COLUMBUS — Hidden behind the staggered rows of arborvitae hedges along Washington Street sits a house that has attracted worldwide attention for its architectural significance.
In Columbus, the former home of the philanthropists J. Irwin and Xenia Miller and their five children has been a mystery to many except for photos of the grand modernist structure and its expansive grounds.
Public tours of the home, now owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, will begin May 10.
Nearly 500 tickets already have been sold through the IMA and Columbus Visitors Center, which is partnering with IMA to coordinate tours and provide tour guides.
“We’ve seen a really broad spectrum of people wanting to see it,” said Cindy Frey, Columbus Visitors Center associate director.
Ticket sales so far have come from 20 states plus Canada and Australia, with many purchases made in the past few weeks after the home was featured in statewide and national publications, including Architectural Digest and Travel & Leisure.
Frey said the combined readership of the publications in which the home has been featured tops 5 million.
“You don’t get that kind of exposure every day,” she said.
Since long before the planned opening of the Miller House, Columbus has attracted tourists and architectural students and enthusiasts wanting to view the city’s churches, schools, businesses and public buildings designed by such world-renowned architects as Harry Weese, Cesar Pelli and I.M. Pei.
Famous sculptors with works in Columbus include Henry Moore and Jean Tinguely.
Adding the Eero Saarinen-designed Miller home to the mix makes Columbus even more of a tourist destination, Frey said.
Visitors can tour just the house, built in the mid-1950s, or purchase packages that include the city’s architectural tour.
Frey said many of the out-of-town visitors also are expected to stay in local hotels, dine at local restaurants and shop in area stores.
The home is unique and a must-see for many reasons, said Bradley C. Brooks, IMA’s director of historic resources and the home’s curator.
“It is a marvelous property, and it has many areas of significance,” he said.
“It’s a residence by Eero Saarinen, an extremely important, 20th-century American architect who designed very, very few residences. In fact, this is certainly the greatest and most important of his residences.”
The home also features landscape designs by Dan Kiley, widely regarded as the leading American landscape artist of the 20th century and a founder of the school of modern landscape architecture, Brooks said.
Interior designs feature draperies, rugs, cushions and other works by Alexander Girard, known for his bold textile and graphic designs.
Although anyone can appreciate the home’s beauty, Brooks said, the more people are aware of modern architecture and design, the more surprised they are to see the home.
“I’ve had people completely stunned into silence when they come in here looking around,” he said.