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, 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.


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.


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!