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BICENTENNIAL: Four who made a difference: Construction, Design, Engineering

December 12, 2015
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Robert C. Hunt

1923-2005

Paul Hunt, founder of Huber Hunt & Nichols Co., turned over control of the Indianapolis construction firm in 1953 to his son, Robert C. Hunt. The younger Hunt was an engineering graduate of Case Institute of Technology and had done graduate work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Robert Hunt turned the firm into an international design/build construction firm that established expertise in sports-venue construction during the 1970s and after. In the 1980s, Hunt presided over the completion of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and specialized in urban office construction during the 1990s. The name of the firm changed to Hunt Construction Group in 2000, and Hunt’s son, Robert G. Hunt, was named president and CEO in 2005. Robert C. Hunt died in Arizona that year.•

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Hugh J. McGowan

1857-1911

Hugh J. McGowan created a network of electric interurban railways that connected much of the state that perhaps best represented the built environment of the early 20th century. An agent for Barber Asphalt Co. in Kansas City, McGowan came to Indianapolis to save the investments of Philadelphia financiers in the troubled Citizens Street Railroad Co. He organized the Indianapolis Railway Co., which bought Citizens, and in 1902 established Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Co. with the goal of building a strong, efficient electric railway system. In 1904, McGowan built Indianapolis Traction Terminal, an interchange for interurban railways, then worked to consolidate small interurban companies into a larger system, founding the Union Traction Co. of Indiana; the Fort Wayne and Wabash Valley Traction Co.; and the Terre Haute, Indianapolis and Eastern Traction Co., along with several interurbans in Ohio. His work allowed Indianapolis residents in the early 1900s the opportunity to travel quickly and cheaply around the state. McGowan died in December 1911 and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery on the city’s south side.•

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Adolph Scherrer

1847-1925

Adolph Scherrer (the adult in the photo) was a Swiss-born architect who settled in Indianapolis in 1873. Educated in Vienna and Budapest, Scherrer completed plans for the Statehouse on Capitol Avenue (then Tennessee Street) in 1888. He designed the Crown Hill Cemetery arches at 34th Street and Boulevard Place, the pathology building at Central State Hospital, and the Maennerchor Building at 502 N. Illinois St., all during the 1890s. His residential work on the North Meridian corridor was an early example in Indianapolis of the Prairie School of Architecture pioneered by Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1891, Scherrer was appointed to the city’s first Board of Public Works, which helped build the first citywide sewage system in Indianapolis. Scherrer died in February 1925.•

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Bernard Vonnegut

1846-1908

Bernard Vonnegut, who established the architectural firm Vonnegut and Bohn with fellow German-American Arthur Bohn in 1888, was another of the remarkable architects and designers who helped build the modern city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A native of Indianapolis, Vonnegut studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Polytechnic Institute in Hanover, Germany, before forming the firm that designed city structures such as the L.S. Ayres Building, Das Deutsche Haus (Athenaeum), the John Herron Art Institute, Shortridge High School and the Hotel Severin. The firm also designed the Student Union Building at Indiana University-Bloomington, Eliza Fowler Hall at Purdue University and the Federal Building in Vincennes. Vonnegut was a member of the Architectural League of New York and the American Institute of Architects and taught descriptive geometry classes at the German-American School operated by the Indianapolis Turnverein. He died in August 1908.•

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