HISTORY AND VISION

McGowan Hall, built in 1922, is located in the Old Northside neighborhood in Indianapolis. The Old Northside was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The grounds at 1305 N. Delaware St. in Indianapolis originally boasted a grand Romanesque chateau, completed in 1874 at a cost of $80,000 by Hervey Bates Jr., a wholesale grocer and banker. The home was designed by noted architect William LeBaron Jenney, who helped rebuild Chicago after the fire of 1871. Old Northside neighbors included president Benjamin Harrison and best selling hoosier author Meredith Nicholson. Subsequent owner of the chateau mansion, Dr. Horace Allen, hosted a party for Levi Morton of New York, who would become Benjamin Harrison's vice-presidential running mate. Harrison's home was not large enough to accommodate the affair. Mr. Hugh J. McGowan, interurban railway magnate, acquired the home in 1903 and lived there until his death in 1911. McGowan's daughters were known to perform amateur plays with Booth Tarkington in the 3rd floor ballroom. 

 

The McGowan family remained in the home until 1919 when Mrs. McGowan sold the property to the Knights of Columbus, of which Mr. McGowan had been a member alongside his cousin Joseph McGowan. Joseph served as treasurer of Hugh McGowan's interests in the Indianapolis Traction & Terminal Company. Joseph also served on the Knights of Columbus Home Association board that oversaw the financing and construction of McGowan Hall in 1922, which joined the former McGowan home to form one of the finest fraternal clubhouses in the city. McGowan Hall featured a ballroom 90' x 60' complete with balcony seating and a stage on the main floor. Downstairs there were meeting, billiard, shower and cloak rooms. Indianapolis Archbishop Chartrand spoke at the dedication ceremony; accompanied by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis Cathedral Choir in 1923. The Mater Dei Knights of Columbus council #437 was and is the first Knights of Columbus council in the state of Indiana. For 50 years it was the only K of C council in Indianapolis. Notable members include Cardinal Joseph Ritter, Fr. Thomas Scecina, Bishop of Nashville Alphonse Smith, and vaudeville and Hollywood actor John Maurice Sullivan...not to mention countless honorable men who serve the community with the utmost humanitarian virtue. 

 

Although the grand McGowan Home was torn down in 1963 due to the decline and disbursement of membership accompanied by the construction of newer K of C halls in the sprawling suburbs, rising maintenance costs, and a contemporary climate placing little emphasis on historic preservation, the McGowan Hall addition built in 1922 remains. Remnants of the old McGowan home can be found throughout. For almost one hundred years, McGowan Hall has served the community of Indianapolis for a wide variety of charitable and civic events: Original theatre productions, fundraisers, high school dances, St. Patrick's Day parties, ballroom dance seminars, Narcotics Anonymous monthly meetings, neighborhood brunches, and so on. 

 

Times change, but fundamental human needs do not. A need for a unifying community hub in the historic Old Northside with the amenities of McGowan Hall has often been voiced in neighborhood meetings. The aim of the foundation is to preserve and enhance the physical structure of McGowan Hall and the grounds at 1305 N. Delaware so that a home can be firmly established for those who strive to execute the aforementioned civic, cultural, educational, and humanitarian pursuits for which McGowan Hall stands.

 

McGowan Hall will strive to lay the foundation for a vibrant civic center devoted to enriching, family-friendly programming. The following objectives serve to execute the greater aim of the foundation to strengthen and unify the community by transcending barriers and bringing people of all backgrounds together. McGowan Hall's existing programs and future programming goals include but are not limited to: 

 

  • Theatrical performances: uplifting, enriching, family-friendly plays produced by local production companies and high schools alike. Opportunity exists for McGowan Hall to develop originally produced performances

  • Concerts and dance nights: ranging from rock & roll to jazz; swing dance lessons to salsa night

  • Monthly chartitable fundraising brunch 

  • Annual kids' Christmas party 

  • Educational programming: Building tours informing guests about the rich history of McGowan Hall, its notable members and council accomplishments. Goals include scanning and digitization of membership archives dating back to 1899. Youth educational tours highlighting McGowan Hall's spirit of service and philanthropy

  • Art exhibitions

  • Neighborhood clean up initiatives

  • Community festival held in collaboration with surrounding non-profit community anchors

  • Haven and meeting space for additional fraternal or community-based organizations encouraging round table discussions for neighborhood enrichment and quality of life improvement 

  • Community organizational meetings aimed at strengthening neighborhood partnerships 

  • Serving as a multi-purpose community asset capable of hosting athletic events, plays, concerts and meetings offering programming benefiting youth and adults alike

Interested in helping us realize our vision? We'd like to talk to you! 317.631.4373

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McGowan Hall - 1305 N Delaware St. Indianapolis, IN 46202  

Phone: 317.631.4373 - Event Inquiries: events@mcgowanhall.org

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