Southeast of the Circle Indianapolis Walking Tour
Starting at Monument Circle, walk to a handful of historic structures in a loop southeast of the circle, from the 1870s to 1920s.
Completed in 1930, Circle Tower was designed by Architects Rubush & Hunter, the same firm that built the famous and adjacent Circle Theater. The building uses Indiana limestone and its top stories recede from the previous story to create a tiered effect. The top of the building features Art Deco sculpture. The main entry on the north side of the building features a 1.5 story arch with an intricate bronze screen. This entry, and the first floor lobby, are full of artistic detail and well-worth a visit and photos. The building was designed for office space, with commercial storefronts on the street level. Circle Tower is part of the larger Monument Circle Historic District which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Circle Theater opened in 1916 as the city's first “movie palace”---and one of the first such buildings in the Midwest. Today it is the second-oldest building on Monument Circle, after Christ Church Cathedral, and is home to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The theater was designed by the prominent local firm of Rubush and Hunter in a Neoclassical Revival style. The exterior is white terra cotta, featuring a frieze of classical Greek figures. Inside, a detailed bas-relief proscenium, plaster molding throughout the house, and other details render the interior among the most historic in the city. In fact, the interior is one of only two interiors in the entire city granted historic landmark status and official city protection. The theater was renamed after Stephen Hilbert, a local businessman, and his wife Tomisue, in 1996, after they pledged $10 million toward a building endowment. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
The current skyscraper located here and known as the Odd Fellow Building was completed in 1908 and replaced Odd Fellows Hall which was demolished the previous year. Some called the former building a cross between the Taj Mahal and a Gothic chapel. The structure cost about $45,000 to construct in the 1850s while the land was acquired by the Odd Fellows at a cost of $17,000. The building was planned by Francis Costigan and completed with a dome by D.A. Bohlen. The structure served as the Grand Lodge (state headquarters) of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, with office and commercial spaces on the first two floors.
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.
The Morrison Block also is known as M. O'Connor Grocery Wholesalers, or more recently as Peoples Outfitting Building. The Italianate Commercial structure was built in 1870. It is part of the Indianapolis Union Station - Wholesale District. The building was renovated and has become the Morrison Opera Center. The ground floor tenant, the Hard Rock Cafe, moved out of the building in 2019 after twenty years. The Morrison Block was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The owner of the building since 1997, Bruce Bodner, has proposed building a 22-story addition, raising the structure to 26 stories. The proposed $60 million building would become a 220-room hotel plus 32 residences. The apartments are planned to be a mix of market rate and workforce-rate units.
Built by the architectural firm of Rubush and Hunter and completed in 1923, the Guaranty Building was home to numerous law offices, insurance companies, and the Western Union Telegraph Company. The curved limestone facade blends in to Monument Circle - a feature that was required to win approval of the building by city leaders and others who originally opposed the construction of any building that might distract from the Soldiers and Sailor's Monument. The building was planned to be seven stories tall but grew to nine stories upon completion. The 132-foot height was still below the new limit set by the city of 150 feet. Read on to see how roller skates fit into the building's history.
The Columbia Club was built in 1924 by supporters of the Republican Party. The club dates its origins back to 1888, when Indianapolis Republicans formed a group to support the presidential campaign of local attorney and politician Benjamin Harrison. Harrison had been an officer in the Civil War and had also been selected by the Indiana State legislature to represent Indiana in the United States Senate prior to the modern practice where voters directly elect their Senators. Harrison's presidential campaign was a success. The Columbia Club also experienced success, quickly becoming one of the leading social clubs in the city. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.