The Propylaeum organization and building
Founded in 1888 as a literary and social club for women, the Propylaeum (which means “gateway to higher culture”) bought an elegant brick house at 1410 N. Delaware Street to serve as its headquarters in 1923. Originally built in 1890 by brewer John W. Schmidt, it later housed the family of Joseph Schaf and, briefly, the Indiana College of Music and Fine Arts. But the Propylaeum became its longest-lasting resident; it continues to own the facility today.
Museum use of the carriage house
Along with the three-story house, the site featured a two-story carriage house located at the rear of the property. Initially home to the Little Theater Society, the carriage house was empty after the Society moved to new quarters, prompting the Propylaeum to offer it to the newly formed Children’s Museum Association. The Association began paying rent—$35 a month, increasing to $40 when heat was needed—in July 1925.
Though the museum never formally operated in the carriage house, it allowed neighborhood children to stop by and look at its odd and growing collection, which was formed from donations by area residents. The carriage house was also the first place to display the museum’s first logo—a sea horse created by board trustee Kurt Vonnegut Sr.
A lack of funds forced the museum’s board to look for an alternative home and on Christmas Eve 1925 Indianapolis Mayor Samuel Lewis (“Lew”) Shank offered one—the Garfield Park Shelter House.