Mobile Map Guide,
South Side, Stops 1-12


This guide is intended as a supplement to the $3 art and architecture guide that is available at the Visitors Center at 506 Fifth Street in downtown Columbus.

Visitors Center - Columbus

1 – Visitors Center

This was originally the home of John Storey, who owned a mill that operated in the former Columbus Inn, the multi-story brick building across the street to the southwest.

The building has repurposed multiple times – as a lodge for the order of Red Men, a furniture store, a Boy’s club, newspaper offices, and now a visitors center.

In 1973, J. Irwin Miller’s wife, Xenia, directed the renovation of the home into a visitors center for Columbus.

The back of the building was added in 1995 by Kevin Roche. His seamless addition repeats the original design, a technique known as adaptive reuse. Roche received architecture’s highest prize, the Pritzker Prize, in 1982.

The Dale Chihuly chandelier installation, near the steps to the second floor, was suggested by Roche.

Start here for maps, brochures, and answers to all your questions! Ask to see the free videos on the Columbus story and The Miller House and Garden, available anytime. Free restrooms are available downstairs

Take me to the Visitors Center.

Chihuly chandelier, Columbus, IN

2 – Chandelier and Persians

This nine-foot-tall glass chandelier is made up of 900 pieces of glass in four shades of yellow.

When it was installed, Dale Chihuly was about a year from creating his first major exhibition, in Venice.

Stop by in the evening and view it from outside, when the chandelier shows off its unique feature – it’s illuminated by neon tubes inside!

The accompanying Persians were named by Chihuly, who simply thought the name fit the shapes.

Want to own your own piece of Chihuly glass? The Visitors Center is one of the few places where you can purchase original Chihuly glass work and prints, in the gift shop.

Modern Totem by Martin Beach

3 –  Modern Totem

Columbus sculptor Martin Beach crafted this piece out of mesabi black granite which came from a Minnesota quarry.

The sculpture is an obelisk from two stacked, black granite stones, creating a modern and minimalist interpretation of a totem, an ancient symbol of community, gathering, and family.

The library’s stone steps came from the same quarry as these granite stones.

Take me to Modern Totem.

I.M. Pei Library, from southeast

4 – Library

An early project in I.M. Pei’s career, Pei set out to present the library as quiet, dignified, and accessible to persons of all ages.

Pei also wanted the plaza to create an urban space and convinced the community to close Lafayette Street to achieve this.

I.M. Pei is also known for his design of the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston,  and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Pei received architecture’s highest prize, the Pritzker Prize, in 1983.

The 1987 addition in the back is by local architect Jim Paris, who conferred with Pei during the process.

Take me to the Pei Library.

Large Arch from south in Fall

5 – Large Arch

Henry Moore was asked to design a sculpture of the library plaza at the suggestion of I.M. Pei, architect of the library, who thought that a work placed there should serve as focal point as well as a counter-balance to the two modernist structures that surround it.

The site and size of the work encourages people to walk around and through the sculpture, as Moore intended, he had said, “As a young sculptor, I saw Stonehenge and ever since I’ve wanted to do work that could be walked through and around.”

The sculpture was a gift to the community from J. Irwin and Xenia Miller.

Take me to Large Arch.

Inn at Irwin Gardens, from east

6 –  The Inn at Irwin Gardens

Joseph Ireland Irwin, the patriarch of the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller families, built the house in 1864. The house has been enlarged and redesigned over the years to accommodate four generations of the Irwin family.

The current home was designed in the Italianate style by Massachusetts architect Henry A. Phillips. The gardens were modeled after those in ancient Pompeii. 

Clessie Cummins, chauffeur to the Irwin family, began his experiments in the garage on this property, and it was his innovative ideas that led to the diesel engine that became the cornerstone of Cummins, Inc. (The garage was later replaced by the greenhouses on the north side of the property.)

J. Irwin Miller spent his formative years in this home, later in life he wrote, “My favorite room was always the one at the top of the tower, overlooking Fifth Street. It was the highest room in the house, and it opened onto the attic which had many interesting corridors and closets, and on rainy days this is where I and my friends spent most of our time playing.”

