"Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it."     Psalm 127:1


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The Legacy Of The
Central Avenue
United Methodist Church


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     Although the architecture of the Central Avenue UMC is striking, it was more than just a pretty face, particularly in the early 1900s. 
     According to Tina Connor of Indiana Landmarks, "It's one of the most significant churches in the city in the role that it played in developing important social institutions."
     Three social institutions that Central Avenue UMC helped bring into existence are Methodist Hospital, Wheeler Rescue Mission, and Goodwill Industries.  These organizations were byproducts of the congregation's fight for the establishment of child labor laws and health care programs for the poor. 


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The building at the corner of 12th Street and Central Avenue in Indianapolis was known for about 100 years as the Central Avenue United Methodist Church, or "Centrum" for short.  Built in 1892, it housed that congregation until the 1990s.  With its striking Romanesque-Revival architecture and tall towers it was an integral part of the neighborhood known today as "The Old Northside".  However, efforts to maintain and use the 80,000 s.f. building finally failed and in 2008 it was vacated and closed.  Indiana Landmarks, a state preservation society, recognized its historic significance and  began stabilization efforts in an attempt to preserve the building for future generations.

This temporary fix turned into much more on April 13, 2010 when Bill and Gayle Cook and their son Carl announced their intention to preserve and renovate the Old Centrum Building.  The Cooks previously restored The West Baden Springs Hotel and The French Lick Springs Resort in southern Indiana. They used the same team, which includes Silver Creek Engineering, to breathe new life into the historic Old Centrum.  







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Old Centrum, built mostly of timber and unreinforced masonry, includes three different parts: Cook Theater, Cook Hall and the 1922 Addition.  These were the three primary areas of the site targeted for the $10 million restoration.  Cook Theater was previously used as the sanctuary for the United Methodist Church.  It holds over 500 seats as well as a 1,700 square foot balcony with nearly 200 more seats. The roof structure of Cook Theater consists of a long-span timber truss system that supports a 25 foot tall cupola, a suspended wood framed ceiling that was formed to resemble a dome, and a 1,000 lb. chandelier.  Cook Hall is a 16,000 square foot historic wood-paneled hall with a wooden stage and a roof structure similar to the one in Cook Theater.  The 1922 Addition was built of wood, steel, and masonry.  The main level was originally used for office space and the basement contained a basketball court.  The 1922 Addition continues to house offices after remediation.

This restoration presented many engineering challenges.  One example was the main support beam for the Cook Theater balcony.  This staggered multiple ply, multiple span, continuous wood beam that was bent into a horseshoe shape, was evaluated and found to require reinforcement.  Structural steel reinforcement was designed that addressed not only stabilization and repair, but also preserved the historic craftsmanship and ceiling height.  Alternate reinforcement options were incorporated to minimize cost and labor.
 
The renovated building has been renamed the Indiana Landmarks Center and will soon become the new headquarters for Indiana Landmarks.  Cook Theater, the restored 700 seat theater in the former sanctuary, and the spacious Cook Hall will be used as venues for concerts, cultural performances, and weddings.