Cornerstone. The cornerstone is one of the great features of any historic building. The cornerstone, typically literal in its presentation, is a major stone placed near the bottom corner of a structure. You may hear the cornerstone referenced as the foundation stone. Historically, major building projects would feature a ceremony to lay the cornerstone to “announce” the start of construction, commonly with major political or social figures as dignitaries. If you are researching a building, you might find pamphlets or documents from these ceremonies, which can be a real treasure.

The placement of the cornerstone is typically on the major façade and can range in size from small to large. Some cornerstones included hollow spaces for the inclusion of time capsules, which poses the question – wouldn’t they be inaccessible unless the building was demolished? The text of the cornerstone may feature information ranging from the date of construction, name of the building, architect, engineer, board of trustees, and other important political figures. If the structure features quoins, the cornerstone may be placed as part of that design feature. Government buildings, churches, schools, and other major public buildings are building types that frequently include a cornerstone.

You can find cornerstones everywhere you look in Indianapolis. Here are a few I’ve found to highlight:

This cornerstone on the Indiana State Library (315 West Ohio Street) is simple in its presentation. The cornerstone is found on the bottom, northeast corner of the structure and simply features a date of "A.D. 1932."

The cornerstone on this church at 1516 North Delaware Street is a simple presentation. This cornerstone is found adjacent to the primary entrance, not at the true corner of the structure. The stone is part of the foundation and simply features the text "1901," the date of construction.

The cornerstones found on the Indiana Landmarks Center (1201 Central Avenue) help to identify the former use of the structure. The smaller stone features the construction date "A.D. 1891," while the larger stone features the text "Central Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church." Both stones are found on the southwest corner of the structure.

Our last example is found on the Irvington Presbyterian Church (55 Johnson Avenue). The cornerstone is found on the southwest corner of the structure and features the name of the congregation, establishment date, and construction date.

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

So far, the date on the cornerstone was the only information we had on the building’s history.

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