Every town has a house that really captivates the imagination. Muncie has numerous houses that fit this category--the Ball family mansions at Minnetrista and the gas-boom Queen Anne-style Victorians downtown. Closer to campus, we have the beautiful houses in the Westwood district. For me, the house that stands apart from them all is the Wilkinson House at 3100 W. University Avenue.
Designed in 1933-34 by Leslie F. Ayres, who regular readers will recognize as a very skilled and prominent architect from Indianapolis, the house is a remarkable example of exciting, art moderne-style architecture in a city known for traditional building styles. It was built for Theodore and Edna Wilkinson, who moved from Chicago to Muncie due to Theodore's job as an investment advisor to the Ball family.
While it has housed decades of family life, bridge games, parties, and weddings on the lawn, the property is currently in foreclosure and is expected to go to Sheriff's sale February 8th. Its unfortunate circumstances are indicative of the greater housing problems facing Muncie since the city lost its manufacturing base. According to the 2010 Census, there are 4600 other vacant housing units available in the city.
The Archive is fortunate to have a set of architectural plans as well as these extraordinary black and white photographs of the house in happier times, soon after the house and interior decorations were completed in 1936. The photographs illustrate the grandeur of the home and the extraordinary attention to detail for every feature of the house, from the front porch railing to the powder room vanity. Tomorrow we'll post the interior photographs. Stay tuned for the unbelievable piano!
Images: Wilkinson house photographs, 1936. (G-93.004) General Collection, Drawings + Documents Archive, Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries.