Irwin Conference Center

Panorama photo of Irwin Conference Center, by Thomas Schiff


Seven buildings in Columbus, Indiana, have been recognized by the National Historic Landmarks program, an extraordinary number for a city of 46,000, and one of the reasons the unexpected Columbus collection of architecture is ranked alongside much larger cities like Boston and San Francisco.

What makes a landmark? The National Park Service explains, “National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places…because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States”

First Christian Church aerial photo by Phil Hanna
First Christian Church - interior - Eliel Saarinen
First Christian Church, Eliel Saarinen, 1942
531 5th Street, Columbus
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The First Christian Church was designed by architect Eliel Saarinen, father of Eero Saarinen. Completed in 1942, it was the first contemporary building in Columbus and one of the first churches of contemporary architecture in the United States. The geometric design is one of direct simplicity. A large stone cross accents the limestone façade. To the west stands the 166-foot high campanile, or free-standing bell tower. The materials, exterior and interior, are mostly buff brick and limestone.

Irwin Conference Center, formerly Irwin Union Bank, Eero Saarinen
Irwin Conference Center, formerly Irwin Union Bank, Eero Saarinen
Irwin Conference Center, Eero Saarinen, 1954
500 Washington Street, Columbus
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Cummins Inc. Irwin Conference Center, formerly Irwin Union Bank and Trust, was designed by Eero Saarinen in 1954, with landscape design by Dan Kiley. It is a low, glass-walled building set in a grove of trees. Unusual domed lights and an open interior creates a large open room and a feeling of openness and friendliness. The modern bank is linked to the 1910 office building and three-story building by a three-story glass arcade, which was designed by Kevin Roche and added in 1973. The striped glass of the arcade is made to help moderate the extremes of temperature a glass building can experience.

Miller House and Garden, exterior
Miller House and Garden conversation pit
Miller House and Garden, Eero Saarinen, 1957
The Miller House is located in a residential neighborhood and not accessible by the public – entry onto the property is obtained via tours, which start at the Columbus Visitors Center.

Find out much more about Miller House and Garden HERE.

The Miller House and Garden is the collaborative masterpiece of Eero Saarinen, Alexander Girard, Dan Kiley, and their patrons, J.I. and Xenia Miller.

Travel + Leisure magazine said the “Miller House ranks alongside Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, and Philip Johnson’s Glass House as a hallmark of Modernist design (and) it is surrounded by some of the most beautiful Modernist gardens in the United States, created by landscape architect Dan Kiley.” Read what the press has been saying about Miller House and Garden HERE.

McDowell Adult Education Center - Columbus, Indiana
McDowell Adult Education Center - Columbus, Indiana - photo by Ricky Berkey
McDowell Education Center, John Carl Warnecke, 1960

2700 McKinley Ave, Columbus
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John Carl Warnecke designed McDowell in 1960 as an elementary school with four cluster buildings that had three classrooms each and connecting open-air walkways. The school changed to adult education in 1988 and it was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1999.

"Warnecke was a prolific architect, known especially for his designs for Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., and the Kennedy Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. At one time, his firm, John Carl Warnecke and Associates, was the largest in the United States." – from Architect’s Gravesites, by tour guide Henry Kuehn

North Christian Church, photo by Rhonda Bolner
North Christian Church - interior
North Christian Church, Eero Saarinen, 1964
850 Tipton Lane, Columbus
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Eero Saarinen designed North Christian Church, which was completed in 1964. This is the last building designed by Eero Saarinen before his untimely death on September 1, 1961. Roche Dinkeloo & Associates, the successor architectural firm, completed the building. The sloping roof of this six-sided building blends with the landscaped earth-mound which surrounds it. This low line accentuates the slender 192-foot spire, topped with a gold-leaf cross, which gives its distinctive design. Dan Kiley landscaped the multi-acre site, including the parking lot with parking rooms.

