Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Art Moderne Indiana armories

The Indianapolis Heslar Naval Armory, along with another naval armory in Michigan City and an infantry armory in Darlington, were the focus of the feature story in the 1938 issue of Architectural Concrete magazine for their striking and cost-saving use of reinforced concrete. All three armories were designed by Indianapolis architects Ben H. Bacon and John P. Parrish in the streamlined Art Moderne style and built using labor supplied from the Works Progress Administration, known as the WPA. Completed during the Great Depression, concrete was chosen over other masonry choices due to lower materials cost as well as for the relative ease in training unskilled labor how to work with concrete.

The Drawings + Documents Archive maintains a collection of Architectural Concrete publications from 1935 to 1947. Produced by the Portland Cement Association, a national advocacy group for concrete manufacturers, the publication profiled building projects where concrete was used extensively. The article on the Indiana armories was written by the architects for all three projects, Bacon and Parrish, after the buildings were finished and had their dedication ceremonies.

An excerpt:
To many people an armory is just a place to go to see a wrestling match, prize fight, or a visiting soprano, but it has far more serious functions. It is a peace time training station for a war time army, a mobilization point for the National Guard in times of civil unrest, and a public shelter for victims of floods, hurricanes, and other local disasters. In many communities, particularly smaller towns and cities, the armory is the civic center. An armory can be the most used and most useful building in any community.

For this reason armory construction for many years has tended toward sturdy, permanent structures of architectural merit. And it is for this reason that the three new Indiana armories, erected during the past two years, are sturdy architectural concrete buildings, designed to reflect credit to the surrounding areas, and built to stand hard use for many a long year.

To learn more about the Indiana armories, visit Indiana Landmark's Hidden Gems website.

Images: Architectural Concrete, v. 5, no. 1, 1938. Trade Catalog Collection, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

NEW! Leslie F. Ayres collection now online

Thanks to the generosity of donors Steve and Sharon Zimmerman, a new collection of Leslie F. Ayres drawings was donated to the archive this summer. The entire collection has been digitized and is available for viewing online in the University Libraries' Digital Media Repository. It consists of drawings, sketches, presentation drawings, photographs, and reproductions of drawings made by the Indianapolis architect from 1926 to 1945. The finding aid for the collection can be found on our website.
The earliest drawings and sketches depict his student work at Princeton University, possibly his work at the prestigious architectural firm Pierre & Wright, and scenes around Indianapolis that caught his interest. The Indianapolis scenes include a wide range of subjects that include power plants, high schools, monuments, clubs, civic structures, and religious buildings. During a visit to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 he sketched scenes from the Belgian Village.

Ayres was well known among Indiana architectural circles for his highly refined and exquisite renderings. Even after he embarked on his own architectural practice he continued to receive rendering commissions from his former employers, Pierre & Wright, as well as from other prominent firms such as Rubush & Hunter, A. M. Strauss, and Robert Frost Daggett. His beautiful and atmospheric renderings, which were often made in watercolor and colored pencil, lent an air of sophistication to any project and were used to sell the client on the architect’s design. He was so successful that in 1948 the magazine National Architect described him as "just about the only professional renderer in Indiana."

His professional drawings from the 1930s and 1940s depict residences, apartment buildings, and churches that it is not yet known whether they were ever built or where they stand. One realized project represented by seven black-and-white photographs in the collection is the Wilkinson House in Muncie, Indiana. This Art Moderne masterpiece has been widely celebrated as one of the best examples of this style of residential architecture in Indiana.

Images: Indianapolis Athletic Club sketch, 1933; Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument and Monument Circle sketch, 1933; Chicago World's Fair Belgian Village sketch, 1933; Small house similar to Honeymoon House presentation drawing, undated. Leslie F. Ayres Architectural Drawings, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Jay C. Bixby Collection now online!

Researchers of southern Indiana architectural history will be thrilled that the Jay C. Bixby Architectural Records are now online in the University Libraries' Digital Media Repository. This collection contains architectural and business records from the Vincennes, Indiana, architectural office founded by John B. Bayard and continued by Rudolph W. Schucker and Jay C. Bixby, from 1910-1965. 

