1981: Exploring Indy’s Art Deco architecture with Howard Caldwell

Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 05:01:07-04

INDIANAPOLIS — All too often we go through life without noticing the little things. Former WRTV anchor Howard Caldwell knew this and often used his gift of storytelling to take a closer look at the world around us as part of his series, “Howard’s Indiana.”

That was the case in March 1981 when Caldwell spoke with writer and photographer Glory-June Greiff, who had recently published a book on Art Deco architecture in Indianapolis.

Greiff and Caldwell visited several sites in Indianapolis including the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on the north end of Mass Ave.

Greiff noted some of the unique characteristics of the building which was designed by Rubush & Hunter.

“It’s the earliest form of Art Deco that happened," Grieff said. “There are many more examples of these perhaps in New York, this is certainly the best example of this French style of Art Deco. It shows the geometric flowers, the flowing fountains, all in a very stylized manor, but the themes are still organic and taken from nature.”

The pair also visited what Grieff called the Art Deco masterpiece of Indianapolis, the Circle Tower.

The building was also designed by Rubush & Hunter in 1930. It featured Egyptian-influenced designs which were influenced by the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922.

“It has just about everything. It has the richest of materials.”

Those materials included terrazzo floors in the lobby, marble walls and various brass depictions of speed including flying birds and speeding greyhounds.

WRTV followed up with Glory-June Greiff for this story. She laments that more buildings weren’t preserved.

“We had some wonderful examples that we’d lost even before I did the book, and so many were destroyed after that," Grieff said. "I wish we had saved more.”

Some notable buildings that met their demise include Lockefield Gardens, The Maco Market, Rost Jewelers and The Kresge Building.

Greiff was happy to see new life inside the Coca-Cola bottling plant, now known as the Bottleworks District.

“I gave tours of that building," Greiff said. "I’m very much a proponent of adaptive reuse, although I could hardly have envisioned this.”