SYLVAN HOUSE: BEFORE

In the early 1920s, the smoke and noise of commerce at the heart of Indianapolis created a need for residential solutions further from the city center.

Following the advice of nationally recognized landscape architect George Kessler, city officials built wider bridges, widened existing streets, and created new streets to connect the city’s parks. Three segments of the upgraded streets were designated as boulevards and renamed for Mr. Kessler, all of which quickly came in handy with the rise of the automobile.

In anticipation of a suburban housing boom, three prominent Indianapolis businessmen envisioned an upscale neighborhood on the west side of Washington Township, about seven miles from Monument Circle. The partners named the new addition “Northern Estates Section 1,” and divided the acreage into large building sites.

The second residence in Section 1 of Northern Estates was built in 1927 for Arthur and Emma Wolf. The architects of the Wolf home were Paul Matkin and James Loer of the Loman Company. The 130-foot by 330-foot lot was given the address of 4360 North Kessler Boulevard West Drive. Although both the driveway into the property and the main entrance to the home faced Sylvan Road to the west, the residence would not have its present-day Sylvan Road address until several decades later.

SYLVAN HOUSE: BEFORE

Though they never resided in the property, the Wolfs would be the first of eight owners of the Sylvan House at Northern Estates. After its completion in 1927, the property was sold to Forest M. Knight, the owner of a local real estate company. Mr. Knight also never occupied the home. In 1928, he sold the property to Mr. and Mrs. Dudley M. Williston.

Dudley Williston owned/managed theatres for Warner Brothers Pictures with his wife, Louise. The same year he bought the Sylvan House, he purchased the Walker Theater on Indiana Avenue. Two short years later, the couple sold the property to John Warvel, Sr., M.D. and Ruth Warvel.

SYLVAN HOUSE: BEFORE

Dr. Warvel came to Indianapolis in 1919 and soon became a highly respected pathologist on the staff of Methodist Hospital. In 1923, Dr. Warvel gained notoriety for his testimony against D. C. Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, regarding the abduction, rape, and murder of a young woman named Madge Oberholtzer.

Ruth Warvel was a graduate of the Methodist Hospital School of Nursing. In 1923, Ruth had the honor of administering the very first injection of insulin to a diabetic patient after Eli Lilly’s new drug was approved. The event was attended by the then-single Dr. Warvel, and the two were married a few months later. Mrs. Warvel was also the first president of the Indiana State Museum Society. The Warvels lived in the home on Sylvan Road for thirty-six years. In 1961, they installed an in-ground swimming pool in the yard to the rear or east side of the residence.

SYLVAN HOUSE: BEFORE

After her husband’s death in 1967, Mrs. Warvel sold the property to Charles and Verlene Herron. Chuck worked as the VP of Manufacturing for Esterline Agnus. Vee was a member of St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild and helped organize the annual Decorators’ Show House events for several years. They owned the property for almost four years before it changed hands once again to William Wise, M.D. and Anna Wise in 1972.

Dr. Wise ran a private practice in Indianapolis for fifty years. His wife, Anna was a registered nurse at Wishard Memorial Hospital (now Eskenazi Health) and at Roudebush Veterans Administration Hospital. In 1976, the garage served as the precinct voting location. Toward the end of the Wise family’s eight years of ownership, the house switched to its present-day address of 4521 Sylvan Road.

In 1978, John Munshower, M.D. and Marcia Munshower purchased the home. Dr. Munshower was a neurologist with Community Hospitals for forty-six years. He loved nature and was especially fond of The Sibley Guide to Birds. Marcia served as the Democratic precinct committee woman during the years they lived in the home. The Munshowers owned the property for almost twenty-eight years.

SYLVAN HOUSE: BEFORE

In 2006, the eighth and current owner, Jeneane Life purchased the property after living in other historic residences in the Indianapolis area. Jeneane works in the hospitality industry and owns and operates inns located in Indianapolis and Nantucket.

Although upgrades have been made over the 97 years since the home was constructed, many of the original quality materials and fine details of the home remain today. The exterior walls of the English-style home have stucco and brick finishes, as well as half-timbers. The roof is slate. The formal entrance on the west side of the home is two stories high and made of Indiana limestone. Over the front door is a crest bearing a crossed sword and a knight’s helmet. The less formal entrance on the east side of the home overlooks the large lot, which slopes down to Kessler Boulevard below it.

St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild is pleased to present this unique residence as the site of its primary fundraising event for 2024. Guild members, along with the homeowner, designers, sponsors, and advertisers, look forward to another year of supporting Indianapolis’ city hospital, Eskenazi Health.