Included are architectural working drawings by the firm for 15 projects in southwestern Indiana, and additional projects represented by specifications, photographs, newspaper clippings, contracts, and bills for architectural services. The images, above, show the Vermillion, Indiana, Courthouse from concept drawings to photographs of construction and the completed building.

The collection also contains drawings for two houses in Nevada, Iowa, designed by Bixby early in his career, scrapbook material, and plans by the Hirons & Mellor architectural firm from New York, New York, for the George Rogers Clark Memorial in Vincennes, Indiana.

Images: Vermillion County Courthouse drawing; construction and completed building photographs, 1924-1925. Jay C. Bixby Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Losing Another Edward Pierre: 16th and Capitol

In a refrain that is becoming fearfully common, another building designed by Edward Pierre is expected to be torn down. The teardown of this particular building rips at the hearts of many in Indianapolis who know it as the former home of much beloved Crawford's Bakery, the local purveyor of delicious cream cheese brownies and splendid birthday cakes. For anyone interested in architecture, the loss from this rather small building will be heartbreaking, indeed. Its demure stature belies its historic significance to Indiana architecture.

It was built by Pierre & Wright, Architects, in 1926, and originally held George Pandell's Flower Shop. You can see Pandell's Flower Shop in the historic black and white photo, above, which is in the Pierre & Wright Collection at the Drawings + Documents Archive at Ball State University.

The handsome commercial building now stands at the corner of 16th Street and Capitol Avenue, but may not stand there for very long. Its shop fronts look much like they did in the 1920s, with large expanses of glass and stately limestone eagles perched atop ornamental columns along the façade. Rosettes are interspersed amongst the terra cotta arranged in a stylish diamond pattern.

It's an altogether elegant building that has stood the test of time well and provided a refuge for those in need of beauty, whether in the form of flowers for a sweet occasion or sweets for any occasion. But most of all it provided beauty in an area that is increasingly strained with its fast food chains and uninspired parking garages. This is not only a loss for Indianapolis architecture, but also a loss of what is beautiful about our city.

Indiana Landmarks has been trying valiantly to save this building for years, but to no avail. The building owner has offered to allow someone to salvage the terra cotta from the façade. If anyone is able to preserve this portion of the building, please contact Indiana Landmarks.

Images: Pandell Flower Shop, 16th and Capitol, Indianapolis, 1926. Pierre & Wright Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.
Former Crawford's Bakery, 2014. Photo by Indiana Landmarks.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On the market: Edward Pierre

A colleague recently alerted me to an Edward Pierre residence on the market that appeared in the July issue of Indianapolis Monthly under the title "Realty Check: What $550,000 Gets You in Brendonwood." Well, what someone will get is Pierre's 1954 Indianapolis Home Show model home, called The All American Home, for which we have fantastic interior and exterior renderings. And we get to see some of the changes to the home over the past 60 years. To look at current real estate photos, check the Indianapolis Monthly article online and the listing on Zillow. You can compare these current images with images in our collection, which you can see a sampling here or the full set in our online Pierre & Wright Architectural Records collection in the University Libraries' Digital Media Repository.

Photograph of the home on display at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in 1954:

 Interior renderings:

Landscape plan by James A. Maschmeyer:

Images: Indianapolis Home Show house and landscape, 1954. Photograph and renderings. Edward Pierre, architect; James A. Maschmeyer, landscape architect. Pierre & Wright Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Introducing Indiana Architecture X3D

Our Indiana Architecture X3D (IAX3D) initiative brings historic architecture to life using contemporary 3D model and print technology that you can download to your computer or print on a 3D printer. It enables anyone to research and discover designs from long-lost buildings that once graced Indiana environs.

The project launches with the Wysor Grand Opera House built by Henry W. Matson for Jacob H. Wysor in 1891. This Romanesque Revival opera house exemplifies the exuberance and style of Muncie’s gas-boom era, and seems a perfect building to begin our project. Converted into a movie theater in the early 20th century, the building remained a theater until it was razed in 1967. Until now, a few photographs and the architect’s original drawings were the only methods researchers had to explore the ornate façade or intricate ironwork of the interior. Using the original, exquisite ink on linen drawings, we have modeled significant details and the entire building using cutting-edge 3D modeling software and printed them on the 3D printer located in the Ball State University College of Architecture & Planning.

