written by:
August 20, 2012

Dwell readers and fans of NPR, unite. Public radio stations have been airing a summer travel series from NPR's Arts Desk called "Destination Art" that explores "off the beaten track" cities across North America, where listeners can tune into the theater culture of Stratford, Ontario (home to Justin Bieber), the art scene in the far-flung Texas town Marfa, and one of our personal must-sees, the architectural legacy of Columbus, Indiana. Dwell sent photographer Leslie Williamson to Columbus in 2011 to shoot the fabled Miller House, an Eero Saarinen–designed home and one of America's foremost modernist residences. Including, but not limited to, the Miller House, here's what else you shouldn't miss in this "Midwestern Mecca for architecture."

Interior of Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company

The interior of Eero Saarinen's Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company. Photo by Leslie Williamson, snapped during her scouting trip for the story "20th Century Fox."

2 / 3
First Baptist Church in Columbus, Indiana by Harry Weese

Exterior and interior of Harry Weese's First Baptist Church in Columbus, Indiana. Photo by Leslie Williamson.

3 / 3
Miller House designed by Eero Saarinen

The reason such a small town is stocked with more than 60 civic buildings designed by modernist architects (I.M. Pei, Eero and Eliel Saarinen, Cesar Pelli, Richard Meier, Harry Weese, Robert Venturi, and James Polshek, to name a few) is that J. Irwin Miller, the industrialist who commissioned his home from Saarinen, was a true believer in the movement. Through his family's company, Cummins Engine Co., Miller established a foundation that would fund city structures as long as he could create the shortlist of architects.

Interior of Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company

The interior of Eero Saarinen's Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company. Photo by Leslie Williamson, snapped during her scouting trip for the story "20th Century Fox."

Among such architectural hotspots, reporter Susan Stamberg recommends the Irwin Union Bank and Trust (now closed), built by Saarinen in 1954 and added onto by Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo in 1973. Stamberg says, "I like how the old buildings are mingled in with the new stuff - if everything was designed in the 1950s, the town would be monotony central."

Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church (1942) was the first modernist building on the block, and other must-sees include the city hall building - built by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1981 - as well as a glass-skinned manufacturing facility for Cummins by Roche Dinkeloo (1973) and the brick First Baptist Church by Harry Weese (1965).

Confessing to a more traditional aesthetic herself, Stamberg also recommends Zaharakos ice cream parlor, which was built in 1900 and restored in 2009. "It's got a self-playing organ, old brass chandeliers, and big marble counters," she says. "You can even pull the levers (though they aren't filed with hot fudge sauce anymore)."

First Baptist Church in Columbus, Indiana by Harry Weese

Exterior and interior of Harry Weese's First Baptist Church in Columbus, Indiana. Photo by Leslie Williamson.

One last stop on the Columbus architecture express? "I was very impressed by the Bartholemew County Jail," Stamberg says. "Very well designed [by Don M. Hisaka]. There's a domed glass top and the prisoners would go up there and exercise. The community objected though it was such a nice facility for a bunch of prisoners!"

Listen to Susan Stamberg's story on Columbus (courtesy of NPR). For more on the Miller House, read Dwell's 2011 story and visit in person—it's now open to the public.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
amaroso40040
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016
the blue lagoon iceland geothermal spa hotel water visitors
The famed geothermal spa outside Reykjavík, Iceland, is entering a major new phase—paving the way for the area’s first five-star hotel.
June 19, 2016
heaven on earth maya lin topography what is missing california academy sciences wood video
A new monograph by Rizzoli explores the memorial project by the renowned artist.
June 19, 2016