Monday, October 24, 2011

"...No Mean City"

Shown above is a close-up of one of a pair of limestone eagles which guard the entrance of the old Indianapolis City Hall building, which was dedicated in 1909, the same year the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was opened. Carved by Alexander Sangernebo, the eagles fronted a building which, for the first time, had all the city offices under one roof. It remained that way until 1962, when the city government moved to a new high-rise building. 

The building stood vacant until 1967 when the Indiana State Museum took over the site, the first permanent headquarters the museum had enjoyed since it was established in 1862. Until that time, the Museum's collection had been shuffled around, in and out of musty rooms as if it were an eccentric uncle's collection of moth-eaten artifacts. 

The Museum's Foucault Pendulum hung suspended from the Hall's rotunda, swaying gently above the terrazzo floor where previously the movers and shakers of the city's government had trod and made deals. It remained there until a new building was erected in White River State Park, opening in May, 2002.  

Again the building stood empty until The Marion County Public Library needed an interim site until construction of a new addition was completed. Old City Hall was again adapted for reuse and served as the main library from 2001- 2007. Unfortunately, it once again stands empty, as the eagles maintain a sort of sad majesty, awaiting another opportunity to prove useful. 


dive said...

Sangernebo sure was a busy boy, Speedway. I remember your previous forays into his world of stone motor cars and planes.
I love the Mayor's quote. No mean city indeed. I am sure a building so magnificent will find a new use soon, and hopefully one that benefits the public as it has done in the past.

Speedway said...

"Evening,Dive. (It will be by the time you read this) Sangernebo work, it turns out, is all over town. I've found his hand represented on other buildings very different in appearance than the others you've seen here, the Test and the McOuat Bldgs. While I have pictures of the other structures, I don't have any of the details and decorations made by Sangernebo.
Sadly, while Sangernebo did a lot of work, he was not well-to-do. I'm not certain whether he just lived hand to mouth or in "typical" artist fashion, was not good at managing his money. I've looked and haven't been able to find much information about him. I'm going to the Historical Society this week to work on my book; maybe they will have something. I think he deservaes a little show or a small book of photos. What say you, living over there in a land full of such treasures?

dive said...

I think he truly deserves more recognition, especially in his home city. He has stamped his character all over some of its finest buildings. His sculptures are a wonderful mix of classical and modernist and somebody ought to collect all his works together and show the city they have a son to be proud of.