfield Park is the oldest park owned by the city of Indianapolis. In 1925 it had a new shelter house, constructed as a place for area residents to hold club meetings and special events. It also contained a large auditorium for lectures, performances, and other types of programs.

Home of The Children’s Museum

When Mayor Samuel Lewis (“Lew”) Shank offered rent-free space inside the shelter to The Children’s Museum, it seemed like the perfect place for a fledgling museum. Especially since heat, water, electricity, and maintenance were also provided free.

For a few months it was ideal. The shelter house was the where the museum officially opened to the public in January 1926 with enough room to organize themed exhibits based on its collection, which numbered more than 600 objects at the time.

But a few incidents of petty theft and vandalism, as well as the distraction for young visitors of a playground right outside, led curator Arthur B. Carr to suggest the museum board look for another location. The park board agreed, asking the museum to vacate the shelter house in response to complaints from some of the other organizations that also used the shelter house; they claimed the museum was taking up too much space.

Move to Carey House

Fortunately, museum founder Mary Stewart Carey stepped in to help, agreeing to let the organization use her former residence at 1150 N. Meridian Street as a temporary site. After a little more than a year at Garfield Park the museum moved once more, opening in the Carey house on April 16, 1927.