At first glance Columbus, Indiana looks like many small Midwest cities. Light industry mixes with restaurants and small shops against a backdrop of farmland. However, in between cornfields and the Cummins manufacturing plant, Columbus IN architecture is a treasure trove that rivals major cities.

Columbus was actually ranked sixth (yes, sixth) in the nation by the American Institute of Architects for architectural design and innovation. Only Chicago, New York, Washington DC, Boston and San Francisco top this little city. Who knew?

Legendary architects I.M. Pei, Harry Weese, Richard Meier, Eero and Eliel Saarinen, Cesar Pelli, James Polshek, Robert Venturi – to name a few – have left their design marks on the city located 45 miles south of Indianapolis.

Columbus has been called;

  • a “veritable museum of modern architecture (Smithsonian Magazine)
  • “a small-town architectural mecca.” (Chicago Tribune)
  • “one grand, landscaped park.” (USA Today)

The Columbus Indiana architecture story began in the 1950s when industrialist J. Irwin Miller wished for a more visually interesting city to live and work in. Stating that “Mediocrity is expensive,” the Cummins Engine Company chairman agreed to pick up the architect’s fee for new public buildings, but only if the building were designed by a noted architect.

If money is no object, who wouldn’t choice an internationally renowned architect? Schools, banks, libraries, fire stations, city hall, a jail and other public spaces and places sprouted under this philanthropic directive. To date there have been more than 70 public buildings designed by top modern architects.

Here are some of the buildings you will find on a Columbus IN architecture tour;

  • Fire Station #4 (Robert Venturi)
  • Cleo Rogers Memorial Library (I. M. Pei)
  • St. Peter’s Lutheran Church (Gunnar Birkets)
  • Columbus City Hall (Skidmore Owings & Merrill)
  • Irwin Union Bank (Eero Saarinen)
  • Columbus shopping mall (Cesar Pelli)
  • Irwin Union Bank addition (Kevin Roche)
  • Clifty Creek Elementary School (Richard Meier)
  • First Christian Church (Eero Saarinen)
  • First Baptist Church (Harry Weese)
  • Columbus Regional Hospital renovation (Robert A.M. Stern)
  • North Christian Church (Eero Sarrinen)
  • Cummins Engines’ Corporate Office Building (Kevin Roche)
  • Mabel McDowell School (John Carl Warnecke)
  • Miller House (Eero Saarinen)
  • Mill Race Park (Van Valkenburgh Associates)
  • SBC Switching Station (Paul Kennon)
If you find yourself just a little south of Indianapolis, carve out a couple hours to stop in Columbus. Guided architecture tour buses leave the Columbus Visitors Center daily. There are also self-guided tour maps are available at the visitor center.



 The Wieboldt-Rostone House is located at 270 Lake Front Drive in Beverly Shores, just east of the National Lakeshore parking lot at Dunbar Avenue.

The Wieboldt-Rostone House carries the names of its sponsors. Wieboldt Stores (also known as Wieboldt’s) was a Chicago department store chain in business from the 1880s through the 1980s. Rostone, Inc., of Lafayette, Indiana showcased its new synthetic stone composite made of limestone waste and shale called Rostone.

This house was built to showcase an affordable and (supposedly) durable new building material. Rostone was available in a variety of colors and shapes, and could be fabricated to exact dimensions. It was billed as durable and never needing repairs. Had the reality actually lived up to its marketing, Rostone would have been a successful material. However, Rostone was not nearly as durable as hoped.

 After the 1933-34 Century of Progress World’s Fair the Rostone House was barged across Lake Michigan to Beverly Shores and positioned on the lakefront so that its expansive windows faced the lake. Lake Michigan’s harsh weather conditions did not help an already faulty product. Within 20 years, the Rostone exterior had severely deteriorated, actually disintegrated. Tenants at the time covered the exterior with a concrete stucco called Perma-stone. Only remnants of the original Rostone remain – at the front door exterior, at the interior foyer and around the fireplace in the living room.

Like the other the World’s Fair homes in Beverly Shores, the Rostone House fell into disrepair after being purchased by the government. The former owner-occupants had little incentive to spend money on repairs under their limited lease arrangement.

The Historic Landmarks Foundation partnered with the national park service in an effort to save the Century of Progress homes in Beverly Shores by subleasing the houses to people with historic preservation experience and the financial wherewithal to bring the houses back to their original state.

Rostone is a huge house. At 5,500-square-feet and 18 rooms, it is the largest of the Beverly Shores World’s Fair homes. The building housed the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore offices from 1970 to 1985. The house then stood vacant for 17 years before a lessee that was willing and financially able to take on the architectural preservation was found.

