Saturday, July 23, 2011

Qwacked Up

Yesterday I strolled away from my usual path to explore the renovations being done to buildings along Washington Street. When I moved to the city in 1978, the Indianapolis downtown area was, if not exactly dead, comatose, bedraggled and drab. Over the years, huge progress has been made to develop and to restore the downtown area to make it more attractive to shoppers, visitors, investors, et cetera.

A large part of this effort has involved saving the older buildings and restoring them for use. In some cases this was not possible, but the buildings' facades were rescued then incorporated into new construction. Among these buildings are the Circle Centre Mall and the Emmis Communications offices on Monument Circle. The result has been eye-pleasing facades that appear to provide a rhythm and texture to what would otherwise be drab walls.

McQuat Building during its restoration in 2010,
 looking like it's wearing a puffy ski jacket

The McQuat Building interests me because it was, in turn, a McDonald's then a Burger Chef when I first was working downtown. For years, it's been vacant, the black metal exoskeleton that covered it becoming increasingly unsightly as the years passed. Recently, it was purchased and restoration efforts have given it a new and beautiful lease on life. Originally built in 1901 by brothers Andrew and William McQuat to house their furnace and tinware business, the new owners plan for the building to be used for retail on the first two floors, with residential apartments in the remaining space. Look at the old girl now! With it's exoskeleton and "puffy jacket" removed, the beautiful lines of its cast-iron facade are once again revealed.

The restored exterior of the McQuat Building
reveals the lines of its original cast-iron facade
The building's simpler lines provide excellent company and counterbalance to its neighbor at 22 East Washington Street, which houses Red's Classic Barber Shop. All around the neighborhood, facades that have long hidden beautiful buildings with ugly attempts to "update" them, are being stripped away. About the only good thing about these coverings is the notion that they may have saved the original surfaces from some of the ravages of smog and chemical pollution.

When the weather cools a bit, I will make another effort to take additional pictures of some of the other buildings. In the mean time ...

Oh, my! They are pretty!

Detail of the building at 22 East Washington Street,
which houses Red's Classic Barber Shop
Oh, yeah, before I forget, the first photo is of the shattered glass in the door of another restoration in process. Could this be a visual interpretation of having "the scales fall from one's eyes?" Once gone, that door will not be missed.


dive said...

Wowee, that really is a beautiful and sympathetic restoration, Speedway. Three cheers for your city planners (or whoever else was responsible).
I'm a huge fan of early US skyscraper design. I also love the peculiarly English crenellations next door. Crowns and the cross of St.George, no less; looks like the designer missed being part of our Colonies. Hee hee.
The first photo immediately had me singing Tom Waits' "Burma Shave" with the line "Spider web crack" when the windshield goes on the Mustang. I love that song so much, so thanks for getting it stuck in my head.
Have a great weekend! I hope it cools down for you.

Speedway said...

Well...when I was a kid, one of my favorite places in my neighborhood was torn down to put up a K-Mart. It had been an orphanage made of red brick and granite and was replaced by concrete block rectangle and asphalt parking lot. Since that time, I've liked old buildings and like to see them reworked for new lives. This has proven to be more economical that the constant process of tear-down-and-rebuild, I think. I'm no Ada Louise Huxtable; the only thing she and I have in common is our middle names. I just know I prefer the graceful lines and proportions of something like these guys to a pile of cement block.

As it turns out, there was one local man responsible for the decorative details on at least 2 buildings. He taught scuplture locally at the Herron School of Art. I saw a couple other buildings Thursday that resemble the work on the others and want to check them out.

Thought you might like the door. It was double-paned, which is why the cracks appear to have more depth - blue in the foreground, white behind.

dive said...

That cracked glass photo is great, Speedway.
As for your local architecture, it has surprised and delighted me at every turn (though you're probably not going to post the bad stuff). Yay for your sculptor!
And yay for Ada Louise, too. I went through a Frank Lloyd Wright phase in my teens and lapped up every book on him I could find.
I was brought up being dragged around Rome and Athens and having Summerson's "Classical Language of Architecture" hammered into my skull, so as soon as I was old enough I rebelled and fell in love with the Chrysler Building (a love affair that persists to this day).
Louis Sullivan gets me all drooly, too, and anything along those lines, so seeing your photos of the Mc.Quat building made me grin like a fool.

America has some fantastic architecture. The only thing that lets the place down in my view is the tragic misunderstanding of classical proportion that resulted in most of your state capitol buildings and much of Washington DC. It pains me to look at them. The windows on the Mc.Quat building are designed with perfect classical proportions and make me sigh with pleasure, yet when it comes to state buildings they throw taste and the classical rules out of the window in pursuit of one-upmanship and the results are hideous.
Anyhoo … enough ranting. Three cheers for America's non-Classical architects!

Speedway said...

Most of the stuff that survives falls within a mile-square area, so wouldn't/shouldn't be hard to explore. There are a couple that are pretty unique for just about anywhere, too. And I'll have my own hissy fit over one Federal gov't bldg that looks like an upside down ziggurat painted tan. I hate that damn thing.

dive said...

Hee hee. I love a good hissy fit!

Petrea Burchard said...

This is my kind of stuff. And yes, it's less expensive and more environmentally responsible to use the buildings we already have than to tear them down and replace them with newer, ugly ones. Great shots.

Speedway said...

Thank you for your kind words,Petrea. I don't know what has spurred this sudden desire to renovate the buildings except perhaps all the grant money and tax incentives available. If this is "my" government at work, then I'm all for it because the results are beautiful.

It's been too hot here to do much exploring, but I plan to do more. I've found most people friendly and willing to answer questions, which makes the effort enjoyable.