The English Hotel And Opera House, located on the northwest quadrant of Monument Circle since 1880, was sold in 1947 to J. C. Penney Company, Inc. and torn down to make way for a new department store to rival the long-established Sears Roebuck and Company on Alabama and Vermont Streets. Built in 1950, the new three-story structure was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of Chicago and Robert Frost Daggett and Associates of Indianapolis (See Nathaniel Owings). The building was composed of a sweeping limestone façade with a third-level clerestory and canopied entry.

A large multi-story building that curves to fit the shape of the circle in downtown Indianapolis. Several cars are parked along the sidewalk, against the building.
English Hotel, 1923 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

F. W. Woolworth Company occupied the south half of the street level and a brokerage firm occupied most of the north. During a visit to Indianapolis in 1957, nationally recognized architect Frank Lloyd Wright commented: “The only good building I saw downtown is the one used by J. C. Penney’s downtown, which is a little radical. It probably was designed by some out-of-town man.”

After 30 years, J. C. Penney on Monument Circle closed and the building was sold to Blue Cross/Blue Shield whose plan was to convert the department store for office space expansion. Odle McGuire and Shook of Indianapolis was engaged to redesign the structure for multi-tenant use. The limestone was removed in favor of a dark-gray glass curtain wall. In addition, a new parking structure was built on Illinois Street where the Lyric Theatre once stood and connected by a pedestrian bridge across the alley.

A large multi-story building with a "J. C. Penney Co." sign on the front. The building is curved to follow the circle in downtown Indianapolis.
J. C. Penney Building, 1952 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society. View Source

In 1989, Blue Cross/Blue Shield sold the building and garage to Mansur Development Corporation along with its main corporate building at 120 West Market Street (later readapted for the Hilton Hotel). By then known as the Associated Group and soon Wellpoint and eventually Anthem, the intent was to relocate its expanding headquarters to a Monument Circle address. In 1990, construction began on the second redevelopment of what once was the J. C. Penney structure. Indianapolis-based RATIO Architects, Inc. designed the new headquarters building using the same granite that was chosen for Market Tower (immediately west on Market Street) while recalling the massing and proportions of the English Hotel and Opera House. Mansur Construction Management oversaw construction.

Features of the $30 million redevelopment included the addition of a new fourth level with roof terraces, expanding the 199,000 square foot building to 214,000 overall. A four-story atrium lobby was carved out of the center of the building to provide light and a common area with trees and a water feature. Street-level frontage on Monument Circle was reserved for retail use.

An aerial view of a large multistory building that curves to follow the circular-shaped street.
120 Monument Circle, 1985 Credit: Banayote Photo Inc., Indiana Historical Society View Source

The redevelopment project won awards for rehabilitated and modernized buildings from BOMA (Business Owners and Managers Association International) in 1991 and from the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce for design excellence in 1992.

In 2017, at the end of its lease, Anthem moved out of the building leaving the office portion of the building vacant and available to other tenants.

Revised April 2021

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