Coca-Cola Building “Before” Tour

INDIANAPOLIS — For decades, people have admired the white terra cotta Coca-Cola bottling plant on Indianapolis’s Massachusetts Avenue, but few have been allowed to see that the Art Deco show continues inside. On Aug. 12 from 1 to 5 p.m., Indiana Landmarks stages a “before” tour of the building that Hendricks Commercial Properties will reinvent as apartments, restaurants, retail shops, movie theaters, and a boutique hotel.
James Yuncker built the bottling plant in 1931, in the depths of the Great Depression, in a style that was lavish by factory standards, especially at the time. It was a testimony to his faith in the growth trajectory of his core product, Coca-Cola. He commissioned the design from Rubush and Hunter, a firm known for prominent structures that are now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including Columbia Club, Guaranty Building, Circle Theater, and Circle Tower—all on Monument Circle. Jungclaus Construction Company, whose headquarters remains just down the street on Mass Ave, built the plant.
As business boomed, the plant expanded with additions in 1941 and 1951, as well as additional garages. By 1950, the facility was considered the world’s largest bottling plant, with 260 employees and a fleet of 110 delivery trucks. After Yuncker died in 1964, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman bought the Coca-Cola franchise and moved bottling operations to Speedway. He stored his collection of vintage automobiles in the Massachusetts Avenue building until he sold it to Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) in 1968.
IPS turned the bottling works into a central kitchen for school lunches, and used other areas for storage, a woodworking shop, and as classrooms for adult and experimental education. The garages remained, housing school buses instead of soft drink delivery trucks.
On the tour, you’ll see how architects Rubush and Hunter exceeded the design standards of an average Depression-era factory. Incised gold-leaf lettering traces the words Coca-Cola in the brand’s distinctive script on the facade. Gleaming terra cotta clads the Art Deco exterior — a material that conveyed the spic ‘n span facility it enclosed — with geometric and floral motifs and a bas relief panel over the main entrance on Massachusetts Avenue that depicts a refreshing fountain shooting beautiful arcing sprays.
The tour celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, which reviews and approves changes to properties in the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District, including the Coca-Cola bottling plant.
The tour is self-guided, with docents stationed along the way to offer information and answer questions. Tickets are required. The site is not yet handicapped accessible and has no working elevators.
The former Coca-Cola bottling plant, 850 Massachusetts Ave.  Tickets are $12 per person in advance; $15 at the door ($10 for Indiana Landmarks members in advance). For more information, call 317-639-4534 or visit