Oldfields - Lilly House & Gardens at Newfields

Oldfields_CarolHighsmith_courtesyLibrary of Congress.jpg
Indianapolis, IN
United States
Oldfields - Lilly House & Gardens at Newfields

The French chateau-style residence at this 26-acre American Country Place estate was built in 1912 for Hugh Landon by his brother-in-law, architect Lewis Davis. The oldest feature is a walled, sunken garden of symmetrical planting beds centered on a circular fountain pool, likely designed by Davis. Impressed by the Olmsted Brothers’ Thomas Lamont garden in Maine, Landon hired Percival Gallagher to redesign the gardens at Oldfields. From 1920 to 1925, Gallagher designed a seamless mix of formal and informal garden features. A wild garden in the 40-foot deep ravine was planted with flowering trees, shrubs, and perennials along a rock-lined water course, spanned by a rustic bridge. From the western terrace, the Ravine Garden and the bluffs of the White River are visible. To the east a grand formal vista flanked by elm allées terminates at a fountain.

In 1932 the estate was sold to J.K. Lilly, Jr., for whom a second house, Newfield, was constructed as a wedding gift in 1939. Oldfield's Four Season Garden by landscape architect Anne Bruce Haldeman of Louisville, Kentucky, was also designed at that time. In 1966 the Indianapolis Museum of Art acquired the estate for their main campus. In 1999 landscape architect Peter Hornbeck conducted a master plan for the restoration of the property, and preservation landscape architects Heritage Landscapes, led by Patricia O'Donnell, set out to restore its historic character within the context of the museum grounds. They created a comprehensive rehabilitation plan, including an extensive replanting of the Ravine Garden and the restoration of the perimeter brick wall. Oldfields was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2003.