Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Old Powder House, Arsenal Tech High School

Before the campus became a school it was the site of a U.S. Arsenal established by Civil War-era Indiana Governor Morton to supply troops west of the Cumberland Mountains. Construction was authorized by Congress on July 11, 1862, less than two weeks after the Confederate victory of the Seven Days battles in Virginia where thousands of soldiers perished and a month before the horrific Second Battle of Bull Run, also a Confederate victory in Virginia.

The U. S. Arsenal would replace the state arsenal, which was located elsewhere in the city. In 1863, General Buckingham chose the 75 acre site located half of a mile east of downtown Indianapolis which would eventually host the impressive Arsenal Building, barracks, commandant's residence, guardhouse, powder magazine, and barn. The original state arsenal site was discontinued when the U.S. Arsenal took over in 1864.

By 1903 the site was no longer needed by the U.S. Government and it was sold at auction for $154,000 to Winona Group, which operated the Winona Agricultural and Technical Institute on the campus until it went bankrupt in 1909. After that, a receiver was appointed for the property and in 1912 the Indiana Supreme Court decision placed title in the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners with the condition that the grounds must be used for educational purposes.

Above is a pencil drawing from 1932 of the "Old Powder House" by Joseph O. Cezar, an Indianapolis architect who often drew sketches of city landmarks for use in Christmas cards or, seemingly, for his own amusement. From the amount of these types of sketches in his collection, he clearly seemed to be an architect that very much enjoyed the process of drawing. He was likely inspired to create this drawing due to the extensive remodeling to the Arsenal Building that was taking place that year by the local architecture firm D. A. Bohlen & Son.

Image: Old Powder House, [Arsenal] Tech High School, drawing, 1932. [21-32] Joseph O. Cezar Collection, Drawings + Documents Archive, Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries.

Recources: Arsenal Building, Indianapolis, Historical American Building Survey documentation, 1971. [DOC-71.012], Drawings + Documents Archive, Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries.

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