James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home“An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you

Ef you

Don’t

Watch

Out!”

What kids DON’T love those words?

OK, I’ve got to be honest.  I didn’t even know those words until a few weeks ago when I decided to take the boys to the Riley home.  I borrowed The Complete Poetical Works of James Whitcomb Riley from the library and gave myself a quick Wikipedia lesson on the great Hoosier Poet, then I made a brief attempt to pass everything I had learned about him onto my boys.  Did they learn all there is to know about one of the greatest writers to ever grow up in their home state?  Not so much.  But they did learn the aforementioned classic words from the poem, “Little Orphant Annie.”  And that’s more than I knew at their age, so we’ll call it a win.

Riley grew up not too far from Indy, in the town of Greenfield.  His childhood home is a museum there and I have every intention of visiting it soon, but we haven’t yet.  We decided to start with his adult home in the Lockerbie neighborhood in Indianapolis.  I started with the Lockerbie home because in our learnings we focused more on Mr. Riley’s adult life, so it made sense to see where he spent his last adult years.

Riley wrote, “O my Lockerbie Street!  You are fair to be seen–/ Be it noon of the day, or the rare and serene/  Afternoon of the night- you are one to my heart,/ And I love you above all the phrases of art,/ For no language could frame and no lips could repeat/ My rhyme-haunted raptures of Lockerbie Street.”  (You can read the whole thing here.)  I think that pretty much sums up my feelings when we walked onto the street as well.  If I could, I would have stayed there forever.  I don’t even need a house, I’ll just wander the neighborhood for the rest of my life.  I’m not sure the neighbors would approve, but how could they blame me?

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Unfortunately, iPhoto is conspiring against me and I am unable to put the “good” pictures on here today, so for this post we’re stuck with the phone pictures.  The above picture doesn’t do Lockerbie Street justice, but you can get an idea of how picturesque the area is.  At this point I really didn’t even need to see the museum, I was already putting this into the “best day ever” category.

So we walk the street for a few minutes and I gawk like the country bumpkin I am (OK, really I’m a suburb bumpkin, but that doesn’t sound quite as adorable).  Then we go up to the house.

You have to ring the bell and stand outside until a guide is available to let you in and start the tour.  Slightly nerve-wracking when you’re used to walking up to a ticket counter and wandering around big buildings specifically built to be museums.  But I passed the time by annoying my children by taking lots of pictures.

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The wait was really only a couple of minutes, but I’m sure to Big Boy it felt like forever.  Little Man was busying himself with whining about the whole one block we walked.  Gotta love five year olds!

The cost of admission is minimal.  Adults are $4 and children over 7 are $1.  Under that is free.  For that price you get a personal tour around the house.  Our tour guide was very knowledgable.  We learned the history of the home, the people who lived in it, and a lot about Mr. Riley himself.  No matter what random question we threw at her, she had an answer.  And she was great and extremely welcoming of the kids.  Unfortunately we have experienced more than one “historic landmark” that would prefer to never see a person under about 50, let alone a 5 year old.  That was not the case here.  Because of James Whitcomb Riley’s love of children and his reputation as “the Children’s Poet,” the foundation that was set up in his name upon his death was done so with the goal of helping children.  Obviously Riley Children’s Hospital and Camp Riley epitomize that, but it was unexpected to me that the Museum Home would as well.  Apparently many public school kids learn about Riley in fourth grade, so our tour guide had a lot of experience and stories about the fourth graders who have come through.  She did a great job of engaging my boys, not just talking over them.

Almost every thing in the house is the same stuff that was there when Riley was alive.  How surreal!  To see the actual bed he slept on, the actual dishes he ate from, and little things like his hat and glasses.  I think that was what most impressed Big Boy.  That and the butler’s pantry.  He was really fascinated by that.  Little Man was kind of bored through most of it.  At almost 8, Big Boy liked it.  At almost 6, Little Man did not.  He behaved well and the guide was kind, but he just did not have much interest.

At the end of the tour each boy received a pencil and an activity sheet with games about Mr. Riley, the house, and other things we’d learned along the way.  The kitchen has a small gift shop-like display set up so you can purchase Riley books, postcards, and related items.  Altogether the tour was between an hour, hour and a half.  Afterwards we walked around outside for a few minutes.

I’d say for $5 it was definitely worth it.  In a couple of years I hope to do a more thorough lesson and go back again.  You can find out more information, such as hours and location, here.

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Right now you can make this trip an even better deal by buying a Groupon for admission! Check it out:

https://www.groupon.com/deals/james-whitcomb-riley-house