A few days ago, I had the privilege of making a special tour of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in Crawfordsville, IN, an easy morning’s drive west of Indianapolis. If you have not had a chance to learn about this great American hero and author, I encourage you to make the trip!
Lew Wallace fought in two American wars (most notably in the Civil War, where he successfully defended both Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati, OH from major Confederate attacks), served as governor of the New Mexico territory — where he famously made a plea bargain with Billy the Kid, who later violated the agreement by breaking out of prison — and served as the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey. He presided over the trial of the conspirators who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. He was also an artist, a musician, an inventor and technological enthusiast. But he is best known as the author of the best-selling novel of the 19th century, a Biblical epic titled Ben-Hur. The book has been made into four motion pictures — one of which is still tied for the record of most Academy Awards ever won by a single film — an equally groundbreaking Broadway stage play, two stage musicals, and more.
The study, an exotic building of Wallace’s own design and decorated with carved faces of characters from his books, is a delightful tour for those interested in history or architecture. It has been preserved in an almost undisturbed state — it still contains Wallace’s furniture, library and personal effects — and is currently undergoing restoration on the interior to restore the original paint and intricate murals that were covered at some point in the past.
Also open is the visitor’s center, originally the site’s carriage house — the gift shop is located in the stall belonging to the horse Wallace rode in the Civil War — which houses an informative exhibit on historic preservation. For tour information, please visit the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum website.
For Civil War enthusiasts, the museum is hosting a number of lectures and reenactments throughout the month of July, including lectures on the Underground Railroad, Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, and Mary Todd Lincoln. For more information, please visit http://ben-hur.com/aboutus/newsevents.html.