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Indiana's Bulwark of Civilization: The Construction of the State Library

Back in February 2021 I wrote about a proposed plaza on the westside of the Indiana statehouse in downtown Indianapolis which was intended to celebrate the state's centennial in 1916. As noted in that post, included in the plan for a statehouse plaza was the construction of a new building for the state library and museum, both of which were housed in cramped quarters within the statehouse. While the plaza idea did not come to fruition, at least, not at that time, a plan for construction of the State Library and Historical Building (hereafter the "state library") did move forward, albeit very slowly over the next 20 years, culminating with an allocation of funds for the project in 1929. Following this action, a state library commission was appointed in February 1930 by Governor Harry G. Leslie and charged with overseeing the development of the new library.

During the rest of the year the commission held a series of meetings to consider locations for the library, with a site in the "neighborhood" of the statehouse being the preferred location (another site being considered was on Veterans Plaza). On February 22, 1931, the Indianapolis Star reported that the location chosen for the library was in block 49, on the southwest corner of Ohio and Senate Avenue, bound by Market Street to the south, and the Central Canal on the west.

Baist map Indianapolis history
1927 Baist Map, IUPUI Sanborn & Baist Collection

This block was occupied by a variety of structures, including commercial structures, and residences, The northeast quadrant of the section, which was the intended location of the library, was occupied by several residences, a garage, and the Hotel La Salle, which sat right on the Senate and Ohio intersection.

Indianapolis News, April 4, 1931

But before the library could be constructed, the state first had to obtain title to the land, which lead to litigation in 1931. One issue was that the land was tied up in the estate of William P. Jungclaus. Jungclaus, and the general contracting firm which bore his name, had been in Indianapolis for almost 50 years, and as discussed in previous posts, had already constructed some of the city’s most prominent buildings. His death in 1924 resulted in his son Fredrick taking over the operation of the company, although other properties were held in trust for the benefit of his widow, Marie S. Jungclaus, and their children. When William P. Jungclaus obtained title to the property in block 49 is unclear. However, by the late 1920’s the land was still in the Jungclaus family, and Marie had been named the trustee of the property, which under the terms of William's will was to remain in trust for 10 years. As a result of limitation placed by the will, the state filed condemnation proceedings in Marion Circuit Court on Friday, April 3, 1931, in order to clear the title.

The case moved quickly, perhaps an indication that the Jungclaus family was not opposed to the transfer and on May 5, 1931, Judge Harry O. Chamberlain of the Marion Circuit Court made his ruling and condemned the property in favor of the state. Three appraisers were appointed to establish the value of the property, with a deadline of May 12. I found no reference of the value placed on the land, although the transfer was finalized.

Even before the filing of the lawsuit against Jungclaus, other litigation had been filed in regard to the selected location of the state library. On March 27, 1931, 1931, Orin A. Hill sued Marie Jungclaus and the State Library Building Commission for Specific Performance on a Lease. The suit stemmed from Hill's lease on the land occupied by the LaSalle Hotel, located at the corner of Senate and Ohio Streets, right where the library was to be constructed. Hill alleged that he purchased the hotel in 1929, and that at the time, the hotel leased the land from Marie Jungclaus. He alleged that the condemnation proceedings for the property were interfering with his lease, and that he had made improvements to the property, which would be lost if the lease was not renewed, and condemnation moved forward. His "wherefore" paragraph from his complaint summarized the relief demanded:

The outcome of this proceeding is not clear, since the case file maintained at the Indiana State Archives contains pleadings and some correspondence, but nothing regarding the result of the case. However, a letter contained in the file between the head of the state library commission, Arthur Baxter to Louis Bailey, the state librarian, made it seem that the state was not concerned with Hill's claims.

Aside from the pending legal issues, the state library commission had launched a competition for the design of the new library with the requirement that Indiana limestone would be used in the construction. Pierre & Wright architects of Indianapolis would win this competition for the design in October of 1931 and provided a proposed Classic Revival design for the new building. The image below is the elevation drawing for the library prepared by Edward D. Pierre showing the eastern side of the library, and the original front entrance, which faces the statehouse and Senate Avenue. Under their plans, the interior was styled as Art Decco. Color renderings of the Great Hall of the library, and other interior areas can be viewed at this link, and this link.