Two different file types are available for download. To print the object on a 3D printer, download the 3D print-ready file which will open in Rhino. An object file is also available for those who want to look at the file in Photoshop.

The image, above, is a screenshot of the entire building model compared with the original drawing used to create the original and virtual front facades. We also recreated numerous details taken from the original drawings. Below, you can see examples of the details, as well as the original 1891 drawings.


Images: Wysor Grand Opera House front façades, 1891 and 2014, IAX3D; Details by Austin Pontius, 2013, IAX3D; Wysor Grand Opera House detail drawings, 1891, Kibele & Garrard Architectural Drawings. Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Connections between architects among our archival collections are usually rather interesting and offer perspectives into their personalities, friendships, and how they conducted business. These are often ephemeral exchanges removed from their professional design work, which is understandably the focus of each collection. Such is the case with the letter, above, from the young Terre Haute architect Ewing H. Miller II to the established Indianapolis architect Edward D. Pierre.

Miller had recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and was applying for his license from the National Council of Architectural Registration Board. He needed three references and asked Edward Pierre, a longtime friend of his uncle, architect Warren D. Miller, to serve as one of those references. Pierre's unequivocal response that not only does he love the Miller family, but he believes in Ewing's abilities, is striking.

We readers in the 21st century have the luxury of knowing that Edward Pierre was eventually considered one of the greatest Indiana architects, and we also know that Ewing Miller became another great architect for his generation. Pierre was right to believe in Ewing. He ended up having a long and prestigious career that altered the Hoosier landscape and brought the study of psychology into the process of design. Now retired, Miller was recently awarded the prestigious AIA Presidential Award on behalf of his work and that of two other Miller family architects--his father Ewing H. Miller and uncle Warren D. Miller.

We are currently processing a new, large collection of materials from Ewing Miller, and are finding many incredible photographs, professional papers, research, drawings, and, yes, correspondence. We'll post some of our finds on the blog as we prepare the collection for large-scale digitization.

Image: Ewing H. Miller II and Edward D. Pierre correspondence, 1953. Miller Family Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Leslie Ayres Architectural Drawings

We are very pleased to announce a recent donation from Stephen and Sharon Zimmerman of drawings, sketches, photographs, and watercolor paintings by Indiana architect Leslie F. Ayres. The collection includes some of his early work, likely for the architectural firm Pierre & Wright, his student work at Princeton University, and later examples of his own commissions. Many of the drawings, sketches, and paintings depict scenes around downtown Indianapolis during the 1920s through the 1940s. Ayres grew up on the east side of the city and went to school at Arsenal Technical High School, so many of the scenes show that area of town and nearby downtown. The image above is the DePew Memorial Fountain in downtown Indianapolis' University Park.
Ayres (1906-1952) was an extremely talented renderer and architect. His beautiful and atmospheric renderings, which were often made in watercolor and colored pencil, lent an air of sophistication to any project and were used to sell the client on the architect’s design. He was so successful that in 1948 the magazine National Architect described him as “just about the only professional renderer in Indiana.”

While his time was in high demand for other architect's projects, he also built his architectural practice by designing residences, apartments, commercial buildings, and chapels in his distinctive Art Moderne and Art Deco styles. Buildings such as the Federal Economic Recovery Act Building (1934) at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and the Wilkinson House (1936) in Muncie, Indiana, exemplify his modern and glamorous contributions to Indiana architecture. An active leader in the Indianapolis Home Show from 1940-1947, Ayres designed many of the model homes during this time. He created sophisticated small homes that did not trade style for square footage.
Ayres died at the young age of 46, but left behind extraordinary contributions to Indiana architecture. His buildings that remain typify the elegance of an age long lost, and his drawings, now archived at the Drawings + Documents Archive, allow us a glimpse into that era.
Image: DePew Memorial Fountain, University Park, Indianapolis, undated. Watercolor on paper. Leslie Ayres Architectural Drawings, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Historic Indianapolis Architecture Video on YouTube

