The 1899 Building, formerly the Men’s Dining Hall for Central State Hospital. (Photo: 1899indy.com)
When last RWAV headed west, we visited Central State Hospital’s Administration Building in the middle of its restoration and transformation into “Central State Mansion” by Reverie Estates. In the short time that has past, the Mansion is now a vibrant collection of artist studios, co-living spaces, and micro-offices catering to Indianapolis’ student and young creative professionals. As Reverie was completing the rehabilitation process for the “Admin” Building, it also had its sights on the near-by “1899 Building” and the potential it held.
What is now known as the 1899 Building began its life as one of three similarly constructed dining halls, labeled on the circa 1898 Sanborn map above. The building in question, labeled #1 on the map was the northernmost of two that served the men’s building, a smaller Kirkbride-plan facility which was demolished in the early 20th century and replaced with a number of smaller dormitories.
North of the men’s building was Seven Steeples, the sprawling women’s building which was demolished in the 1970s. The dining hall labeled #3 was later joined by a fourth that served the Steeples, a mirror image arranged as were the men’s dining halls, possibly shown in the photo above.
As Central State’s approach to mental health care changed over time, so did the buildings that supported it. Dr. Kirkbride’s “building-as-cure” approach to psychiatric care fell out of fashion and as mentioned, both the staggered winged men’s and women’s buildings were razed and replaced with smaller dormitories. As the main facilities fell, so did many of the auxiliary buildings. A newer dining hall was built just north of the 1899, which became the only dining hall of the four to escape the wrecking ball.
Over the last few decades that Central State was in operation, the former Men’s Dining Hall served as a recreation hall. As Central State closed its doors, the 1899 building became a storage facility for a wide variety of office equipment, furniture, and other evidence of the day to day operation of the hospital. In the twenty years that lapsed between the hospital’s closing and Reverie’s intervention, the 1899 building was in disastrous condition, both inside and out. Vandals had broken windows and strewn the material remnants of Central State throughout the hall, presenting certain urban exploring photographers with excellent, yet unfortunate photo opportunities.
With the help of a $3 million dollar loan from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Reverie Estates included the restoration of the 1899 building in its master plan to revitalize Central State’s center campus. The renovation of the Administration Building, as described in the previous article, was successfully accomplished in the fall of 2014. Reverie then turned its sights to the nearby 1899 building and the potential offered by its open space.
Workers hauled away the accumulated refuse, repaired the building’s leaking roof and original skylights, restored and repointed its brick exterior, and replaced the worn and broken windows. Best of all, great care was taken to retain the intricate tile floor, making repairs where needed but also allowing the wear and patina of age to reflect the building’s longevity.
Today, the beautifully restored 1899 Building is available to rent for events of all kinds and features edible delacacies by Indianapolis’ Hoaglin Catering. For information on the hall’s availability, catering packages, and contact information, please visit 1899indy.com.
This article was created for Reverie Estates with thanks for their sponsorship of this site.