INDIANAPOLIS – Indy’s historic “Wedding Cake House” may lead you to believe it has served as the hub for marriage ceremonies. While that may or may not be true, the home has seen its fair share of owners over past 144 years.
The 2,500 square-foot structure at 1028 N. Delaware Street, formally known as the Historic Kemper House, is the dwelling Marsh Davis and Grace Whittemore Davis call home.
Although owned by Indiana Landmarks, the “Wedding Cake House” reflects the Davis' personal style and is filled with family heirlooms, antiques, folk art and treasures from their travels.
The architectural construction of the St. Joseph Historic District home earned its longstanding nickname on more than looks alone: businessman Charles Pierson commissioned the construction of the Kemper House in 1873 as a wedding present for his bride.
Although the architect's name remains a mystery, the house itself offers proof of his talent. Eli Lilly, champion of the home’s preservation, once noted that "Whoever it was, when the house was complete, doubtless rested from his work and found it good.”
Charles Pierson and his wife lived in their new house for only one year before selling it.
John Lewis Griffiths, the next prominent owner of the home, was one of Indiana's notable orators. Griffiths, who served in the Indiana House of Representatives and twice ran unsuccessfully for governor, owned the Kemper House from 1897 to 1914.
Alter campaigning for Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential election, he was appointed consul general to Liverpool in 1905. Four years later he accepted the same position in London.
The Kemper House changed hands many times after 1914 until Lilly purchased the home in 1962, saving it from demolition. He gave the house its formal name by dedicating it in memory of Rev. Jackson Kemper, who served from 1835 to 1849 as Indiana’s first Episcopal bishop.
In 1977, the diocese decided the purpose of Lilly’s gift would be better served if the Kemper House were owned by an organization with expertise in the management of historic properties. The diocese, therefore, presented the house to Indiana Landmarks, an organization established by Lilly himself in 1960 to promote the preservation of Indiana’s historic architecture.
Marsh, president of Indiana Landmarks, and Grace, an artist, have shown the three bedroom and two bath Victorian-style home personal love over the years with a pattern book design, most common in the 19th century. Grace’s art and Marsh’s photographs add splashes of color the walls.
The long, thin construction of the home posed a challenge for the couple, but historic themes such as the high ceilings, Greek revival door trim and large front porch made up for the difficulties.
Grace tends to the backyard wildlife often and hopes to remove the asphalt parking area to convert the land into green space or a community garden.
The couple said they enjoy living on the edge of downtown for several reasons, but walkability tops the list.