Friday, June 24, 2016

Art Moderne With a Bubbly Personality

The Art Moderne commercial building at 2201 East 46th Street in Indianapolis is currently undergoing renovations that uncovered its original limestone facade with striking cursive font and delightful bubbles for Sutho Suds, a former Indy-based detergent brand that did frothy sales during WWII but was all washed up in the years following the war. Founded in 1943 by husband and wife team of Paul and Frances Towsley, the company quickly outgrew their factory at 1201 Cornell Avenue and began planning to double their factory space. 


When the building was erected in 1945, the company was doing very well and had the capital for a much expanded space and even had plans to build a factory in Chicago. However, due to the rise in new competitors during the post war period, sales quickly spiraled down the drain and the company went into receivership just a few months after moving into their new building.

The building housed a lot of other businesses since 1945. Most recently it was the headquarters for Double 8 Foods. Before that it held 7-11 Super Markets and even the architecture firm Odle/Burke Architects.

But the question on everyone's mind when Mark Dollase from Indiana Landmarks posted the Sutho Suds facade photographs to Facebook this week was: who was the architect who designed bubbles for limestone pilasters on this building? That architect was no other than Joseph Cezar, whose collection can be found at the Drawings + Documents Archive. He may be the greatest Indianapolis architect that no one knows about. The Sutho Suds drawings, however, were a mystery in the collection. Without an address or location on the drawings, we didn't know where the building was located. Because the sign was covered with a subsequent facade, no one else knew where it was, either. Thanks to inquisitive architecture fans and social media, we now have a complete record in our database and Indianapolis architecture fans now know a little bit more about Joseph Cezar's work!

Many thanks to Sharon Butsch Freeland who helped piece together this puzzle and graciously provided the newspaper clippings regarding Sutho Suds and the building.

Images: Sutho Suds building photograph by Mark Dollase, 2016; Sutho Suds building and signage drawings by Joseph O. Cezar, 1945; Sutho Suds advertisements from the Indianapolis Star, 1944, collected by Sharon Butsch Freeland, 2016.