In 1913 the Indianapolis Public Library Board solicited proposals for a new Central Library to take the place of the Meridian Street building, which had been quickly outgrown. The winner would be French-born architect Paul Philippe Cret (1876 - 1945) of the Philadelphia firm Cret, Zantzinger, Borie and Medary, who was already known for his design of the Pan American Union building in Washington, DC. and would go on to design the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Also a Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Cret followed the Beaux-Arts style, which utilized classic Greek and Roman architecture and influenced the American-Greek revival of the early 20th Century. His plans for the Indianapolis Public Library were defined by his use of the Greek Doric order and by the layout, which set two reading rooms on each side of a grand two-story central room that functioned as a book delivery room. The plans were ultimately executed by George A. Fuller and Company, who laid the cornerstone on March 24, 1916. The library opened on October 8th the following year.
This collection comprises 51 architectural drawings by Cret, which include floor plans and insets of architectural elements, such as bronze details and friezes. Digitized in honor of the building's 100th anniversary, they illustrate the beauty of a library which was described in 1918 by Architectural Forum as "one of the most distinctive and admirable contributions to architecture that have been made in America."
This collection is made possible by past and present Library employees and friends of Lawrence J. Downey through gifts to The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation.