Monday, July 27, 2009

Connecting the Corridor: Indianapolis to Noblesville Light Rail Exhibit

If you travel from Hamilton County to Indianapolis on a regular basis you know there's a real need for effective public transportation to connect the Northeast corridor. The combined effects of increased fuel costs, congested roads, and concern for the environment have created a climate ripe for innovative solutions to the problem of getting from point A to point B as painlessly as possible. A proposed light rail line, installed on existing Nickel Plate Railroad track, would help alleviate the traffic congestion and provide commuters a more environmentally friendly choice for getting to work.

Federal funding may actually make this a possibility in the near future and it is no surprise that Ball State students and professors have been involved during the planning process. Students in Professor Harry Eggink's graduate architecture class and Professor Scott Truex's urban planning class spent the semester envisioning the northeast side of Indianapolis after a proposed light rail line is up and running. The line would run from 146th Street in Noblesville to South Street in downtown Indianapolis along the existing Nickel Plate rail line.

You can see their work in a new exhibit, Next Generation Neighborhoods: Investing in Transit, on display at the Ball State Indianapolis Center through August 21st. The public is welcome to stop by the Center at for this free exhibit. The Center is located at 50 S. Meridian Street, suite 302 and is open from 8-4.

CIRTA (Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority) and the Ball State College of Architecture and Planning teamed up to create the exhibit. Approximately 20 display boards showcase transit history and depict new employment hubs, the revitalization of urban neighborhoods and specific station stops as well as the challenges of opportunities of each of those stops.

"The exhibit is meant to help us see the possibilities," said Ehren Bingaman, executive director of CIRTA. "A lot of people have been talking about the possibilities, but when you get a chance to 'see' what a transit stop at 22nd Street or 116th Street could look like and how it could affect a neighborhood, it takes the vision to a whole new level."

"Projects like this reflect the impact Ball State students are having on Indiana's economy," said Ball State President Jo Ann M. Gora. "These initiatives are tangible, practical and, simply put, are helping Hoosier companies and communities move forward. And from an academic perspective, our students are receiving an education grounded in immersive learning experiences that cannot be duplicated anywhere else."

The idea of light rail in Indiana may seem really revolutionary to some but probably not to anyone over the age of 65 or historians. Those who remember the interurban or have researched it will tell you that Indiana used to have a highly effective public transportation network that connected neighborhoods within Indianapolis and small towns and large cities throughout the state from approximately 1900-1941. For more information on the rich history of interurbans, contact the Indiana Historical Society at Here are a few images from their collection:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Indianapolis Midcentury Modern Home

This weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting architect J. Parke Randall at a party in one of the Midcentury Modern homes he designed. Randall is best known in Indianapolis for his work on the City County building during his time with the architectural firm Wright, Porteous, and Associates. He also designed a number of spectacular midcentury homes in the Indianapolis area. Influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, but also fashioning his own ideas on living with nature, Randall said he designed his houses on a pedestal from which to observe nature. He had no intention of living like "Tarzan and Jane" as he put it, however he still wanted to be a removed observer. Thus, the house is built on a platform that appears to float in the trees and has a full wall of windows on the back, a vantage point that gives one an ideal perch to see the birds and other wildlife.
The home had fallen into disrepair before the current home owner purchased it three years ago. In a short time, she has managed to revive the character, beauty, and functionality Randall created over fifty years ago. When asked about the renovation, Randall positively radiated his joy at seeing the house he designed brought back to life and enjoyed.

As you can see from the pictures, Randall gave the homeowner (to the right of Randall in the group photograph) original pencil drawings of the home's design. He also gave her contact sheets of images he took during the home's construction. The homeowner has given the Archive copies of these, which appear below.

Many thanks to Atomic Indy which coordinated this party, the first in the Atomic Crash Indy party series. (Atomic Indy founder, Baz ,is to the left of Randall in the group photograph ) If you're interested in Midcentury Modern or seeing more tour pictures of the house, I highly recommend reading their blog at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

College of Architecture and Planning’s Summer Workshop students introduced to Archive

Each summer the College of Architecture and Planning welcomes outstanding high school juniors and seniors to the CAP Summer Workshop. Over the course of two weeks in July, 48 aspiring students are immersed into the realm of environmental design through exercises that increasingly challenge the young mind and its understanding of the built environment.

