Merritt Harrison (1888-1973), a graduate of Indianapolis Manual High School (1906) and Cornell University School of Architecture (1911), worked for architect Herbert L. Bass before opening his own office in the Board of Trade Building in 1916. Within a few years, he was designing residences on the city’s northside. Between 1919 and early 1923, his designs included the homes at 4611, 4605, and 4025 North Meridian Street.

Architectural drawing of Thomas Jefferson High School (later renamed Crispus Attucks High School) in 1925.
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

By 1923, Harrison had formed Harrison and Turnock, a brief but important partnership, with Llewellyn Turnock (1890-1959). During their association they were architects, as a team or separately, for the Tudor Revival home at 4041 North Meridian Street (1924-1925), the Colonial Revival Brookside Park Community Building (1927), Crispus Attucks High School (1927), the Gothic Revival Irvington Presbyterian Church (1929), and the Indiana School For The Blind (1930).

In 1934, Harrison, who had dissolved his partnership with Turnock, formed a new architecture firm with William Earl Russ (1878-1950), a graduate of Columbia University. Russ had been a partner in an Ohio architecture firm before moving to Indianapolis in 1913. Some of his early work included schools and industrial buildings in Ohio and Indiana and the Sunnyside Tuberculosis Sanitarium in eastern Marion County (1917). In 1923, Russ won third prize ($10,000) in the international competition to design the World War Memorial in Indianapolis. In 1926, he was architect for the Piccadilly Apartments at 28 East 16th Street.

Merritt Harrison, 1959
Credit: IndyStar

Russ and Harrison designed many important buildings in Indianapolis and elsewhere in the state. In the 1930s, their work encompassed both private and public buildings including clubhouses for Hillcrest and Broadmoor Country Clubs, Lockefield Gardens housing complex, and the $1 million Indiana State Fair Coliseum (1939), voted the most “outstanding recent building in Indianapolis” in a 1940 survey conducted by the Architectural Record. During the 1940s, the firm designed many industrial buildings in the city and elsewhere, and in 1950 it designed the Meridian Street Methodist Church, a Colonial Revival structure.

By 1959, other Indiana architects had dubbed Harrison the “Dean of Indiana Architects” in recognition of his contributions to their field. Although less active in his later years, Harrison maintained an office in the Architects and Builders Building in downtown Indianapolis until he retired in 1971.

Revised February 2021

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