WHAT: A tour of the historic Art Deco Coca-Cola bottling plant before its conversion to Bottleworks, a development that will include apartments, shops, restaurants, boutique hotel, and movie theaters.
WHEN: Aug. 12, 1 to 5 p.m. (last ticket sold at 4:15 p.m.)
WHERE: Former Coca-Cola bottling plant, 850 Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis
WHO: Sponsored by Indiana Landmarks, Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, and Hendricks Commercial Properties, with support from RATIO
COST: $12 per person in advance; $15 at the door ($10 for Indiana Landmarks members in advance).
INFO: 317-639-4534 or visit www.indianalandmarks.org.
James Yuncker built the bottling plant in 1931, in the depths of the Great Depression, in a style that was lavish by factory standards, especially at the time. It was a testimony to his faith in the growth trajectory of his core product, Coca-Cola. He commissioned the design from Rubush and Hunter, a firm known for prominent structures that are now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including Columbia Club, Guaranty Building, Circle Theater, and Circle Tower—all on Monument Circle. Jungclaus Construction Company, whose headquarters remains just down the street on Mass Ave, built the plant.
As business boomed, the plant expanded with additions in 1941 and 1951, as well as additional garages. By 1950, the facility was considered the world’s largest bottling plant, with 260 employees and a fleet of 110 delivery trucks. After Yuncker died in 1964, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman bought the Coca-Cola franchise and moved bottling operations to Speedway. He stored his collection of vintage automobiles in the Massachusetts Avenue building until he sold it to Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) in 1968.
IPS turned the bottling works into a central kitchen for school lunches, and used other areas for storage, a woodworking shop, and as classrooms for adult and experimental education. The garages remained, housing school buses instead of soft drink delivery trucks.
On the tour, you’ll see how architects Rubush and Hunter exceeded the design standards of an average Depression-era factory. Incised gold-leaf lettering traces the words Coca-Cola in the brand’s distinctive script on the facade. Gleaming terra cotta clads the Art Deco exterior—a material that conveyed the spic ‘n span facility it enclosed—with geometric and floral motifs and a bas relief panel over the main entrance on Massachusetts Avenue that depicts a refreshing fountain shooting beautiful arcing sprays.
Ornate bronze doors open into the high Art Deco lobby, where terrazzo floors and a circular marble staircase with stainless steel and brass railing leads to the executive offices. A massive brushed aluminum light fixture crowns the space.
Just off the lobby on the first floor, another public space wows—walls of sea green, ochre, and creme matte glazed tile walls, trimmed in deep maroon tile that forms ziggurat patterns above the brass and frosted glass doors, surmounted by an ornamented plaster ceiling. You’ll see this and more on the tour, and hear about from Hendricks Commercial about its plans for Bottleworks.
The tour celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, which reviews and approves changes to properties in the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District, including the Coca-Cola bottling plant.
The tour is self-guided, with docents stationed along the way to offer information and answer questions. Tickets are required. The site is not yet handicapped accessible and has no working elevators.
Thanks to Indianapolis Public Schools and Hendricks Commercial Properties for access, and RATIO, the project architect, for financial support of Landmark Look: Coca-Cola “Before.”
Indiana Landmarks revitalizes communities, reconnects us to heritage, and saves meaningful places. With nine offices located throughout the state, Indiana Landmarks helps people rescue endangered landmarks and restore historic neighborhoods and downtowns. People who join Indiana Landmarks receive its bimonthly magazine, Indiana Preservation. For information on membership in the not-for-profit organization, call 317-639-4534, 800-450-4534, or visit www.indianalandmarks.org.
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