For many years, I'd passed by the old building as I traveled east on I-65 on my way to Ohio. It was in sad shape, but that did not hide it's unique design and character. When I visited for the first time on Thursday, I had no trouble locating it as the tips of it's golden spires literally gleamed in the sun. I was surprised to see how beautifully it had responded to its restoration.
|A view of the Grand Hall, looking towards the south.|
The Central Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church was, for many years, home to the largest Methodist congregation in Indiana. Built in three stages in 1891, 1900 and 1922, in Romanesque Revival style, the result is to my eye not so much ornate as it is beautifully crafted. Using only the best materials, there was nothing about the building that wasn't well done. From its red brick and limestone exterior, to its stained glass and extensive woodwork and paneling, the building is an example of the best that man's hand can create. This appearance fitted with the congregation's social philosophy, which was deeply involved in efforts to improve the lives of people in the community. Among other things, members were responsible for the establishment of Methodist Hospital and Wheeler Rescue Mission.
Originally one of the city's first suburbs, the area now called Indianapolis' "Old North Side," itself fell victim to population shifts and the congregation merged with another and left the building. Despite the well-meaning efforts of other organizations, it became neglected and in danger of being destroyed. The Indiana Landmarks Foundation stepped in in 2010 and, with financial support from the Cook family of Bloomington, was able to restore and re-purpose the building at a cost of $10 million.
|A section of the balcony railing|
|The "Old Centrum" organ, built in 1892|
by Thomas Prentiss Sanborn, has been completely restored.
|Chandelier located in the center of the Grand Hall ceiling,|
As pleased as she was with the Grand Hall and other sections of the building, Ms. Stanis especially wanted me to see the "Sunday School." As much as I enjoyed the restrained elegance of the Great Hall, I frankly wondered what could be special -- no, make that "more special" -- about a place for little kids to get their lessons.
Completely paneled in dark wood, yet light and airy, the circular room (actually, it's octagonal) has a small stage with a blue velvet curtain on its north side and is surrounded with two tiers of class rooms which look out onto the open central area. Now known as the Cook Theatre, the woodwork gives the room a feeling of warmth and intimacy.