Andrea Estes, a lifelong Hoosier, has walked through several centerpiece homes at the Indianapolis Home Show. She had no idea she was living in one.
The roots of her home, on North Emerson Avenue near East 13th Street, have been traced back 100 years to the first home show in 1922.
“They built a small bungalow house inside one of the buildings at the fairgrounds,” said Brent Keller, vice president of Marketplace Events and a former home show manager. “It was an advertising, fun way to show people what they could have. That’s what started everything 100 years ago.”
After the show, the house was taken apart and moved to its current location on Indianapolis’ east side, Keller said.
“It’s a typical older house where the kitchen is small,” Estes said. “The appliances were not nearly as big back then as they are today. The closets are nice and tiny. We’ve been here 21 years and have loved the house and especially the neighborhood.”
The Indianapolis Home Show is the oldest of its kind in North America, drawing 450 home building, remodeling and design exhibitors as well as 80,000 attendees, according to its website. It was started by Indianapolis resident J. Frank Cantwell after he attended a similar show in Europe.
“He brought that back and thought it would be a great way, coming out of World War I, to get people interested in owning their own homes,” Keller said. “The centerpiece home has always been a very ship-in-the-bottle-type effect. People are amazed we can build such a structure indoors in such a small time frame.”
Estes was surprised and even a little skeptical to learn she was living in the first centerpiece home. Marion County Assessor’s Office records online indicate her home was built in 1940, with a garage added in 1989. County Assessor Joseph O’Connor said the office has limited records dating back that far and address changes through the years could make verifying the home’s age a challenge.
Keller, who has worked with the Indiana Historical Society to preserve the home show’s history, said he is confident Estes’ house on North Emerson Avenue is the original centerpiece home.
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“I am absolutely, positively sure of it,” Keller said. “There are multiple written records from 1922 and over the years of the house being moved there.”
There is at least one photo around of the home from the 1922 show. The photo does look like her house, Estes said.
“Window-wise it resembles our home because the north side does only have three windows,” Estes said. “It has one in each bedroom then of course the one in the bathroom is smaller.”
Estes has lived in the home since 2000.
“I’d love to know what the inside of the house looked like in 1922,” Estes said. “Our house is very interesting. It had all these arches that were built inside of it. Even in the bathroom it was arched to get into the shower and bathtub area.”
Show houses are across Indiana
Most centerpiece homes were taken apart and rebuilt in Indianapolis or other Indiana cities, such as Terre Haute, Muncie and Logansport, Keller said.
“People bought the homes at the show itself or they were put up for sale,” Keller said. “We still get calls today with people trying to find out if they have one of the centerpiece homes of years past.”
Sometimes the homes were taken apart and sold in pieces. Other times the entire home or parts were donated to Habitat for Humanity, Keller said.
The home show has happened every year at the Indiana State Fairgrounds since 1922, with a few exceptions. The show was suspended from 1942 to 1945 due to a shortage of building materials stemming from World War II.
The fairgrounds were used for wartime activities during those years, Keller said. There was also no show in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The home show’s comeback after World War II was accelerated when it was featured in a nine-page spread in Better Homes and Gardens magazine in 1947.
It helped popularize the ranch-style home in Indianapolis in the 1950’s, which was more affordable compared to other models. A ranch-style home has an open concept with just one story, Keller said.
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New and innovative products have been introduced to attendees at the home show over the years.
“There have been some things that were first introduced either to the Indianapolis, Indiana or U.S. markets,” Keller said.
Many celebrities, including HGTV host Ty Pennington, interior designer Vern Yip, radio show host Dr. Dirt and actress Ethel Merman have attended the show.
“We’ve had upside down rooms, full swimming pools, cottages, log homes and even lighthouses built here,” Keller said. “The centerpiece home has always been a creative way to showcase the building, remodeling and landscaping exhibitors.”
The 2017 centerpiece home stands out in Keller’s mind because it was built with a basement.
“Think about how that would be difficult since they are building the home inside another building,” Keller said. “They built on top of a hill that was built into the fairgrounds building. That was one of the most fun.”
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In recent years, the centerpiece home has been trending toward an empty-nester-type house with extra rooms for the homeowner’s parents or adult children.
“It’s an ever-expanding type of home,” Keller said. “It grows when your family grows.”
The 2022 centerpiece home will be built by Fischer Homes and is called the Leland, said Indianapolis Home Show Manager Laura Groninger.
It’s a four-bedroom, two-story home with the option for 2.5 or 3.5 baths and is offered in Fischer Homes neighborhoods across central Indiana.
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It will feature a home idea center, by Davis Homes, where attendees can learn about the newest and coolest home appliances and trends. The master of ceremonies for this year’s show will be WIBC’s Terri Stacy.
“People can come with their checklist of what they need for their home, talk to the experts and see all the products right at the show,” Groninger said. “They can get the pricing and sometimes there are special deals.”
Cantwell was involved with the home show for close to 40 years after introducing it to Indianapolis. His objectives for the show have carried on, Keller said.
“What we’ve taken 100 years later is we are promoting home ownership and home improvement and anything for the home,” Keller said. “When you look at the history of the show, Mr. Cantwell’s vision has completely continued, which is really neat.”
If you go
- What: The 100th Indianapolis Home Show
- When: Jan. 21 through Jan. 30.
- Time: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, except on Jan. 23 and Jan. 30 when the show will end at 5 p.m.
- Where: Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1202 E 38th St., at the West Pavilion inside the Exposition Hall.
- For more information: Call 317-705-8719 or go to www.IndianapolisHomeShow.com.