A Point In Time | Indiana Bell Building
Standing tall for more than 90 years now, the Indiana Bell Building is a registered historic building owing to its significance for the town of Evansville in Indiana, USA. Now a commercial building downtown, it has become a part of the urban fabric without hinting at its heritage at first look. Once a part of an art movement that combined modern style with fine craftsmanship and represented luxury, glamour, and exuberance, the structure now stands to witness the change around it, questioning the fleeting spectators at work. A paradox in place, the Indiana Bell Building, serves partly as a Theseus paradox, inquisitively contemplating its rightful heritage when it has undergone human interference. So what does a building hold for a time in which it was not built for, yet exists, and for the existence through a different context of space in time?
Tracing The Past
Designed for a local telephone company- Indiana Bell Telephone Co., the Indiana Bell Building, is located in downtown Evansville, Indiana, USA, on 129-33 NW Fifth Street. The architectural firm Vonnegut, Bohn, and Mueller, based out of Indiana, produced plans for a smaller building than what now exists on the site. Responsible for a wide range of buildings, including public, institutional, commercial, religious, and residential throughout Indiana, the firm planned this building with four floors in Art Deco style, becoming one of the many buildings of this style in Evansville’s skyline.
A brief rundown of the history of the Indiana Bell Building can be listed below:
- 1929: Designed and built for the Indian Bell Telephone Co. ;
- 1956: 3 floors were added to the top of the building. Additionally, a penthouse was created, and ornamentation at the top was removed to accommodate changes.
- 1978: Registered for documentation and preservation as a Historic site in the Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory
- 1982: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Bringing Into The Frame | Indiana Bell Building
Described as one of the most important Art Deco buildings downtown in an official document regarding the preservation of the structure, the Indiana Bell Building is an example of a more simplistic interpretation of the movement that swept across the country following the First World War. The building is a bit simple compared to the other older buildings of the same style, and it could owe this to the cost factors that varied due to the War aftermath.
The Art Deco movement originated in France and crept its way into the American skyline in about the 1920s. Characterized by relative simplicity, planarity, symmetry, and usually a streamlined look, some of the prominent examples of this style are from New York City, including the Empire State Building, The Chrysler Building, and the 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Most commonly used for office buildings, government buildings, train stations, movie theatres, diners, and departmental stores, the Art Deco Movement can be deemed as one of the first truly international styles, which saw its downfall with the beginning of World War II, and the subsequent rise of the strictly functional and unadorned style of architecture.
Recounting The Bygones
The Indiana Bell Building, clad in limestone and granite, stands seven stories high, with the top of the building horizontal and plain. The decorative details start from the building’s 1st floor, align themselves with the windows’ verticality, and end at the top floor windows. A patterned grill visible under the windows of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors indicates the originally built structure. Missing on the upper floors, the grill adds a decorative element to the elevation of the structure.
The decorative detail in limestone, with floral motifs and chevrons, is confined to the former main entrance and between the 1st and 2nd floors. Halfway up the first floor on the front facade and Vine Street side of the building, the body of the building is made of yellow brick. The main entrance and the 1st-floor windows have been substantially altered since their first built form. Numerous changes are evident owing to a wide range of sympathetic enlargements and additions over the years.
Returning To The Present | Indiana Bell Building
The Indiana Bell Building is a well-seen piece of the Evansville cityscape. While now it bears a huge transmitter/receiver that sits on top of it, it exudes its history within its walls. Although the alterations it received over the years through the people changed its true nature, it stands tall to beg the question of its integrity over the years to come. Another example of the Art Deco style building that dates back to 1929, in the city of Evansville, is listed as one of the “most endangered” properties in the state. The Hulman building, a ten-story high rise, now only houses two shops, owing to its dilapidated condition, and is in need of substantial renovation. Springing up the question of historical structures, their adaptive reuse, and the condition in which they exist.
- Evansvillegov.org. 2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.evansvillegov.org/egov/documents/90a78d5f_abd0_2ca7_0676_c5e8b57d0612.pdf> [Accessed 25 September 2022].
- Arends, T., 2022. Landmarks of Evansville, Indiana–Large CommercialBuildings. [online] Preserveindiana.com. Available at: <https://www.preserveindiana.com/pixpages/evansvle/evansvl1.htm> [Accessed 25 September 2022].
- Npgallery.nps.gov. 2022. Asset Detail. [online] Available at: <https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/AssetDetail/6ec25da3-b4be-4d1c-b318-b09fb7ee7794> [Accessed 25 September 2022].
- Engler, J., 2022. Historic Evansville – Tag: indianabell. [online] Historicevansville.com. Available at: <https://historicevansville.com/tag.php?id=indianabell> [Accessed 25 September 2022].
- Waymarking.com. 2022. Indiana Bell Building – Evansville, IN – U.S. National Register of Historic Places on Waymarking.com. [online] Available at: <https://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMBHR3_Indiana_Bell_Building_Evansville_IN> [Accessed 25 September 2022].