Standing the test of time.

The Athenaeum is an excellent example of Germanic architectural influence in the Midwest during the latter part of the 19th century. It is also a monument to the fortitude of Americans of German descent in the United States who dedicated themselves to cultural and physical development in their new country.

The Indianapolis firm of Vonnegut and Bohn was responsible for both phases of the structure. The entire building is in the German Renaissance Revival style — a popular style in Germany during the Second Reich (1871-1918). It revived the architecture of Renaissance Germany during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Athenaeum is listed three times in the National Register of Historic Places: (1) for architecture and historical significance; (2) as part of the Massachusetts Avenue Commercial District; and (3) within the Lockerbie Square Historic District, specifically for the location and historical theme of the Germantown area.

Look for these key features when you visit:

  • Two elaborate gables (the vertical triangular end of a building from cornice or eaves to ridge) that rise above the roof line in two places
  • Three-story brick tower with a conical slate roof
  • Semi-circular limestone arched entrance with two free-standing Roman Doric columns
  • Dark red brick walls in common bond (the systematic lapping of brick in a wall)
  • Limestone belt course to define the second-floor line
  • Rock-faced stone foundation laid up on an ashlar (hewn or squared stone) coursing
  • Arched upper windows
  • Bulls-eye gymnasium windows
  • West wing facade in the German Renaissance Revival style, incorporating German architecture with Renaissance elements focusing on a highly decorated gable (1897-1898)
  • Steeply pitched, massive hipped roof
  • Decorative stepped gable façade in stone and terra cotta rising into a baroque pediment above the cornice
  • Sculptured panels above the middle gable
  • Arched and stained-glass windows, bulls-eye and transom windows
  • Alternating horizontal bands of stone
  • Three-story brick tower with gently curving mansard roof and spire
  • Small hooded copper-domed dormers with dwarf spires
  • Small eyebrow louvers near the ridgeline
  • Copper-covered cupolas with dwarf spires at each end of the main roof
  • Semi-circular stone arched doorway
  • Projected faces of the alternating stone voussoirs (one of the wedge-shaped pieces forming an arch or vault)
  • Stone columns with Doric caps flanking the arched doorway
  • Terra cotta grotesques figures of Athena in the top arch, figures and shields on west wall
  • Stone lions and shields with lyres

Athenaeum Foundation401 EAST MICHIGAN STREET

Our Mission

The Athenaeum Foundation preserves a treasured historic landmark that welcomes all to nurture a sound mind and a sound body through arts & culture, wellness and community.

The Athenaeum Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization.