A Room with a View – Indiana’s Tallest Building, The Chase Tower

Written by on March 26, 2013 in A Room with a View - 7 Comments
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Monument Circle from the 38th floor of the Chase Tower – photo by Ryan Hamlett

Today, a view of a snowy monument circle from the 38th floor of the Chase Tower and a short history of Indianapolis’ tallest building.

Many are the visitors to the Circle City who will ridicule our skyline. That is the price we pay for having no geographical features to limit our outward expansion and force us into taller and taller buildings, the city growing outward instead of up. And so it is, that for nearly 23 years now, the Chase Tower (formerly Bank One Tower) has dominated the Indianapolis Skyline. A 2004 Indianapolis Star article about the construction of the Simon Center on W. Washington mentions that the Chase Tower (at 811 feet or 247 meters) was the 97th tallest building in the world according to the website Emporis.com, a database of high rises and skyscrapers around the globe. As of today, it doesn’t crack the top 200. (Incidentally, according to Emporis, a “high rise” is defined as any building “between 35 and 100 meters” where a “skyscraper” is any building taller than 100 meters. So file that away for your future Jeopardy appearance.)

The Chase Tower is about a third as tall as the Burj Dubai tower in, well, Dubai.

The Chase Tower: about a third as tall as the Burj Dubai tower in, well, Dubai.

The northeast quad of the Circle is a story of demolished buildings and merging banks, most notably, the American Fletcher Bank, whose roots go back to Indianapolis forefather and Fletcher Place namesake, Calvin Fletcher. Since 1915, AFB had been headquartered in the Fletcher Trust Building at 12 E. Market St. (now the Hilton Garden Inn). And there they stayed for 40 years, so close to that prestigious Circle address, but yet still boxed out by the Indianapolis Water Co. and American Central Life Insurance Building.

- Indianapolis Sanborn Map and Baist Atlas Collection, IUPUI

Map of the Circle from 1916. – Indianapolis Sanborn Map and Baist Atlas Collection, IUPUI

In 1958 both the Water Co. and the Insurance Building were razed to make way for the Fidelity Bank Building, the first modern steel and glass high rise in downtown Indy. However by its completion in 1959, Fidelity Bank and American Fletcher had merged into what was now called American Fletcher National Bank, and Fletcher moved into its snazzy new digs on the Circle. And who, apparently at some point, gave out these little guys.

bankweight

By the late 70s, folks at Fletcher National were beginning to think BIG, or at least by Indianapolis standards. Fletcher chairman Frank McKinney Jr (an Olympic gold medal swimmer btw) conceived a skyscraper on property between Meridian and Pennsylvania, just north of their circle headquarters. This plan spelled doom for three historic buildings on Market St., the Board of Trade Building (demolished in 1982), the Hume-Mansur Building (1980) and the Newton Claypool Building, which had been renamed the Bankers Trust Building.

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Left to Right, Along the south side of Ohio Street: The Newton Claypool Building, Hume-Mansur Building and the Board of Trade Building.

Before construction could begin, however, American Fletcher National Bank merged again, this time having been sold to the Ohio based Bank One. Now in charge of its Indiana operations, McKinney and Co. moved forward with the now to be named Bank One Tower, breaking ground in 1987. Designed by the architectural firm of KlingStubbins, the stepped roof was designed to echo the nearby World War Memorial, the Ohio Street entrance is technically the backdoor as a small linkage to its Circle building allows the tower to keep its Monument Circle address and (little known fact) only one of its communication spires is functional. The other is purely ornamental!

- Google Streetview

Three generations of Fletcher Bank Buildings – Google Streetview

Many thanks to Kelsi Nielsen of London Witte and Co. for boardroom access!

 

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About the Author

Ryan Hamlett, a Fine Arts graduate of Indiana University, turned a teenage fascination with exploring "haunted places" into a love of Urban Exploration or sneaking (not breaking) into abandoned buildings, armed with a camera and flashlight. That passion for photographing urban decay has led him to the Historic Preservation Graduate Program at Ball State University which he'll begin this fall.

