The Hoosier State is awash in unique meeting venues.
Indiana offers plenty of opportunities for meeting planners to buck the traditional hotel ballroom for their events and instead tap into the state’s past. One-of-a-kind historic venues include former mansions and a Big Band-era ballroom and performing arts center, as well as a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired conference center, agritourism destination and storied Irish pub.
Harry Cooler Conference Center
Built in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian style, Harry Cooler Conference Center in Greenwood initially was built as a residence for Ernie and Edith Mills in the mid-1950s. They hired architect Harry Cooler, who was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, to design the home exactly like one designed by the master himself.
The home was on the Indiana Historical Society’s top 10 endangered properties list two years in a row. Todd Anthony bought the property in 2019 because the area doesn’t have a lot of midcentury architecture and he hated to see the building fall into disrepair. The home is built on 7 wooded acres. When it was first built, it was in the middle of nowhere, but now it is surrounded by Greenwood. It took Anthony a year to complete a full restoration, with assistance from Harry Cooler’s son Bill, who is also an architect.
The home hosts daytime meetings, training sessions or afternoon cocktails. It can easily fit 50 people in the lower level, which has an open concept. Combined with the property’s outdoor spaces, groups can host events up to 125. The three-level home has several smaller rooms that can be used for breakout sessions.
The building is furnished with a mix of original and reproduction furniture from the 1950s. It showcases an original Frank Lloyd Wright-designed conference table. The center has a liquor license, but groups can bring in their own catering. The facility is expanding with a large outdoor chapel that will seat 150 people and a tent platform for a 40-by-60-foot tent.
Palais Royale Ballroom/Morris Performing Arts Center
Built in the Big Band-era style in 1922, South Bend’s Palais Royale Ballroom and Morris Performing Arts Center have both been lovingly restored to their former glory. Situated in the heart of downtown, the facility is surrounded by local hotels, bars and restaurants.
The 8,800-square-foot ballroom has 35-foot ceilings, an elegant crystal chandelier, painted walls with gilded woodwork and polished hardwood floors. The windows are draped in lavender velvet and the original musician’s balcony overlooks the event space below, which can host more than 850 guests for a standing reception or 650 for a sit-down banquet or meeting. The ballroom has smaller rooms on the third floor that work well for small meetings of 12 to 20 people.
The Granada Room, which is on the bottom floor of the Morris Performing Arts Center, can host smaller events up to 100 and has a built-in bar. The center can seat 2,500 and is utilized for shows, concerts, weddings and events. The city owns both properties, but Navarre is contracted to manage them. Groups wanting a taste of elegance can host cocktail hours or wedding ceremonies in the lobby of the Morris, which is connected to the ballroom.
Fair Oaks Farms
One of the most famous agritourism destinations in the country, Fair Oaks Farms offers not only experiential museums but also three guided adventures that educate groups about how a modern dairy and pig farm operate. The tours take guests from seed to feed, highlighting modern farming practices that help farmers feed the world’s ever-burgeoning population. Along with the fun tours, the facility also has a Fairfield by Marriott at Fair Oaks Farms with 99 guest rooms; the Farmhouse Restaurant for fine dining; the Cowfe, which offers quick meals, ice cream and souvenirs; and the Farmstead Market and Dairycatessen.
The property has several unique meeting spaces, from a small boardroom to the Fair Oaks Ballroom, which can seat 220 to 250 for a banquet. The Feed Barn can be used to host dinners of 100 or lectures for 250. The Dairy Loft offers an original spot for a 130-person reception or meeting setup for 250.
Several outdoor spaces are available for weddings or events, including trade shows. The Fairfield Hotel Patio can accommodate 100 for a reception, while Gateway Garden and Farmhouse Backyard can host 300 for a reception.
The Irish Lion Restaurant and Pub
Located in the heart of downtown Bloomington, a half block west of the town square, The Irish Lion is a restored historic 1882 tavern and outdoor venue. Locally owned since 1982, the restaurant offers traditional Irish fare and spirits, including seafood, steak, lamb, Dublin pub stews and pub grub. It also offers several unique meeting spaces for private events, banquets and corporate meetings, both indoors and out.
The building originally was used as a pub and inn when it was first built to serve the public and passengers arriving in Bloomington at the former Monon Train Depot across the street, which is now a Hyatt Place hotel and B-Line Trail. The Irish Lion features metal ceilings, which were installed to create a fire barrier for the gaslight fixtures. Two bars date from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The mahogany back bar on the main level was made between 1860 and the late 1880s.
The Celtic Room seats up to 30, while the Banquet Room can accommodate up to 115. The Outdoor Glen, a secluded oasis tucked between two brick buildings draped in creeping vines, can host groups of 80 people.
The Historic Ambassador House and Heritage Gardens
Built in 1827, the historic Ambassador House in Fishers got its current name from its second owner Addison Harris, who purchased it in 1867 as a summer residence. Harris became an ambassador to the Austro-Hungarian empire in the late 1800s and early 1900s. After he and his wife, India, passed away, the house was acquired by the town of Fishers, which relocated the home to its current location in Heritage Park. A stone outbuilding was relocated in spring of 1997.
The Historic Ambassador House and Heritage Gardens nonprofit board of directors was formed in 2004 to oversee the home’s restoration. In 2009, it opened as a destination for community events and as a historic site. The property hosts corporate meetings, retreats and parties. All corporate events held inside the house include tables and seating for up to 90 guests, as well as flatscreen monitor, projector, screens, whiteboards and free WiFi. Groups also can host events on the patio or under the company’s large tent, which can seat 250 people for corporate cookouts or receptions.
There is a corporate meeting room in the sub-level of The Ambassador House that can accommodate up to 45 guests theater-style.