Historic Structures

Journal Building, Indianapolis Indiana

Date added: April 21, 2022 Categories: Indiana Commercial Office

The Journal Building was built in 1897 as the home of the Indianapolis Journal and as the offices of the Indianapolis Light and Power Company. It was originally built in two sections; mechanical, where the printing press was located, (rear) and office (front). At the time of demolition it was the second oldest building on Monument Circle, and was the only surviving nineteenth-century commercial building on the Circle.

The Journal Building was constructed in 1897 on Monument Circle, the focal point of the city's 1821 plan, and it represents the evolution of Monument Circle from a church-studded residential area to an important element of the central business district. The building originally served as the home of the Indianapolis Journal newspaper and as the house of the Indianapolis Light and Power Company. After the Journal's demise in 1904, the utility company occupied the entire building and renamed it the "Edison Building". The power company moved from its offices to larger quarters in 1936, but operated a direct current substation here until 1955. Since the departure of the utility company the office section continued to actively serve the business district with a multitude of tenants and uses. Only small portions of the mechanical sections were utilized after 1955.

Several prominent Indianapolis historic figures were associated with the Indianapolis Journal newspaper and frequented the newspaper's offices on the ground floor of the Journal Building at the turn of the century. As well, the changes which the Journal had undergone by the early 1900s were characteristic of the changing nature of journalism in urban/industrial America - i.e., the change from personal to corporate journalism.

The Journal has been known as one of the pioneer newspapers in Indiana. Beginning as a weekly known as The Western Censor and Emmigrant's Guide in 1823, the paper became the Indiana Journal in 1825. During the state legislative session of 1842, the Journal issued a daily paper, a practice which continued during succeeding legislative sessions until 1850. After that time, a daily issue of this tabloid became a permanent fixture of 19th-century Indianapolis. On April 25, 1853, the first Indianapolis Journal appeared with John D. Defrees as editor and proprietor. Until it ceased publication in the summer of 1904, the Journal and several personalities associated with it were known nationally.

Most noteworthy among those associated with the Journal was renowned American poet and Hoosier popularizer, James Whitcomb Riley. Riley had moved from his hometown of Greenfield, Indiana to Indianapolis in 1879 to work for the Journal. He took a desk with the newspaper, and as "Jay Whit" he became well known for verse and prose about things he observed in Indianapolis and the surrounding countryside. As his fame increased (prompting him to write under his own name), Riley spent most of his time writing books of poetry. Yet, at the turn of the century, Riley was still a part-time contributor to the Journal and was often seen at the Journal Building engaged in discussions with his friend and publisher, John C. New.

Throughout the history of the Journal, the newspaper was a front runner of Indianapolis journalism. The first steam press in Indianapolis was erected at the Journal's Pennsylvania Street office - at the "McCarty Corner" - circa 1840. At that time, the newspaper reflected the personality and biases of owner/editor John Douglass, Indiana's first "State Printer," whose main interest was giving his readers political propaganda rather than "news."

In 1872 the Journal Company owners improved the mechanical department and press facilities; they introduced a "Bullock perfecting press, the first brought to the state." By the 1890s the Journal had expanded it size and format, and news content relied extensively on the telegraphic wire stories.

Expansion of the Journal continued throughout the 1890s and in December 1897, the offices of the newspaper moved to the recently opened "new Journal Building" at 46-48 Monument Circle. This building joined others on the Circle comprising what became known as "Press Row," the central location of Indianapolis' newspapers at the turn of the century. In this new location, the Journal was described as "one of the most convenient and thoroughly equipped newspaper offices in the country."

Despite the Journal's successes and longevity in Indianapolis, it ceased publication at mid-year 1904. The newspaper was purchased by George McCulloch and absorbed into the Indianapolis Star, part of a statewide chain of "Star Papers."

Many other uses filled the building in subsequent years. News personalities did not return to the Journal Building for nearly 35 years until the late 1930s. In 1937, WFBM Broadcasting Station, one of Indianapolis' first commercial radio stations moved into its new studios at 48 Monument Circle. 22 WFBM remained in the Journal Building until 1951 when the station moved to 1330 North Meridian. Another communications interest, the Indianapolis Press Club, moved into its new facilities in the Journal Building in 1938. The Press club was essentially a social club for newspaper and radio personalities of the area, and the facilities included a bar and lounge as well as banquet space for the Press Club when they honored area athletes or had formal parties. In 1953 a fire in the Journal Building drove the Press Club from its Circle home. Reconstruction of the building's interior in 1954 led to continued use of the building until 1987.

Indianapolis Light and Power Company

The Journal Building has commercial significance as the former office building and distribution center for the Indianapolis Light and Power Company. This firm and its successor, Indianapolis Power and Light Company (IPALCO), have provided electric service for much of Indianapolis and for surrounding communities since the 1890s. "IPALCO's" payroll and purchases over the past 50 years have put millions of dollars into local circulation. Furthermore, the company has developed generating stations throughout the state of Indiana.

Between 1870 and 1920, the development of American cities was largely the product of cities' interaction with the forces of industrialization. In this context, what has become known as the "corporate economy" was born and nourished in the industrial and commercial activity conducted in cities such as Indianapolis. Few will dispute that the commercial growth of Indianapolis was closely tied to the development and distribution of electric power. Indianapolis was "electrified" by several companies, one of the earliest and most prominent being the Indianapolis Light and Power Company.

The Indianapolis Light and Power Company was organized in 1892 by a group of Indianapolis businessmen which included Daniel W. Marmon and Charles C. Perry. A previous Marmon and Perry partnership, the Marmon-Perry Light Company, supplied the first incandescent lighting service for Indianapolis in 1883. Soon after the company was organized, the Indianapolis Light and Power Company built a new power plant at Kentucky Avenue and West Street rather than (as they had intended when they acquired the property) at the site owned by Marmon and Perry at 46-48 Monument Circle. However, at this Circle site, in the shadow of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument then being constructed, the "Journal Building" was erected in 1897. The building was shared by the Indianapolis Light and Power Company (offices listed at 48 Monument Place) and the Indianapolis Journal newspaper (offices listed at 46 Monument Place). After the demise of the Journal in 1904, the building was utilized as an office building and substation by succeeding electric companies until 1936. Also, there was an electric appliance shop - one of the first in Indianapolis - on the ground floor of the building from 1918 to 1925. Thus, it is not surprising that the name of the building was changed to the "Edison Building" in the 1920s. Later the building was referred to as the "Canary Cottage Restaurant Building." Yet since the 1930s the building has been known to chroniclers and has been listed in city directories, as the Journal Building.