Ross Gambril began working on the Rostone house in 2002. Most of the exterior was removed over the past decade and Gambril has worked to replicate the look of Rostone exterior with a new precast concrete material. Progress has been slow. The house has been a work in progress for the past 10 years and from the looks of things, will continue in this state for quite a few more years.

As far as Beverly Shores architecture is concerned, this structure is a diamond in the rough. Hopefully, I will be able to update this story in the next year or two and report that this big old beauty has been restored.

 Beverly Shores, a small lakefront community on the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan, is host to five architectural gems from the Chicago World Fair of 1933-34. The “Century of Progress Exposition” commemorated the city’s 100-year anniversary and was a tribute to the technological, scientific and industrial/manufacturing achievements of the time.

The buildings and structures were built to last one year. The Chicago Worlds fair was originally slated to run one season but the overwhelming success in 1933 compelled organizers to reopen the fair in 1934. Many of the structures were sold off after the fair ended in 1934 and 16 of those landed in Beverly Shores.

These homes allowed for a quick build out to the newly minted community. Robert Bartlett purchased the development in 1933 and added the pre-made homes after having developed the infrastructure with roads, a hotel, beachfront casino, a golf course and a school.

Only six structures from the Chicago Worlds fair remain; The Armco-Ferro House, the House of Tomorrow, Wieboldt-Rostone House, Florida Tropical House, Cypress Log Cabin and the Old North Church replica.

The Old North Church replica is privately owned while the other five, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are owned by the National Park Services and leased to individuals who are renovating the structures back to their original state.

All of the Century of Progress homes were privately owned and maintained until the early 1970’s when the National Park Service began buying up land and houses within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The five Century of Progress homes located nearest Lake Michigan’s shores were purchased and the owners either sold for full value at the time or sold for a lesser value but were allowed to live in the houses for a specified number of years after selling the property.

That is when troubles began and the properties fell into disrepair. Since the owners no longer owned the homes and would not get a return on any investments made to the property, those who retained the right to live in the property were unwilling to do costly repairs. The properties that were sold right away lay vacant and unrepaired, as the federal government did not allocate the funds needed for expensive repairs.

Decades passed and the structures went from a state of disrepair to a state of endangerment. By 1993 the Century of Progress houses found their way to the “Ten Most Endangered Sites in Indiana” list. Three years later the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana partnered with the National Park Service to develop a residential leasing program. With this program, individuals were given a 30-year sublease on the property in exchange for the rehabilitation of the houses. This was not an inexpensive venture.

The Florida Tropical House – and its estimated $450,000 rehab cost – was the first of the houses to find a new “owner” and a new lease on life. That lease agreement was signed in 2000 and the house was completed in 2012.

 Currently, the House of Tomorrow is the only property to yet find a lessee to take on responsibility of the estimated $2 million of repairs needed to bring the house back to life.

Over the next couple weeks I will be highlighting these gems perched on the shores of Lake Michigan on Lake Front Drive. Check back in a few days to read about my personal favorite, the Wieboldt-Rostone House.

 A Frank Lloyd Wright house located in Phoenix, AZ is in threat of being demolished unless Phoenix officials approve a historic preservation designation for the structure. This designation would temporarily extend protection from demolition while historic and Frank Lloyd Wright preservation organizations work to strike an agreement with developers who purchased the property.

Wright designed this house for his son David in the early 1950s. The David Wright House is said to be Wright’s most personal design and also one of the most innovative designs. Architectural critics and historians list the David Wright House as one of the 20 most significant buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright. See below for additional pictures of this house. Photos from

Wright died in 1959 at the age of 91, and designed over 400 structures throughout his prolific career. While it is inevitable that some structures have been destroyed, the David Wright House will be the first intentionally destroyed Wright structure in the past 40 years — if demolition plans are successful.

If you want to join the Frank Lloyd Wright preservation effort, signing the online petition at;

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy began working on the structure’s preservation after it found out in May that developers purchased the David Wright House and planned to demolish the house to make way for two luxury houses. (For more information about the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, visit

Real estate development company 8081 Meridian purchased the property from a buyer who previously promised that he would restore the house. The buyer sold the house, reportedly for $1.8 million. The asking price is now $2.2 million and the developer recently turned down a $2 million offer. The $2.2 million asking price could increase as the destruction date gets closer.