You can now view a selection of historic images of Indianapolis architecture on our new video available at YouTube. See Bush Stadium, formerly known as Perry Stadium, soon after it was built in 1932 by architects Edward Pierre and George Caleb Wright. Recently renovated to condos, the façade remains intact much as you see in the historic photographs. Notice the ticket booths in the columns of the stadium--Pierre later wrote that was one of his most clever design elements of the project. Other highlights of the short film include buildings, such as the Athenaeum and Herron Art Gallery, by the venerable firm Vonnegut & Bohn.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Recent donation: Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital and landscape models

The Drawings + Documents Archive is pleased to announce the recent donation of building and landscape models for the new Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital and Eskenazi Health campus in Indianapolis. HOK led the design team of architects and landscape architects that includes RATIO Architects, BSA LifeStructures, A2SO4, Blackburn Architects Inc., Olin, Context, PlatinumEarth, and Synthesis Inc. The hospital, which just opened four months ago, stands  11-stories tall, contains 1.7 million square feet, and cost $754 million to build. It is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification and boasts, among many state-of-the-art features, the “Sky Farm,” a rooftop vegetable garden intended to provide food for staff, patients, and visitors.
The models depict the hospital building and the landscape plan along the north side of the building's entrance. Both are currently on display in the College of Architecture & Planning Gallery.

Images: Sidney &Lois Eskenazi Hospital building and landscape models, 2013. Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University. Photographs courtesy of Malcolm Cairns.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Archives on the radio: Edwin Gibson

Join us this Saturday morning when the Drawings + Documents Archive archivist will be with Olon Dotson, Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning professor, and Gary Gibson, son of architect Edwin Gibson (1925-2011), to talk on the Harambee radio program hosted by Dr. Thomas L. Brown on Indianapolis radio station WTLC 1310. We will be talking about Edwin Gibson's impressive legacy as the first African American architect registered in Indiana, as well as Indiana's first African American State Architect. Tune in to WTLC from 9-10 a.m. to learn about an architect who succeeded despite many obstacles and the buildings he created.

To listen to our broadcast click the play button below.

Image: Edwin Gibson at the drafting table in the office of A.M. Strauss, 1940s. Edwin A. Gibson Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Byers Snow Melting Systems

For those of us who may be a little tired of shoveling snow this winter, this snow melting system from the A. M. Byers Company looks like a dream come true. The company operated out of the great steel state of Pennsylvania, with their plant located in Ambridge and main offices in Pittsburgh. The Ambridge plant opened in 1930, during the beginning throes of the Depression, and closed its doors in 1969. At the time of this publication, which we believe is 1953, they also had offices in nine additional cities around the country. The company developed a specific process that became known as the Byers Process to manufacture wrought iron in greater quantity with a more consistent quality product.

Images: Byers Wrought Iron Pipe for Snow Melting Systems, circa 1953. Trade Catalog Collection, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University Libraries.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Architectural Holidays

From the office of Edward D. Pierre comes this angel adorning a holiday card from 1956, which can be found in the collection of architect and former alum from Pierre's previous firm Pierre & Wright, Fran Schroeder. They maintained a friendship throughout their careers, but Schroeder had his own firm by this time. A natural historian, it's in Schroeder's files that we find many of the holiday cards from Pierre, Leslie Ayres, and others. On this card, Pierre included his fellow architects in the firm, James Merrifield, Richard C. Zimmer, and J. Parke Randall.

Image: Holiday card from the office of Edward D. Pierre, 1956. Fran Schroeder Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Architectural Holidays

Architect Joseph Cezar highlights the banner proclaiming Peace on Earth Good Will to Men that was such an important part of Edward Pierre's early holiday displays on Monument Circle, and adds a personal message on a separate banner to make the scene fitting for this 1952 holiday card from him and his wife, Betty. The card is a reprint from one of Cezar's pencil drawings.

Image: Christmas card from Joe and Betty Cezar, 1952. Joseph O. Cezar Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Losing another Edward Pierre

While the city enjoyed the Circle of Lights, a much-beloved yearly holiday tradition Edward Pierre created many decades ago, bulldozers and wrecking balls were being planned for one of his buildings just a few blocks away at 1440 North Meridian Street. It was torn down this weekend.

