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Thomas Duncan Hall, Lafayette Indiana

our mission

The mission of the Thomas Duncan Hall, Inc. is to preserve and maintain Duncan Hall so that it can provide a place for cultural, educational and celebratory events that enrich our community. It will also sponsor educational programs that enhance civility, character, and citizenship in Greater Lafayette, Indiana.


Whether you are a world class concert promoter or planning a one of a kind wedding, conference or fundraiser, Duncan Hall provides an unforgettable experience for your guests. The striking architecture and beauty of the nine rooms and gardens is enhanced with a welcoming charm, not exceeded by any other area venue.

You'll find a wide variety of room options and combinations and an experienced staff, passionate about providing successful, economical and confident planning.

Sine 1931 the hall has hosted events from plays, art show and ballroom dances to countless weddings and receptions to community forums and even a speech by JFK in 1959.



Community House Association (CHA)

Communicate, Create, and Celebrate the important occasions that punctuate and add meaning to our lives...


A century ago, a group of Lafayette women came together and found the need to form the Community House Association (CHA). They sought to improve the quality of life of other women who had been attracted to the growing city of Lafayette to seek employment and attend school.

The CHA established training programs and housing for these young ladies, as well as the first Kindergarten in this area. In addition, many of Lafayette's important civic groups, from the YWCA to the Girl Scouts to the Civic Theater, found their first home at the Community House which was eventually established near 6th & Ferry Streets.

Sarah Ely's mother was a charter member of the CHA and Sarah later became a member herself. Sarah married her boss at Duncan Electric, Thomas Duncan, the Scottish born inventor/industrialist/philanthropist. He grew to admire the important work of the CHA.

Thomas died in 1928, leaving resources to the CHA to construct a gracious, spacious Georgian, Colonial-style building to be a meeting place for social, patriotic, charitable, educational, and cultural events. The CHA is a not-for-profit corporation comprised of a board of 33 with several advisors. This group continues to work today to enhance the quality of life in Lafayette, through preserving and promoting Duncan Hall.

The recent Secret Garden renovation is the latest phase in the extensive turn of this century revitalization of Duncan Hall. The Duncan Hall Board and Staff are most grateful to each of the many volunteers, who have generously donated their time and resources to preserve and beautify this historic, community treasure on Ferry Street.

Thomas Duncan's gift to Lafayette provides a unique, relaxing, beautiful and historic setting in which we all may: Communicate on matters of importance; Create and share music, art, and theater; and Celebrate the important occasions that punctuate and add meaning to our lives.


Thomas Duncan Timeline

1800 - 1920

  • 1896 2-4 Presbyterian Church Women added Free Kindergarten to homemaking classes at Hope Chapel (3nd and Fountain Streets.).

  • 1900 – Free Kindergarten & Industrial School (FKIS) incorporated with Mrs. C.B. (Alice Earl) Stuart as 1“ Pres. PU's Mary Matthews, PU students and many others teaching (including Thomas Duncan's future mother-in-law). (Eventually five kindergarten locations. Tag Days, and other fundraisers.)

  • 1901 – Thomas Duncan and investors established Duncan Electrical Manufacturing Co. (3rd and Mechanic Streets.)

  • 1918 – Purchased Switzer house at 617 Ferry, as first Community House for women and girls in Lafayette, inspired by Dean Carolyn Shoemaker and note guaranteed by Mrs. G. (Mary) Haywood.

  • 1918 – Women's Council merged into Community House Association (CHA), Mrs. Serena Alder 1st Pres, Duncan Electrical Manufacturing Co.

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1921 - 1940

  • 1921 – Thomas Duncan married Sarah Ely (CHA member and Duncan Electric secretary) Duncan
    Wetherill 8 month, 10,000 mile African trip

  • 1922 – Mrs. Haywood deeded Walker House to CHA. (Switzer now Annex).
    Tom Duncan presented African travelogue with slides at Walker House, although too small for his large audience.

  • 1922 – CHA & FKIS merged (Mrs. C.B. Stuart Pres.). Formal responsibility for industrial arts kindergarten given to city's public schools.

  • 1929 – Thomas Duncan dies leaving CHA over $100.000 for a larger community meeting place.

  • 1929 – CHA purchased 621 Ferry for expansion.

  • 1930 - July 28- Bids received and Switzer house razed.

  • August l – Ground broken for Thomas Duncan Hall. September 16-Cornerstone laid (Walter Scholer. Architect).

  • January 20 – China, silver and glasses for 100 guests purchased.

  • March 17 – Daughter of Mrs. G. Haywood furnished Early American Federal Room in her honor,

  • April 6, 1931 – Duncan Hall officially opened with reception, Mrs. C.B. Stuart, Pres.