7 Comments on "A Room with a View – Indiana’s Tallest Building, The Chase Tower"

  1. basil berchekas jr March 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm · Reply

    This is an excellent article! A real history of this quadrant of the Circle! Been in the Hume-Mansur Building, American bank & Trust, Fletcher National Bank and Trust, and used to shoot pool in the billiard hall downstairs in the Board of Trade Building. Across meridian was the former IPS HQ, where I got my first hair cut in a barber shop in the rented out space at sidewalk level (when the IPS moved several blocks northeast and the Hilton Hotel was built there, the barber shop moved out to the neighborhood I grew up in on East 21st Street, several blocks west of Emerson Avenue. Sam Nistazou was the owner; he lived down the street from where I grew up near East 21st and Emerson).

    • Norm Morford March 27, 2013 at 5:36 am · Reply

      Basil — you might be even older than I! Are you aware that the old Humansor Bldg. had extra heavy duty plumbing and electrical facilites in order that dental and medical offices could operate as needed? It is possible that a brother of my dad’s mother, Dr. Clark Day, had an office at Humansor. He lived at the nrothwest corner of 42nd and Meridian. Unfortunately, he was a member of the KKK in the 1920’s — a pretty far reach from his Quaker upbringing. His sister Ethel Ann Day married my grandfather Arthur Ray Morford. A.R. did a number of things — farm on a place north of Hortonville, ran a creamery station on what is now Ind. Highway 38 east of U.S. 31, but finally because a plasterer by trade and worked in maintinance at Asbury College, Wilmore, KY. If he didn’t have it before being down there, he “got religion” and left there to become a Quaker pastor, even though he had no college education. His first congregation was at Newport, IN, Vermillion County, during WW II days. From there he went to No. Buckeye St. Meeting of Friends, Kokomo. From there he went to St. Mary’s, Ohio, and later returned to Cortland Ave. Meeting of Friends, Kokomo, the larger congregation in the southern part of town.

      He retiired and lived for a while in Richmond until my father, Senior Pastor of First Methodist Church, Mexa, AZ, hired him to come there and do calling on sick and shut-in persons.

      After Ethel Ann Day Morford died, circa 1963, he married Rose Baurle, a woman never before married who had been a teacher at a Papago Indian school west of Tucson. My dad and one of his brothers performed the service, another brother and sister sang, and I was the best man for my grandfather at his second wedding. Not too many people can make that claim!

      * * * * * *

      Also, was Karl Kalp already working for IPS, even before he was Supt. when the IPS offices were at Meridian and Ohio? He was one cagey old codger later in his life. I wonder who in the HI audience knew him as a young man.

  2. Norm Morford March 26, 2013 at 4:49 pm · Reply

    Ryan — Good job! I think it would be great to hear from some engineer just how a tornado went around the Chase tower and hit the old Ind. National Bank building, now Regions, with major damage to the latter. We took our three kids [now about 50] to the “topping out” ceremony for INB building! Somehow we didn’t mentally record the building of the taller neighbor to the southwest of it. Also, the new hotel that rises on the west side of downtown is an excellent visual addition to the downtown skyline.

  3. d mikels shea April 2, 2013 at 1:53 pm · Reply

    I made a slide show for an annual meeting of a nonprofit in the 70’s–and accessed old photos at then Star-News morgue (which, by the way, is perilously close to being lost forever–someone should check and try to salvage before it is too late–my info sketchy but I know it needs history buff intervention.

    But anyway–one photo was so wonderful I put it on a slide-have it somewhere–date uncertain but I think l939 or thereabouts with photo of grand opening of new Circle Tower building. But what made it wonderful was the caption in which it was dubbed “the last skyscraper….” citing a city ordinance that nothing higher could ever be built (either in Mile Square or facing Monument Circle.” ( I forget which) If I find it will get it to Historic Indy file.

    But also, another story–And on this I DO havew an original clipping plus photo copies I would mail to Historic Indy if desired–a wonderful feature by equally wonderful longtime UPI reporter Hortense Myers when I turned up at a local Marsh Auction the ORIGINAL LandGrant for what is now the site of the AUL building. And a great back story:

    The land grant (lot 7 and 10 in Square 34 adjacent to the future State House was considered, but rejected, for future State House (said to be turned down because of an underground stream–said stream now furnishing ac/heat). Commissioners created by the Legislaure and sent off into “the wilds of central Indiana” to chose among four sections of land donated by Congress to build a state capitol.”

