When you see a stately old building in a vintage postcard, do you wonder (with furrowed brow) if the building still stands?
This venerable old brick and terra cotta edifice, née the Lemcke Annex, was an add-on to the older (1896) Lemcke Building immediately south of the name-changed Consolidated Building, where the National Bank of Indianapolis now stands. Named for Ralph A. Lemcke, a gentleman who boasted a familiar family name in Indianapolis at around the turn of the last century, Lemcke’s family initially came by their wealth in the Ohio River steamboat industry and later became fixtures in Indiana politics and public service.
The Annex was designed by R.P. Daggett & Company, one of the longest running architecture firms in Indianapolis history. The Daggett firm, spanning three generations, contributed substantially to the development of Indianapolis area for over a century, doing business as:
Robert Platt Daggett ca. 1868-1880
Daggett and Roth ca. 1870-1874
R. P. Daggett & Co. 1880-1915
Robert Frost Daggett, Architect 1915-1948
Robert Frost Daggett & Associates 1948-1952
Daggett, Naegele & Daggett, Inc. 1952-1961
Daggett Naegele & Associates, Inc. 1961-1977
More than seven hundred building projects are attributed to the firm. R. P. Daggett, alone, designed over one hundred residences in Indiana and Illinois between 1880 and 1900, including the James Whitcomb Riley house on Lockerbie Street, as well as numerous business blocks, factories, fire-engine houses, churches, and schools. He was responsible for fifteen buildings at Purdue University and several projects for Eli Lilly & Co.
Daggett’s beaux-arts design for the 15-story Lemcke Annex was approved and construction spanned 1909-1910. The city surrounding the building looked much different 100 years ago. This 1912-postmarked postcard view of East Market Street is taken from the top of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the Circle. The postcard’s conservator, Tom Keesling, writes:
“The roofs of the buildings on the east side of the square are visible at the bottom of this postcard. The large structure at the left center was the Denison Hotel. The church above (northeast of) the hotel in this view was probably the German M. E. Church on the southeast corner of New York and New Jersey Streets. To the right (south) of the hotel, the Lemcke Building–NOT the Lemcke Annex–stood on the northeast corner of the Pennsylvania Street intersection (102-112 East Washington Street and 101-109 North Pennsylvania Street). The 1914 Sanborn™ fire insurance map for Indianapolis notes that three floors were added to the building in 1906, making it ten stories tall. That means the above postcard scene is from 1906 or earlier.
The buildings between the Denison and the Lemcke Building were replaced by the 15-story Lemcke Annex in 1909, according to a note in the 1914 Sanborn™ map set. The tall building above (east of) the Lemcke Building was the Law Building (130-136 East Market Street). It was 11 stories tall with a law library on the 12th floor. The building across Market Street, south of the Lemcke Building was the old post office. Above the post office and to the right in this scene is the old Marion County Court House.”
Though it served primarily as an office building, the Lemcke Annex included a Vaudeville theater and street-level shops. An upcoming renovation to create 98 new apartments and street-level retail is on the imminent horizon. Will the most interesting interior features like the ornate tile work covering the walls and ceilings of the original theatre lobby remain? Will the bank vault in the basement, and marble brick-clad interior light-well be conserved?
For years the building has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Washington Street-Monument Circle Historic District. However, that did not prevent the ravages of more than 10 years’ neglect and vacancy. The building’s downfall began in 1992, when anchor tenant Indiana Insurance vacated 10 floors and moved to the suburbs. The last remaining tenants departed by 2000. The ensuing economic and ownership complexities left fans of the old building concerned for its future until 2012 when it was acquired by a local firm willing to repurpose the building for this century.
Construction is underway and expected to conclude in mid-2014.
Do tell: What are your memories of the Consolidated Building (Lemcke Annex)?
What other vacant Indy buildings need a speedy rescue and renovation?