Located on Indianapolis’ famed Monument Circle, the Test Building was named after Charles Test, the former president of the National Motor Vehicle Company of Indianapolis. At the time it was built, in 1925, it was one of the first buildings that served as a multi-level parking garage in the state, if not the first. It was, and is, also unique in that it was a multi-use structure that housed retail space at street level and office space on the upper floors. It was intentionally designed to appear as a Neo-Classical office building of the era so that it would not detract from the aesthetics that surround the city’s centerpiece, the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument. The Test Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Backstory and Context
In 1923, the Test family first put forth their idea for a parking structure along Monument Circle and Market Street. The city, which had already issued a building permit for a structure, quickly revoked it upon hearing of the building’s intended use. The city feared traffic congestion around the garage and the threat automobiles posed to pedestrians. They also felt the garage would be an eyesore within the larger Monument Circle area. The case went to court, and the permit was reissued in June of 1924 when the Test family assured the city that the building would meet all their structural and architectural demands.
The Test family then hired the firm of Bass, Knowlton, and Company to design a structure in which form and function were of equal value. The nine-story building was designed to be analogous to a Corinthian column with an unadorned middle sandwiched between an ornate base and capital or crown. To that end, the middle five floors are relatively unadorned; the lower three floors are capped by a series of bas-relief sculptures that depict different landmarks and modes of transportation, such as a domed government building, a biplane, and a dirigible. These were created by a well-known local artist, Alexander Sangernebo. The Test Building is topped by ornate scrollwork just below the ninth floor and a carved cornice above.
Within the building, the architects utilized a d’Humy Motoramp System that was first used in a structure in Poughkeepsie, New York. To use this system, the floors do not meet in the middle. They alternate like steps, permitting the auto ramps to be half the regular length in between floors, which opened up more of the building for alternative uses. The garage’s capacity was also increased with the addition of two basement parking levels. This brought its capacity up to about 200 automobiles, representing over two-thirds of all parking spaces within the downtown area, even 20 years after it was completed.
The garage was initially run by the Circle Motor Inn, its earliest occupants including the United States Veteran’s Bureau, and the International News Services, a news wire service. The Test Building, also now known as the Lacy Building, still houses retail shops at ground level and office space on floors three through nine, as well as a working parking garage, albeit on a much smaller scale.
Gadski, Mary Ellen and James Reed. "National Register of Historic Places -- Nomination Form." United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service. February, 1983. Accessed February 24, 2017. https://secure.in.gov/apps/dnr/shaard/r/1f1fc/N/Test_Bldg_Marion_CO_Nom.pdf
"Test Building." National Park Service. Accessed February 24, 2017. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/indianapolis/testbuilding.htm
Parkes, G. "Test Building -- Indianapolis, Indiana." Waymarking. September 18, 2009. Accessed February 24, 2017. http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM78DW_Test_Building_Indianapolis_Indiana