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Original (South) Elevation with Beaux Arts detailing, Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse (46 East Ohio Street)

Beaux Arts. Several notable Indianapolis structures feature the architectural style of the Beaux Arts. Beaux Arts (French for “Fine Arts”) traces its roots from the École des Beaux-Arts, a school of architecture in France. Several notable American architects of the last decades of the nineteenth century studied at the École, introducing the classical architectural ideas of the École to high style architecture in the United States from approximately 1885-1920. The 1893 Columbian Exposition (in Chicago) prominently featured the Beaux Arts, creating a buzz for the style throughout the United States.

Beaux Arts features extensive classical architectural features, with a heightened emphasis on ornamentation. Many monumental, public structures use the style, including several in Indianapolis. A Beaux Arts building will typically feature a symmetrical façade, masonry walls, columns with elaborate capitals, and a flat roof. The cornice may be exaggerated with ornament including dentils and quoins, while balustrades may decorate window openings or rooflines.

Addition with similar detailing, Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse (46 East Ohio Street)

Many of the public buildings you know and love in downtown Indianapolis feature the Beaux Arts style. The Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse (46 East Ohio Street), dating from 1905 and designed by Philadelphia architects John Hall Rankin and Thomas Kellogg, is one notable example. The building features Indiana limestone with a flat, with three story monumental columns on each elevation. Other common Beaux Arts features on the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse include both egg-and-dartand dentils at the cornice, a balustrade along the roof line, and ornamental columns (with fluting) and capitals. A interesting note for readers: the building was initially only a U-shape, but the north elevation was enclosed from 1936-1938. Note the detailing is similar to the original, with slight differences to identify the addition.

Classical detailing, including dentils and egg-and-dart, Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse (46 East Ohio Street)

Beaux Arts, Old Indianapolis City Hall (202 North Alabama St)

Another iconic Beaux Arts structure is the Old Indianapolis City Hall (202 North Alabama St).  Completed in 1910, this Beaux Arts building was designed by the Indianapolis architect duo of Rubush & Hunter. Similar to the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, the exterior of the Old City Hall features Indiana limestone and two-story monumental columns. Dentils, pedimentedopenings and entrances, and egg-and-dart ornament compliment the ornamental offerings on the exterior.

Add it to your vocabulary – how might one use today’s Building Language term in their everyday life?

Indianapolis buildings in the Beaux Arts style have survived the test of time.

One response to “Building Language: Beaux Arts”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    Both are excellent examples of Beaux Arts design, and the former City Hall would still make an excellent public building of some type, like maybe court rooms…if the UniGov could afford it, a CITY Museum documenting the city’s history…

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