Panorama photo of Bartholomew County Courthouse, by Thomas Schiff

 

COLUMBUS, INDIANA ARCHITECTURE – HISTORICAL

New Brownsville Bridge at Mil Race Park - photo by Yvette Kuhlman
New Brownsville Bridge at Mil Race Park
New Brownsville Bridge at Mill Race Park, 1840
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Mill Race park, Columbus
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The New Brownsville Covered Bridge is the focal point of a beautiful circular pond in the award-winning Mill Race Park, created by the legendary landscape designer Michael Van Valkenburgh. The hundred-foot bridge is the only long-truss structure in Indiana and it can transport you all the way back to 1840, when it was built to cross the East Fork of the Whitewater River near Brownsville. The bridge is a stop on The Indiana Covered Bridge Loop, where you can connect with this fascinating chapter in American history. The Loop will take you to nine covered bridges, transporting you to another time revealing the beautiful countryside in Southern Indiana. The bridge is also, of course, the ideal backdrop for your Facebook and Instagram posts!

Yelp reviewer Richard R. reminds us, “It is one of the oldest covered bridges in the state and a great lesson to us all that, with a little love and care, many things can, and will, continue to stand the test of time. The marriage of this bridge to its new location at Mill Pond is poetic. Something old (the bridge itself), something new (the beautiful park), something borrowed (taken from another county), and something blue (the serene pond below it). Indiana, you are definitely the girl next door that I never noticed, but I see you now. Thanks for taking the time to restore so many of your amazing covered bridges and capturing my attention.”

Mr. Miller's office at 301 Washington Street - Columbus, Indiana
Mr. Miller's desk at 301 Washington Street - Columbus, Indiana
301 Washington, J. Irwin Miller's office, 1872
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301 Washington Street, Columbus
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The Columbus landmark at 301 Washington Street houses the second-story office of J. Irwin Miller, who was the President and Chairman of Cummins Engine Company, President of Irwin Union Bank, and President of the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation, as well as being involved with many other business interests and national associations.

In 2011, Cummins purchased the building and renovated the interiors for additional downtown office space; however, the first floor entry and second floor private office of J. Irwin Miller have been preserved and are accessible for special public tours through the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

 

The complete history of 301 Washington below is courtesy of The Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives – see the complete listing, and many photos at the Archives website.

1882, A Palace

When construction was completed in 1882, a local newspaper declared the building at 301 a “palace.” The article describes the building in detail: “The new building is the handsomest and most imposing structure for business purposes in the city. The walls are of pressed brick, with carved stone caps for windows and doors, iron columns support the upper front, while the front of the store and bank rooms are of heavy walnut, with French plate glass. The trimmings are of carved sandstone and the cornice of galvanized iron on which is stamped the words ‘Irwin’s Bank.'” (Evening Republican, 14 April 1882)

1907, Caldwell & Drake Iron Works

After the dry goods store moved from the building in 1907, the building’s ground floor was redesigned to provide Irwin’s Bank with more space.

New iron grill work for the building’s front was designed and manufactured by Caldwell & Drake Iron Works, a local company.

An article from the Evening Republican describes the new interior in detail: “The Irwin bank at Columbus that is being remodeled and in new quarters will be a most complete institution when completed. The fixtures are of the finest character. The general scheme is that of a series of ornamental cages down the center of the room, each connected with the other yet each separate. The cashier’s compartment is at the front and the enclosure about and before the wicket is a fine piece of marble work. […] A system of ventilation is being perfected by open air shafts that will insure perfect air to every employe [sic] during work hours.” (Evening Republican 18 September 1907)

1919, D.A. Bohlen and Son Architects

The Indianapolis firm D.A. Bohlen and Son Architects made modifications to the work completed in 1907. The iron grill work on the building’s front was extended and new seating added at the entry.

1962, Alexander Girard

In 1962, J. Irwin Miller selected architect Alexander Girard to design his office suite at 301 Washington. Girard had worked with Miller and his wife Xenia on two residential projects — the Miller Cottage in Muskoka, Ontario (1952) and the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana (1957).

Miller’s office suite included a reception area, secretarial area, a small conference room, and his private office. Miller, who at that time headed Cummins Engine Company, Irwin Union Bank, and Union Starch and Refining Company, used 301 Washington as his primary office. Girard’s design was featured on the October 1962 cover of Progressive Architecture, with photographs by Balthazar Korab.

