Week 44 (National Historic Landmarks in Columbus)
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(12.14.14)

Art, Architecture and Design

This article spotlights a particular building or some other aspect of Columbus design. I welcome your comments, corrections and additions. Please share your experience and perceptions of these uniquely Columbus projects.


National Historic Landmarks in Columbus

In a ceremony held in 2001, 6 significant Columbus, Indiana buildings were designated as National Historic Landmarks. National Historic Landmarks are buildings or sites that are deemed by the Secretary of the Interior to have historic meaning to all Americans in interpreting our heritage. Landmarks are often confused with the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) which is an official federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation. Sites on the National Register may be primarily of interest to those in the local area or region. Out of more than 80,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places less than 2,500 are National Historic Landmarks, the federal governments highest honor.




Starting in 1942 with the First Christian Church, Columbus became nationally known for a series of primarily modernist buildings, landscapes and interiors designed by some of the worlds leading architects, landscape architects and designers. A group of local residents including architect Louis Joyner became concerned about the increasing erosion and degradation of many of the structures due to ignorance of their significance, lack of maintenance and other factors. Joyner, architectural historian Laura Thayer and landscape architect Malcolm Cairns were among the individuals pursuing landmark status for Columbus buildings. After consultation with the National Historic Landmarks staff, the list of buildings was narrowed to 6 and a district nomination as well as individual nominations were prepared.




In an unusual move the National Historic Landmarks program honored the city by accepting the first 6 locations simultaneously. The designation of this group of buildings constituted the first National Historic Landmark Multiple Property District whose significance is primarily related to Modernism, which Columbus is especially well-known for. Based on the criteria established in the district nomination, additional structures are eligible for nomination, and may be added in the future. A 7th National Historic Landmark building was added to the list in 2012. Below is a link to a summary of a recent update to the nomination study for the Columbus area.

“Modernism in Bartholomew County, Indiana from 1942”: Detailed overview and background information from the National Park Service on the architecture in the greater Columbus area




The awards ceremony was held in front of the First Christian Church on June 8th, 2001. In what perhaps was a first, an architect of one of the honored buildings, John Carl Warnecke was in attendance. Warnecke is believed to be the only architect who has lived to see a building of their own be honored. Ben Weese who had worked with his brother Harry on several Columbus projects was in attendance. The ceremony was also one of the last public appearances for J. Irwin Miller who had so much to do with inspiring the architectural heritage of Columbus. For further details and more pictures of the 7 Columbus landmarks below, see the existing or future posts in my “52 Weeks of Columbus” series.





First Christian Church

Architect: Eliel Saarinen
1942

First Christian Church was one of the first Modernist religious buildings in America and the first Modern building to be constructed in Columbus. Nationally recognized at the time of its construction, it had a significant impact on church design in the post-WW II era. First Christian Church was one of two churches designed by the firm of Saarinen and Saarinen, consisting of Eliel Saarinen and his son Eero. Eliel Saarinen answered questions about the suitability of a Modern design for a religious building by saying: “Our forefathers and we ourselves have been using the dead styles of alien cultures. We have combined them in thousands of different ways until the last drop of expressiveness has been squeezed out.” Many believe that First Christian Church is a synthesis of the father’s and son’s work, and of their independent approaches: Eliel’s focus on materials, craft, and relationship of the building to the user; and Eero’s Modern aesthetic. In 1941, Time Magazine described the building as, “the costliest modern church in the world, planned by Europe’s most famous modern architect and his son.” Newsweek, in 1942, noted, “In style, the new Tabernacle is utterly unlike the seventeen other churches in Columbus or, for that matter, in almost any other city in the world.”

First Christian Church (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article about First Christian Church

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL nomination information for First Christian Church


First Christian Church – viewed from the library plaza
(photo by Ricky Berkey)





First Christian Church – sanctuary as seen from the balcony
(photo by Ricky Berkey)





First Christian Church – front lobby leading into the sanctuary
(photo by Ricky Berkey)





Irwin-Union Bank

Architect: Eero Saarinen
1954

The Irwin Union Bank (now First Financial Bank) is a highly innovative bank design and an outstanding example of classic Modernist form, the Miesian glass pavilion. The work of Eero Saarinen, Irwin Union Bank was possibly the first financial institution in the United States with glass walls and an open floor plan, dramatically differing from past solutions for banks, and influencing the future of bank design. This property is one of a number of buildings in Columbus, Indiana that illustrate trends in modern architecture. Alexander Girard contributed to the interior design and Dan Kiley was the landscape architect.