Take me to the Inn at Irwin Gardens.

Signature Academy - Lincoln

7 – Lincoln School

Gunnar Birkerts solved the challenge of building an elementary school that was close to  busy downtown street by lowering the building half a level underground and creating a sunken court around the exterior.

Another unique Birkets touch is the way the classrooms each share an exterior window, which minimizes exterior wall openings and increases building efficiency.

First Lady “Ladybird” Johnson visited Columbus in April of 1967 to dedicate a plaque at the entrance to the school, recognizing the school and Columbus for beautifying America, a focus of her White House years. She said, “It is said that architecture is frozen music but seldom in history has such a group of devoted artists produced such a symphony in stone as presents itself to the eye in Columbus, Indiana.”

Birkets was also chosen by St. Peters to build their new church across the street.

Take me to Lincoln School.

Central Middle School Columbus

8 – Central Middle School

The historic signage and facade elements create a connection between the new and old school, which was sited on the eastern side of the current track and field area.

Perkins+Will is consistently ranked among the world’s top design firms.

St. Peters - Birkerts

9 – St. Peter’s Church

Visitors are welcome to view the interior of this church on weekdays (subject to availability) – all guests must check in at the southeast entrance near the flagpole.

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church lifts itself among the surrounding spires with its 186-foot copper-clad spire. The structure is reinforced concrete, clad in brick and copper. The interior of the sanctuary is an interesting blend of white flat and curved surfaces. Artificial and natural lighting, maple furniture, limestone and maple liturgical furnishings and a variety of textures add to the interest. (Visitors may request access to the sanctuary, check in at the visitor’s entrance on the southeast side of the building.)

Gunnar Birkets also created Lincoln Signature Academy, directly across the street, over twenty years earlier.

Birkerts came to the U.S. from Latvia and worked first for Perkins and Will, then for Eero Saarinen, where he worked with Kevin Roche, Robert Venturi, and John Dinkeloo, and also worked for Minoru Yamasaki before opening his own office in the Detroit suburbs.

First Christian Church - Saarinen

10 – First Christian

Visitors are welcome to view the interior of this church on weekdays (subject to availability) – all guests must check in at the east entrance between Fourth and Fifth Streets on Lafayette.

Designed by Eliel Saarinen (father of Eero) and completed in 1942, First Christian is considered one of the first modernist churches in the United States. Its design was radical at a time when many churches were gothic in style, with tall steeples and steeply pitched roofs.

Saarinen’s design is asymmetrical – the doors, cross, and the clock on the clock tower are all off center, as are the aisle and the cross in the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is noted for its acoustics and features a tapestry designed and woven by Eliel Saarinen’s wife, Loja. Visitors may visit the interior after checking in at the desk on the east entrance, on Lafayette Street.

Patrick Sisson wrote in Curbed, “In the midst of World War II, the opening of a small-town church in south central Indiana became national news before it even opened its doors. When the design for the church was announced, Time magazine rhapsodized about how, ‘the costliest modern church in the world, planned by Europe’s most famous modern architect and his son, is going up across the street from a Victorian city hall.’“

First Christian Church has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Historic City Hall - Sparrell

11 – Historic Columbus City Hall

Designed by local architect Charles Sparrell and built in 1895, this building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The building was recently converted to law offices and loft apartments and the building has served many purposes throughout the years, including housing city government offices, the police department, a ballroom, a courtroom, an exhibit hall, and a gymnasium where basketball legend and Columbus native Chuck Taylor played.

AT&T Switching Station, Columbus

12 – AT&T Switching Station

Architect Paul Kennon wrapped existing and new portions of this building with a reflective façade that blends into the neighborhood by reflecting it.

The colorful heating and air conditioning system intake and exhaust pipes on the west side of the building are one of the most frequently photographed and iconic architectural details in Columbus.

Like Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Paul Kennon’s son also designed a building in Columbus, the Learning Center on the north side of town.

Take me to the AT&T Switching Station.

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