Davis House

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723 West Euclid Avenue, Marion, Indiana, also known as the Davis House, is significant to the history of Marion, Indiana. Architecturally the house is very unique, because it is built with an Art-Deco style not commonly found in the Midwest. In addition, previous occupants of the house have been extremely artistic and powerful in the community.

Architectural Features

Built in 1936-1937 by a Fort Wayne architect, the house has many fascinating features that make it unlike any other house. The tiles covering the exterior of the house are a special stone called rostone. Rostone was first used in 1933 for a home that was on display at the 1933-1934 Century of Progress Homes in the Chicago’s World Fair. These houses in the exhibit were supposed to be the wave of the future. The Wieboldt-Rostone home was one of the sixteen houses at the fair that were brought from Chicago to Beverly Shores, Indiana. The five houses that still remain in Beverly Shores are historic landmarks. Marion is fortunate to have one of the last remaining examples of a Rostone house in great condition. This is unique because rostone was an experimental synthetic stone type material that did not withstand the elements well, leading to deterioration, leaving few remaining examples.

The Davis house contains four bedrooms, two of which are located on the first floor and the other two of which are on the second. Also, the house has four bathrooms, flat roofs, all plaster walls and ceilings, all wood floors and many unique lines, such as a repeating v motif that were not common during the 1930’s. Other extremely uncharacteristic features for a house to have in the 1930’s were a dumbwaiter and one of the first houses with a central air conditioning system (Morrison). The Davis home contains some of the rarest features for a home built in the 1930’s.

The Art-Deco Style

The Davis Home is an Art-Deco style house (Morrison). At the start of the twentieth century, with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the Victorian era ended and a technological revolution began. The world looked to Paris for leadership in fashion and design. Art-Deco got its name from the 1925 Paris “Exposition Intemationale Des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Moderns” which was a showcase for all new and interesting works. Architecture is not the only field Art-Deco has influenced; it is found in home decor, clothing, and jewelry as well. Art-Deco buildings are usually concrete, smooth-faced stone, and very geometric--very similar to the Davis home (Art deco style: how did it start?).

These Art-Deco homes were also made for efficiency. Architects experimented with new and different building materials and prefabrication to reduce the cost of housing. The latest technology was included in these unique homes. Some examples of these items are automatic dishwashers, central air conditioning, and electric garage door openers. (Into the Future) The Davis home was definitely ahead of its time in the 1930’s.

The Davis Family

After it was built by a Fort Wayne architect by the name of L.W. Larimore in 1936-1937, Dr. Merrill and Josephine Davis moved into the house to become the original owners of the house (Morrison). Dr. Merrill Davis was a surgeon and civic leader in Marion Indiana for more than half a century. Before founding the Davis Clinic in Marion Indiana, Davis graduated from Indiana University. He then interned at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Indianapolis, Indiana. He returned to Marion and later, with his two sons Dr. Joseph Davis and Dr. Richard Davis, founded the Davis Clinic.

Dr. Merrill Davis was also a founder of both Marion Rotary Club and Marion Navy League. Davis also served as national president of the I.U. Board of Trustees (In Memoriam). While serving in World War I as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, Davis attended Harvard University Medical School for special training in orthopedics. Dr. Davis was also associated with the Hoosier Salon and the Brown County Art Guild (Founder of Davis Clinic). The last two organizations listed dealt with art, indicating Davis’s interest with art.

Dr. Merrill Davis

Dr. Merrill Davis was born 1890, in Miami County, Indiana (Founder of Davis Clinic). He was a founder and member of numerous organizations. Being part of the Hoosier Salon and Brown County Art Guild expressed Davis’s interest in art and design. The Davis house itself illustrates the man had an eye for futuristic design. Davis’s interest in art and design extended from his home life to his work. The Davis Clinic, also known as the Riverside Memorial Hospital founded by Davis and his two sons, was architecturally designed to use space efficiently to meet the needs of the patients. While researching ways to build the hospital, Davis saw the need for an entirely new concept for the design, construction, and operation of the hospital. The idea of private rooms to create the feeling of security for the patients was brought about. Also, Davis acknowledged the fact that bedside running water and individual toilets were necessary in the hospital. “Commons Rooms” were made for patients so that as they became well they became well they could interact with other patients (Davis Medical Foundation). Dr. Merrill Davis had an inventive mind for efficiency, designing not only in his home but in his workspace also.

Josephine Davis

Josephine Davis, Dr. Merrill Davis’s wife, was also an outstanding member in the community. Josephine Davis was a very culturally rich woman. She was once referred to as Marion’s matriarch of the arts in a Chronicle-Tribune article (Miller).

Mary Josephine Demarcus was born in 1892, in Spencer, Indiana (Shutt). She was born into a musical family. Her father was an orchestra conductor, who gave her the love of music. As teenagers, Josephine and her sister Tone toured on the Redpath Chatauqua circuit for two years. They then opened their own music studio in Bloomington Indiana, where Josephine met her future husband, Merrill Davis, a student at Indiana University. After they married in 1913, Merrill and Josephine moved to Marion in 1915. Here in Marion is where Josephine developed her love of organizing. Mrs. Davis’s first major organization was in 1929. She organized the Marion Municipal Art Association, which enriched the arts in Marion. Mrs. Davis was later named Tri Kappa State Arts Chairman. Being a member of the Century of Progress Commission required Mrs. Davis to help set up exhibits of Indiana art at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. Houses similar to the Davis home, constructed in the Art-Deco style were on display at the Fair. Also at the fair were Thomas Hart Benton’s World’s Fair Murals which Mrs. Davis had moved to the auditorium at Indiana University so they could be displayed permanently. Mrs. Josephine Davis was also a member of the Governor’s Commission on the Arts and the Hoosier Salon Board. Mrs. Davis also established the famous annual Easter Pageant in 1937. As one of the organizers of the Hostess House Mrs. Davis helped obtain art exhibits for the house. Mrs. Davis also organized Marion’s Civic Theater, formerly known as the Marion Little Theatre (Miller).

Later Residents

Since the Davises left the home, two families have occupied the Davis home. Both occupants have been caretakers of the home. Neither family made any major changes to the home. The second occupants of the home, the Lester family, were related to the Davises. Mrs. Tracy Lester is their granddaughter. The third occupants, the Morrisons, are currently maintaining the home as it was and have actively researched the home.

Works Cited

  • “Art deco style: how did it start?.” 11 Dec. 2001. http://www.allsands.com/Fashion/artdeco_rmo_gn.htm
  • “Davis Medical Foundation.” Hospitals, Clinics, and Health Centers 73-74.
  • “Founder of Davis Clinic.” Chronicle Tribune 6 June 1974: 1+.
  • “In Memoriam.” Marion General Hospital
  • “Into the Future.” News Day 2 Dec. 2001. <future.newsday.com/Looking Back at Houses of the Future>.
  • Miller, Jerry. “Josephine Davis.” Chronicle Tribune 24 Aug. 1980, sec. 2: 9.
  • Morrison, Bob. Personal interview. 2 Dec. 2001.
  • Shutt, Betty. “As long as she’s busy, she’s happy.” Chronicle Tribune Magazine 14 Dec. 1975: 4-5.


This article was written Kyle Herman and submitted on December 17, 2001 for Mr. Lakes’ and Mr. Munn’s classes at Marion High School.