Indiana state library history architecture design
Credit: Indiana State Library collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, Indiana State Library

Despite the condemnation lawsuit related to the property, when proposals for the general contract for the construction of the library were requested, the William P. Jungclaus Company submitted a bid for general contracting work. In late March 1932, the bid winners were announced, with Jungclaus receiving the nod with a bid of $450,200. Interestingly, this was not the lowest bid for general contracting. The Ferro-Concrete Construction Company from Cincinatti had submitted a bid for $449,800. However, the commission's selections of alternatives from the base bid resulted in the Jungclaus bid coming in lower than the Ferro-Concrete Construction Company.

Following the clearing of the site for the library, construction began in May of 1932. The image below shows initial foundation work being done on the site in early June. The first image (left) is looking towards the northeast. The large brick building in the background is the Indiana Christian Hospital (previously known at the Protestant Deaconess Hospital) built in the late 1890's. The building would later be converted to a Salvation Army facility, before being demolished and converted to a parking lot. The second image is looking from the opposite corner of construction site, towards the southwest, and land which would later be occupied by the state office building.

Foundation work continued into July. The image below is taken looking towards the east/southeast, and includes an excellent view of the statehouse, and the downtown skyline in the background. Visible is the top of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, and the Traction Terminal office building. The small white building on the far side of the construction site was the construction office, used by Jungclaus and other contractors.

Jungclaus Campell history state library Indianapolis

By August, the foundation of the library was in place, and work was well advanced on the second floor as shown below. This image appears to have been taken from the second or third floor of the statehouse and is looking west. Just to the west of the hospital building is the Artificial Ice and Cold Storage Co., which was a topic in this post from 2020. If you look closely on the left side of the image, you can just barely see the waters of the Central Canal.

Jungclaus Campell history state library Indianapolis

The image below was also taken on August 2, 1932, and shows a closer view of the construction, although there are no workers in the photo. The statehouse is visible in the background. Also note the rounded opening in the floor in the upper left corner of the image. This would be part of the grand entranceway and staircase on the eastern side of side of the library, which was originally the main entrance (an image of the staircase appears at the end of this post).

Jungclaus Campell history state library Indianapolis

Just over two months after the above two photos, on October 19, 1932, the cornerstone for the library was laid, likely on the northeast corner of the building. Several images depicting this ceremony also exist in the collections of the Indiana Historical Society. The photo below is one of those images contained in the Jungclaus-Campbell archive materials, although this one also includes an inscription likely done by someone working for Jungclaus. The Masonic Grand Lodge of Indiana emceed the ceremony, with Governor Harry G. Leslie in attendance. Leslie's speech for the event noted in regard to the new building that "[a]s we look into the future let us hope that this is the beginning of a growth that shall reach into every home."

A bronze box time capsule was placed inside the cornerstone. According to the Indianapolis Star on October 20, 1932, the box contained "certain memorials of the period at which the building was erected," including records from the state library commission overseeing the project, statutes and laws relating to the library, a copy of the governor's speech at the event, various newspapers, and Masonic records. At the conclusion of the event a prayer was said to protect the workers on the project, and construction continued.

Jungclaus Campell history state library Indianapolis

If you look closely at the above image, you can see Fredrick Jungclaus, who took over the William P. Jungclaus Company following his father's death in 1924, standing on the left side of the photo, in a fedora and smoking a cigarette. Based on his facial expression, he appears thoroughly unimpressed with the event.

Work continued, and by early December (image below), the building had been topped out, and the limestone clad walls were being finalized, along with work on interior utilities.

Jungclaus Campell history state library Indianapolis

The images below (use the slider arrows) show the library as seen from Ohio Street near the Ohio Street bridge over the canal, looking back east towards the library. The first image is dated January 3, a few days after the image above, while the second is a month later. By February the limestone facade had reached the top of the structure, which included decorative features along the roof line.

Note the hospital zone sign on the right of both of the above images, a reference to the previously discussed hospital across the street from the library. Also note the spare tire cover on the vehicle parallel parked in the first image. A close up of this cover shows that it is a political sign promoting Paul V. McNutt for governor. McNutt had won the election for governor, and was set to be inaugurated on January 9, 1933, a week after the first image was taken.

McNutt would make widespread changes to Indiana government during his term in office, and the state library was not exempt from this. In May of 1933 the Indianapolis News reported that state library employees had received a questionnaire (allegedly at McNutt's direction) which asked their political affiliation. Those who responded Republican, or non-partisan, were dismissed. This controversy, while not directly related to the construction of the new library, continued to simmer for several months, and may be the subject of a future blog post.

