23 Nov 6 Things to Know About the ‘New’ J.F. Wild Building
IndyStar | November 23, 2016 | Amy Bartner
When the J.F. Wild building opened as a lavish bank at 129 E. Market St. in 1923, it was considered “one of the finest and best constructed business buildings in the city,” by an Indianapolis Star report. Nearly 100 years later, the description still fits. Real-estate development firm Loftus Robinson, which is meticulously restoring the building, opened the gilded doors of the J.F. Wild for a private party last week.
“We just demo-ed everything,” said Drew Loftus, whose firm purchased the building two years ago.
We just literally started with a shell of a building.
The 12-floor building, named after its founder and designed by Indianapolis architect Fermer Cannon, cost $1.25 million — nearly $18 million in today’s dollars. It closed three years after opening, when robbers stole about $275,000 in bonds and put it out of business. A robbery had seemed unlikely, given that the bank boasted about its 29-ton solid “unburnable, torch-resisting” steel vault door. The infamous John Dillinger might have even had a hand in the heist, according to Loftus’ research.
The J.F. Wild sat vacant for a number of years, in major disrepair. Now, it’s a 54,000-square-foot office building, waiting for tenants. Loftus Robinson’s modern offices are on the top floor. Kinetrex Energy natural gas company will move into the soon-to-be-restored first and seconds floors. Loftus is working to line up to nine more tenants for third through 11th floors.
Here are six interesting features of the 93-year-old building:
1. The refurbished terracotta. An Indianapolis Star story on the building’s opening called the terracotta “a new effect” to “present an attractive appearance.”
Because the building was in such bad shape when Loftus Robinson bought it, each terracotta block on the main floor and second-floor mezzanine has to be painstakingly removed. Individual molds will be created before the blocks are secured back to the walls and pillars of the grand entrance, behind those gilded double doors on East Market Street.
“It is hard to do,” Loftus said. “It’s important. A lot of effort went into it 100 years ago.” Using $1 million in tax credits, the process will cost about $4 million,.
2. The lion in the logo. Loftus Robinson branded the J.F. Wild project using the profile of a lion atop the building name in all caps. Loftus said they noticed lion heads carved throughout the building’s facade and they fit the image the firm wanted to portray.
3. A stark modern contrast. Loftus Robinson’s penthouse office is a drastic contrast against the historical exterior — on purpose. The 10-person firm worked as a team to design the office, and moved in March.
“It didn’t feel as much as space planning as it was kids building a fort,” Loftus said. Except for the first and second floors, all floors will have that open-concept feel.
4. That Gatsby-esque entrance. You likely know the J.F. Wild building from the gilded doors on East Market Street. “The door was completely black,” when they purchased the building, Loftus said. After a thorough cleaning, the doors have quickly become one of the most recognizable features of the building.
“It’s basically become a photo-shoot opportunity for people to come to in the evenings,” Loftus Robinson in-house counsel Kyle Resetarits said.
5. The “coolest urinal” in Indy. The two bathrooms in the basement — where the bank vault remains — were restored to appear exactly as they did the day the building opened in 1923. One bathroom features a tall, luxuriously marble-encased urinal.
“If you’ve ever wanted to know what a 100-year-old bathroom would look like…” Loftus said. “That’s the coolest urinal in Downtown Indianapolis.”
6. That vault. At 29 tons, this vault was the prized centerpiece of a prized building. The door, now secured, could only be closed by lowering the floor with a crank. Shortly after opening, the bank invited the public to come in and “inspect” the vault, billed as the “strongest vault in Indiana” in an Indianapolis Star story from 1924.
“Out of the experiments and discoveries of the Great War came a new type — a steel that baffled the mightiest engines of destruction.”
The bank, of course, would be robbed three years later. The vault, too, needed a lot of repair, but Loftus knew the potential in it.
“When we walked into this building when we were touring it, we saw the vault and we said, “OK, yeah, we want it,” Loftus said.