His design for the Riddick Building in 1949, shown above, was altered substantially in later years from the inviting, open wall of glass meant to highlight the display of grand pianos on the first floor. As it looked most recently on Google Street View, below, shows the negative impact of such a severe alteration. The building, which once looked modern with its clean lines, glass walls, and streamlined columns, suffered from the addition of a stone façade that lent it the air of a small, but forbidding fortress on Meridian Street. Riddick Building, 1949-2013.

Images: Riddick Building, 1440 N. Meridian Street, Indianapolis, 1949. Sketch by Leslie Ayres. Pierre & Wright Architectural Records, drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Google Street View of 1440 N. Meridian Street, accessed December 19, 2013.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Architectural Holidays

Every December, we post some of our favorite things in the archives--holiday cards designed by architects from our collections. This year we start with one that is truly meaningful for all of us here at the College of Architecture and Planning. It's one of a series of Noel cards designed by the first dean of the college, Charlie Sappenfield, who sadly passed away earlier this year. The card is undated, but was likely sent during the holidays in the late 1960s. A true Modernist, Sappenfield's design for the card displays a restrained color palette with a graphic that is both strong and playful.

Image: Noel holiday card, undated. Charles M. Sappenfield Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Circle of Lights History

It took the vision of one man, architect Edward Pierre, to make the holiday seasons brighter in downtown Indianapolis for generations. Learn more about the origin of the yearly spectacle from a recent WTHR news story by correspondent Mary Milz as she interviews Edward Pierre's granddaughter and visits the Pierre & Wright collection at the Drawings + Documents Archive.

Image: Monument Circle holiday model photograph, date unknown. Fran Schroeder Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

New! Archives Research Award

The Ball State University Libraries and College of Architecture and Planning are proud to announce its first Archives Research Award to promote and recognize excellence in undergraduate and graduate student archival research at the College of Architecture and Planning. This award acknowledges a student who has demonstrated distinction through an academic project (including, but not limited to, thesis, design projects, creative writing, artwork, websites, and exhibits) that is based substantially on Drawings + Documents Archive materials. 

Serving on the Archives Research Award Committee are Karen Keddy, assistant professor in the Department of Architecture; Amy Trendler, architecture librarian; and Carol Street, archivist. Dr. Keddy describes the archives and new award as “CAP is very fortunate to have such an amazing resource as the archives within the building itself. This award is one more way to engage students in the exciting world of archival research. Not only does this award honor those students who already engage in outstanding archival research, but it is hoped that it will also serve to attract and motivate those students who have an interest in this type of research.” 

Any Ball State University undergraduate or graduate student studying Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning, Urban Design, or Historic Preservation is eligible to receive this award. Since the academic project for which students will be considered for the award can be a creative project as well as a traditional writing project, we hope to receive a wide range of submissions that span across all of the disciplines here at the college.

Professors, please encourage your students to apply for this exciting new award. The members of the award committee are very much looking forward to seeing how students have been using the collections. Entry forms are available in the archives and on our website. The deadline to apply is March 1st.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Latin Quarter Fete benefitting the Architects' Relief Fund, 1932

Recessions have proven to be incredibly difficult times for architects, and the Great Depression of the 1930s caused many architects to lose work and the ability to support their firms and families. Chapters of the AIA and other architects' societies around the country organized relief efforts to aid architects. Some of these efforts included raffles, home tours, and auctions. In Chicago, the organizers for the Architects' Relief Fund hosted a "Latin Quarter Fete" themed fundraiser at the fashionable Drake Hotel in 1932. The poster for the event, shown above, depicts a dizzying event complete with dancers, libations, rabbits, and carousel horses. Costumes obligatory.

While I haven't been able to locate historical photos of the event in our collection, or at other repositories, perhaps you know where they reside. If you do, please share links in the comments below.