Between D.A. Bohlen and Son’s 1919 and Girard’s work in 1962, the building’s heating and ventilation was updated, and, in 1949, the interior was redesigned by Orris E. Stanfield of Business Furniture Corporation in Indianapolis. Stanfield’s design is documented by photographs taken by Francis Miller in 1950 for Life magazine. Although the pictures were never published, they are available online. Areas include J. Irwin Miller’s office, second floor reception area, waiting or reception area, and a clerical area.

1965, Alexander Girard

In the early 1960s, architect Alexander Girard began a project to beautify downtown storefronts on Washington Street.

Girard’s solution included a continuous metal awning, new business signs flush with the facades, and a painting scheme to highlight nineteenth-century details. At 301, Girard outlined the galvanized iron cornice in white and offset it with a light blue.

Girard’s “Storefront Improvement Project” was featured on the December 1965 cover of Architectural Forum.

1972, Alexander Girard

Girard returned to 301 in the late 1960s to update the exterior, to redesign the building’s interior (except for Miller’s suite), and to expand the offices of Irwin Management Company to include the adjacent building on Third Street. His design included his signature bright colors, carpeted ceilings, and a proposed “IMCO” logo for Irwin Management Company.

This project was featured on the February 1975 cover of Interiors. Balthazar Korab, who frequently documented Columbus’ built environment, returned to 301 Washington Street to take photographs of the new interior design for the magazine article.

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Inn at Irwin Gardens
Inn at Irwin Gardens
Inn at Irwin Gardens, 1864
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608 Fifth Street, Columbus
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From The Inn at Irwin Gardens website :

Built in 1864 by Joseph I. Irwin, Columbus banker and businessman, this Italianate design was remodeled in 1880. However, to accommodate four generations of the Irwin family, the home has been enlarged and redesigned over the years. The current mansion was the magnificent achievement of Henry A. Phillips, a Massachusetts architect, who was hired by William G. Irwin in 1910. The intricate detail of the extensive fine woodwork and moldings throughout the house are reminiscent of a European estate. The old brick exterior was covered by tapestry brick with stone trim, and several new chimneys, which are now a prominent feature of the house, were added. The roof was recovered in slate and the pitch was altered, providing for a more spacious third floor. On the east, a raised terrace was added to link the home to the adjoining Garden.

The highlight of this two-acre property is the garden, a beautiful maze based on the Casa degli Innamorati in Pompeii. Several fountains and a long pool are the focal point of a lowered sunken garden. There is a statue under the center arch of the garden house designed from a lakeside structure at the Villa of Hadrian at Tivoli, Italy. Pompeian murals accent the garden house. A tall brick wall is rounded in imitation of 16th-century gardens in Mantua, Italy. Wisteria vines on the terrace’s pergolas were planted in 1911, and continue to bloom in the spring. Only the English sundial and a Japanese bronze elephant sculpture that is a replica of one at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair pavilion do not follow the Italian motif.

Aerial of Bartholomew County Courthouse - photo by Dan Wallace
Bartholomew County Courthouse - photo by Don Nissen
Bartholomew County Courthouse, Isaac Hodgson, 1874
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234 Washington St, Columbus
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Isaac Hodgson designed the Bartholomew County Courthouse, which was completed in 1874. The Second Empire-style building stands much the same as it did at its completion and continues to serve the community well. Michael Van Valkenburgh developed a master plan for landscape plantings for the Court House Square in 1997 in conjunction with the Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans, which is located on the courthouse square. The building was featured on the cover of the book “The Magnificent 92 Indiana Courthouses.” Most of the original interior spaces have been preserved, including the marble and terrazzo floors, wood trim, fireplaces, and a spiral staircase. The delicate, lightweight grill work on the three towers was added in 1971, a gift from Elsie Irwin Sweeney. The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In addressing the school board in October 1973, J. Irwin Miller noted, “Clearly, the best building that’s ever been built in this town is the county courthouse. If you can imagine this tiny population over a hundred years ago having the nerve to build a building big enough to serve this community for a hundred years. That is probably the most adventurous, farsighted investment that this community ever made. We are all the beneficiaries of the fact that they thought big, and they planned for a hundred years, and not just for something that would last in their lifetime. We would have probably spent ten times as much for five courthouses if they’d only built the courthouse big enough just to serve their own needs. There are not many counties in the state that can point to a population that farsighted.” – J. Irwin Miller speaking to the Bartholomew Consolidate School Corporation’s board on October 1, 1973. Courtesy of the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives. 

