Where We Live
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Well into the twentieth century, churches were the most lavish buildings in most communities except perhaps for the courthouse in the county seat. Created with contributions from congregations, the buildings showed the importance our forebears placed on their faiths. They built for permanence and inspiration, using brick and limestone and marble, stained glass, mosaic tile, and elaborate decoration.
But across the nation, membership in churches and synagogues has declined. In urban areas, the congregations that paid for and sustained the oldest churches have moved to the suburbs, leaving shrinking numbers of less affluent members to maintain large, ornate structures.
You’ve probably witnessed the result in your community. Landmark churches lost to demolition, replaced by chain drugstores and parking lots. Vacant and boarded up churches. Churches visibly suffering from paltry maintenance budgets.
How can these powerful symbols of faith and community be saved? It’s a national dilemma. This month, Indiana Landmarks unveils one solution in a repurposed church visible to thousands of daily motorists daily on I-65/70 in downtown Indianapolis.
Built in 1891 with additions in 1900 and 1922, the Central Avenue Methodist Church once held the largest Methodist congregation in Indiana. But in recent years, the complex was empty, the rusty roof leaking, the domed ceiling collapsing.
Indiana Landmarks retooled the church as theaters, reception halls, meeting rooms and its own state headquarters. Today, nine gilded finials cap the towers and domes of the new Indiana Landmarks Center. A colored light show brightens the night from the tall cupola. And a landmark that helped shape the citizenry and the city continues to serve the community in a new guise.
Learn more about historic Indiana churches
Article reprint from Indiana Preservationist (PDF)
Learn more about the Indiana Landmarks Center
See photos of the year-long restoration on Flickr.
Indiana Landmarks celebrates grand opening of the new Indiana Landmarks Center April 16 and 17 during the Wondrous Opening Weekend of music, tours, honors, and more.
Indiana Landmarks | 1201 Central Avenue | Indianapolis, IN 46202 | 800-450-4534 | 317-639-4534 | Fax 317-639-6734