In April 1961, Saarinen wrote, “We have finally to solve this church so that it can become a great building. I feel I have this obligation to the congregation, and as an architect, I have that obligation to my profession and my ideals. I want to solve it so that as an architect when I face St. Peter I am able to say that out of the buildings I did during my lifetime, one of the best was this little church, because it has in it a real spirit that speaks forth to all Christians as a witness to their faith.”

Visitors are welcome to view the interior of this church on weekdays (subject to availability). All guests must check in at the office. Enter from the main parking lot on the east side of the building.

First Baptist Church, Harry Weese - interior - Columbus, Indiana
First Baptist Church, Harry Weese, 1965
3300 Fairlawn Dr, Columbus
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First Baptist Church is positioned on the brow of a gently sloping knoll. This elevation, combined with its peaked non-dimensional bell tower, emphasizes the building’s function as a place of worship. The steep roof, twice as high as the supporting brick walls, is covered with hand-laid slate. The highlight of the interior design is a wall of pierced brick at the front of the chancel.

The Republic newspaper offices, Myron Goldsmith - Columbus, Indiana
The Republic newspaper offices, Myron Goldsmith - Columbus, Indiana
The Republic, Myron Goldsmith, 1971

333 Second St, Columbus
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Myron Goldsmith of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed the newspaper in 1971 of glass and steel and provided onlookers with a window into the business of communications. The open concept reflects the seven-day newspaper’s role as a central link in the information for the community. Originally, the paper's printing presses could be viewed from the street, as they printed the daily paper. The presses had to be moved to a larger printing plant off of Interstate 65 and south of Columbus.

The Republic was the seventh Columbus structure to be named an historic landmark, The U.S. Interior said, “The Republic is an exceptional work of modern architecture and one of the best examples of the work of Myron Goldsmith, a general partner in the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and a highly respected architect, architect

Myron Goldsmith said about the building: “If I have a total vision of architecture, it is that the majority of the building should be a structural solution, the most modest solution to the problem that one can find, executed and placed carefully in its setting.”

The building was a linchpin in the redevelopment plan for downtown Columbus in the late 1960s. This plan altered much of the existing downtown area, combining contemporary design with the grandeur of 19th-century architecture.



  • American Institute of Architects Honor Award - 1975
  • National Historic Landmark - 2012

Excerpts from the New York Times obituary...

Myron Goldsmith (was) a student both of Mies and of Nervi, two of the century's most important architects, Mr. Goldsmith brought their influence to bear on more than 40 projects he designed around the nation for the firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, where he worked from 1955 to 1983, the last 16 years as a general partner in its Chicago office.

Like Mies, Mr. Goldsmith sought to express the structural essence of his buildings in their exteriors, unmasked by ornament. Like Nervi, he designed with the sweeping arcs and long spans made possible by new technologies. The results were almost sculptural: cool, spare, gleaming and hard-edged.

Mr. Goldsmith's best-known work was the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope Facility of 1962, at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, which draws some 100,000 visitors a year.

Mr. Goldsmith distilled his philosophy in a 1987 monograph: "A building should be built with economy, efficiency, discipline and order."

(He) was disarming in person, almost an antithesis of his architecture; perpetually rumpled, with a bird's-nest tangle of hair and a shy, soft-spoken demeanor. "He managed with gentleness to exist and prosper in a field that is otherwise eaten up by tigerish egos," said Franz Schulze, an art historian and Mies biographer.

Mr. Goldsmith was born in Chicago and graduated in 1939 from the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he studied under Mies, whose Chicago office he joined in 1946. He worked there until 1953, when he received a Fulbright Grant to study under Nervi at the University of Rome.

Other significant projects were the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum of 1966, in California, which includes a circular arena 420 feet in diameter, ringed by a 70-foot-high glass wall behind enormous concrete X-braces; and The Republic newspaper plant in Columbus, Ind., completed in 1971, whose delicate aluminum and glass skin allowed passers-by to view the newsroom and pressroom.

Mr. Goldsmith had been a professor of architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology since 1961.

The seventh National Historic Landmark, Miller House and Garden, is in a private neighborhood and is only accessible by Visitor Center tours. 

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