Irwin-Union Bank (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article on the Irwin-Union Bank

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL nomination information for the Irwin-Union Bank


Irwin-Union Bank
(photo by Ricky Berkey)





Irwin-Union Bank
(photo by Ricky Berkey)





Irwin-Union Bank – aerial view from 1955
(photo used pending permission)





Miller House

Architect: Eero Saarinen
1957

One of a small number of residences designed by Eero Saarinen, the Miller House and Garden is an important residential representation of the International Style, a subtype of the Modernist movement. The landscaping by Dan Kiley is one of the first and most important Modern designs in residential landscape architecture. Alexander Girard designed the interiors. Building interior, exterior and landscape are fully integrated in this unique collaboration. This home was built as the residence of J. Irwin Miller who was instrumental in bringing significant architecture to Columbus. Miller and his wife Xenia raised 5 children in this home.

Miller House (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article on the Miller House

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL nomination information for the Miller House


Miller House – looking into the center of the house from the outside
(photo used pending permission)





Miller House
(photo used pending permission)





Miller House – notice the book wall and the circular fireplace
(photo used pending permission)





Mabel McDowell Elementary School

Architect: John Carl Warnecke
1960

Mabel McDowell Elementary School (now McDowell Adult Education Center) is an excellent representation of the effort in Columbus to improve the quality of life through outstanding design. The building is an early example of Modernist architecture in Columbus, and an outstanding example of the contextual work of John Carl Warnecke, a leading architect of the twentieth century. The site contains 5 separate 1-story buildings linked by landscaped courtyards and covered walkways. Four classroom buildings flank the central hub which contains the cafeteria and administration spaces.

McDowell School (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article about McDowell School

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL information for McDowell School


McDowell School
(photo by Ricky Berkey)





McDowell School
(photo by Ricky Berkey)





McDowell School – aerial view from the 60’s
(photo used pending permission)





North Christian Church

Architect: Eero Saarinen
1964

Eero Saarinen designed North Christian Church on a hexagonal plan, symbolic of the Star of David. A 192-foot spire supporting a cross rises from this, symbolizing the emergence of Christianity from Judaism. The sanctuary was placed in the center of the building and elevated; seating was around the hexagonal perimeter of the sanctuary to allow members to relate visually to each other during services. The landscaping design is an outstanding example of the work of Dan Kiley. Alexander Girard contributed to the internal furnishings.

North Christian Church (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article about North Christian Church

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL nomination information for North Christian Church


North Christian Church
(photo by Ricky Berkey)





North Christian Church
(photo by Ricky Berkey)





North Christian Church – sanctuary
(postcard image used pending permission)





First Baptist Church

Architect: Harry Weese
1965

First Baptist Church is an outstanding representation of the work of a distinguished American architect, Harry Mohr Weese, and generally thought to be his best work in Columbus, Indiana, where he completed numerous works of Modern architecture. The design fees for this structure were paid through a privately sponsored program whose goal was to improve the quality of life in Columbus by increasing the quality of its architectural environment. Through this effort and others Columbus, Indiana boasts a unique collection of Modern architecture.

First Baptist Church (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article about First Baptist Church

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL nomination information for First Baptist Church


First Baptist Church
(photo by Ricky Berkey)





First Baptist Church
(photo by Ricky Berkey)





First Baptist Church – sanctuary
(photo by Ricky Berkey)





The Republic Newspaper building

Architect: Myron Goldsmith
1970

More Details and pictures coming soon!

Republic Newspaper building (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article on the Republic Newspaper building

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL nomination information for the Republic Newspaper building




Links/References

National Historic Landmarks: a program administered by the National Park Service

“Modernism in Bartholomew County, Indiana from 1942”: Detailed overview and background information from the National Park Service on the architecture in the greater Columbus area

First Christian Church (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article about First Christian Church

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL nomination information for First Christian Church

Irwin-Union Bank (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article on the Irwin-Union Bank

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL nomination information for the Irwin-Union Bank

Miller House (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article on the Miller House

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL nomination information for the Miller House

McDowell School (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article about McDowell School

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL information for McDowell School

North Christian Church (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article about North Christian Church

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL nomination information for North Christian Church

First Baptist Church (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article about First Baptist Church

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL nomination information for First Baptist Church

Republic Newspaper building (52 Weeks of Columbus): My blog article on the Republic Newspaper building

NHL nomination form: Detailed NHL nomination information for the Republic Newspaper building

Louis Joyner: architect: Columbus architect who was instrumental in getting the NHL nominations researched, submitted and approved

Columbus Area Visitors Center

City of Columbus: official City of Columbus website

Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives

Columbus Indiana Architecture Digital Archives: A small portion of the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives available online from the IUPUI digital library

3D Models of Columbus Architecture Executed in Google SketchUp:

The Republic Newspaper – Columbus, Indiana newspaper

Bartholomew County Public Library

Historic Columbus Website – David Sechrest’s tribute to Columbus History

Historic Columbus Message Board – a companion interactive forum to the David Sechrest historical website

Bartholomew County Historical Society

Columbus Area Arts Council




Click HERE for a Calendar of Upcoming Events in the Columbus Area.

Click HERE for information about Tours of Columbus Architecture and Design including the Miller House.





Ricky Berkey

Email me: rickyberkey@gmail.com






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