The Conservancy, a Chicago-based organization that works to preserve the remaining Wright structures, established a petition urging Phoenix officials to approve the structure’s landmark and historic preservation designation.

In September the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission unanimously recommend a landmark designation for the house. On November 7 the Phoenix City Council will make a decision on the structure’s landmark status. A landmark designation would delay demolition for three years, giving the Conservancy additional time to locate a buyer.

Many structures highlighted in this Chicago architectural running tour are found within the first couple miles. The remainder of this tour will highlight buildings on the remaining 24 miles of the marathon route. If you missed the earlier posts, visit the Chicago Marathon architectural tour Mile 1 and the Chicago Marathon architect tour Mile 2

The third mile of the marathon begins as you turn off State Street onto Jackson. The next  building on the route to watch for is the massive Monadnock Block Building (53 W. Jackson  Blvd.) at the corner of Jackson and South Dearborn. This 197-foot tall building lays claim as the world’s first skyscraper, and is the tallest building that is fully supported by load-bearing masonry walls. Burnham & Root designed the north portion of the building that was completed in 1891. The south half was constructed in 1893 and designed by Holabird & Roche. When the south portion was complete, Monadnock Block was the largest office building in the world. Chicago Board of Trade

You are on Jackson for just three blocks before turning onto LaSalle. On your left at the corner of Jackson and LaSalle is the Chicago Board of Trade (141 West Jackson Boulevard). The Art Deco building was designed by Holabird & Root and completed in 1930. Look up to the 13-foot diameter clock and then look all the way up to the top of the building, where a 31-foot-tall sculpture of the Roman goddess Ceres is perched. At 605-feet tall, the 45-story Chicago Board of Trade was the tallest building in Chicago until 1965.

While on LaSalle, between 3.5 and 4 miles, look east and up to see the John Hancock Building (875 N. Michigan Avenue). John Hancock is an excellent example of structural expressionist style. Look for the X-bracing distinctive exterior, an architectural technique that made its record height possible. This 100-story, 1,127-foot skyscraper was the second tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1970, topped only by the Empire State Building. The John Hancock Building is now the sixth tallest building in the U.S., and the fourth tallest in Chicago. Willis Tower, Trump Tower and Aon Center are all taller than John Hancock.

You may have caught glimpses of the Willis Tower earlier, but you will run right past it as you turn from Franklin onto Adams just before Mile 13. The Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower, and affectionately referred to now as “Big Willy”) at 233 S. Wacker Drive was completed in 1974 and reigned as the tallest building in the world until 1998. It is now the ninth tallest building in the world, but still the tallest U.S. building.

Four blocks after you cross the Chicago River, on the right side is the 1856 Old St. Patrick’s Church at 700 West Adams Street. This Romanesque architectural style building is one of only a few structures in the line of fire to survive the Chicago Fire of 1871, making it one of the oldest public buildings in Chicago.

The next buildings of note will be at Mile 23. Settle in and enjoy the run through Greektown, West Loop, Little Italy, the Illinois Medical District, Pilsen and Chinatown. There is plenty to capture your attention. Enjoy the views.

After Mile 22 as you turn onto 33rd Street to run over the Dan Ryan, you will see two red brick and granite Victorian-era buildings. The Illinois Institute of Technology’s Main Building and Machinery Hall are prominent Romanesque Revival buildings that are in sharp contrast to the many examples of Miesian architecture found throughout the IIT campus.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a pioneer of modern architecture who coined the phrases “Less is more” and “God is in the details.” His glass-and-steel architecture is known for its minimalist simplicity. The Illinois Institute of Technology campus has a number of outstanding examples of his work. There are 20 Mies buildings on the IIT campus and we will run past six of them;

  • Wishnick Hall,3255 South Dearborn
  • Perlstein Hall, 10 West 33rd
  • Siegel Hall, 3301 South Dearborn
  • Crown Hall, 3360 South State
  • Cunningham Hall, 3100 South Michigan
  • Bailey Hall, 3101 South Wabash

At 33rd and Dearborn you will run between two metal and glass buildings; Siegel Hall will be on your right and Wishnick Hall on your left. Perlstein Hall is set back from the road next to Wishnick.  One block after you turn on State Street, you will pass Crown Hall on your right. Many regard Crown Hall as Mies’ finest work. Three buildings comprising the Institute of Gas Technology complex is on the next block, on the same side of the street as Crown Hall.

Cunningham Hall is about five blocks from the Institute of Gas Technology complex on the corner of 31st and Michigan. It will be on your left. Look behind Cunningham Hall and you will see Bailey Hall, a similar structure that is also a Mies design. Mile 24 is two blocks from Cunningham Hall and Bailey Hall.