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  • Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans >
Former Cerealine Building, now Cummins Headquarters cafeteria, 1880
Former Cerealine Building, Cummins Cafeteria
Cerealine Building, circa 1867
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The Cerealine Building, with its gracefully-arched windows and doors, has been a part of the Columbus skyline for more than a century. The building originally was the main structure of the old Cerealine grain complex, believed to have been built in 1867. A former building to the north housed Cummins’ first factory and office for the seven years following the company’s founding in 1919. Cerealine, a dried corn product which was one of the world’s first dry breakfast cereals, and was featured on the menu of the Titanic, was made in this building.

The exterior of this historic structure, significant to both Columbus and Cummins, has been carefully renovated and is now an important part of the new office complex. The original 3,000 square feet on the ground floor have been doubled by means of a U-shaped addition which has become an employee cafeteria with views of the fountains and reflecting pond.

 

The Prall House - Columbus, Indiana
The Prall House - Columbus, Indiana
The Prall House, Charles Sparrel, 1891
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5th & Lafayette, Columbus
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Prall House was designed in the Queen Anne style by local architect Charles F. Sparrell in 1891. “This was the home of a dentist Dr. Will J. Prall who purchased the lot from the Irwin family with the provision that he build the Queen Anne style residence designed by Charles F. Sparrell that had been planned for that lot. The home was built sometime between 1891-1895 with Dr. Prall’s dentist office along the Lafayette Street side of the corner property. In the 1980s, Clementine Tangeman (J. Irwin Miller’s sister), who was living in the family mansion across the street, purchased the greatly remodeled house and restored it to the original look returning the Victorian fretwork and rebuilding a replica of the original front porch.” (from notes and documents contributed by Ricky Berkey, David Sechrest, and Tricia Gilson)

Historic Columbus City Hall - Charles Sparrell
Historic Columbus City Hall - Charles Sparrell
Historic Columbus City Hall, Charles Sparrel, 1895
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Fifth and Franklin Streets, Columbus
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Designed by Columbus architect Charles F. Sparrell, 1986 renovation by Landmarks Design Associates. Now repurposed for legal offices and apartments, the building was formerly Columbus City Hall and The Columbus Inn.

Charles Sparrel was the most influential architect in Columbus during the 1880s and 1890s, yet little is known about his personal life, other than that he arrived on the scene in Columbus around 1881. He was born in Boston in 1852, and attended a technical institute in Massachusetts, though it is not known if his studies were in the field of architecture.

He also is believed to have worked for Samuel Hege & Company lumber company as a shop foreman in 1882. Yet by 1890, Sparrell had designed not only the original Crump Theater, but also the Methodist church and numerous personal residences. By this time, he could advertise himself as an architect, and did so by claiming “school, church, opera house plans a specialty.”

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation, Charles Sparrel, 1896
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1200 Central Ave., Columbus
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The original Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation Headquarters (formerly ArvinMeritor Headquarters) was designed by Charles Sparrell in 1896 as a four-room schoolhouse. In 1989, Ratio Architects revamped the school into a handsome headquarters, including an addition of 29,000 square feet. The school corporation purchased the building in 2004.

Fire Station 1, Columbus, Indiana
Fire Station 1, Columbus, Indiana
Fire Station 1, Leighton Bowers, 1941
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1101 Jackson St., Columbus
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The original Fire Station One was designed by Leighton Bowers in 1941 in the Art Deco style with curved glass corner of buff brick, limestone, glass, and stainless steel. The addition and renovation was completed by Columbus architects James K. Paris and Nolan Bingham in 1990. Michael Van Valkenburgh completed the project with his landscaping design.

RELATED LINKS

New Brownsville Bridge at Mill Race Park - 1840

301 Washington - J. Irwin Miller's office - 1848

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation, Charles Sparrel - 1896

Bartholomew County Courthouse, Isaac Hodgson, 1874

Fire Station One, Leighton Bowers, 1941

Historic Columbus City Hall, Charles Sparrel - 1895

Inn at Irwin Gardens - 1864

The Prall House, Charles Sparrel, 1891