Monday, May 16, 2016

New Donation: Indiana State Normal School Library, 1907

Today has been a day rich with donations that we want to share. We had to pick where to begin and decided we should begin with the library, which also happens to be the oldest set of drawings among the donations. This lovely set of drawings for the library at Indiana State Normal School (now Indiana State University) in Terre Haute, Indiana, by architects J.F. Alexander and Son highlights the extraordinary center light well and elaborate Beaux-Arts details throughout the building. It was built for $150,000 in 1909, but the best news is that it is still standing on campus and undergoing a $16M renovation that will turn it into a student academic honors center.

Little seems to be known about architect John F. Alexander. What we do know is that he was trained in St. Louis, received a degree from the University of Toronto, and worked for a firm in Chicago before settling back in Lafayette, Indiana. According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Tippecanoe County Courthouse, Alexander "specialized in the use of stone in both public and domestic architecture and many of Lafayette's finest houses erected in this period were his work."

Just a few years prior to the Indiana State Normal School library project, he designed the Hoopeston Carnegie Public Library in Champaign, Illinois. It completed construction in 1904, and is a much smaller, one story masonry building.

He was also heavily involved in the Western Architects Association and then the American Institute of Architects after the two merged in 1889. He served on a number of committees and was given some small roles by the then-president Richard Morris Hunt at the 1891 AIA Convention in Boston.

Images: Library, Indiana State Normal School (Indiana State University), 1907, diazo reproductions, undated. Gift of RATIO Architects. Photographs by Carol Street.

Sources: J.F. Alexander and Son biographical file, Drawings + Documents Archive; Monica Giacomucci e-mail, 18 February 2016; Tippecanoe County Courthouse National Register of Historic Places nomination form, 1972.

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