“…What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” Uhhh, not so fast, Romeo. I just can’t embrace calling this place the name of some bank. Sorry, but for purists like me, it’s always going to be ‘The Murat’. Should one of the most unique pieces of architecture in the city have some generic bank name? Don’t think so. Beyond semantics, we can all agree this is one of the coolest icons of the city, can’t we? An easy Indianapolis favorite, on Friday or any other.
Where Mass Ave, Michigan and New Jersey Streets all meet, you can’t miss the 208 foot tower on the southeast corner of the building. You can quickly gather that it was built in 1909 (says so on the south side) but it was finished in 1910. And ever wonder what the “A.A.O.N.M.S.” means? It stands for “Ancient Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine;” just what you were thinking, right?
And what of shriners? What are they? Those guys in tassel hats (like Bogie’s rival bar-owner in “Casablanca”). Like many other secret societies formed in the Victorian and other early eras, the group identified themselves as “a brotherhood of men…dedicated to fun and fellowship…but with serious purpose.” Hard to think they are too serious with those fez caps, but they are. (Side note: wasn’t Mr. Cunningham of “Happy Days” a shriner? Does ‘Poobah ring a bell?)
In other cities, I’ve seen some of the AAONMS brethren on busy streets collecting money for charities. Evidently the group based in The Murat Temple helped establish Indy’s 500 festival parade and gave our beloved Indianapolis Zoo their very first animal–keeping in theme: a camel.
The first part of the building was designed by Oscar Bohlen, son of beloved architect Diedrich A. Bohlen, with a distinctive Middle Eastern design. The addition immediately north was designed by Rubush and Hunter and added in 1922. Cool connection just up the street–the William P. Jungclaus Company constructed the 1909 portion. You may have noticed a tower further up Mass Ave with a big “J” on it–same company.
Interesting choice that on the back side, they painted a flat facade to carry on the Arabic theme. What’s your favorite feature of the building? And would it make your top 10 favorite public buildings in Indianapolis?