INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL

INDIANAPOLIS — If a building can be called a celebrity, Ford Motor Co.’s Washington Street assembly plant was certainly an A-lister in its day.

For its grand opening in March 1915, Ford used 350 Indianapolis-produced vehicles to ferry business and community leaders to the plant for tours.

And two months later, 2,000 Indiana members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a service group, toured the plant at 1301 E. Washington St. It took 100 Ford touring cars five trips to transport them all from downtown Indianapolis.

“The cars were so close together that they presented one continuous parade,” a May 30, 1915, Indianapolis Star story reported.

But despite its triumphant beginnings — and the 600,000 cars the plant would turn out through 1932 — Ford closed what remained of its sales and service departments in 1942.

Indianapolis Public Schools acquired the building in 1979 from P.R. Mallory Co., a battery maker that moved in after Ford moved out. The school district decided to sell based on the property’s location and its maintenance costs, IPS Operations Officer David Rosenberg said. The move is also part of a larger plan to get rid of excess real estate.

Now, the facility is on Indiana Landmarks’ 10 Most Endangered buildings list, a roundup of historic properties around the state that the preservation group sees as most in need of help. The plant is one of three central Indiana buildings on the list.

The others are a former German cultural center, built in 1900 at 306 E. Prospect St. just south of downtown, and the Rivoli Theatre, at 3155 E. 10th St., a glamorous movie house when it opened in 1927 but now badly dilapidated.

The list identifies priority sites for both Indiana Landmarks and outside entities, said Mark Dollase, the group’s vice president of preservation services.

“It’s always kind of this rallying point to bring people together to find solutions,” Dollase said.

Over the years, 112 sites have been on the list. Of those, 78 have been restored and 15 have been demolished.