Evolving Designs: From the Union Trust Building to the Indiana National Bank

Updated: Sep 15

Several weeks ago, I published the second part of a series of posts about the history of the William P. Jungclaus Co. general contracting firm (now known as Jungclaus Campbell). One of the firm’s projects was excluded from that post so that it could explored in more detail in this post. This project involved the landmark Union Trust Building, and the Indiana National Bank building which replaced the Trust building in the 1950's.

Indianapolis Union Trust Building downtown history
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society (1914)

The Union Trust Building was constructed sometime in the 1870's and was originally known as Wright’s Block. Located at 116-120 East Market Street (66-74 prior to street renumbering), the building housed a variety of businesses and commercial operations before the Union Trust Company purchased the property in the late 1890’s. The 1887 (left) and 1898 (right) Sanborn Maps show both the Wright Block and the later Union Trust Building.


As will be described later, the Union Trust Building is no longer standing. However, two examples of construction similar to the Union Trust building still exist in downtown in the form of the Griffith Block building, just east of the intersection of Illinois and Washington Street, and the Vajen’s Exchange Block, on Meridian Street just south of Maryland. These buildings are examples of what was described as "Venetian Commercial Italianate," (according to a Historic American Buildings Survey which analyzed the Griffith Block), although other authorities identify these as Second Empire design. These buildings are actually just the facades of the original structures which were moved from other sites in downtown in the years leading up to the construction of Circle Centre Mall. Griffith Block had been located on the opposite side of Washington Street, while Vajen’s Exchange Block had been located in the 100 block of North Pennsylvania. The original versions of these buildings were also built in the 1870's when this style of construction was popular in downtown.



In 1950, the Union Trust Company merged with the Indiana National Bank in what was described as the largest financial merger in the state’s history. Numerous advertisements in local newspapers sought to reassure customers of the Union Trust about the company being subsumed by the larger Indiana National Bank. One ad noted that “[a] warm, personal welcome awaits customers of The Union Trust Company in our larger institution, with its nation-wide services and facilities and the modern conveniences which are priding for them and all of our customers and friends.”

Union Trust Building Indianapolis history Indiana National Bank
Indianapolis Star, May 27, 1953

Included in the merger was the Union Trust Building at 120 East Market, which was to be the Union Branch of the Indiana National Bank. According to the Indianapolis Star, most of the staff for the new branch had previously worked for the Union Trust Company prior to the merger. The building continued to host the bank, as well as other tenants, including Indiana Legal Aid, until 1953, when in May of that year, the Indiana National Bank announced that the landmark building would be razed to make room for a more modern structure for the bank branch. The Star described the former Union Trust building as a “gingerbread-fronted” building, which had hosted some noteworthy tenants, including James Whitcomb Riley, and Benjamin Harrison’s law firm. The report also said that the cast iron fittings on the front of the building had been derived from the iron of melted Civil War cannon, although I could not confirm this point.


The final day of business at the Union Trust Building was to be November 13, 1953. Following the upcoming demolition, a modern mid-rise building designed by D.A. Bohlen and Son was planned for the site. The Star reported that the new bank building would have footings placed to support a 15-story building, although as of late 1953, only four or five stories had been planned. By January of 1954 the new building’s height had been increased to 12 stories, and contracts were being let for the demolition of the Union Trust Building, and the construction of the new building, which was estimated to cost $2,000,000. Strangely, the various news reports about the project cannot agree on when the Union Trust Building was first constructed. One source indicated 85 years before, another 80, still another said 60 years, and finally, 50 years. One article even noted that information about the early years of the building was difficult to find.


The contract for the demolition of the Union Trust Building was awarded to the William P. Jungclaus Co., and the work was commenced in 1954. The images below show the early stages of the demolition.


The new building was to have a limestone and aluminum façade, and a granite faced first floor and entranceway. Local newspapers also boasted that the building was to have air conditioning on all floors, and restroom facilities for men and women on all floors. The building was to be similar to the recent addition to the Indiana National Bank's main branch at the corner of Pennsylvania and Virginia, which had also been designed by D.A. Bohlen and Son, and constructed in 1950. The Jungclaus firm was also awarded the general contract for the project. The first page of the estimate submitted by Jungclaus for the project is pictured below. Note the estimate, dated April 20, 1954, was for a 14-story structure.


The new building's superstructure was topped out in late December of 1954. The below photos show the building nearing completion in 1956, along with an interior photo showing work being done on the 5th floor. Unclear what the significance of that photo is, aside from an example of the interior work being done.

The building was completed in the spring of 1957, and the Indiana National Bank hosted a sneak-preview open house to show off the new facility. An original invitation for this event was in the archives of the Jungclaus-Campbell Co., presumably from when its management was invited to the event after the construction was completed.


Unlike the Griffith and Exchange Blocks discussed above, the façade of the Union Trust building was not preserved, at least, not that I was able to locate. The other two were transferred to their current locations during the construction of the Circle Centre Mall in the 1990’s, while the Indiana National Bank building continues to be used for a variety of commercial uses on East Market Street.



Sources


Indianapolis Star: December 7, 1950, March 27, 1951, May 27, 1953, November 7, 1953, January 17, 1954, July 20, 1994,


Indianapolis News: December 31, 1953, November 2, 1979


Griffith Block (Commercial Building), 36-38 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, Marion County, IN, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/in0313/


Union Trust Co., 1914 (Bass #35136), Indiana Historical Society, https://images.indianahistory.org/digital/collection/dc012/id/361/rec/11


IUPUI Indianapolis Sanborn Map and Baist Atlas Collection (1887 & 1898), https://www.ulib.iupui.edu/digitalcollections/sanbornjp2


Uncredited photos are from the Jungclaus-Campbell archive or were personally taken by the author.







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