Construction of the Indianapolis Athletic Club was begun in 1921. The Renaissance Revival architecture was designed by Robert Daggett who designed many buildings in Indy, the closest one is just to our south, the Chamber of Commerce Building. Move in came in 1924.
Obvious by the title, Indianapolis Athletic Club, athletics have played a huge role, especially swimming. IAC sent many swimmers to the Olympics. In fact, by the early 1950’s the swimming program here was one of the largest in the country, also offering diving, water ball sports, life saving and water ballet.
The IAC was known for its political (especially Democratic) connections.
On February 5, 1992, fire broke out on the third floor with the origin being faulty wiring in a refrigerator. Before the night was out, one guest and two firefighters were killed. That is why, every year during the St. Patrick’s Day parade, a large battalion of firemen stop in front of our building, turn in formation, and hold a salute before marching on.
The Downtown Indianapolis Rotary Club and its’ offices were here in this building for thirty years.
History of the Meridian Entry
The Bronze doorway surround, as well as the carved limestone surround and the center window above (all one design element), is a copy of the main entry of the Venice Palace in Rome. It was designed by the most famous architect in Italy at the time named Alberti who died in 1472. The Meridian Street unit is a copy of that entry which still stands at Piazza Venezia in Rome today. Tourists come from all over the world to see that building.
That Roman building is the first Renaissance civil building in Rome. It was a residence for many Popes and all the ambassadors from Venice for hundreds of years.
The designers of the Athletic Club chose to copy it as it was considered the zenith of great design from the past. They were also picking up on the fact that all famous people from historic Rome entered the building at one point or another. They were creating an extension of that idea of importance in Indianapolis.
A Memory Not Forgotten
In February 2012 Indianapolis Monthly profiled the 1992 fire at the Athletic Club which claimed 3 lives, including 2 Indianapolis Firefighters. Coincidentally, the fire took place on February 5th, the same day the Super Bowl was played in Indianapolis in 2012. Those interested can find the article here.