Last week’s relocated statuary was a popular topic, so let’s look at another favorite relocated grouping. This one, atop the 9th Street/ North/ back side of the Marion County Central Library is more complex and of a different material (bronze) than last week’s grouping, but its survival is a coup, nonetheless.

Looking southwest, at the southwest corner of Meridian and Ohio Streets; consulting architect, William Ware of New York (image: HI collection)

This statuary was created by Richard Bock, a Chicago sculptor who had worked closely with Frank Lloyd Wright. The meaning of the statuary represented “…the spirit of knowledge embodied in books–Science, Art, and Literature. The center male figure representing Science held high the torch of enlightenment in one hand and the palm of achievement in the other, while beside him were the owl and globe, attributes of science. At the right of the standing figure of Science was seated a female figure representing Literature, holding a book and pencil. At her feet was a bust of Longfellow. The figure of art was seated at the left of Science, holding a drawing board; and at her side was a bust of Michelangelo.”

The grouping stood atop the first library constructed solely for that purpose at the southwest corner of Ohio and Meridian Streets (facing Meridian Street) from the building’s opening in 1893 until the building was demolished in 1967. The statue was placed in the west lawn of the Central library in September, 1981 and ¬†later¬†given to the Marion County Historical Society and stored at Crown Hill Cemetery. Due to vandalism while at the cemetery, components of the sculpture had to be reconstructed and attached: “a bust of Longfellow, a large globe, a quill pen, and a female torso, possibly that of Venus.”

The original/ historic part of the current Central library opened in 1917 and was designed by Philadelphia architect, Paul Cret on land donated by James Whitcomb Riley. If you spend much time in archives, you will occasionally find the central library, in its early years, referred to as the “Riley Library.”

The first library erected primarily for its own use. Opened October 24, 1893. Northwest vantage at Meridian and Ohio Streets. (HI collection)

Next time you are on the 9th Street side or on an upper floor, take a gander and see what you think of the grouping. We welcome your thoughts.

9 responses to “Friday Favorite: Central Library Statuary”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    Remember when the Meridian Street location was demolished…and the Hilton was built.

  2. Kevin J. Brewer says:

    As a child, I remember this building as the Indianapolis Public Schools central office where School Board meetings were held. A sketch of its colonnaded main entrance was always on the front cover of the official school system tablet paper which we were required to use.

    It must have been converted from a library to the School Board offices when the Central Library was built. Would it have been located in the southwest corner of Meridian and Ohio?

  3. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Although the building at 150 N. Meridian Street was built as a library, it spent a much greater portion of its life as the home of the Indianapolis Public Schools. It was a library for its first 25 years, but it was the administrative offices of the school board for 50 years. There are thousands of people still living — many of them products of the public school system — who would remember the building. The former IPS facility was demolished when the present IPS building at 150 E. Walnut Street was constructed.

  4. Norm Morford says:

    Tiffany — before that building was torn down it was the office for IPS.

    Still, thanks for the info you shared.

  5. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    In addition to the image of the front of the IPS building being on the tablets of lined paper that we used in IPS schools, I discovered that the same image was also on the cover of college and university “blue books.” I don’t know if blue books are still in use today. If they are not (for those who haven’t heard of them), blue books were examination booklets of blank lined paper stapled together and used for testing purposes, most often in disciplines that required a lot of writing.
    I was amazed in my freshman year of college, two-hundred-and-fifty miles away from home, when my English professor handed out the paper on which we were to write out the answers to our first exam, and there on the cover of the examination booklet was the familiar IPS “logo.” I was even more surprised to read — in very small print at the bottom of the cover page — the name of the company that had printed the blue books, C.P. Lesh Co., of Indianapolis, Indiana. I had known the founder’s great-granddaughter, Cathy Lesh, during high school, but didn’t know it was her family’s business that printed both the IPS tablets and the college blue books.
    The C.P. Lesh Paper Co. was founded in 1895 at 85 W. Market Street. Soon thereafter, the company built a facility between Kentucky Avenue and Georgia Street, where it operated for more than half-a-century. That location is now in the middle of the Indianapolis Convention Center (both Kentucky Ave and Georgia St were vacated). The C. P. Lesh Paper Company moved to Stadium Drive in the 1960s and was eventually bought out by the New York based Ris Paper Company.
    Some years after I was graduated from college, I learned that the blue book was the idea of a Butler University professor, which is why the covers were blue. The idea of a standard examination booklet rapidly spread to other campuses and became the norm. Blue books were conceived of in the 1920s, so they existed for most of the 20th century. With the decline in the use of paper and the rise in electronic documents in recent years, blue books may no longer be used. Maybe someone reading this knows?

  6. Kevin J. Brewer says:

    Sharon, Wikipedia even mentions Butler here

  7. basil berchekas jr says:

    I remember getting my first hair cut in Sam Nistazu’s barbershop on the Ohio Street side of this building before he relocated his barbershop to East 21st Street at Drexel…

  8. Norm Morford says:

    Sharon — Is there anyone in the world to whom you DON:T have a connection?

  9. Anonymous says:


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