Visual Arts » Architecture

No Sweet Salvation for Crawford's Bakery

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Just across the street from Methodist Hospital, at 16th and Capitol streets, stands a sweet piece of Indianapolis' history and culture. But not for long. The pretty building with the terra cotta eagles, the one most of us remember as the home of Crawford's Bakery, stands slated for demolition.

The bakery moved out years ago, leaving an empty shell of a building and an owner who saddled it with an insurmountably high price tag. When a demolition order was filed in 2010 preservationists, both individuals and organizations, exploded into action. Shannon Hill Zuercher, a preservation consultant now living in Huntington, Indiana, started the "Save the Crawford Bakery Building" Facebook page to raise awareness. And within days of hearing about the pending demo, Indiana Landmarks began working with the owner, first and successfully to delay demolition, and then to try to find a purchaser for the building.

The entrance and interior of the ornate structure offer a peek into its past when fancy desserts and moneyed patrons occupied its space inside.  - CONNIE ZIEGLER
  • Connie Ziegler
  • The entrance and interior of the ornate structure offer a peek into its past when fancy desserts and moneyed patrons occupied its space inside.

Why all the Sturm und Drang over a small commercial building? According to Zuercher:  "As a transplant to Indianapolis in 2002, I quickly fell in love with this beautiful building and its elegant terra cotta façade. I would stop in to Crawford's Bakery for lunch with coworkers. In 2010, I was startled to learn that a contractor had applied for a wrecking permit."  She "was blown away by the hundreds of people who joined [the Facebook page] and shared their memories of the building."

For some of those people, the answer to why do you care was because the building was designed by one of Indianapolis' most significant early 20th-Century architecture firms, Edward Pierre and Caleb Wright. Pierre and Wright brought the city a number of 1920s-era modern buildings, including the one where the Jazz Kitchen is located in SoBro, as well as numerous homes and office and commercial buildings scattered throughout the city. (Sadly there have been other losses of their buildings. A smartly modernist structure at Tarkington Park, designed by Edward Pierre in the 1950s, was torn down by the parks department a few years ago, creating an uproar among the city's modern architecture mavens.)

The Crawford Bakery building will be leveled soon, taking with it its historic architecture. - CONNIE ZIEGLER
  • Connie Ziegler
  • The Crawford Bakery building will be leveled soon, taking with it its historic architecture.

Maybe the appeal of this building is its quaint design with softly colored terra cotta details, such as those blue eagles at each corner, stained glass transoms and even an original 1920s light fixture still intact over the door.

This opalescent building is both human in scale and humane in design. In the manmade cavern created by the tall Methodist Hospital on one side and an even taller tower on another, the walls of large windows once allowed us to peek at colorful sugary confections and happy patrons as we drove past Crawford's Bakery. In the building's earlier years those windows must have offered up an equally pleasing and colorful view of the floral confections of George Pandell's Flower Shop, the first tenant here.  

But it appears the end is in sight, our affection and all of the preservation efforts failed to find a solution that will keep this gem standing. The owner's price tag which, according to a post on Indiana Landmarks Facebook page, is $2 million dollars, was simply too high for limited square footage on an urban lot.

Sadly for the all of us, apparently the owner imagines astronomical potential in the site once it's scraped clean. And no one else can imagine how to fill those windows with enough tasty treats to make salvation workable.

So we say so long to this sweet little architectural treat and the memories it leaves behind.

The exterior facade of the Crawford Bakery building offers an interesting study in architecture and design. - CONNIE ZIEGLER
  • Connie Ziegler
  • The exterior facade of the Crawford Bakery building offers an interesting study in architecture and design.

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