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Constructing a Legacy: William P. Jungclaus and the Building of Indianapolis

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Late in the evening of October 30, 1924, longtime Indianapolis resident and businessman William P. Jungclaus passed away following an operation for an undisclosed medical condition at Methodist Hospital at 16th and Capitol north of downtown. William's death ended a construction and carpentry career which had spanned almost 50 years, and included the construction of numerous structures in Indianapolis, and surrounding communities. In recognition of this feat, the Indianapolis Star referred to him as the “dean of Indianapolis contractors,” and noted that he was “considered one of the best known contractors in the middle West.”

Jungclaus -Campbell Jungclaus Mill Indianapolis History
William P. Jungclaus, n.d.

William, who had been born in Hamburg in 1849 (at the time an independent state within the greater German Confederation), embarked upon a career as a sailor, following in the steps of his sea captain father, traveling all over the world, and circling the globe. A blog post about William's travels and adventures as a sailor is available from the Indiana Historical Society. A journal detailing William's sea faring experiences and his early construction career is available here. His time as a sailor was relatively short lived, and after seven years he left the seafaring life behind in 1870 while ashore in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and with his father, moved as far from the sea as one can get in the continental United States: Indianapolis. In 1872, he reconnected with a childhood friend, Marie Schumacher, and they married in September of that year.

William was working as a carpenter and laborer in his first few years in Indianapolis, before his brother-in-law, John A. Schumacher, working as a carpenter in New York City, asked William about the possibility of him moving to Indianapolis. William recounted in his journal that he supported John's (whom he called Albert, his middle name) decision, and offered to sell him half of his business and enter into a partnership. Albert agreed and this resulted in the formation of the construction and carpentry firm of Jungclaus & Schumacher in 1875, the successor of which still operates in Indianapolis to this day as Jungclaus Campbell, Co.

A variety of projects were undertaken by the firm, including residential, commercial, and education institution construction, along with mill work and the production of planed, or shaped, carpentry materials. Below is a bond document for the construction of a school by Jungclaus & Schumacher in April 1884. This document is from the May Wright Sewall Papers in the Indianapolis Public Library Digital Collections.

The company’s headquarters and center of operations was located on St. Clair Street, just east of Massachusetts Avenue, where the Mayflower moving facility stands today. In the 1887 Sanborn below, the intersection of College, St. Clair, and Massachusetts is in the bottom left hand corner.

Sanborn Map Jungclaus Campbell Jungclaus mill Indianapolis history
Indiana Sanborn Maps, 1887, #63, Indiana University Bloomington Libraries

Labor issues were not alien to late 19th century Indianapolis, and the carpenters working for Jungclaus & Schumacher, and other similar firms, launched a strike in spring of 1887. On April 13 it was reported in the News that Jungclaus & Schumacher had agreed to an advancement of wages for some employees, but would not agree to a 9-hour workday, after their workers had already agreed to a 10-hour day. The News further noted that an early conclusion of the strike was likely with little gain, and that “[t]he want of union and harmony among the carpenters has made a successful strike impossible.”

In March of 1895, Schumacher and Jungclaus parted ways and dissolved their partnership. A report in the Indianapolis News on March 25 indicated that both partners wanted to involve their sons as partners in the business and chose to do so separately. William explained in his journal that "[o]ne day my partner says Bill I believe it would be best for us to dissolve partnership and each of us give our boys a chance I looked at him in surprise and said Al where did you get that all at once, do you mean what you say and he answered yes I have thought it over carefully. Well I said if that is the fact I agree and I am glad that you have made the suggestion and not I." William described the division of the firm's assets, which was divided into the milling and lumberyard on one hand, and various acquired properties on the other. William gave his partner first choice, and Albert chose the mill and lumberyard, leaving William with the property in Indianapolis.

William took steps to continue with his milling and contracting work, incorporating the William P. Jungclaus Co, Inc. on May 9th, 1895. Jungclaus and his wife, Marie (listed as Mary on the documents), were directors, along with a Michael Roth. Their sons, Fredrick and Henry, also became more involved in the firm, with Frederick later becoming Secretary and Treasurer. According to the articles of incorporation filed in 1895, the purpose of the corporation was the “carrying on a mechanical and manufacturing business; in constructing buildings and all other structures, and manufacturing doors, sashes, blinds, and all kind of material and supplies used in the construction of such building or other structures…” The term for the new company was to be 50 years.

