INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis-based Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, a 50-year-old organization, now called Indiana Landmarks is renovating the former Central Avenue United Methodist Church building just north of downtown Indianapolis.

The organization is the nation’s largest statewide historic preservation group. Its new home is courtesy of a more than $9 million-makeover funded mostly from the philanthropists Bill and Gayle Cook of Bloomington, Ind. The former United Methodist church building will become the new home of Indiana Landmarks once a major remodeling is performed.

The congregation vacated the building in 2008 and united with nearby Lockerbie United Methodist Church and now meets at the Lockerbie location on the corner of East and New York Streets downtown. The united congregation is known as the Lockerbie Central UMC.

The former Central Avenue UMC building, also known as The Old Centrum, is considered a gem because of its Romanesque Revival-style. The oldest parts of the building were built in 1892 and 1897. It went to the preservation group this year after the Old Centrum Foundation – a group that tried to save the structure – fell behind on upkeep.

The landmarks foundation has been using a grant of $150,000 it had given to the Old Centrum Foundation to begin stabilization of the building’s foundation, including shoring up some masonry failure and working toward a new roof, according to Tina Connor, executive vice president of the landmarks group.

The Cooks agreed to put $7 million toward a major rehabilitation project estimated to cost between $9 million and $10 million. The building will be a new home and a place for expanded preservation programs as well as musical performances, cultural events and weddings.

Now called Indiana Landmarks Center, the building will feature the 500-seat Cook Grand Theater in the former sanctuary, with a domed ceiling and stained glass windows; Cook Hall, a historic wood-paneled hall with a stage and balcony-level breakout rooms; and office space. Indiana Landmarks plans to move its state headquarters to the new location from 340 W. Michigan Street after it has raised the funds to renovate the office wing built in 1922 and attached to the church.

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Information for parts of this story are from a story by Tom Spalding published April 13, 2010 in The Indianapolis Star.

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The former Central Avenue UMC building is considered a gem because of its Romanesque Revival-style architecture.

The former Central Avenue UMC building in Indianapolis is undergoing renovation and will be the new home of Indiana Landmarks.