001a-001d Storefront improvements brochure


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001a-001d Storefront improvements brochure



A black and white folded brochure describing Alexander Girard's design for storefront improvements in downtown Columbus, Indiana.





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Columbus, Ind.

Is Part Of

301 Washington Street Collection (C0001), Series Ib, Box 1, Folder 12, Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives, BCPL Archives, Bartholomew County Public Library, Columbus, IN; 301 Washington Street: Cornerstone of Columbus, Indiana (digital collection).

Bibliographic Citation

Storefront improvements brochure, 1960s, 1/12, 301 Washington Street Collection (C0001), Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives, BCPL Archives, Bartholomew County Public Library, Columbus, IN.


Bartholomew County Public Library

Text Item Type Metadata


Tri-fold typewritten leaflet

Typewritten text (sheet 1, side a):




Typewritten text (sheet 1, side b):

It sounded like a simple idea! They often are the best, aren’t they?

Why not re-emphasize the basic, pleasing Victorian architecture of downtown buildings — tear away the artificial plastic and glass facades and highlight the strong, original architecture with fresh, bright colors.

But, each good, simple idea takes time, usually more time than anyone plans at first because people need to see evidence that the idea really is a good one and that it can benefit each, personally. Then, perhaps they’ll join in.

Improving the storefronts in downtown Columbus is essentially a simple, but good idea which had its beginning back in 1964. The central business area in Columbus, like those of thousands of other communities across the country, was deteriorating.

But, with typical Columbus pride, some Washington street businessmen were determined that “it isn’t going to happen in Columbus — the heart of our city isn’t going to die.”

A happy coincidence brought together the need and the creative talent of designer Alexander Girard of Santa Fe, New Mexico, who has worked on a number of Columbus projects.

 At a 1964 meeting of downtown building owners and tenants, held at the old Palms Cafe, Girard talked about capitalizing on the one major architectural asset of the central business area, the wealth of Victorian detail. He expressed concern about what had been done to the buildings over the years, a gradual transformation that individual merchants undoubtedly felt had helped their own businesses, but which collectively had become a cacophony of neon, clashing colors, bolts, wires, “temporary/permanent” coverings and deteriorating structures.

A “looking-up” walk along Washington and other downtown streets, led by Girard, confirmed his observations. The group was actually seeing the downtown for the first time with the aid of an individual sensitized to the overall impression of color and detail. What they saw were single buildings that had been compartmentalized as each tenant had painted his share a different color with no effort at coordinating with his neighbor; tin work and glass that had attempted to modernize the original building details; windows not covered and which had been painted out; broken bricks that had not been replaced; signs of all descriptions hanging at varying levels. Girard referred to the signs as a “jungle which no one could read.”

Girard obviously did some sensitizing of his own during that walk because the Central Business Association, under the leadership of George Budd, Bert Engle and Carl Miske, commissioned him to prepare a master plan for storefront renovation of downtown Columbus, covering Washington street between Second and Seventh streets and the side streets between Franklin and Jackson. Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company contributed the fee for the plan.

Each storefront in the area was photographed and blown up to a pre-determined scale size. From the 26 colors selected for the project, Girard and his staff then painted each building as part of the total color concept. One of the startling aspects of the proposal and one which was of immediate appeal to young people in the community was Girard’s use of bright accent colors for decorative details and windows, the most popular being the bright orange bay window near Sixth street on the east side of Washington street. Buildings whose brick work was still in good shape were not scheduled for the repainting.

By April, 1965, the project was completed and the panels, mounted on masonite were shipped to Columbus for the showing to merchants and building owners. The display was exhibited in the old Fair Store, now occupied by Don Jurgemeyer’s law offices at 325 Washington street.


Typewritten text (sheet 1, side c):

Another feature of the proposal was a uniform canopy over the sidewalks. Girard also designed suggested signs, some whimsical to represent the type of business and others more conservative, each according to the tastes of the individual proprietors.

Members of the CBA agreed that a model block should be renovated according to the Girard plan to demonstrate the project to the community. The block selected was the east side of Washington street between Fifth and Sixth streets.

Work began promptly including removing old paint, signs and false fronts. Buildings were cleaned and two coats of paint were applied. Neutral canopies and night lighting were installed. Porcelain enameled signs, according to the master plan, were purchased by all store owners. Sign prices ranged from $150 to $495, depending upon size and detail.

Not surprisingly, there was no immediate rush to paint all buildings according to the plan. But, over the years, through negotiations between tenants and owners and needling by those who have participated in the program, about 80 percent of the store fronts have been renovated. In all cases, patience has been a virture.

The original panels, themselves a work of art by Girard, have become a part of the history of Columbus, referred to from time to time as building owners have “caught the spirit” of the original idea.

Storefront renovation has been one of the important elements of the re-awakened interest in a lively downtown Columbus. It was a simple idea, and a very good one!


Typewritten text (sheet 1, side d):

We ought to see the good things we have inherited — value them — preserve them.

Our fathers built a handsome main street. We ought to enjoy it and preserve it. Let’s not destroy its sturdy character — its charm — its unity.

Our fathers had fun with little things. We should enjoy these details and let them remind us that life need not be so grim as we sometimes make it today.


Unknown, “001a-001d Storefront improvements brochure,” BCPL Archives, accessed June 20, 2024, https://bcplarchives.omeka.net/items/show/402.