However, William did not have any facilities for his new company, and he began to build a new mill on one of the pieces of land obtained during the dissolution of the partnership. Luckily, around that same time an opportunity arose that allowed William to purchase the Capital City Planing Mill, located in the same block as the Jungclaus & Schumacher headquarters, but slightly to the northwest of that location. The property had been appraised at $38,000, although William describes in his journal purchasing the facility for $5,000, the amount of an outstanding mortgage on the property. William also recounted in his journal that the purchase "changed the progression I had laid out and I stopped work on the building of a shop I took possession of the plant I bought and established myself in the office and thus I became owner of a much larger mill and yard than what the old firm had operated and I was back in the business all at once." (original punctuation)

Sanborn Map Jungclaus Campbell Jungclaus mill Indianapolis history
IUPUI Sanborn and Baist Collection, Sanborn 1898, #191

Schumacher continued to operate his business at the partnership’s original location at St. Clair and Davidson, with William operating at the former Capital City Mill location. The present day Jungclaus-Campbell still operates at this location purchased by William in 1895.

newspaper Jungclaus Campbell Jungclaus mill Indianapolis history
Indianapolis Ind. Journal, June 5, 1987

In addition to the construction and milling business, the Jungclaus company also conducted demolition and remodeling projects. In June of 1897, Jungclaus was awarded the contract ($60,000 bid) for the remodeling of the interior of English’s Opera House, located on the northwest quadrant of Monument Circle. The interior was to be rebuilt under the contract, along with the addition of a ladies’ room, smoking room, and manager’s office. Additional contracts for the refurnishing of the opera house were also let, but it is not clear if these were awarded to Jungclaus.

Aside from his contracting work, William was apparently a card player, and a news brief in 1900 reported that he and other from Indianapolis were taking part in a National Skat Tournament in Milwaukee. Skat is a card game, which was (maybe still is) popular in Germany. During this tournament, William won a black bear of “considerable size,” which he intended to give to the city of Indianapolis for use in the park system’s new zoological gardens. Presumably this refers to the bear pit at Riverside Park, but I have been unable to confirm whether this donation occurred.

In 1902, Jungclaus won the contract for the construction of the new Agricultural Building on the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette (one of many projects completed outside of the Indianapolis area). An article in the Indianapolis News on April 5, 1902, reported that one of the sub-contractors who received a contract through Jungclaus was Clara S. Boicourt, who the News described as "the only feminine contracting plasterer in this State." Boicourt had assisted her husband in the plastering business prior to his death, and then took over the business. She described the Purdue building as the "most important contract that U have bid on," and expected employ five plasterers for the project.

In 1903, Jungclaus submitted what ultimately was an unsuccessful bid for the construction of the Indiana Building at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair (a.k.a. “Louisiana Purchase Exposition”). Jungclaus bid $46,900, while the lowest bidder, Caldwell & Drake of Columbus, returned a bid of $31,443. In 1904 Jungclaus won the bid to construct a new girl’s dormitory at the School for the Blind. Not long after, Jungclaus was the general contractor for several construction projects at the site of Fort Benjamin Harrison, which were constructed over the course of the next several years, as the military post was being established. The Jungclaus projects included the Commanding Officer’s home, granary, bakery, stables, and the base hospital, among others. Many of the structures are still standing, and in use by various businesses in the Fort Harrison area. The hospital is now the Fort Ben Harrison Inn and is part of the Fort Harrison State Park, although the balcony on each end of the building has since been enclosed.

Perhaps the most prominent project up to that time was undertaken by the Jungclaus company in 1908, when the firm was retained to construct the new Murat Shrine Temple, located on the corner of Michigan and Alabama, just a few blocks from the Jungclaus mill site and headquarters. The structure was estimated to cost about $250,000 and was completed in 1909. While images of this construction could not be located, Jungclaus also served as the general contractor for the construction of a 1922 addition to the northside of the Temple. A slide show of images taken by the Jungclaus firm during the construction of the addition are below.

In 1912, Jungclaus was the general contractor for a new three-story manufacturing building built on the Eli Lilly Company’s campus south of downtown. The building was located on the northwest corner of Alabama and Norwood. Unclear whether the building currently on that site is the original structure. That same year the firm was also awarded contracts to construct Indianapolis Public School 51 at Roosevelt and Olney, and to construct a two-story edition to School 45 at Park and 23rd Street. The latter structure still stands.

Unfortunately, not all projects were completed smoothly. In 1920 Jungclaus was the general contractor for the construction of a new addition at the Emmerich Manual Training High School at 525 S. Meridian Street (present day Manual High School is on south Madison). The addition had a stone and brick façade over a steel frame, and was being managed by Fredrick Jungclaus, William's son, who was the treasurer and secretary of the company and had taken a more active role in the company following the dissolution of Jungclaus & Schumacher in 1895. On the morning of Thursday, November 18, 1920, construction was proceeding on the new addition to the school, planned to house an auditorium, gym, and new lunchroom. Around 11 am, the three-story steel structure began to sway and shift, before a complete collapse occurred.

Manual High School Jungclaus Campbell Indianapolis history
Indianapolis Star, November 20, 1920

One workman was killed outright, and over 20 injured, with an additional fatality occurring a few days later. The cause of the collapse was immediately suspected to be a large wooden derrick which had been constructed on top of the structure to assist with the moving and installation of stonework on the walls. Apparently, no guyed wires had been installed, although contractors had been discussing installing them the day of the collapse, and the weight of the derrick on the still incomplete steel structure appears to have caused its collapse. The images below are from the Jungclaus-Campbell company records and show the damage steel structure prior to clean up being done at the site. Compare these images to the drawing from the Indianapolis Star, above.

