See Kurt Vonnegut’s Boyhood Home

SMHG team: Kerry Caito, President; Mary Holland, Co-General Chair; Joan Hilger, Decorator Chair; Ellen Brethauer, Co-General Chair

SMHG team: Kerry Caito, President; Mary Holland, Co-General Chair; Joan Hilger, Decorator Chair; Ellen Brethauer, Co-General Chair

Any Kurt Vonnegut fan who’s made a KV pilgrimage downtown has likely visited KVML, Pamela Bliss’s mural of Kurt, Shortridge High School, and maybe even Crown Hill Cemetery.  But few have had the chance to step inside Kurt’s childhood home…until now! This spring, St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild hosts its annual Decorators’ Show House and Gardens event April 29 to May 14 at the former Vonnegut home, 4401 N. Illinois Street from 11 to 6 pm daily, except Mondays. Tickets are $20.

KVML will be there with a small gift shop. Stop and see us after touring the beautiful house. We are thrilled that SMHG has worked to open this home briefly to the public while raising funds for such a worthy cause.

To learn a little more about the Guild’s mission and this year’s show house, we sat down with Kerry Caito, President of St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild, and asked her to share her thoughts.


In working with on the Vonnegut home, what have you learned about Kurt or the Vonnegut family that has been especially interesting to you? I was unaware that Kurt Vonnegut, Sr. was an architect and built the residence at 4401 N. Illinois Street for his own family.  He incorporated personal touches into the home, such as placing the initials of his three children into the stained glass windows at the entrance of the house.  These original windows were discovered in the coal chute by the current owners and will be reinstalled for visitors to see during the Decorators’ Show House and Gardens.

The Mayor of Indianapolis named 2017 The Year of Vonnegut. As part of this celebration, KVML is incorporating the theme of common decency into our programs.  How does the partnership between St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild, all of your decorators, the home owners, KVML, and others demonstrate common decency for our community?  Every single person who contributes to the Decorators’ Show House and Gardens is in some way helping St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild further our mission of raising funds for the services and programs of Eskenazi Health. Members of the guild and participating designers donate their personal time and talents to not only transform a home for visitors to enjoy each year but also to develop relationships within our community that allow us to broaden our reach to help those in need.  These volunteers all have commitments and responsibilities of their own, yet they repeatedly make the time and effort to give of themselves for the common good.

An event like this takes months of planning, lots of strategic partnerships, and probably a little bit of stress, too. What is most gratifying about this annual event?  Witnessing Eskenazi Health effectively utilize the money raised by St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild to compassionately care for the underserved in our community is reason enough to get involved and stay involved.  It is also a lot of fun getting to know individuals within the guild and other organizations while setting a good example for my children that it is important to give back by helping others.

How were you first introduced to Kurt Vonnegut?  Ironically, when my brother, Patrick Flaherty, was named President of the Indianapolis Art Center in 2014, he commented how Kurt Vonnegut once said the Indianapolis Art Center was ‘welcoming to all’ and ‘boundlessly optimistic.’”  I had forgotten that mention until SMHG took on the task of transforming the Vonnegut Home for the 2017 Decorators’ Show House and Gardens.  Patrick introduced me to KVML CEO and Founder Julia Whitehead this past summer, and SMHG has had the good fortune to develop a relationship and work with KVML this year on this worthwhile and exciting project.

What is your favorite Vonnegut book and why? I have never read a Vonnegut book but am eager to read Slaughterhouse-Five once the Decorators’ Show House and Gardens is over this May.

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