May 2014

Public tour allows peek at how famous families lived at Twin Oaks

Current Twin Oaks resident John Herbst selects,  places and tends plants in the garden. Photo courtesy Indiana Historical Society

Current Twin Oaks resident John Herbst selects, places and tends plants in the garden. Photo courtesy Indiana Historical Society

A tour of Twin Oaks next weekend allows visitors to get a peek at the history of two of the best-known families in Indianapolis.

Twin Oaks is the former home and gardens of Ruth Lilly, great-granddaughter of Eli Lilly, founder of the pharmaceutical giant. It was built in 1941 for the family of Lyman S. Ayres II, grandson of the department store founder.

The gardens were designed originally by Frits Loosten (1909-1989), a famous Indianapolis landscape architect. He redesigned them in a more European-style garden when the Ayres sold the property to Ruth Lilly’s father, Josiah K. Lilly in the mid 1950s.

Today, Twin Oaks is the residence of John Herbst, president of the Indiana Historical Society. It also serves as the society’s hospitality center, where its paintings and other art are exhibited. A fundraiser to support the society’s education programs, this is the first time Twin Oaks has been open to the public.

“What has been great for me as a gardener is to restore these historic gardens designed by one of our great landscape designers, and bring them back to life,” said Herbst, an award-winning gardener who likes to get his hands dirty. “I have wonderful bones to work with, extensive white brick walls, bricks and slate paths and terraces, and two ponds.”

The property is owned by William and Laura Weaver, the third generation to operate Weaver Popcorn Co. Inc., based in Van Buren, Ind., The Weavers purchased Twin Oaks from Ruth Lilly’s estate and leases it to the society to manage.

Herbst has done all of the plant selection, placement and much of the planting. “The Kitchen Garden is totally my labor. As I am working out there, I also feel that Ruth Lilly would approve, as she loved flowers and the gardens here. It was a great enjoyment, for her for many years, to be taken through the gardens when the weather was nice,” he said.


Tour of Twin Oaks Home and Gardens

11 a.m. to 6 p.m., June 6 to 8

555 Kessler Blvd., West Drive

Parking with shuttle service at Fox Hill Elementary School, 802 Fox Hill Dr. T

ickets: $18 in advance; $20 tour days. Children 3 to 12, $5.

For details:

Inaugural Celebration in Fishers

The Friends of Heritage Gardens at the Ambassador House and the city of Fishers are sponsoring Fishers Heritage Garden Celebration June 7 and 8. The keynote speaker is Pearl Fryar, the well-known sculptor of plants and subject of the 2006 documentary ‘A Man Names Pearl” ( Fryar will give programs at Ambassador House and at the Nickel Plate District Amphitheatre.