Columbus, Indiana is a small city known for its unique architecture. When the late J. Irwin Miller was president and chairman of Cummins Engine Company, he launched the Cummins Foundation. A charitable program of the Foundation helped to subsidize a large number of architectural projects throughout Columbus by then up-and-coming architects, many whom are now well renowned.
Miller instituted a program in which the Cummins Foundation would pay the architects’ fee, provided the client selected a firm from a list compiled by Miller. The plan was initiated with public schools and was so successful that Miller decided to defray the design costs of fire stations, public housing and other community structures. The high number of notable public buildings and sculptures in the Columbus area are designed by such notables as Eliel Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Robert Venturi, Cesar Pelli and Richard Meier, and has earned Columbus the nickname “Athens of the Prairie.”
Over the next few weeks, we will be chronicling some of these Columbus buildings and sculpture, along with the home residence of the J. Irwin Miller family. Each building is its own architectural masterpiece, but when you realize they are almost within a mile walking tour of each other, you quickly realize that a day trip to Columbus, Indiana is worth the drive if you are in that part of the U.S.
First stop, the First Christian Church.
Built in 1942, it was designed by Eliel Saarinen. It is among the first contemporary architecture religious buildings in the U.S. and at the time was regarded as the nation’s most unique church. It had a significant influence on post World War church design. The church includes a sunken terrace , a 900 person sanctuary and has the distinctive 160-ft clock tower to its side. Note the intricate inlaid wooden front doors.
In our next posting, wait and see what is directly across the street!