The Hidden History of the Indiana State Library

Giving tours of the Indiana State Library building and highlighting its architectural details keeps the staff connected with both the library’s history and our state’s history. Before the current 1934 building existed for the Indiana State Library, the library was housed within the “new” Indiana State House, occupying four rooms in the third floor south wing from 1888 to 1933. Those rooms are presently offices for the Legislative Services Agency and Indiana House of Representatives.  If you are an architecture aficionado, do not pass up the opportunity offered by the Statehouse Tour Office to tour Indiana’s beautiful 1888 State House.

1884 Sulgrove historyBut back to the topic at hand—recently I was fascinated to learn about a period of time when the Indiana State Library was neither inside any state house nor in its own permanent building. An entry in Sulgrove’s History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana (1884), mentioned a temporary move for the State Library before demolition of the “old” State House.

According to Dunn’s History of Greater Indianapolis (1910) by 1867 it was apparent that the old 1835 State House was too crowded and in disrepair. Most all state offices except the Governor and State Library had been moved out.  As the keeper of the State Library and custodian of the State House and grounds, Lycurgus Dalton, State Librarian, reported in 1876 on the poor condition of the old State House.

1876 State House reportIn March 1877 the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill to build a new State House, making it necessary to demolish the old State House on the south portion of the grounds. The State House Commissioners provided for a temporary relocation of the remaining state offices. The Gallup block on the southeast corner of present-day Capitol Avenue and Market Street would serve as one of the temporary state office buildings.  Conveniently across Tennessee Street (Capitol Avenue) from the old State House, the three-story brick building had been built in 1867 on speculation of leasing extra office space to the State.

By August of 1877, the State House Commissioners set the room arrangements in the Gallup/McCray building, with the State Library occupying the majority of the ground floor. Winter weather in January 1879 brought a setback for the temporary building, requiring extensive roof repairs. Checking the 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of Indianapolis provides a visual confirmation of the temporary location of the State Library. Incidentally, in 1894 the Indianapolis Common Council changed the name of Tennessee Street to Capitol Avenue. The next year Mississippi Street, one block west, was renamed Senate Avenue.

1887 Sanborn map

The 1887 R. L. Polk City Directory of Indianapolis revealed two additional surprises in the Gallup building—the libraries of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture and the Indiana State Horticultural Society. Later in 1887, as other state offices were moved into the new State House, the State Library waited for the shelves to be installed and was last to be returned. Various state offices occupied the Gallup building at later dates, with city directories indicating that the Indiana State Board of Health was the last tenant in 1927. The Gallup building was then torn down to make way for a new hotel.

I have yet to find a suitable photograph or sketch of the Gallup/McCray building, and this is one of the obstacles of historic building research. The present site is occupied by the 8-story Harrison Building (formerly Harrison Hotel) which was finished in 1928. The types of historical sources used in this blog post are useful for determining the history of most any building. The Indiana Division of the Indiana State Library collects county and city histories, maps, city directories, and newspapers from all 92 counties. The Hoosier State Chronicles digital newspaper database has proven invaluable for setting the timeline of events with its text-searching capabilities.

This blog post was written by Andrea Glenn, Indiana Collection Librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana Collection Division at (317) 232-3670 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at