The Vonnegut Building (never built)

Gift of Rockwood property

In 1936 The Children’s Museum received an unexpected and very generous gift from board member William Rockwood. Having sold his house in the 3600 block of Washington Boulevard, Rockwood and his wife were giving the museum a 200-foot-by-280-foot lot they owned next door to their former residence. The museum was free to do with the lot whatever it wanted.

Vonnegut museum design

What it wanted, the board decided, was to build a new facility to house the museum, which was then making do in cramped quarters in the rapidly aging Carey house. Architect and longtime museum trustee Kurt Vonnegut Sr. volunteered to design the new structure.

The result was a design for a two-story modern building that used glass blocks to provide natural lighting. There were four galleries, a 240-seat auditorium, and a separate entrance in the rear for school groups. The estimated cost to build it was $76,000, with Ruth and Eli Lilly offering to provide $25,000 of the cost.

Denial of zoning variance

But the Rockwood’s former neighbors were not enthused about having a museum in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Their objections led the city plan commission to turn down the museum’s request for a zoning variance to allow construction. The museum’s board retreated but made another attempt a few years later, which was met with another refusal. In 1943 the museum sold the Rockwood property and turned its attention elsewhere in a search for a new location. Vonnegut’s building was never built.

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Caption for image 4.2.d.Places.HistoricBuildings&Grounds.VonnegutBuilding.tif:

Architect and museum trustee Kurt Vonnegut Sr. designed a modern structure for a new Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in 1936, but because of zoning opposition the building never progressed beyond the conceptual phase.