At Mile 25 you enter the Prairie District. Second Presbyterian Church, located at 1936 S. Michigan Avenue, is on the corner of Michigan and Cullerton. This Gothic Revival building with a limestone and sandstone exterior was constructed in 1874. Architect James Renwick also designed New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Smithsonian Castle in Washington D.C. The building features 20 stained glass windows by artists Louis C. Tiffany, Sir Edward Burne-Jones and others.

After the Second Presbyterian Church, you have just one mile to go. Let’s face it, at this point you probably could care less about anything other than getting to the finish line. You will hit a rise in elevation as you turn right onto Roosevelt. Walk it if you must, and enjoy the fact that you will see the finish line as soon as you turn left onto Michigan.

Good luck!

During the first mile of the Chicago Marathon architectural tour we saw notable structures like Frank Gehry’s pedestrian bridge, Aqua, the NBC Tower and the Tribune Tower, as the route followed Columbus over the Chicago River to Grand Avenue. Most of the second mile is run on State Street, which houses a number of architecturally significant buildings.

 There is a lot going on architecturally at the State Street Bridge. First, look for the Marina Towers located at 300 N. State Street, just before going over the State Street Bridge. These twin towers – they look like concrete corncobs – are of the most recognized of Chicago architectural landmarks. These buildings are credited for spurring an architectural renaissance after their completion in 1967.

The Marina Towers will be on your right. As soon as you pass the Marina Towers, look to your left and straight up for an asymmetric reflective blue skyscraper. This is the Trump Tower one block over at 401 N Wabash Ave. The Trump Hotel, completed in 2009, is the newest addition to the Chicago skyline. It is also the second tallest building in the U.S., topped only by the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), which we will also see along the marathon route. This picture shows both the Marina Towers and Trump Tower.

The Trump Tower is interesting, but don’t spend too much time gawking at it. The Wrigley Building, at 400 N. Michigan Avenue, is directly across the river. Look for a gleaming white terra-cotta clad building with a clock tower. The Wrigley Building, completed in 1924, is an iconic Chicago building that is actually two buildings joined together at street-level and by a skywalk on the 14th floors.

After you cross the river and run 1.5 blocks, look to your left for the landmark Chicago Theatre located at 175 N. State Street. You can’t miss the big red iconic marquee. While the marquee initially commands your attention, make sure to look at the building behind the marquee. Its style is French Baroque and the State Street facade features a scaled-down replica of the Arc De Triomphe in Paris. The building opened in 1921, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and then listed as a Chicago Landmark in 1983.

One block later on the same side of the street is Marshall Field & Co. (officially, it is now Macy’s) at 111 North State Street. This huge 12-story building, covering an entire city block, does nothing small. The Tiffany glass mosaic dome ceiling, covering 6,000 square feet of area, is the largest of its kind in the world. The columns at the State Street entrance are said to be the second largest monolithic columns in the world, second only to columns outside the Egyptian temple at Karnak. You won’t see these two interior design elements but you will see the two massive ornamental Great Clocks, found at the corners of State and Washington and State and Randolph.

The first Marshall Field’s building, located at the present site, was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871. Most downtown Chicago buildings were destroyed. You will find only a handful of buildings that predate 1871.

“The Chicago School” style of commercial architecture rose from the ashes of the Chicago Fire. Steel-frame, masonry clad buildings, with large plate-glass windows and minimal exterior ornamentation were distinguishing features of this style.

The Reliance Building (now Hotel Burnham), at 32 N. State Street, epitomizes the Chicago School style. Architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham, along with John Root and Charles Atwood, created in 1895 what is now one of the city’s most significant architectural landmarks.

The Monadnock Building is another famous Chicago School building we will see later on the marathon route.

 No discussion of Chicago architecture – and especially the Chicago School of Architecture – is complete without Louis Sullivan. Considered one of America’s greatest architects, Sullivan is hailed as the creator of the modern skyscraper and was a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright. Our last building on State Street, located at 1 S. State Street, is a Sullivan design.


The Sullivan Center (formerly the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building) showcases Sullivan’s philosophy of form following function. Like many buildings of the Chicago School style, this steel-frame building is clad in terra cotta. The distinctive ornamentation on this building is a two-story high cast-iron storefront. Look for this at the corner of State and Monroe.

