603-617 Indiana Ave.
Rubush and Hunter, a prominent local architectural firm at the time, designed the Walker Theatre in 1927 and added these terra-cotta tiles with African motifs. They’re an appropriate adornment for the architectural namesake of Indianapolis’ cosmetics queen Sarah Breedlove, aka Madam C.J. Walker. Believed to be the nation’s first female African-American millionaire, Walker had the flatiron-style building constructed as a cultural center, and for offices for her hair care business.
Old Indianapolis City Hall
202 N. Alabama St.
Triangular pediments over the main entrance greet visitors to the former site of the Indiana State Museum, better known by generations of fourth-graders as the home of the giant pendulum. The building was constructed in 1910 and served as City Hall into the 1960s. Architects Rubush and Hunter were influenced by classical Roman architecture, also seen in the structure’s massive engaged columns.
Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library
40 E. St. Clair St.
You know this one if you spent a good part of your 20th century childhood researching term papers in its musty shelves. This geometric design over the windows on the library’s main façade is credited to French-American architect Paul Philippe Cret. Built in 1913-1916, the Greek Revival masterpiece has been cited as one of the best examples of classical architecture in the United States.
Indianapolis Union Railroad Station
39 Jackson Place
The station, constructed from 1886 to 1888 and designed by Thomas Rodd, is an outstanding example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. The green tiles line the exterior of the train shed, visible today on the Illinois Street underpass as the station transitions to Crowne Plaza.
Murat Shrine building
502 N. New Jersey St.
Middle Eastern mosques influenced the design of the 1909 Murat Shrine Building, designed by architect Oscar D. Bohlen and constructed by William P. Jungclaus Co. The arch over the New Jersey Street entrance has the bright colors and complex geometric designs that characterize Islamic style. The Egyptian Room, added in the 1920s, features Egyptian motifs and was influenced by the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.
Soldiers’ and Sailors’
Monument, Monument Circle
Consider this your freebie. Most Indianapolis residents can spot details from the city’s signature landmark, but you might not know that the design team was assembled from around the globe. Architect Bruno Schmitz was from Berlin, and the sculptors hailed from Austria, Germany, Cleveland and Indianapolis. Construction of the 13-year project wrapped up in 1901.
H.P. Wasson and Co. building
2 W. Washington St.
This decorative metal grill looms over the Washington Street entrance to the building, which once housed the Wasson department store. The sleek limestone and granite exterior actually was added to three existing buildings in 1937, giving them a unified Art Deco facing.
L.S. Ayres building
1 W. Washington St.
Bernard Vonnegut Sr., grandfather of author Kurt Vonnegut, designed the 1905 building, which was the first modern department store in Indianapolis. The “A” shields adorn the top of the building. L.S. Ayres remained in the building until 1992. Today, its façade fronts the Carson Pirie Scott anchor store for Circle Centre mall.
Athenaeum (Das Deutsche Haus)
401 E. Michigan St.
Vonnegut and his local architectural firm, Vonnegut & Bohn, also designed the Athenaeum, which was constructed in two sections. The west section (in which the circular windows appear) was constructed in 1893 and 1894 in the Renaissance Revival style, while the eastern section represents the German Romanesque Revival style popular just a few years later.
45 Monument Circle
Rubush and Hunter were known for their fabulous theater buildings, and Circle Theater is one of the few that survive, according to “The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis.” This Neoclassical beauty from 1916 (note the Greek figure in Rockwood pottery in the tympanum) was the first theater in Indianapolis constructed solely to show movies. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra moved into the building in 1984.
St. John's Church
121 S. Capitol Ave.
The church’s namesake can be seen baptizing Jesus Christ in the stained glass window facing Capitol Avenue. Local architect Diedrich August Bohlen designed the church in 1867. The German immigrant led a fascinating life, which included fighting in the Civil War. He was known for his German Neo-Gothic style, variations of which can be seen in other Bohlen works, including Roberts Park United Methodist Church and Crown Hill Cemetery Chapel.
54 Monument Circle
The Test Building, built on Monument Circle in the 1920s, was one of the city’s earliest parking structures. Local architects Bass Knowlton and Co. also designed the building for retail and offices. Carved stone panels like one seen here (designed by sculptor Alexander Sangernebo) depict technological marvels from the day.
47 S. Pennsylvania St.
The Majestic, constructed in 1895-1896, was the first building in Indiana with a structural steel skeleton frame. The Indianapolis Gas Co. commissioned Oscar D. Bohlen to design the building; its north entrance features a sculpture of a flaming gas torch.
Scottish Rite Cathedral
650 N. Meridian St.
Many architectural historians assert that this 1927-1929 building is the best example of the Tudor Gothic Revival style in the Midwest, and possibly in the nation. Great details include the Tudor arch windows on the second floor. Architect George F. Schreiber, a German immigrant, designed the exterior, the library fixtures and the furniture, while Henry L. Behrens designed the rest of the interior spaces.
Indiana Repertory Theatre
140 W. Washington St.
The façade of what first was known as the Indiana Theatre nigh boggles the mind with its elaborate ornamentation on glazed terra-cotta tiles in the Spanish Baroque style. Designed by Rubush and Hunter and opened in 1927, the building first served as a movie theater and bowling alley. The IRT has used the building since 1980.
Indiana State Capitol
200 W. Washington St.
The state seal over the main entrance is a bit of a giveaway. Architect Edwin May designed the capitol in the Greek Revival style. Construction began in 1878; May died in 1880, leaving architect Adolph Scherer to supervise the work until construction wrapped up in 1888. It remains one of the largest such buildings in the United States.
Marrots Shoes Building
18-20 E. Washington St.
This mere sliver of a façade features a mix of the Tudor Revival style and Chicago School, evident in its large windows. The face of the building is covered in white terra-cotta tiles, and the decorative vases on projecting brackets are a distinctive touch. The 1899-1900 office building was a speculative venture financed by Franklin Vonnegut, Carl Von Hake and other investors. The architect is unknown.
17 W. Market St.
The Illinois Building was one of the finest and most luxurious office buildings in the city when it debuted in 1925. Master terra-cotta designer Alexander Sangernebo, an immigrant from Estonia, sculpted the limestone relief panels between the windows on the third story.
5 E. Market St.
The Art Deco Circle Tower from 1930 may be the most dramatic and distinctive building in the Mile Square, thanks to its terraced levels. Each floor above the 10th is set back from the one beneath, reflecting Mayan discoveries in the 1920s, according to “The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis.” The decorative motifs illustrate the popularity of Egyptology at the time of its design by Rubush and Hunter.
Old Trails Building
301-309 W. Washington St.
Also influenced by Art Deco, the former home of the Old Trails Automobile Insurance Association features stylized geometric motifs in terra-cotta panels. They include Indian heads and birds at the top of the building. Pierre and Wright, prominent local architects, designed the 1928 building, along with other such landmarks as Bush Stadium and the Indiana State Library.