An investigation was launched, and subpoenas issued to Fredrick Jungclaus, as well as Robert Berner, steel contractor, and Carl Ittenbach, stone contractor. The architect, Herman Scherrer, was also called to provide a statement. In the end, the coroner’s investigation determined that the derrick, constructed and installed by the stone contractor to place stonework, was at fault, and Ittenbach, along with one of his foremen and an engineer, were arrested for unlawful operation of the derrick. The coroner further scolded several other parties involved in the construction for not maintaining a closer watch on the project. The Manual High School project was delayed for several months to allow clean-up of the collapse debris and reconstruction, and Jungclaus received an extension from the school board to complete the project

Manual High School Jungclaus-Campbell Jungclaus mill Indianapolis history
Manual High School Jungclaus-Campbell Jungclaus mill Indianapolis history
Manual High School Jungclaus Campbell Jungclaus mill Indianapolis history

The project was completed in January of 1922, as shown in the images above from the Jungclaus-Campbell company records. Note the mostly completed auditorium in the final photo, but which is still awaiting the installation of seating. That same month the remainder of the contract was approved for payment to the Jungclaus company (see meeting minutes below). The main structure of the school still stands, although the addition constructed in 1922, which was to the south of the main building, has since been razed.

Jungclaus Campbell Indianapolis history
Meeting Minutes of the Board of School Commissioners, January 31, 1922 - November 10, 1922

The difficulties with the Manual project did not follow William or his company, and the early 1920’s also saw the completion of two large commercial buildings in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. The first was the Kresge Building, located on the southwest corner of Pennsylvania and Washington Street. The structure most recently was known to house Morton’s Steakhouse (prior to its closure during the COVID pandemic) and the Indianapolis Business Journal, which relocated to offices on Monument Circle. The slide show of construction images below are from the Jungclaus-Campbell company records, and is controlled using the arrows on the left and right of the images. Pearl Street (or alley) is at the back of the structure, and the large seven story building in the background currently houses Coaches Tavern, Pearl Street Pizza, and Tin Roof.

The other project, the Guaranty Building, is on Monument Circle, on the southwest side of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. It has recently housed the now closed Au Bon Pain (COVID closure), and still houses South Bend Chocolate, Nicky Blaine’s Cigar Bar, and Windsor Jewelry. Exact Target also used to occupy the building, prior to that company's purchase by Salesforce. The construction images below are provided courtesy of Jungclaus-Campbell, Co.

Jungclaus-Campbell monument circle

In 1922 Jungclaus was also the general contractor for the construction of the Real Silk Mills located just south of the intersection of College and Massachusetts. The grand opening for the main mill building was on September 16, 1922. The Indianapolis Times reported that more than 1,000 people were expected to attend the opening ceremony, which would include speeches, “musical numbers,” and readings. Jungclaus would later construct additional structures on the Real Silk campus. Additional history of the Real Silk Mills can be found in this post detailing the 1934 strike at the mills. The photos below from the Jungclaus-Campbell records show various stages of construction for structures on the Real Silk campus. The church whose steeple is visible in one photo currently houses the St. Joseph Brewery at College Avenue and North Street.

William Jungclaus’s death in 1924 saw a new generation of his family take over operation of the company, as his son Fredrick, who had been working his way up in the company since the break with Schumacher in 1895, became president, while his brother, Henry still maintained a stake in the company. William’s five decades of carpentry and contracting work in Indianapolis had already left a mark on Indianapolis (and in really, all over the state), earning him the “dean” title referenced earlier, and leaving a cityscape dotted with structures constructed by his firm. However, under Fredrick’s leadership, the remainder of the 1920’s, and the next few decades would see the construction of some of the city’s most prominent structures.


All structure and construction photos provided by Jungclaus-Campbell, Co., Inc., and used with permission.

Indianapolis Star: December 18, 1908, July 8, 1908, April 10, 1912, November 19-20, 1920, November 21, 1920, December 1, 1920, November 19, 1922, March 15, 1923, April 20, 1924, October 31, 1924

Indianapolis News: April 13, 1887, March 25, 1895, April 2, 1895, February 20, 1900, April 5, 1902, August 11, 1903, November 1, 1924

Indianapolis Journal: March 4, 1884, June 5, 1887, January 30, 1904

William P. Jungclaus Journal (1918), Indiana Historical Society, on loan from Jungclaus-Campbell Co., Inc.

Indianapolis Sanborn Map (1887), #63, IUPUI Sanborn and Baist Collection

Indianapolis Sanborn Map (1915) #98, IUPUI Sanborn and Baist Collection

Indianapolis Sanborn Map (1898), #191, IUPUI Sanborn and Baist Collection

Meeting Minutes of the Board of School Commissioners, January 31, 1922 - November 10, 1922

Indianapolis City Directories, 1876, 1885, 1895, 1920


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