We are very pleased to announce a recent donation from Stephen and Sharon Zimmerman of drawings, sketches, photographs, and watercolor paintings by Indiana architect Leslie F. Ayres. The collection includes some of his early work, likely for the architectural firm Pierre & Wright, his student work at Princeton University, and later examples of his own commissions. Many of the drawings, sketches, and paintings depict scenes around downtown Indianapolis during the 1920s through the 1940s. Ayres grew up on the east side of the city and went to school at Arsenal Technical High School, so many of the scenes show that area of town and nearby downtown. The image above is the DePew Memorial Fountain in downtown Indianapolis' University Park.
Ayres (1906-1952) was an extremely talented renderer and architect. His beautiful and atmospheric renderings, which were often made in watercolor and colored pencil, lent an air of sophistication to any project and were used to sell the client on the architect’s design. He was so successful that in 1948 the magazine National Architect described him as “just about the only professional renderer in Indiana.”
While his time was in high demand for other architect's projects, he also built his architectural practice by designing residences, apartments, commercial buildings, and chapels in his distinctive Art Moderne and Art Deco styles. Buildings such as the Federal Economic Recovery Act Building (1934) at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and the Wilkinson House (1936) in Muncie, Indiana, exemplify his modern and glamorous contributions to Indiana architecture. An active leader in the Indianapolis Home Show from 1940-1947, Ayres designed many of the model homes during this time. He created sophisticated small homes that did not trade style for square footage.
Ayres died at the young age of 46, but left behind extraordinary contributions to Indiana architecture. His buildings that remain typify the elegance of an age long lost, and his drawings, now archived at the Drawings + Documents Archive, allow us a glimpse into that era.
Image: DePew Memorial Fountain, University Park, Indianapolis, undated. Watercolor on paper. Leslie Ayres Architectural Drawings, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.