An important element of the students’ time at Ball State is learning how to access the dynamic resources the University Libraries have to offer. Amy E. Trendler, Architecture Librarian, and Carol A. Street, Archivist for Architectural Records, introduced the students to digital and print resources in the Architecture Library as well as unique architectural collections from the Drawings and Documents Archive.

Over the course of an afternoon, the students met in small groups and explored a wide range of materials, from books on vertical gardens and urban planning to original Cuno Kibele architectural drawings from 1917. The session prompted students to consider how architectural drawings were used in the past and introduced them to the wealth of current material available to them at Ball State.

In case you are wondering what the students are looking at, on the table are architect Cuno Kibele's drawings for additions to the Wysor Grand Theater in Muncie, Ind. (1917); Werking & Son's drawings for the Granada Theatre in Connersville, Ind (1926); and Joseph O. Cezar's drawings for the Lafayette Road Drive-In in Indianapolis (1952). Models in the foreground are from architect Edward D. Pierre titled Indianapolis: 25 Years Hence, which is an incredible set of models of downtown Indianapolis that combines how the city looked in 1953 and the architect's vision of progress to take place in the following twenty-five years. Many things, such as a subway and a Riley Children's Center were never realized. The model collection is currently being digitized and will be avaible online soon at

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

South Bend's Blackstone-State Theater Will Be Sold in Online Auction

The historic Blackstone-State Theater in South Bend, Indiana will be auctioned off this month. The current owner, nonprofit religious group, Way of Life, purchased it three years ago and have since spent a reported $300,000 on renovations. The group has suffered in the present economic downturn and is looking to sell the property in an online auction.

The building, located at 212 S. Michigan Street, is a landmark in downtown South Bend. Built in 1921, this classical revival style theater was designed by Harry Newhouse. It is on the National Historic Register (#85001204)

The theater boasts some famous scars from bullet holes left during the 1934 shootout following John Dillinger's last bank heist from a bank down the street.
The current owners have created a video tour of the inside of the building. For the video and more information, go to

Guggenheim Archives Digitizes Frank Lloyd Wright's Correspondence

Wright's Papers Go Digital

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives recently received funding from the New York State Council on the Arts to support the digitization of the Frank Lloyd Wright correspondence, a collection that documents the construction of the museum between 1943 and 1959. The project will enable low-resolution images of records from the collection to be publicly displayed through the Archives' Web site.The Frank Lloyd Wright papers consist of correspondence between Wright and trustees of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, including Solomon R. Guggenheim, Harry F. Guggenheim, and Albert E. Thiele; NYC Building Commissioner, Robert Moses; and the museum's Directors, Hilla Rebay and James Johnson Sweeney. The correspondence includes discussions of the museum site, plans, models, building costs, architect fees, contractors, name, and display of artwork. Ultimately, the correspondence documents not only the construction of the permanent museum building, but also a revolutionary turn in the conception of American architecture and museum exhibition spaces.
View the digitized records in the folder list of the Frank Lloyd Wright correspondence. A0006.

Detail of a telegram from Harry Guggenheim to Frank Lloyd Wright regarding a meeting to demonstrate theory of presenting paintings, November 30, 1958, Frank Lloyd Wright correspondence. A0006. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York, NY

Monday, July 13, 2009

Historic Landmarks Save

Historic Landmarks is currently restoring this Victorian cottage on the east side of Indianapolis. Here's what it looked like before renovation:

And here is what it looks like now, mid-renovation:

To the north of this house is busy New York Street, which is the main street heading east from downtown. The house stands in a depressed area that has much to offer, in terms of accessibility and architecture. Kudos to Historic Landmarks for making a positive impact on the neighborhood!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Historic Patterson Block, Muncie

News was just posted last week that the Patterson Block, located at the intersection of Main and Walnut streets in downtown Muncie, Indiana will house Ivy Tech students in the hospitality and culinary program this fall. Ivy Tech faculty member Heather Pier cites their interest in "using existing buildings to help revitalize downtown." This is certainly a positive development for one of Muncie’s finest examples of late 19th century commercial architecture.

