Sunday Prayers: Dearborn Building

Written by on July 28, 2013 in Sunday Prayers - 4 Comments
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“Cheery” is a word I would use to describe a front-yard flower garden, not an abandoned building. But when it comes to the property at the corner of 10th and Dearborn, it’s hard to attach another description. The plywood boards—which stretch across some two dozen windows and doors—are slathered with sky-blue paint and a slew of airplanes. It’s certainly not something I’m used to; I’m usually tiptoeing up and down sidewalks, squinting up at uneven roofs and crooked front doors. This … this is different. This is art where you’d least expect it.

Dearborn Building, located at 3201 E. 10th St. (photo by Dawn Olsen)

Dearborn Building, located at 3201 E. 10th St. (photo by Dawn Olsen)

Developed by Public Art Indianapolis and funded by the Indianapolis Cultural Development Commission, the “Picture Windows: Urban Interpretations” project was designed to “enliven empty windows and buildings” and “contribute to the vitality of downtown Indianapolis while exposing visitors and citizens to the diverse work of local artists.” After a few years, there was talk of expanding the project to 10th Street, a high-traffic corridor. … And also an area of the city that wanted eyes on the art, not on the abandoned.

In 2007, Indianapolis artist Brian Myers created the “Dearborn Building Mural.” He and his artwork were later featured in an audio slideshow put together by Y-Press and Second Story, two nonprofit organizations that encourage young people to develop journalism and creative writing skills. In the video, Myers said that “…the project down on 10th Street says, ‘Look, we don’t have to have a plywood façade …’”

Indeed, the area is a tad haggard. As a Feb. 2010 article by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s Institute for Comprehensive Community Development said, “…the Near East Side was devastated by the closing of two manufacturing plants in the 1980s and with it the loss of thousands of well-paying jobs. Ancillary businesses followed – two of three large shopping centers [closed]. Homes were abandoned. Crime rose, as did high school dropout rates.” The Super Bowl Legacy project, however, brought interest and funding to the area. And while some sections of 10th Street have been rehabbed, the area surrounding 10th and Dearborn awaits its revival.

The Dearborn rests on two parcels on the southeast corner of the intersection. Together, the parcels from an "L" (one of which is square, the other of which is long and narrow).

The Dearborn rests on two parcels on the southeast corner of the intersection. Here, both of the parcels are labeled as “3201 E. 10th St.”) Together, the parcels from an “L” (one of the parcels is square, and the other is long and narrow).

Called the “Dearborn Building,” the property at the southeast corner of the intersection was constructed in the early 1900s. Parcel information states that the property was sold on Jan. 2, 1900, but the building doesn’t appear on the Sanborn Maps until 1915. Interestingly, the building sits on two separate parcels, both of which are owned by the Riley Area Development Corporation. One of the parcels is square, but the other is long and narrow. Together, the parcels form an “L” and cradle two additional plots of land that happen to be owned by the former owner of the Rivoli Theatre. (The Rivoli, located at 3155 E. 10th St., shares both an intersection and a future with the Dearborn Building. Like the Dearborn, the Rivoli is in need of renovation. Though the Theatre will not reopen for another three to five years, the future suggests that it will encourage neighborhood rejuvenation, and attract art, culture and activity.)

The Dearborn and the Rivoli share the intersection of 10th and Dearborn streets. (photo by Dawn Olsen)

The Dearborn and the Rivoli share the intersection of 10th and Dearborn streets. (photo by Dawn Olsen)

The 1915 Sanborn Map shows both the Rivoli Theatre and the Dearborn Building. Three small residential dwellings, one flat, and one garage were originally constructed behind the Dearborn. They later disappeared in the 1980s.

The 1915 Sanborn Map shows both the Rivoli Theatre and the Dearborn Building. Three small residential dwellings, one flat, and one garage were originally constructed behind the Dearborn. They later disappeared in the 1980s.

Historically, the Dearborn Building (whose formal address is 3201 E. 10th St.) has hosted a variety of businesses. In 1920, a bicycle repair shop. In 1930, Pearson Piano Company. A tailor. A real estate agent. A jeweler. In later years, there would be taverns, shoe repairmen, delicatessens, barber shops, and, most recently, a nightclub. There were five storefronts, which are still visible today. And behind the Dearborn were five structures, including three residential homes, a garage, and a flat. (One could enter the flat via a sixth door on the Dearborn’s street-facing side.) Though each of the “extra” buildings is visible on the 1915 and 1956 Sanborn Maps, the three homes, the garage and the flat have since disappeared. Thankfully, the East 10th Street Civic Association includes within its East Main Street Retail Market Profile a future for the Dearborn.

The Dearborn Building rendering is included in the East 10th Street Civic Association’s East Main Street Retail Market Profile. The plan is to renovate the Dearborn into a live-and-work space, complete with five townhomes. The cost of the renovation is estimated at $7 million.

The rendering depicts a two-story, $7 million, mixed-use development project. When fully renovated, the Dearborn would have five townhomes and five live/work spaces. (In the past, area residents lived in one of nine apartment units located in the now-demolished flat. Sometimes, the apartment manager lived alongside the residents, who – at times – included a dentist and a quilter.) But to draw new residents in, to draw people in, to attract commerce and growth and activity, it’s going to take a lot of faith, a lot of money and a lot of work. Myers, however, is optimistic. He describes the atmosphere of East 10th Street, the rushing of traffic and rattling of grocery carts. “And even though you go one block over and everything is boarded up, [the mural] has a huge impact on the community, as far as respecting our surroundings and taking that extra step. You know, picking up some trash on the sidewalk and saying,‘OK, it’s a brighter place’ because of just two gallons of paint and, you know, a little bit of effort.”

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

(photo by Dawn Olsen)

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About the Author

Dawn Olsen is a Midwestern nomad addicted to ChapStick, parallel sentences, books, and old buildings. She was born in Iowa and grew up in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area. After graduating from Purdue University, she took a job as an editorial assistant for the Indiana General Assembly and sub sequently transplanted herself to Indianapolis. She lives in the Holy Rosary district in an old brick building with a 90-foot smokestack. She shares creative non-fiction and photos on her blog, Candidly Clyde.

4 Comments on "Sunday Prayers: Dearborn Building"

  1. jim bowden July 28, 2013 at 11:31 am · Reply

    Great photos. Clear writing. Terrific historical insight. Thank you for your articles.

  2. mike July 28, 2013 at 5:30 pm · Reply

    There was a nice little coffee house located in the Dearborn mid-70’s where a number of Indy’s acoustic musicians would drop by and play. It went out within a few years. Maybe they should have named it Starbucks. Ahead of its’ time for Indy.

  3. Beth July 29, 2013 at 6:49 am · Reply

    We recently purchased a beautiful home on Oxford 500 block. We love the history and potential that we see. We have great new neighbors and are working to be the solution in the Rivoli Neighborhood 🙂

  4. Jim Walsh August 15, 2013 at 10:52 pm · Reply

    If I am not mistaken, that area is in a not very desirable, of course I have not lived in Indianapolis since 1975 , things could have changed since that time.

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