Experience area close-up: William Conner House

William Conner House at Conner Prairie was built in 1823. It has undergone several interior and exterior renovations to keep Conner’s history alive..

By Hannah Kiefer
Next up in our series on our outdoor experience areas, we’re taking a look at the area that gave Conner Prairie its name: William Conner House.

Prior to living in the structure, Conner and first wife Mekinges lived in a two-room cabin about a half-mile north of where William Conner House now stands. Mekinges was a Lenape Indian. When she moved west with her and Conner’s children in 1820 after the Treaty of St. Mary’s, Conner would marry second wife Elizabeth and she moved into the cabin with him.

Conner built his home in 1823. He was a wealthy man in the area thanks to his business in the fur trade. His house is one of central Indiana’s oldest brick homes. The bricks were fired in a kiln that previously existed on-site, in the field behind where Animal Encounters now stands. Continue reading

Interpreters, seamstresses create new dress for character by hand in 56 hours

Staff Report
To celebrate Mother’s Day, seven women teamed up to make an entire dress (center above) in a weekend, from start to finish. The project took about 56 hours and the dress was made for Conner Prairie’s Mrs. Campbell character, a resident of 1836 Prairietown.

The dress was sewn by hand on the museum’s grounds by seamstresses and interpreters Libby Anderson (from left), Jenny Sherrill, Rachel Poe, Trudy Timkovich, Mary Van Zanten and Chris Kincaid. Shiela Sims also helped create the dress.

Former banking executive brings customer service skills to guest services

Ron Wencel relocated to Noblesville, Ind., after he retired as vice president of BMO Harris Bank. He frequently visited Conner Prairie with wife Debbie, their daughter and her children before taking a guest services position at Conner Prairie.

By Hannah Kiefer
Before Ron Wencel took a job at the ticket desk at Conner Prairie, he had a career in banking. He was vice president of Canadian-based BMO Harris Bank, working with a team that oversaw quality control.

Ron started as a teller straight out of high school and began climbing the corporate ladder. During this time, he attended a three-year program to get a certificate in banking. Slowly but surely, he worked his way up to vice president. Fast-forward 45 years, three children and seven grandchildren, Ron and wife Debbie decided to put their house in Plainfield, Ill., on the market and contemplate Ron’s retirement.

Little did they know, though, their house would sell in just three weeks. “I hadn’t planned to retire that quickly,” he laughed. So in 2014, Ron retired from BMO Harris – and that’s when his journey to Conner Prairie began. Continue reading

Experience area close-up: 1836 Prairietown

Prairietown has always been set in 1836. Since the 1970s, it has had the characters that Conner Prairie visitors know and love today.

Staff Report
Next in our series examining our outdoor experience areas, we’re taking a look at one of our older areas: 1836 Prairietown.

The Prairietown area, originally called the Village, began as just a few buildings from around the state salvaged by Eli Lilly, who was particularly interested in the trade shops, such as the blacksmith and pottery shops. In 1964, Lilly gave Conner Prairie to Earlham College and some tours began, led by farm wives and volunteers. During that year, the number of visitors was only around 2,500, an amount the museum welcomes on a single busy summer day today.

Ten years later, in 1974, the Village opened to the public, with first-person interpretation adopted by the staff. By the mid-1970s, most of the buildings that are in Prairietown today had been placed there, although some have been moved around in the decades between 1970 and today. Continue reading

Kroger new title sponsor of Symphony on the Prairie at Conner Prairie

Conner Prairie President and CEO Norman Burns speaks at a news conference Tuesday announcing that Kroger is the new title sponsor of Symphony on the Prairie at Conner Prairie.

Staff Report
Symphony on the Prairie starts its 2017 series with a new title sponsor.

Conner Prairie President and CEO Norman Burns joined executives with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Tuesday to announce that Kroger will sponsor Symphony on the Prairie for the next four years.

This season will be the 36th season of the popular concert series held at Conner Prairie, which typically draws nearly 120,000 each season. This year’s concert series begins June 16. Continue reading