Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lilly House and Gardens

by Suzie Johnson

The name Lilly is often associated with the pharmaceutical company. Rightly so, and in Indianapolis, Indiana, Lilly is a big name. Yes, for the pharmaceutical company, yes philanthropy, and yes for the Lilly House Estates.

The Lilly House Estate and Oldfields Gardens are on the National Register of Historic Places, and also listed as a National Historic Landmark.

What does this have to do with fiction? Come, let me show you.

Setting is an important part of a book, and I’ve discovered the perfect one for the second book in a series I'm working on. Believe me when I say this setting would work in both historical and contemporary settings. And I must confess, I’ve thought of a suspense plot that could take place in this setting so maybe I'll get more than one book out of this. It's definitely diverse enough.

Lilly Estate photo by Suzie Johnson
The Lilly Estate, completed in 1913 and then known as Oldfields, sits on a bluff overlooking the White River. It was restored in the 30s, and you can see by the gray splotches, that the estate is currently under restoration. On the back of the estate is a long pavilion with several arched entries, also under restoration. Walking through it was like traveling back in time.

By crossing in front of the estate, you soon find yourself on the path to the Ravine Garden which winds down to Indiana's Central Canal.

The stunning gardens were designed in the 20s by the same landscape architect firm that designed Central Park in New York, the Olmstead Brothers Firm. Statues, arches and fountains fill the gardens. Beauty overtakes every direction a person could look. The garden itself is home to more than 19,000 perennials, annuals, bulbs, shrubs and trees.

Once you leave the Ravine Garden and cross the Waller Bridge you enter the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. Also noted as the 100 Acres Park, I couldn't help but sing "Deep in the Hundred Acre Woods..." to my son. I'm not entirely certain he appreciated it.

Lake Terrace photo by Suzie Johnson

Regardless of my silly references to Christopher Robin's friends, we walked the entire lake. The scenery changed as we made our way around, and unfortunately I almost stepped on a HUGE black snake. No, I didn't take a picture. I had a panic attack instead.
Lake Terrace from Another View photo by Suzie Johnson
Aside from the occasional snake, there were lily pads, jumping frogs and butterflies. The density of trees changed as we walked around the lake, and I saw many a romantic spot, as well as a few good hiding places for a stalwart heroine.

Lily Pads photo by Suzie Johnson
Ponderosa Pine, White Spruce, White Pine, Golden Larch, and Weeping Hemlock are just a few of the trees on this staggering property which is now part of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Lake View photo by Suzie Johnson
The important thing for setting is to take note of your surroundings. Mentally process everything you see. Look at it a little deeper. The frog, a fish, and a dog swimming in the water all create different sized ripples in the water. Leaves leftover from last fall crunch the ground in the deepest part of the woods where spiders and other creatures spend time. Use that to translate what you see into words you can integrate into your scene.

LOVE Sculpture at the IMA photo by Suzie Johnson
I'm sad that my computer won't read my SD card where I have the photos of the back of the estate and gardens, and that I didn't use my cell phone to take those photos. I'll do an update to this post once I have them loaded onto a different computer.

Suzie Johnson, writing as Susan Diane Johnson, recently sold her third novel, and first historical, Sweet Mountain Music, to WhiteFire Publishing. Her first two novels, True North (January 2014), and No Substitute (available now), are both contemporary inspirational novels with The Pelican Book Group. Suzie is a regular contributor to the Inkwell Inspirations blog, a group blog by Christian woman and for Christian women. She is also member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, and National Cancer Registrars’ Association. During the day, Suzie is a cancer registrar at her local hospital. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their naughty little cat. They are the parents of a wonderful grown son who much too far away.


  1. ahah! so that's the lake you were talking about! how lovely and a perfect setting for fiction - I'd say you can get multiple stories out of it... it's big enough!

    it was so great to see you Suzie, and know you had some special time with Kirk!

  2. It was so great to see you, too, Deb! I really wish my computer would have read the SD card because the pictures of the Ravine gardens and the pavilion are so lovely. The lake was so pretty, too. We walked all day yesterday but still only saw about half of the gardens.

  3. I love when I find a great location like that.

  4. Me, too, Dina. And as I recall, there are some pretty awesome places in your area - places that I hope to go back to again someday. :)

  5. Lovely place (except for the snake. Yikes!). I'm so glad you shared it with us.

    It was so much fun spending time with you, Suzie!

  6. That's a fantastic setting, Suzie! You know what would be cool? Use it for a historical and then do a contemporary that's connected! Yes, that's me in time travel mode again. :)
    And don't forget to include the snake.

  7. Thank you, Susie. And I had a wonderful time, too. I'm enjoying seeing all of your pics on Facebook.

  8. Niki! That is a wonderful idea. I like it. The house is the connection. I love time travel, btw. But - no time traveling snakes in my book! :-)

  9. That's one gorgeous setting for sure. Thanks for posting about it, Suzie. I'm looking forward to the update. :)

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  11. Thank you. Anita. I have to find a computer that will read my SD card, and then I can post the updates. I'd also like to look more into the history of the people who lived here. :)


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