Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society, Herman List Collection

The Herman List Collection at the Indiana Historical Society gives us a glimpse of Indianapolis at a time of transition around 1900 when the old one- and two-story houses and stores were being removed to make way for skyscrapers. List, an amateur photographer and baker by trade, made nitrate negatives of views around town, including the intersection of East Maryland and South Pennsylvania Streets.

List, like most of Indianapolis, was probably impressed by the recently constructed Majestic Building, which he photographed in about 1897-1900. The ten-story headquarters for the Indiana Gas Company was Indiana’s first entirely steel-framed skyscraper. The Romanesque Revival structure was built in 1895 and 1896 of brick clad with and Indiana limestone veneer. It was designed by architect Oscar Bohlen of D.A. Bohlen and Son.

Although it was not List’s major focus, the street scene also captured the exterior of “The C. H. BLACK MFG. CO. / CARRIAGE MANUFACTURERS.” As Dennis Horvath wrote, Charles H. Black might have built the first automobile in Indiana in 1891 but documentation is lost to history and the credit usually goes to Elwood Haynes of Kokomo who built an early automobile in 1894. Black’s carriage business occupied this two-story building at 40 E. Maryland Street as well as the brick building behind it (facing Pennsylvania Street). The business wrapped around an old brick house on the corner that later served as a saloon.

Google Street View, July 2009

By 1901 the seven-story Century Building replaced the old corner buildings. It was specifically designed by architect Samuel H. Brubaker and Company to house the large printing presses of several printing companies.

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4 responses to “Then & Now: Majestic Building / Charles H. Black’s Carriage Manufacturing / Century Building, East Maryland Street”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    The Indianapolis Arts Council used to be headquartered in the Majestic Building…

  2. Scott Smith says:

    How awesome! I never new there were any photos of the C. H. BLACK MFG. CO. Thanks for the post.

  3. David Brewer says:

    It’s wonderful to see a picture of the Majestic Building when it was still fairly new. I love the blurry horse and wagon just coming into the photo at the left.

    I worked there from 1986-88 (third floor–it’s the office windows in line above the arched entrance). Our floor still had some of the original massive office doors and the elevator banks had cool patterned floors. Occasionally I would get the lunch special at the Majestic Oyster Bar and you could see the ICG monograms in the leaded glass windows and the old vault at the back of the restaurant. Also had the steam radiator by my drafting table.

  4. Jeff Congdon says:

    I have a postcard titled as follows:

    “Gasoline propelled automobile made by Charles M. Black in 1891 in Indianapolis. Displayed at the children’s Museum of Indianapolis.”

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