Getting back to the progress of the new building, while the structural construction of the library was mostly done by spring of 1933, there was still much finishing work to be completed on the inside of the building, as well as decorative features on the exterior. Included among these were several sculpted panels depicting various figures from United States history. The Indianapolis Times reported in June of 1933 on the work of Adolph Wolter, who was carving these panels near the roofline of the library.

Indiana State library history Adolph Woltar
Indianapolis Times, June 1, 1933

June also saw labor issues and controversy between some of the subcontractors arise. This impacted not only the library, but also the IU dental school building on the present day IUPUI campus, which was also being constructed by Jungclaus. In late June, the administrative offices for the library began to move to the new building, although furniture orders for the library were not placed until July. Also, in late July a new controversy arose when the library commission was informed that the new library would host not just the library, but also the department of conservation and the highway department. Criticism was directed towards McNutt for this, and Arthur R. Baxter, the head of the commission resigned in protest, noting in his resignation letter to McNutt that the action was a "plain misappropriation, if not illegal."

The inside of the library was still lagging behind the exterior construction. On August 29, 1933, the Indianapolis News published a request for proposals for the "interior decorating" of the library building, and in September contracts were let for the painting of the ceilings. In October, the library commission awarded contracts for interior murals to a New York artist, resulting in complaints from the Indianapolis News that Hoosier artists were being "snubbed" by the commission. Interior work continued until the fall of 1934 when the library was ready for its dedication. This was done on December 7, 1934, when the library was formally accepted by the state in a large ceremony in the foyer of the new library. Governor McNutt reminisced about the original state library arriving in the seat of government more than 100 years before, while the vice president of the library commission, Charles N. Thompson, described the work that had gone into making the library a reality, while also characterizing libraries as the "bulwarks of civilization."

The library building remained mostly unchanged for 40 years. In the early 1970's major renovations and updates to the building's aging system were completed, and in 1973 an appropriation of $1.5 million was made by the General Assembly for the construction of an addition on the west side of the library. An anonymous donor, which according to a report in the Indianapolis Star on March 3, 1973, was rumored to be the Lilly Foundation, had pledged an additional $2 million if the appropriation was passed. After establishing a commission to oversee the expansion, ground was broken on June 30, 1975. The price for the expansion had ballooned to almost $5 million for the expansion, with $2 million coming from the Indiana Historical Society (possibly the original anonymous donor), which at the time had its library within the state library building. The new addition was completed in 1976 and was dedicated by then Governor Otis Bowen on October 22, 1976.

The new addition differed greatly from the more classical construction of the original library. Personally, the new addition as pictured above reminds me of a jail or prison versus a library. In 2001-2002 this new addition updated with a new glass and steel entrance and facade facing Ohio Street, along with a glass and steel vestibule added to the westside of the building (see images below). These replaced the narrow fortress like windows which had originally been included on the expansion.

If you have not visited the library, I recommend that you swing by if you have an opportunity. The library's collections are fantastic to explore, and the staff is always very helpful. Even if you do not have any research interests in the collections, the interior of the library is beautiful, and worth the visit. The images below show the dedication plaque which, like most of these plaques, only acknowledges the architects, and not those who actually constructed the building, along with the main staircase at the eastern entrance.


All construction images in this post are courtesy of the Jungclaus-Campbell archive materials collection.

Indianapolis News: April 4, 1931, May 6, 1931, March 31, 1932, April 21, 1932, July 21, 1933, September 16, 1933, December 7, 1934, March 3, 1973, June 30, 1975

Indianapolis Star: February 22, 1931, May 6, 1931, October 3, 1931, October 10, 1931, March 31, 1932, October 20, 1932, June 6, 1933, June 17, 1933, June 22, 1933, July 25, 1933, October 21, 1933, September 22, 1934, September 23, 1934, December 8, 1934, October 20, 1973, February 6, 1973, September 17, 1975

Indianapolis Times: December 16, 1930, June 1, 1933, December 8, 1934

William P. Jungclaus, Indiana, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999, Indiana, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.

Original data: Indiana County, District and Probate Courts.

Indiana State Library elevation view architectural drawing, Indiana State Library

Indiana State Library, 1825 to 2000: 175 years and still growing,

Yearbook of the State of Indiana, 1932, Indiana Memory Hosted Digital Collections,


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