I’ve always had an affinity for Coca-Cola history & collectibles. I talked my parents into going to the original location of the World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta when it opened in 1990 at the height of my Coke obsession. Even though I’ve since stopped drinking soft drinks, I’m still fascinated by the story of Coke. I’ve also been a fan of Art Deco architecture since high school, so when I heard Indiana Landmarks was hosting a one-time tour of the old Coca-Cola bottling plant on Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis in August, I leapt at the chance to go. Luckily I bought tickets well in advance, because the tour sold out soon after it was announced. The property is going to be developed by Hendricks Commercial Properties, with work starting next Spring, so this was a unique opportunity to peek inside the original building before it’s transformed into Bottleworks, featuring a hotel, restaurants, apartments, a movie theater, and retail shops. The company plans to preserve, patch and clean every tile of the glazed terra cotta exterior and also keep most of the interior features of the plant, while ensuring new construction is aesthetically compatible.
The Coca Cola Bottling Plant was designed by Indianapolis architectural firm Rubush and Hunter, who designed almost 200 buildings in Indy, including other well-known landmarks such as the Columbia Club and Circle Theatre which is still in use.
It opened in 1931 with a dazzling white Art Deco exterior, which is still impressive 86 years later. By 1954 it was the world’s largest bottling plant, producing over 2 million bottles of Coke a week. When cans became popular in the 1960s, bottle production waned and the plant closed. Tony Hulman, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, bought the property in 1964 to store his car collection, then sold it to Indianapolis Public Schools in 1968, who used it as a training facility, central kitchen, and bus depot/service center until last year. Hendricks Commercial Properties closed on the purchase from IPS this week.
Oh the weather outside is frightful! Greetings from Indiana on a snowy and icy day…