The Majestic Building
Architect Oscar Bohlen designed this stately historic building, the first skyscraper in Indianapolis to utilize an all-steel frame. Bohlen's client, the Indiana Gas Company, used this as their headquarters building when construction was complete in 1896. It replaced a structure in the same spot that burned down in 1894. The gas utility company also sold gas water heaters and ranges. They advertised that "In cooking - you can do it better with gas." They were not the only tenant, as The New York Central Railroad, the building's architect, and other companies also rented space in the ten-story building at the time of its completion. One tenant in 1896 was the Munyon Homeopathic Remedy Company, who advertised its tonic with this catchy slogan: "Munyon Cures Bad Coughs. Don't Neglect that Hack, Hack, Hack. Now's the Time for the Conquering Attack." The structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Backstory and Context
The Majestic Building is faced with brick and limestone. The high-rise U-shaped building has frontage on both Pennsylvania and Maryland Streets; the main entrance faces west to S. Pennsylvania Street. The large entrance arches are intricately decorated with foliate and acanthus carvings. The center grouping of three massive arches in the center of the upper stories, flanked by bookends of triple windows, gives the building its monumental character--a building fit to be called "The Majestic."
At least three engineering firms had offices in the Majestic Building in 1910. One, W.H. Buderus, specialized in automobile design and experimental work. Another. McMeans & Tripp, offered factory plans and machine designs. The War Work Council, part of the Indiana Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) during World War I, had its state offices on the 6th floor of the Majestic Building in 1919. The Majestic Building Corporation was sued in 1929 by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. The Rite had purchased a lot north of the Majestic's in 1895 from the Gas Company. The Rite had recently moved out of their eight-story building on their lot. A seven-inch wide wall had been erected between the two lots. This strip of land was claimed by both lots, and the Scottish Rite wanted title to the strip to clear the land title before selling their property. A mistake in a land survey in 1873 was blamed for the discrepancy.
The Majestic Building Company, the owner of the building, owed back taxes for 1929 and 1930. The corporation offered all 2,000 shares of its common stock at public sale in June 1930. Interested bidders were required to provide a certified check for 25 percent of their bid. The cast iron balconies seen in older photos at two corners of the ninth floor, are no longer present. Maybe one of them led from the office of Hugh Hanna, at 913 Majestic, in 1931. Mr. Hanna was involved in the Cabin Committee of the Nature Study Club of Indiana. Members who wanted to obtain keys for the club's cabins and return them when they got back were said to have a more convenient time at the new office of Mr. Hanna, who was moving from the Hume-Mansur Building. Maybe one of the balconies was attached to the office of John W. Atherton, Butler University's financial officer; he worked at 908 Majestic in 1931.
The Public Health Nursing Association was one of the tenants in 1936. Ironically, the Majestic Building was cited as one of the causes for excess soot that was blackening city monuments at that time, exceeding the legal limit of six minutes per hour for smoke, with a local noting twelve-minute periods of smoke from the Majestic's smokestack. Don't mess with the Indianapolis Smoke Abatement League! The Citizens Gas and Coke Company was in receivership in 1936; the Circuit Court needed to approve an offer of $10,000 for yearly rental of the Majestic Building. Service Construction Company was appointed to make improvements costing almost $19,000. Many other changes have been made to the interior over time.
The Majestic Building also came to be known as the Indiana Farm Bureau Co-Op Building. The National Register significance is tied to its modern engineering and original design by Bohlen, as well as being the location of Bohlen's architectural firm from 1896 to 1943. The building was purchased by Keystone Corporation in 2006 and renovated for $10 million to serve as corporate headquarters for the realty and construction firm. A steakhouse, Prime 47, also occupies space in the structure.
Advertisements. Forward! The Magazine of Indianapolis 3(1). August 1st 1910. 25 - 27. Indiana State Library, Indiana Historical Print Collection. http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p1819coll6/id/63940/rec/4.
Anonymous. "Suit on Seven Inch Strip of Land is Filed." Indianapolis Times (Indianapolis, IN) August 2nd 1929. Home ed, 7-7.
Anonymous. Hugh Hanna Moves his Office. The Hoosier Outdoors: The Nature Study Club of Indiana11(2). May 1st 1931. 7 - 7. Indiana State Library, Digital Collections. http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16066coll66/id/2236/rec/6.
Anonymous. "Gas Utility Awaiting New Lease Approval." Indianapolis Times (Indianapolis, IN) April 27th 1936. Final Home ed, 8-8.
Butler University. "Announcement by Butler University: Fall Semester Opens Sept, 14-16." Indianapolis Times (Indianapolis, IN) August 29th 1931, 14-14.
Citizens Gas Company. "It's Rhubarb Season." Indianapolis Times (Indianapolis, IN) May 19th 1926. Home ed, 9-9.
Hostletler, Joan. Indianapolis Then and Now: Majestic Building / Charles H. Black’s Carriage Manufacturing. HistoricIndianapolis.com. October 10, 2012. Accessed January 20, 2017. http://historicindianapolis.com/indianapolis-then-and-now-majestic-building-charles-h-blacks-carriag....
Lowther, Richard L.. "Notice of Sale of Majestic Building." Indianapolis Times (Indianapolis, IN) June 17th 1930. Home ed, 2-2.
Munyon, Professor. "Munyon's Matchless Cures. Advertisement." Indianapolis Journal (Indianapolis, IN) December 6th 1896, 7-7.
National Park Service. "The Majestic Building," National Park Service website, accessed 1/20/2017 http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/indianapolis/majesticbuilding.htm
Steinel, Arch. "Indianapolis, the City of Smoke. State's Shrine to War Dead Begrimed by Nearby Chimneys." Indianapolis Times (Indianapolis, IN) March 18th 1936. Final Home ed, 13-13.
War Council, The. Indiana Y.M.C.A.. The "Y" Overseas: What the Soldiers and the People Want to Know!. Pamphlet. Indianapolis, IN. 1919. Indiana State Library, Indiana Pamphlet Collection. http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16066coll47/id/593/rec/5.
Roberson, Samuel A.. Roberson, Sheryl D.. NRHP Nomination Form for the Majestic Building. National Register. Washington, DC. National Park Service, 1980.
Indiana State Library Photograph Collections: https://digital.library.in.gov/Record/ISL_p16066coll13-2143
Indiana State Library Photograph Collections: http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16066coll13/id/2149
Library of Congress Chronicling America: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82015313/1924-05-15/ed-1/seq-6/