Image: The Architects' Present A Latin Quarter Fete for the Benefit of the Architects' Relief Fund poster, 1932. Poster Collection, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vonnegut & Bohn Collection Online

The Drawings + Documents Archive’s collection of drawings and photographs from the prominent Indianapolis architectural firm of Vonnegut & Bohn is now available online in the Ball State University Digital Media Repository. Materials include photographs and architectural drawings for 16 building projects in Indianapolis and Evansville, Indiana. The collection is part of the larger Wright, Porteous, and Lowe Architectural Records, and is the first series of the collection to be digitized. Plans include drawings for Indianapolis Public School #33, Kahn Tailoring Company, Merchants Building, Evansville Telephone Exchange Building, The Children’s Museum addition, a gas station, and the Vonnegut Hardware Store. Photographs depict the Atheneum, Herron School of Art, Roosevelt Building, Lyric Theater, and the daring move of the Indiana Bell Telephone Company Building.

Monday, August 26, 2013

George Rogers Clark Memorial Repairs Finished

After five years of working on infrastructure, lighting, air handling, drainage, and other issues at the George Rogers Clark Memorial, officials will unveil the substantial improvements at a public event September 14, 2013.

The repairs correct significant water issues that have plagued the memorial since it opened. The National Park Service, which owns the park and memorial, chronicles the memorial building's long-standing problems on its website:

On March 26, 1934, within six weeks of the day the memorial building was accepted by the executive committee, the members were informed that following a rain there appeared: “numerous small leaks through the terrace into the finished rooms in the basement . . . (and) there were very heavy leaks around the downspouts at the corners of the terrace.”

By Jan. 30, 1937 leaks had become so numerous that a report stated, “the disastrous results” to the building were “appalling.”

During April 1939, an inspection of the structure described the situation and “decadent conditions . .. caused by leakage, which had been allowed to exist.” This inspection found stalactites four feet in length where water seeped through the structure.

This inspection also identified the cause of the seepage problem as “damage to (the) waterproof membrane.” This was caused when granite slabs were moved into place and the concrete of the terrace surface was poured. “Improperly designed terrace drains” also were cited as a contributing factor. The report concluded, “If money were no problem, the difficulty could be corrected by removal of all the granite slabs and pebble-concrete terrace pavement and replacement of the fractured waterproof membrane.”
Money would however, be a problem. During the coming years, thousands of dollars were expended upon sealing joints and attempts to waterproof the surface of the terrace. Attempts to solve the problems were undertaken during 1941, 1943, 1952, 1958, 1965, 1973, 1978, and 1979. While some proved temporarily successful, none stopped the water seepage into the basement.

During 1998, the National Park Service was preparing for yet another waterproofing effort. The park staff at that time decided to forego the effort and, instead, seek funding for a permanent fix to the problem.

The work currently being performed essentially is the same as that recommended in the 1939 inspection report. The concrete of the terrace is being removed to the level of the waterproof membrane. The membrane then will be replaced. The stone steps and outer walls will be removed and the walls and support system repaired or replaced. When the terrace surface is replaced, a new drain system will take the place of the original “improperly designed drains.”

Above is a photo of the memorial under construction, from our Jay C. Bixby Architectural Records collection. Bixby wasn't one of the architects responsible for designing the poor drains, but he was one of the architects hired to perform repair work in the 1940s. Bixby also saved the materials related to the architectural competition for the memorial, specifications for the original building, and specifications for his later repairs, all of which can be found in his collection at the Drawings + Documents Archive. 

Image: Photograph of the George Rogers Clark Memorial under construction, 1931. F. C. Hirons & F. W. Mellor, architects. Jay C. Bixby Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Archives Open House

Students and faculty are invited to the Drawings + Document Archive's open house on the first day of classes to learn more about the collections and how we can support their academic endeavors this year. The Open House will be Monday, August 19, from 2-4 p.m.
In honor of the 100 year anniversary of Formica, we have an exhibit of Formica pattern books and samples from our Trade Catalog Collection. Examples include early, 1920s Formica sample chips with their hand-written identification labels and thick pattern books with perforated tear sheets that architects used to give to clients in the 1950s and 1960s. It's definitely worth stopping by to see the souvenir book from the 1964 World's Fair House Formica exhibit, which contains some rather unbelievable uses for Formica.
Also on display is the set of Wysor Grand Opera House drawings by Fort Wayne architect H. W. Matson, from 1891. This impressive building stood at the corner of Jackson and Mulberry Streets in downtown Muncie until it was razed for a parking lot. Local architects Kibele & Garrard were hired to do later renovations to convert the opera house to a movie theater, and likely acquired the original Matson drawings at that time. The entire collection of Kibele & Garrard drawings is currently being digitized and will be online soon.

