By Harry McCawley
The Republic (Columbus)
The Republic building in Columbus has become one of the youngest historic landmarks in the country
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced designation of the 41-year-old newspaper plant and 25 other sites from around the country as national historic landmarks that “possess exceptional value and quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.”
The Republic building becomes the seventh structure in Columbus to gain national historic landmark status.
In a news release issued by the Interior Department, The Republic was described as “an exceptional work of modern architecture and one of the best examples of the work of Myron Goldsmith, a general partner in the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and a highly respected architect, architectural theorist, writer and educator.”
Goldsmith developed a close working relationship with the late Bob Brown, former publisher of The Republic, in developing the concept for a modern newspaper plant based on an open interior design that offered full views of the building from the outside.
Jeff Brown, Bob Brown’s son and chairman of Home News Enterprises, parent company of The Republic, described the relationship between the architect and newspaper publisher.
“Dad had Myron design a new building for the Daily Journal in Franklin, a newspaper he started from the ground up in 1962. He liked his work on that project so well he hired Myron to design The Republic’s new home.
The result was a timeless yet simple design that encompassed the newspaper production product flow Bob Brown pioneered for small newspapers, Jeff Brown said.
Key to the design was a desire to emphasize openness and ties to the community that had been in place since 1872 when Isaac M. and Isaac T. Brown started the weekly newspaper that is today The Republic.
“The finished product was a building that was not only efficient in its design and production flow, but one that allowed the community to look into the newspaper as the newspaper looked out on the community,” said Jeff Brown, the fifth generation of the family that has owned the local newspaper.
The centerpiece of the original design was a Goss Urbanite offset press that drew onlookers to Second Street when the press was running. The press was removed from the building in 1998 when The Republic opened a new printing center at Woodside Industrial Park.
Even with the press gone, the building on Second Street was adaptable to change.
“This building has always accommodated pretty much everything we have thrown at it over the years,” Jeff Brown said. “As we have centralized in Columbus more of the production for our other community newspapers and magazines, this building has taken this challenge with a minimum of remodeling.”
Jamie Jacobs, a historian with the National Historic Landmarks Foundation in Washington, D.C., who processed The Republic’s nomination, noted that the building is the youngest architectural landmark to be recognized in the history of the program.
The application process for The Republic began in 2009 with local architect Louis Joyner and researcher Laura Thayer compiling the necessary materials for the official nomination.
“A lot of the credit for this needs to go to (the late) Lynn Bigley, who got the ball rolling a few years ago when she suggested that we begin another round of nominations,” Joyner said. “She was the one who kept pushing us.”
At the time Bigley was president of the newly reinvigorated Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives, which sponsored The Republic’s nomination.
“The original six buildings were sponsored by Preserve to Enjoy (a local preservation group that since has been folded into the Bartholomew County Historical Society),” Joyner said. “At the time we were working under a criteria that allowed for contemporary architecture buildings to be considered based on a period from 1941 to 1965, when many of the Columbus structures were built.”
In preparing The Republic’s nomination, the local researchers — with the approval of the Historic Landmarks Foundation — extended the inclusive period to 1975.
Louis Joyner noted that all seven of Columbus’ Historic Landmark sites share one common trait: the desire to maintain and constantly adapt the buildings for both the present and the future.
“The proprietors of these buildings have been faithful in holding to those missions,” Joyner said.
Jeff Brown added another important consideration the members of the Brown family have kept in mind.
“The one thing that has stayed constant throughout the years is the impact it has on our employees. Dad believed that outstanding building design would set a higher bar in the work he expected to be produced from within its walls each day. That continues to be the case today for all of us working here. We have tried to follow that good design theme at the three other sites where we have constructed production facilities.”