Second Chance To See Coca-Cola Plant, “Before”

Landmark Look: Coca-Cola “Before” 2018 (Photo: Lee Lewellen)

Last summer’s Indiana Landmarks tour of the historic Coca-Cola bottling plant was a sell-out smash. As a result, on Saturday, Feb. 17 – just prior to the start of construction to reimagine the site as “Bottleworks – the public will get another chance to tour the plant.

Hendricks Commercial Propertie, co-host of the tour with Indiana Landmarks, plans to spend about $260 million to renovate the 12-acre site into a complex of apartments, restaurants, retail shops, movie theaters, and a boutique hotel.

Tours will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets must be purchased in advance: $15 per person ($12 for Indiana Landmarks members). Tickets may be purchased at or by calling 317-639-4534. An indoor food court and entertainment will be available in a heated indoor area.

On the tour guests will see how architects Rubush and Hunter exceeded the design standards of an average Depression-era factory. The Art Deco exterior is clad in gleaming terra cotta – a material that conveyed the spic ‘n span facility it enclosed. Geometric and floral motifs decorate the exterior, and a bas relief panel over the main entrance on Massachusetts Avenue depicts a refreshing fountain shooting beautiful arcing sprays.

Ornate bronze doors open into the high Art Deco lobby, where terrazzo floors and a circular marble staircase with stainless steel and brass railing leads to the executive offices. Just off the lobby, another public space wows with walls of sea green, ochre, and creme matte glazed tiles trimmed with maroon ziggurat-pattern tile.

Guests will see this and more on the self-guided tour, with docents stationed along the way to offer information and answer questions. Hendricks Commercial Properties staff will be on hand to reveal its plans for Bottleworks, with a virtual reality look at the development and information on spaces available for rent. Hendricks will set up an indoor food court for the tour, featuring some of the vendors that have already leased space in the Food Hall that will be part of the reuse.

“The plant is not heated, although there will be industrial heaters scattered throughout the building. Dress warmly,” said Gwendolen Nystrom, Indiana Landmarks’ director of heritage experiences.

Tickets must be purchased in advance. The tour is not accessible; the site has no working elevators and is not navigable for guests with walker, canes, stroller or wheelchairs.

ABOUT THE SITE: James Yuncker built the white terra cotta building at 850 Massachusetts Ave. in 1931, in the depths of the Great Depression. With a style that was lavish by factory standards, especially at the time, the building stands as a testimony to Yuncker’s faith in the growth trajectory of his core product, Coca-Cola. He commissioned the design from Rubush and Hunter, a firm known for prominent structures that are now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including the Columbia Club, Guaranty Building, Circle Theater and Circle Tower – all on Monument Circle. Jungclaus Construction Co., whose headquarters remains just down the street on Mass Ave, built the plant.

As business boomed, the plant expanded with additions in 1941 and 1951, as well as additional garages. By 1950, the facility was considered the world’s largest bottling plant, with 260 employees and a fleet of 110 delivery trucks. After Yuncker died in 1964, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman bought the Coca-Cola franchise and moved bottling operations to Speedway. He stored his collection of vintage automobiles in the Massachusetts Avenue building until he sold it to Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) in 1968.

IPS turned the bottling works into a central kitchen for school lunches, and used other areas for storage, a woodworking shop, and as classrooms for adult and experimental education. The garages remained, housing school buses instead of soft drink delivery trucks.

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