Images: Formica Brand Laminated Plastic: Colors and Patterns cover, 1966; Detail of Roulette pattern from New Citation Series for Professional Specifiers: Solid Colors, Special Designs: Formica Laminated Plastic, 1960; Wysor Grand Opera House details, 1891, Kibele & Garrard Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Indianapolis Art Deco Unrealized

In the archives we often find drawings for unrealized projects in the collections. Typically these are presentation drawings which were meant to sell the client on the architect's vision for the project. Sometimes the reasons for not building the project appear obvious--perhaps the design was too adventurous or too elaborate. But other times the presentation drawings are so beautiful and the project seems so, well, right, that it's a mystery it was never built or remodeled in that manner.

Such is the case with the Pierre &Wright, Architects drawing for a proposed remodel of 647-655 Virginia Avenue in Indianapolis' Fountain Square neighborhood. Some of you may recognize the courtyard today as the home of Bluebeard restaurant, which has earned much recognition lately as being one of the leaders in Indianapolis' burgeoning restaurant scene.

Drawn in 1935 by Leslie Ayres, who may very well have been the Don Draper creative at Pierre & Wright for his ability to stir emotion and visualize a project for the client, the board highlights the Art Deco façade remodel framed by trees and the bustling activity on the street. Ayres' ability to create atmospheric and extraordinary presentation drawings was unparalleled in the firm. Edward Pierre, one of the principals, discovered his artistic ability while Ayres was still a student at Arsenal Tech High School and quickly hired him. Ayres later returned the favor by coordinating Pierre's successful nomination to the American Institute of Architects Fellowship program, one of the highest designations within the profession.

It's easy to think clients had a difficult time turning down his presentation drawings of buildings so eloquently and expertly drawn, but this particular scheme was turned down. The project appears to have ended at the presentation stage and was never given a commission number.

Image: Shopping Complex Proposed Remodel, 1935. Pierre & Wright Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries.

Friday, June 28, 2013

New Archival Collection: S. E. Arvin & Sons Records

The Drawings + Documents Archive is pleased to announce a new collection available for research, the S. E. Arvin & Sons Records. This collection of business records, photographs, plat maps, and architectural drawings dating from 1940 to 1953 is unique among our collections because it documents the business of building a subdivision of prefabricated houses in Indianapolis during the residential housing boom following World War II.

Sherrill E. Arvin had worked independently as a home builder and, after returning home from service in the Navy during WWII, changed the name of the company to S. E. Arvin & Sons to reflect the involvement of his sons, Sherrill T, James, and Donald. Sherrill's wife, Isabell Arvin, also worked for the business as the secretary and treasurer and likely was the one responsible for keeping the detailed records. The papers were recently discovered in the attic of a home in Indianapolis and generously donated to the archives.

Sherrill Arvin had built homes for architects connected with the Indianapolis Home Show, most notably he built architect Leslie Ayres' "Manor House" for the 1941 Indianapolis Home Show, which has been discussed previously on this blog. The photographs shown of residences on Eaton Avenue and Kingsley Drive also show some of his work in 1940.

The main focus of the collection is the Arlington Woods subdivision in Indianapolis, with an emphasis on Bolton and Campbell Avenues from 30th to 33rd Streets. Individual house files date from 1948-1951 and document the process of funding, building, inspecting, and selling the homes. In the collection are blueprints for houses by the Strathmoor Company of Detroit, Michigan, and billing records for houses by the Thyer Manufacturing Corporation of Toledo, Ohio.

Images: Eaton Avenue (Washington Place), Indianapolis, Ind., 1940 and 5708 Kingsley Drive, Indianapolis, Ind., 1940. S. E. Arvin & Sons Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The (Often) Interesting Lives of Archival Materials

The route an item takes before it enters into an institutional collection can be incredibly interesting, mysterious, often serendipitous, and, sometimes, baffling. Such is the story of how one very large framed photo collage came to be reunited with its already-donated companions after ten years apart.

