The historic naval armory in Indianapolis, a gleaming white building on White River, reopened in September as Riverside High School. On Nov. 10, Indiana Landmarks teams with Indianapolis Classical Schools to offer the public the chance to see the repurposed nautical building. The effort to save and rehab the building took four years and $7.5 million.
The former Heslar Naval Armory evokes a white ship at dock, moored at 30th Street and White River Parkway in the Riverside neighborhood. The Works Progress Administration began constructing the streamlined concrete structure in 1936 as a Naval Reserve training center. During World War II, the U.S. Navy commandeered the site for active service.
Decommissioned and vacant since 2015, the property was transferred to the City of Indianapolis. Indiana Landmarks took ownership of the building until the school had raised enough money to assume responsibility. The charter school joins Herron High School—also located in a historic structure—under the umbrella of Indianapolis Classical Schools in offering a rigorous classical, liberal arts education.
“Riverside High School is a perfect reuse,” declares Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks. “We were driven by our mission to step in as temporary steward, knowing that projects like this take time to put together. Indiana Landmarks had confidence that Indianapolis Classical Schools would pull it off,” he adds.
The school, which will serve up to 600 students, aims to act as a catalyst in bringing revitalization and reinvestment beyond the boundaries of its campus in the Riverside neighborhood.
“On the tour, you’ll see elements that reflect the original use—navigation bridge with signal hoists, magazine, lights, ship’s ladder, porthole windows in interior doors, stair rails ingeniously wrapped and knotted in nautical rope, a nautically inspired terrazzo countertop, and unusual light fixtures in the officer’s mess hall overlooking White River,” says Gwendolen Nystrom, Indiana Landmarks’ director of volunteers and heritage experiences.
In the drill hall—a double-sized gymnasium—artist Charles Bauerle, under commission by the Works Progress Administration, painted four 12×15-foot murals depicting famous naval battles. The high school kept nearly all of the historic nautical elements, with the drill hall serving as home gym for both the Riverside Argonauts and the Herron Achaeans.
The 45-minute “after” tour departs on the hour beginning at 9, 10, and 11 a.m. on Nov. 10 and requires a ticket purchased in advance. Tickets cost $15 per person, with a discount for Indiana Landmarks members. Kids under 5 are free. Tickets may be purchased at www.indianalandmarks.org/armory-after-tour/
Media contact: Gwendolen Nystrom, Director, Volunteers & Heritage Experiences, 317-822-7950, email@example.com
Jen Thomas, JTPR, 317-441-2487. firstname.lastname@example.org
Indiana Landmarks revitalizes communities, reconnects us to our 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 more information on the not-for-profit organization, call 317-639-4534, 800-450-4534, or visit www.indianalandmarks.org.
Indianapolis Classical Schools (ICS) is one community of two great high schools – Herron High School and Riverside High School – with a unified vision and mission to provide diverse, tuition-free, college prep education in an urban environment. ICS believes that a classical, liberal arts education, where students are steeped in great historical thought and invention, is the best preparation for a future life of leadership and service. For more information, call 317-231-0010 or visit www.indianapolisclassicalschools.org.
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