    The land grant for the rejected site was sold to John McCormich, the first or second settler in Indianapolis. He paid $1`25.52 for the 2 lots, according to grant issued by Ebenezer Sharpe as land agent for state. The 1821 sale of the lot produced $7000.

    Apparently the first to build on the first plat of Indy was Isaac Wilson, who located what is identified on early map as State House Square.

    Back to the land grant: It was in the estate of an erudite local man named Dean Miller and was up to be sold at auction in about the time the new Skyline Club was forming with charter members (I was one of such.) The AUL building was the life dream and achievement of wonderful man named Jack Reich, longtime head of AUL, which was moving downtown from its historic Fall Creek location. And the new posh Skyline Club on top was the cherry on the ice cream sundae for Mr. Reich. But for reasons never quite clear to me, when a friend (me) told him of the upcoming historic document sale, he passed when told it might go for several hundred dollars. However, a local business man who was also a charter member of the Skyline overheard theconversation and successfully bid on the document, had it double framed and later donated it to the Skyline Clu b. So it may still be located with a little effort.

    I have the Jan. 1984 article in fuller detail as it ran in the Indianapolis News–happy to share it. And I am also sending a copy to a retired exec of AUL, who may know where the document is today. FYI to anyone out there in Historic Indy interested in this.

    • Norm Morford April 5, 2013 at 8:58 am · Reply

      Thanks for the info.

      One “humorous” note about Hortense Myers. Some years ago [maybe 40?] there was a hearing on some matter somewhere in the Statehouse. One rather mild mannered minor agency head was standing next to a fellow and happened to make the mistake of saying to the guy next to him about Hortense, “That woman is the ugliest woman I have ever seen.” The guy next to him replied, “SIR, THAT WOMAN IS MY WIFE!”

      Sounds like an urban legend, but reputedly is not.

  4. d mikels shea April 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm · Reply

    Note to Norm M re Hume-Mansur building—That was the original spelling–but because it housed so many medical/health specialists, it became nick-named the “human sewer” building.

    Also, re Carl Kalp—not sure if he was at IPS in its Monument Circle location but he later headed IPS better than anyone since. And, another piece of history. There was a story that the late Col.English left a will that directed the land off Circle (where English stood) was to be given to create an under-l-roof building for local not for profit human service organizations. (His will is still –or was–being administered as late as a few years ago by a local bank–when we still had such! Ind.National I think). But somehow through maneuvering instead his bequest was used to build the English Foundation Building, 615 N. Alabama.

    Another bit about the site–there was a longtime Chamber of Commerce Building across Meridian, facing IPS…..wonderful architectural details. When it was demolished, C of C head late Carl Dortch either salvaged or was gifted with a great sofa table made from one of its ornate doors–it was a showpiece in his longtime home –don’t know what happened to it after his death.

  5. Jacoby Lowney November 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm · Reply

    The following is something I have been researching so that I can add it to my website but I lack images of both locations. Please tell me if I have anything wrong in the information I have typed up. If anyone out there has any photos of the two buildings, “Union Trust Co. Building” and the “Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade building”. I am specifically looking for images that depict their locations back in the 19th century (Late 1800s). If you can help me, please email me at Jacobylowney@gmail.com I would be eternally grateful to you! I live in Austin Texas so It would be quite a jog for me to come to Indianapolis to research the images. Thank you so much, Jacoby Lowney

    Though the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company was formed in Indianapolis as early as 1877, the first mention or location found for their offices was in the 1887 directory giving their location as the Chamber of Commerce Building, Room 8. In 1890 they moved their office to the Board of Trade Building. In 1891, they moved again to 25 Wright Block where they remained until around 1897. In 1898 through 1904 their office was located at 120 E. Market, then in the 1905, they moved to 12 Union Trust Building where they appeared in the 1906 and final directory. Though it appears as though the Company moved its offices on a regular basis, in reality, the city rezoned, renamed and renumbered streets as well as buildings which accounts for the various names and addresses for the Hecla Company’s headquarters. The Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade buildings were one in the same with each other, housing the Hecla Offices from 1887 through 1891. The 25 Wright Block address was one in the same with the 12 Union Trust Building and 120 E. Market addresses. Both locations were raised after the 1950s and no longer exist.

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