The photo collage in question measures five feet long and two feet high, so it’s surprising that it was overlooked when boxes containing the extensive Wright, Porteous, and Lowe collection were packed at the Fort Wayne offices of its subsequent firm, the Bonar Group. But the photo collage did miss the van that brought numerous rolls of architectural drawings, presentation drawings, and two similarly-sized framed photo collages to the Drawings + Documents Archive in the summer of 2003.
Ten years pass and this is when serendipity starts to happen. Over the past ten years, the Bonar Group has been sold to another firm and moves locations. The building sits empty for some period of time until it gets a new owner, RealAmerica Development, LLC, who hires RATIO Architects to renovate it. Architect, Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning alum, and friend of the Drawings + Documents Archive, Ben Ross, is the one who walks through the building and finds, hanging on a wall, the framed photo collage containing photographs of Wright, Porteous, and Lowe architects and building projects. Ben has no idea there are two other companion photographs already in the archives and we have no idea there is a third, missing photograph until he sends an email with the photo, below, asking if we would want it, which is answered with a resounding YES!

The photographs in the two collages that had already been donated represent the principals and building projects during different eras of the firm’s existence. Beginning with Vonnegut & Bohn, Architects, the first photo collage includes black and white photographic portraits of Bernard Vonnegut and Arthur Bohn, and photographs of some of their accomplishments in Indianapolis, namely the Fletcher Trust Company, Southside Turnverein, Athenaeum, Herron School of Art, William H. Block Company, L.S. Ayres & Company buildings, and a busy street scene along Washington Street.

The firm Vonnegut & Bohn operated approximately from 1887 to 1919. Bernard Vonnegut died in 1908, but was succeeded by his son, architect Kurt Vonnegut, Sr., father of novelist Kurt Vonnegut, so the name remained the same. From 1920 to 1944, the firm became known as Vonnegut, Bohn & Mueller, with the addition of engineer O. N. Mueller.

George Caleb Wright joined this firm after his firm with Edward Pierre, known as Pierre & Wright, dissolved in 1944. The new firm became Vonnegut & Wright and then Vonnegut, Wright & Yeager for a short time before becoming Vonnegut, Wright and Porteous, Inc. in 1955.
The second photo collage dates appears to have been assembled sometime around 1950, the only date which appears on the front of the photograph of Kurt Vonnegut, Sr. Projects depicted include earlier work done by their respective previous firms, such as the Indiana State Library, Victory Field (now known as Bush Stadium), Perfect Circle Factory, and Oxford Gables Apartments, by Pierre & Wright, and Indiana Bell Telephone Company, Lyric Theater, and Roosevelt Building, by Vonnegut & Bohn.

The third photo collage, which we just received, dates from after the time of George Caleb Wright’s retirement in 1961. Wright’s son, William Caleb Wright, had joined the firm by then, as well as Alfred John Porteous, and C. Charles Lowe, Jr. The three gentlemen on the left are unidentified, but are likely W. C. Wright, Porteous, and Lowe. One of the architects in the photos has been identified as Robert LaRue. Projects depicted include the construction of the City-County Building before the demolition of the Marion County Courthouse, Lilly facilities, First Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana, (Pierre & Wright were the architects of record for Eliel Saarinen), Indiana University’s Metz Memorial Carillon, Bloomington, Indiana, and yet unidentified residences and office buildings.
The photographs fill in an important part of the history of the firm, and we’re thrilled to have them back with their companion pieces. When you start to think of all the decisive moments that added up to this piece being saved and coming to the right institution—from the person who originally found it and left it behind, to the building managers who left it hanging there and didn’t throw it away, to the new building owners who wanted to do the right thing, and the architect who recognized its research value and made the connection to our archives—it’s really quite astounding and serendipitous that it found its way back to join the others.

Images: Wright, Porteous & Lowe photograph collage, photo by Ben Ross, 2012. Vonnegut & Bohn; Vonnegut & Wright photograph collages, early 1900s-1950s. Wright, Porteous & Lowe Architectural Records, Drawings + Documents Archive, Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries.