(May 10, 1911-Dec. 25, 1995). The son of Indianapolis architect Lee Burns and Anna Ray (Herzch) Burns, David Burns grew up in Indianapolis and attended Cornell University’s College of Architecture from 1929 to 1933. He then studied civil engineering at Purdue University, graduating in 1937. He started his career at his father’s firm Burns And James in 1933 and became partner four years later.

The house is a small, brick and clapboard house, with a covered porch left front and a bay window to the right. The peaked roof has brick chimney at one end.
Hugh Carpenter Residence, designed by David V. Burns, ca. 1930s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

In 1938, Burns married another Indianapolis native, Jessie Lucille Strickland. The couple had two children. During World War II, he served in the United States Naval Reserves.

Following the war, in 1949, Burns and his father formed a new architectural firm called Burns and Burns. Their specialty was traditional styles houses, as well as buildings for public use. Burns continued his architectural career after his father’s death in 1959. In 1961, he merged his firm with the A. E. Bohlen and Sons, a descendant of the firm first established by Diedrich August Bohlen in 1853, to create Bohlen and Burns Architects and Engineers. Burns remained as head of the firm until he retired in 1969. Shortly before he retired, it incorporated as Bohlen, Burns and Associates, which became Bohlen, Meyer, Gibson And Associates in 1971.

The large, three-story brick building has a peaked roof set with line of gables. The long, covered porch is inset into the front of the building and supported by white columns.
Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, IU Bloomington, designed by David V. Burns, n.d. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Burns worked on numerous structures throughout the city, both alone and alongside his father. With his father, he designed structures for the Indiana State Fairgrounds, such as the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Building and the Service Building. The father-son team’s most notable work was an addition to the Garfield Park Conservatory. With this project, they became the first architects in Indianapolis history to use structural aluminum, creating what Burns called a “rigid frame structure” to halt the conservatory’s deterioration and ensure fewer shadows within the space.

Burns also oversaw the installation of The Races of Man, three five-foot-tall statues created by Austrian-born American sculptor Karl Bitter for the St. Paul Building in New York City (constructed 1898-1899), at Holliday Park. The statues were moved to Indianapolis following the St. Paul Building’s demolition in 1958. Burns worked with artist Elmer Taflinger, who made the initial design for the project. The site became known as “The Ruins” and has remained Holliday Park’s most recognizable feature.

The school is a long brick buildingtwo-or three-stories high. The tall narrow entrance section, is centered and extends slightly beyond the two long wings..
Warren Central High School, designed by David V. Burns, ca. 1936 Credit: Indiana Historical Society. View Source

Independent of his father, Burns also is credited with the design for the English Foundation building, the Hancock Memorial Hospital, Riverview Hospital in Noblesville, the Hilton Hotel in downtown Indianapolis, and Robertson Hall at Butler University. He served as architect for Flanner And Buchanan Mortuaries and designed the education building at North United Methodist Church at 38th and N. Meridian streets.

Burns made substantial alterations to the Twin Oaks Estate, the home of two of Indianapolis’ most influential families, the Ayres family of L. S. Ayres and Company department store and the Josiah K. Lilly Jr. family of Eli Lilly and Company.

Beyond his architectural career, Burns played an active role in the community. He was a president of the Indiana Historical Society and the Rotary Club and served as vice president of the Society Of Indiana Pioneers.

Revised June 2021

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