Louis Levey built the Levey Mansion in 1905 and located it in the distinctive Meridian corridor during Indiana’s cultural golden era, which lasted from the early 19th century and into the early 20th.
Indianapolis’ First Citizens
Levey’s neighbors and fellow residents of Indianapolis were political and cultural giants. One of these prominent citizens was Benjamin Harrison, the future 23rd President of the United States, who moved to Indianapolis in 1854 from Cincinnati. Levey’s neighbor Charles Warren Fairbanks was vice president to Teddy Roosevelt when the Levey mansion was being constructed following distinguished service as a U.S. Senator.
On May 30, 1907, Fairbanks accompanied President Roosevelt on a visit to Indianapolis to dedicate a statue to Civil War Gen. Henry Lawton at the old Marion County Courthouse on East Washington Street. Levey, among other local dignitaries such as the author James Whitcomb Riley and Franklin Vonnegut, the grandfather of Kurt Vonnegut, visited with the President in the picture at the top of this page.
Golden Age of Indiana Literature
Indiana’s authors and painters received national attention and popular acclaim during a period called the Golden Age of Indiana Literature: 1880 to 1920. A 1947 study found that Indiana authors during this time—Lew Wallace of Ben Hur fame, Meredith Nicholson, Booth Tarkington and James Whitcomb Riley among others—ranked second to New York in the number of bestsellers produced in the previous 40 years. This era corresponded with the ascendance of the Hoosier Group painters, famous for Impressionist-style landscape painting of Indiana’s Brown Country.
Indiana had more than just poets and prose writers; the state’s writers encompassed historians, novelists, journalists, as well as those who write on the subjects of legal, philosophy, and science. These writers contributed to the celebration of Indiana life through story-telling and particularly through Riley’s famous “Hoosier dialect” and paved the way for future writers such as famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle.
A City of Memorials
Indiana’s pride in its citizens’ commitment to the flourishing of the United States is demonstrated by the fact that it is second only to Washington D.C. in acreage and number of monuments dedicated to veterans. It is also home to American Legion national headquarters. The Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District contains two museums, three parks, and 24 acres of monuments, statues, sculptures, and fountains in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. The arts played a role in these memorials too; at the celebration of the completion of the Sailors and Soldiers Monument, John Phillip Sousa and his band accompanied John Whitcomb Riley reciting one of his patriotic poems.
The Sailors and Soldiers Monument has become symbolic of the City of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana. Indiana's official memorial to the common Hoosier soldiers was the result of then US Senator Benjamin Harrison who called for a statue that any military veteran’s mom or dad could walk by and say “That’s for my son.” It stands only 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty.
Indiana takes pride in its citizenry’s action-oriented approach to national and community challenges. None more so that when President Lincoln asked Indiana for 4.683 men to join the Union cause. Hoosiers responded by sending over 12,000 earning the praise of the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, who sent a personal note to Governor Oliver P. Morton to recognize Indiana’s contribution: “Well Done, Indiana.”