The Old St. Patrick’s Church on Adams Street was one of the few buildings to survive the Chicago Fire. Come back Friday for the last leg of our architectural Chicago Marathon tour, where the Old St. Patrick’s Church, Willis Tower, the Monadnock Building and other buildings will be highlighted before finishing at Buckingham Fountain back in Grant Park.



This upcoming weekend I will be running the Chicago Marathon. Each year about 45,000 people line up to run this marathon. Another 1.5 million people show up to cheer on that sea of runners.

Runners commonly rave about the crowd support – it is unparalleled – or running through the energetic Chicago neighborhoods of Greektown, Chinatown, Streeterville, The Loop, Pilsen. The highlight for me is seeing architecturally important structures from a street-side vantage point otherwise rarely given.

This week I will give you a Chicago Marathon architectural tour, following the marathon course.

The marathon starts in Grant Park and spends a few miles downtown before shooting north to the Wrigleyville neighborhood. Many of the buildings highlighted will be found within the first couple miles, with today’s post dedicated to structures found within the first mile of the marathon.

 The first structure is not a building, but a girder bridge that snakes and curves over Columbus Drive. Architect Frank Gehry designed this stainless steel and reinforced concrete pedestrian bridge that connects Millennium Park and Grant Park. The BP Pedestrian Bridge (named so because of the $5 million BP donated toward construction) opened in 2004. This is the only Gehry-designed bridge and he did it right. Look for this bridge (really, you can’t miss it) within the first two blocks after the start line.

The second structure of note, Aqua at 225 N. Columbus Drive, is another relative newcomer to the Chicago landscape. Look for a skyscraper with undulating balconies that create a surreal ripple effect. This visually innovative building, opened in 2009, is the biggest U.S. project to date headed by a woman, Jeanne Gang.

While on Columbus Drive, a block before turning onto Grand Street, look for the NBC Tower at 454 N. Columbus Drive. This 37-story limestone tower, completed in 1989, is reminiscent of the 1930’s Art Deco style. Architect Adrian Smith’s romantic 20th-century tower was modeled after Manhattan’s RCA Building at Rockefeller Center.

 Just before the first mile marker, as you pass Michigan Avenue on Grand St, look to your left to see the Tribune Tower (435 N. Michigan Ave.). The tower base of this 34-story skyscraper contains 120 stones from landmarks around the world, including the pyramids in Egypt, the Parthenon in Greece, the Great Wall of China, the Cathedral of Notre Dame in France, the Alamo in San Antonio and the Taj Mahal, in India. This building, completed in 1925, was the result of an international design challenge to design “the most beautiful and eye-catching office building in the world.” Did architects Raymond Hood and John Mead Howells succeed?

Check back on Wednesday for a list of buildings you will find in the second mile of the marathon.

 Oak Park, a village less than 10 miles due west of Chicago’s Loop, has bragging rights to the most Frank Lloyd Wright structures in the world. Wright lived in Oak Park from 1889 to 1909 and developed his Prairie style there.

Chicago, by virtue of its close proximity, also has its share of Wright designs and structures.
The Robie House, located on the University of Chicago’s campus, is considered by some to be one of the most architecturally important buildings in American. Wright designed this building in his Oak Park studio from 1908 to 1910 for businessman Frederick C. Robie.

The Robie House is a Prairie style masterpiece and also a forerunner of architectural modernism. Tours (available Thursday through Monday) allow visitors to experience its contemporary spaces and current restoration work by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust to return the house to its original state. Restorations will follow guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties established by the Secretary of the Interior.

These tours are taken to a whole new level Fridays in October for after hours events that include drinks, hors d’oeuvres and live music in a casual atmosphere. Wright fans and architecture buffs alike will appreciate these events.

The dates are October 5, 12, 19 and 26 from 5 to 8 pm at the Robie House, 5757 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago. Tickets are $30 for Preservation Trust members and $35 for non-members. Visit for additional information.

The Louvre’s new Arts of Islam gallery opens in two days. Here is a sneak-peak to the Rudy Ricciotti and Mario Bellini-designed “Magic Carpet” structure. Will this “magic carpet” and its fluid undulations fly?


This is an article that I read on Architect Magazines’ Newswire yesterday…

Steve Delahoyde reports that Judith Paine McBrien’s documentary, Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City, will air on PBS this Labor Day. Produced last year during the centennial celebration of Burnham’s Plan of Chicago, the film includes “drawings, archival photos, contemporary footage, and a fly-through animation of the ‘White City’ at the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition,” according to Delahoyde. BTW, Saturday is Burnham’s birthday; Happy Birthday, Uncle Dan.

Go to for more info.