Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Indiana Landmarks 10 Most Endangered: Pantheon Theater, Vincennes

Built in 1921 by Vincennes architect John B. Bayard, the Renaissance Revival-style Pantheon Theater in Vincennes, Indiana, has hosted decades worth of performances. From local theater groups to Broadway shows, this building has seen it all. It was even where legendary performer and Vincennes-native Red Skelton got his start in show business.

Its current fate is a little less star-studded, however, which has prompted its debut in the spotlight of the 2012 Indiana Landmarks 10 Most Endangered list.

The images of the theater were most likely taken not long after it had opened in 1921. They are part of the Jay C. Bixby Architectural Records. Architect Jay C. Bixby (1889-1983) was working in Bayard's office by 1927 and then, along with another architect Rudolph W. Schucker, took over the firm after Bayard's death in 1933. Bixby later practiced independently from 1952 to 1965. The collection contains photographs, architectural drawings, and clippings regarding their projects throughout southern Indiana. 

Images: Pantheon Theater facade and interior. Jay C. Bixby Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Indiana Landmarks 10 Most Endangered: House of Tomorrow

Cellophane curtains, rubber floors, ashtrays and lampshades like kitchen utensils, and kitchen utensils like parlor ornaments, tables that rise up in the air like a Joshua tree, enameled walls and wooden dishes, furniture made of mirrors, game boards inlaid on the floor, these are some of the brand new ideas which puzzle and fascinate the crowds shuffling through the model houses around Home-Planning hall.
World's Fair Weekly

To Hoosier architects and designers, visiting the 1933 Century of Progress International Exposition held in nearby Chicago, must have been the highlight of their summer. Intended to celebrate Chicago's 100 year anniversary, the fair featured the latest innovations in architecture, design, products,transportation, science, and technology.

One of the prominent displays at the exposition was The Homes of Tomorrow exhibition that showcased thirteen houses designed for modern and, sometimes, futuristic living. Five of the houses--the Florida Tropical, Rostone, Armco Ferro, Cypress Log Cabin, and the House of Tomorrow--were purchased after the exposition and moved to Beverly Shores, Indiana, where they provide breathtaking views of Lake Michigan.

You can see the houses as they were on display in these pictures from the booklet that architect Fran E. Schroeder purchased when he attended the exposition in July 1933. He brought back other ephemera from his trip, all of which can be found in his collection at the Archives. Another architect, Leslie F. Ayres, sketched drawings while he was there. A few years later Ayres would design Muncie's Wilkinson House, a house that also makes an appearance on this year's 10 Most Endangered list.

Decades at the shore haven't been kind to the houses and Indiana Landmarks has partnered with the National Park Service to allow long-term leases to people dedicated to restoring these buildings. I recently had the privilege to tour all but the House of Tomorrow, which is the only one that hasn't found a benefactor. The luxury house once featured a garage for the family car and airplane, but today it is in poor condition and on this year's 10 Most Endangered list.

Taken during my visit, the photograph below shows the completely renovated Florida Tropical house taken from the vantage point of the balcony belonging to its neighbor across the street, the nearly complete Armco Ferro house.

Images: World's Fair Weekly, week ending July 22, 1933. Fran E. Schroeder Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries. 
Florida Tropical House, 2012. Photograph by Carol Street.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Indiana Landmarks 2012 list of 10 Most Endangered: Taggart Memorial

Indiana Landmarks is our state's non-profit organization dedicated to preserving historically significant sites and structures. Each year, the organization publishes its list of Indiana’s landmarks that are considered the 10 Most Endangered. As you can imagine, a property doesn't make it to the list until it faces imminent threat from abandonment, neglect, and/or demolition.

The Drawings + Documents Archive has often been able to assist Indiana Landmarks with research regarding historical properties and, while we don't have materials on all of this year's ten engangered properties, we do have information on quite a few of them. We'll spend the next few posts exploring the plans, photographs, and documents in our collection related to some of the most endangered properties in the state.

First up is the Taggart Memorial in Indianapolis. Thomas Taggart (1856-1929) was the 18th mayor of Indianapolis (1895-1901), a Senator (1916), and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. One of his greatest achievements in political office was founding the expansive parks system in the growing metropolis of Indianapolis. The city of Indianapolis dedicated the Taggart Memorial in Riverside Park in 1931, two years after his death.

The Archives has hundreds of drawings and ledgers from the Indianapolis Parks Department Landscape Architectural Records dating from 1898 that document the early history of the park system in Indianapolis that Taggart created. Among the numerous projects are drawings for Riverside Park and the Taggart Memorial. The drawings depict the layout of the memorial as well as the planting plan for the grounds surrounding it.

Prominent landscape architect Lawrence V. Sheridan (1887-1972), who had recently worked with George Kessler on Indianapolis' famed boulevard system, designed the landscape. Below, you'll see the progression of his design process in early 1931. The first blueprint, which is hand-colored and dated February 5, 1931, shows the preliminary plans for the overall design and the second blueprint, dated February 23, 1931, depicts the detailed planting schedule for the grounds surrounding the monument.  The final plan, dated March 17, 1931, shows the construction and grading plan for the memorial.