The Indiana Historical Society Building in Indianapolis.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Housing 170 years of history and accumulated information for public display here required a building of unusual stature.

The Indiana Historical Society formerly shared space with the Indiana State Library. A new building was proposed three years ago in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.

The 165,000 sq. ft. neo-classical design was by CSO/Architects Inc. with The Stubbins Associates. General contractor was Associated General Contractors (AGC). Located one block from the Indiana State House, it opened last year.

Midland Engineering was one of the subcontractors on this impressive job. Great teamwork was required between the Midland project manager and master sheet metal foreman in overcoming numerous obstacles during this 40,000 sq. ft. roofing project for the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis. Midland's specialty is in slate, tile, copper and other sheet metals.

The majority of the pre-manufactured 22-ounce red copper panels used for this $950,000 project was hoisted 110 feet to the center of the roof using a crane that was limited by site access.

While this presented a major challenge, it wasn't the only one. Midland crews had to install the built-in stainless steel gutter system after the copper roof was installed because the limestone cornices and edges could not be installed until after the brickwork was completed. Incorporating expansion joints and maintaining safe working conditions presented additional challenges because of the inherent slipperiness of the materials.

Visually, the building is a crowd-pleaser. Not every contractor gets to work on a project of this magnitude and this significance. The first and second floors of the museum and exhibit hall are embellished with classically inspired walnut monumental crown molding shaped to mirror the three dimensional limestone cornice on the outside of the building.

Built to last

On the exterior, 324 custom built windows make use of natural lighting. Fifty plaster columns and pilasters inside were built using traditional master craftsman techniques, rather than the more common fiberglass imitations normally found today. Built with private funding and intended to last at least 100 years, the work was not always specified to reflect the lowest bid.

Floors are made of marble imported from Italy, and the vestibule walkways are made of charcoal black granite. Even the locally mined limestone is unusual in its exceptionally fine quality.

Special air handling units and 530 tons of cooling were installed by Apex Industries to maintain exact temperature and humidity ranges, not just for occupant comfort but to protect and preserve the many artifacts and printed documents housed inside. There are four different environmental zones. An archival storage area has the most stringent requirements and is kept at 688F, while the library and exhibit preparation areas are somewhat less temperature sensitive yet require high levels of air filtration. Several desiccant dehumidifiers were used.

A 40,000 sq. ft. copper roof spans 50 feet to each eave and 80 feet to its pinnacle. The roof will take on the same aged green patina of the Statehouse's copper dome.

An impressive 7,000 ton copper clad cupola required a 65-ton crane with a 110-foot boom to lift it into place. It was produced by Campbellsville (Ky.) Industries.

Midland Engineering has had only four presidents in its nearly 80 year history: William J. Steinmetz; William R. Steinmetz; John C. Steinmetz; and, currently, Charles Frazier. The company was founded in the Roaring 20s, when the post-World War American economy was booming. Steinmetz learned the roofing trade as a salesman for Johns-Manville. The company has more than 250 employees. Major recent projects include the United Center, Comiskey Park, several buildings at the University of Notre Dame campus, etc.

This particular project has won Midland several awards including a Pinnacle award in the architectural category from Indiana SMACNA. Project manager Jim Sexton also received an award for Indiana Craftsperson based in part on his work on the Historical Society building. He has worked for the company since 1976. During that time, "he has worked on some of the largest and most demanding jobs Midland could throw at him, and never has been lacking in skill and talent to bring the job to a successful conclusion," according to the company.