Riverdale, the estate of James A. Allison



Location: Marian College, Cold Springs Road, Indianapolis, Indiana
Architect: Herbert L. Bass of Bass, Knowlton, and Co., Indianapolis (exterior), William Price of Price & McLanahan, Philadelphia (interior)
cost: $2,000,000+

This house was built for James A. Allison, co-founder of the Prest-O-Lite Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Allison estate originally totaled 64 acres with five private lakes. Allison hired architect Herbert Bass of Bass, Knowlton, and Co. to design his mansion. The grounds and gardens were laid out by Jens Jensen, the noted landscape architect. When Allison’s friend Frank Wheeler (a fellow Speedway investor) completed his mansion, “Hawkeye” just south of “Riverdale,” Allison liked the interiors so much that he fired Bass and hired Wheeler’s architect. William Price of Price & McLanahan (Philadelphia) redesigned the interior of the house. It is rumored that the Circassian walnut species, used in the extensive paneling of the great hall, went extinct soon after the house was built. The room also features a one-ton German silver chandelier. Other rooms included a marble aviary, the music room with its two-story pipe organ, and an indoor swimming pool. James Allison also built a house in Miami Beach and invested in the development of that city with his friend and neighbor Carl Fisher. After the deaths of the Allisons the house sat empty from 1931-1936, before being purchased by the Sisters of St. Francis. It then became a part of the original Marian College, and soon campus buildings were built to the south of the mansion. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. The house has been well-maintained and most of the public rooms have been restored. Marian College uses the upstairs for offices and the downstairs is rented for weddings and other functions.

View of the porte-cochere Exterior of the Aviary
Detail of column capital View under the porte-cochere
The front doors View of the Great Hall
View of the staircase Detail of stone mantel in the Great Hall
"Lazy-susan" rotating buffet between Dining Room and Kitchen View in the Aviary
The Aviary View of the Music Room showing organ grille
Details of the Library  
The Rookwood fireplace in the Library Detail of stained glass in the Billiard Room
The Billiard Room in the basement A view of the Den in the basement
Fireplace in the Den Note the painted and gilded leather ceiling
Detail of the ceiling painting showing a European hunter Chimney of the Garage
The Allison Garage, now the Lilly Student Center