Built in 1876 by Arthur F. Patterson, one of Muncie’s wealthiest and best-known businessmen of the time, the Italianate style Patterson Block is a three-story rectangular block, constructed of brick, with a clipped corner in its northwest quadrant. It was built in two stages, with the original structure being the first three bays of storefronts to the south along Walnut Street. The second section, begun in 1881, introduced four additional bays to the Walnut Street façade. Fine craftsmanship and detailing is evident throughout the building, particularly in the window treatment of the upper two stories and the massive, bracketed cornice.

The seven storefronts have held a succession of businesses, typically florists, jewelers, confectionaries, clothing stores, groceries, and drug stores. The building is also noted for housing a few local “firsts” -- the first local telephone exchange and the first Muncie police station. You can see some of the early tenant listings on this Sanborn map from 1887:

The Drawings and Documents Archive has numerous items in its collections relating to the Patterson Block. The architecture firm Garrard & Keely, formerly known as Kibele & Garrard, created drawings in the 1930s that envisioned renovations for the building which were never realized.

There were efforts to modernize the building between the 1940s and 1960s, which resulted in the concealment of the original cast-iron columns and entablature. An image from 1968 depicts the changes in the building facade:
The Archive has the restoration feasibility study created in 1982 that proposes a rehab sympathetic to the original structure. A few years later, students involved in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Historic American Buildings Survey project, conducted the field work and created an official HABS drawing.

Both the field notebook and the HABS drawings, as well as the other material mentioned, are available for viewing in the Archive. For an appointment, call Carol Street, archivist for architectural records, at 765-285-8441. The current photo of the Patterson Block is courtesy of

Pages from the HABS field notebook:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Drawings and Documents Archive will be closed July 3rd.
MCCM, or Mid-century Concrete Masonry
Concrete is not just a modern-day construction material, but one that has been used for thousands of years. The Romans mixed a basic form of concrete using coarse sand, small stones, hot lime, water, and often horsehair for reinforcement to construct their roads, buildings, and aqueducts two thousand years ago. Since that time, inventors have refined the production of concrete for greater strength, consistency, reliability, cost-effectiveness, as well as adapting forms and shapes to ever changing design aesthetics.

In the early 1900s, block making was often a backyard affair. Individuals could easily purchase a small hand-operated block machine for minimal investment and create concrete blocks in their spare time for additional income. During this period, concrete was considered inferior to stone or brick, a much costlier product, so emphasis was placed on trying to replicate the look of stone in concrete. Concrete block became increasingly popular with builders in the 1920s, and the small operation block makers began to be replaced by a number of full-time concrete block plants with enhanced capacity. The National Concrete Masonry Association was formed in 1920 in an effort to promote the use of concrete as well as structure industry standards in a formerly unregulated industry.

Another period of change for the concrete industry occurred in the post-war housing boom of the late 1940s and into the 1950s. Factories that had been used for the war industry were retrofitted to become concrete block plants to meet the demand for building fast, relatively inexpensive housing for returning soldiers and their new families. Homes of this era are common in many Indiana neighborhoods, and illustrate how widely accepted concrete had become by this time. Architects and inventors experimented with new techniques using concrete, one example is Frank Lloyd Wright’s cantilevered rebar-reinforced concrete decks at Fallingwater, which essentially allowed concrete to shed its need to disguise itself as stone or brick and become a material for architects to showcase.

No other publication did a more thorough job of celebrating the many uses of concrete than Pictorial, the National Concrete Masonry Association’s subscription-based magazine which began publication in 1944 and was sent to over 30,000 building professionals each month. Smartly designed for the aesthetics of the day, Pictorial relied heavily on photographic essays to highlight a different use of concrete each month.

Issues in our collection are devoted to concrete homes, offices, large businesses, banks, fencing, fireplaces, outdoor recreation, screen block walls, decorative wall patterns, and hotels. A typical cover photograph is a highly saturated color image of an impeccably dressed woman posed within a scene that includes an extraordinary use of concrete materials. The model is clearly there to sell the idea of the ease and beauty of the concrete product, but one has no doubt that the decorative building façade, swimming pool, or screen wall is the real star of each picture. Inside each issue are black and white photographs depicting different examples of the main theme, encouraging designers and architects to explore the many forms and uses of concrete.

You are invited to visit the Drawings and Documents Archive, located at Ball State University, to view all of the issues of Pictorial in our collection, as well as explore our extensive holdings of architectural drawings and architectural records. To schedule an appointment, contact Carol Street, the Archivist for Architectural Records, at or 765-285-8441.