(INDIANAPOLIS) – The historic James Whitcomb Riley home could be changing hands.
The poet known for “When the Frost Is on the Punkin” and “The Raggedy Man” spent the last 23 years of his life in a home in Indy’s Lockerbie neighborhood, just east of downtown. The Riley Children’s Foundation owns the home now, and runs it as a historic site and event space. But the foundation also raises money for Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research, and Martinsville’s Camp Riley for children with disabilities.
Chief marketing officer Jim Austin says a $3.1 million endowment covers most of the needs for maintaining and operating the Riley home, but Austin says the foundation relies on about $300,000 a year in donations to pay for the rest, and would rather be focusing its money and attention on its dhildren’s health programs. The foundation wants to open talks with the Indiana State Museum about taking over the site.
A Senate committee unanimously gave its blessing to those talks, although the museum says legislative authorization isn’t necessary — only approval by its board. The full Senate could vote next week.
The house is significant not only as Riley’s home, but as one of the few fully preserved late Victorian homes in the nation, including Riley’s writing desk and other original furnishings.
The State Museum already runs 11 historic sites across Indiana, including the northeast Indiana home and cabin of “A Girl of the Limberlost” author Gene Stratton Porter, and the Nashville home of artist T.C. Steele.
James Whitcomb Riley (Photo: Library of Congress/Getty Images)