Due to Ralston’s original design of the city, Indianapolis has had a number of flatiron buildings. These triangular-shaped buildings were constructed where angled avenues bisect the city’s grid-patterned streets. One such flatiron block that has seen several changes is at the intersection of East Washington and Pennsylvania Streets and Virginia Avenue.

The grand Vance Block was built in 1875/76 by Mary J. (Bates) Vance, widow of merchant Lawrence Vance. Her money and entrepreneurial spirit likely came from her father, Hervey Bates, who was Marion County’s first sheriff. He was best known as a businessman and banker, and the owner of the well-known Bates House, at one time the city’s finest hotel. The Vance Block was designed in 1875 by architect William H. Brown. It featured an eighty-foot tower, the city’s first elevator, and an oolitic limestone facade carved by Gerhard Ittenback (whose descendants read Historic Indianapolis). An open atrium was lit with rooftop skylights. This view looks southeast with Washington Street on the left and Virginia Avenue on the right. Photographer John Pendergast made this rare photograph, half of a stereoview, in the late 1870s. (Heritage Photo & Research Services / Indiana Album)