  • September, 20 – reception for viewing of Walker House remodel, Now CHA annex)

  • 1935 – Mrs. G. Haywood purchased the South End Community Center, Deeded to CHA to assist upkeep & repair.

  • 1940 – Some Groups that met in Switzer House, Walker House and/or Duncan Hall: DAR, WWI & WWII, sewing, relief & community workers. War Mothers, Little Theater (now Civic Theater),YWCA, Needlework Guild, Collegiate Alumnae Association, American

1941 - 1960

  • 1950 – Many weddings, community fund-raisers and other special events e.g. piano recitals, birthday & retirement parties. Antique Shows began.

  • 1957 – Sold Walker House to Journal & Courier to finance an east addition with air-conditioning.

  • 1957 – South End Community Center deeded to United Way

  • 1959 – April 7-Then Sen. John F. Kennedy visited Duncan Hall.

  • 1958 – East addition completed (Sarah Duncan Room, kitchen & hostess apartment).

1961 - 1980

  • 1961 – Manners and dancing classes for youth.

  • 1963 – Swing Band, recitals other musical performances.

  • 1965 – Rest of Thomas Duncan Hall air-conditioned, funded by Antique Shows

  • 1979 – Annual Quilt shows began.

1981 - 2000

  • 1984 – Groups meeting included: Lafayette Business and Professional Women (Rose Breakfast), Catholic Daughters, Lafayette Junior Women's Club, J&C Printers, Telegraphic Union, Royal Neighbors, 20° Century Club, Welcome Wagon, Duplicate Bridge, Plastic Modelers, Carpenter's Auxiliary, Delta Sigma Kappa

  • 1995 – Duncan Hall Art Fair, started. 1996- Aura Lee Emsweller hired as the 1“ Executive Director. Friends of Bob concerts began. Tippecanoe Chamber Music Society concerts began. Greater Lafayette Community Foundation (GLCF) grant for new windows and doors.

  • 1997 – 66th Anniversary, Janis Boes, Sarah Duncan's Great Niece attended. Great Renovation of '97. Began taping Duncan Hall Comes Alive Insight TV concert interview series,

  • 1998 – Opening of The Secret Garden 1999-Dean's Tea, honoring Dean Carolyn Shoemaker for Inspiring Citizenship. Four successive PU female Deans attended. 2000

  • 2000 – GLCF grant for stage lighting, sound system and storm doors.

2001 - 2019

  • 2001 – 20th Anniversary. Celebration. Sarah Duncan Education Council (SDEC) formed, Marilynn Dammon, 1st Pres.

  • 2001 – Manners are Fun program, for all county 15 graders began. United Way grant for Manners Are Fun Program,

  • 2002 – JFK panel "Inspiring Citizenship", Bob Kreibel moderates. Gannett Foundation grant - Manners Are Fun Booklets

  • 2003 – Began participation in Tippecanoe Art Federation Gallery Walk

  • 2005 – CHA & SDEC merged to form Thomas Duncan Hall Inc. now a 501(c) 3. Gail Gettings. 1st President

  • Big Swing Dance fundraisers began

  • 2006 – Lafayette Urban Enterprise grant for front marquis & lighting.GLCF grant for stage curtains and dining ballroom renovations.

  • 2008 – Sarah's Dance fundraisers began.

  • Dale Bessire's 1930 *“Peaceful Valley" painting restored.

  • 2009 – Duncan Hall Annual Photography Contest initiated.

  • 2009 – GLCF grant for stage curtains & dining ballroom renovations.

  • 2010 – Grants from GLCF for back steps and guard railing. Grants from Marquis Foundation and Tipmont REMC for Manners are Fun.

  • 2011 – February – front parlor (with restrooms) renovations began.

  • April 16 – Anniversary celebration: Engaging and Elegant at Eighty

  • 2012 – Grants from Subaru for Secret Garden roof' gutter repair and Tipmont REMC for Manners Are Fun National Theater of Scotland Purdue Convos 10 show presentation of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

  • 2012 – Decorator: Holiday Showcase, of 4 decorated rooms, the affiliated not for profit receives use of Duncan Hall for an All Hall Event. Community invited to the Duncan Hall Holiday Manners Tea for Boys & Girls.

  • 2013 – Grants from GLCF, NCHS and many other generous donors make possible the Boiler. HVAC system renovation

  • Miss and Me Girl Scouts Manners Tea

  • 2014 – Boiler project completed Friends of Bob sponsors: Habib Koite, Fullset Lily & Madeleine, Pokey LaFarge


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