- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) - Columbus continues to build on a foundation of architectural wonder. The 4,600 people who have toured the city this year get to see firsthand how the “Unexpected, Unforgettable” promotional slogan fits the experience.

Except for Jenny and Roy Lundquist of Oak Park, Illinois. The 35 buildings they saw on a sold-out, two-hour architectural tour were hardly unexpected from the pair who already knew a little of the city’s stature.

She works as an interior designer who sometimes sells the furniture of Eero Saarinen, who designed the local 6,838-square-foot Miller House, a top architectural draw that they also visited. And her husband serves as a homebuilder paying heed to all aspects of design.

“I loved (Eliel) Saarinen’s asymmetrical elements of First Christian Church,” Jenny Lundquist said. “And then to have the chance to see firsthand a (Miller) home that Eero Saarinen designed is just fantastic. I didn’t know it was so large.”

Columbus is living as large as ever in the design world, still ranked as the sixth-most architecturally significant city, according to the American Institute of Architects. That badge of honor remains a magnet to pull people from all over the country to a small, Midwestern mecca.

Karen Niverson understands. Before she took over in April as executive director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center, she never got to see the bus architectural tour because it was sold out when she and husband Charles made two previous visits from Fairmount, where she formerly lived.

Despite such success, she sees an opportunity for a slight change with the Miller House.

“We’ve hit something of a plateau for now,” Niverson said, indicating that this year’s visitor numbers are running slightly behind last year’s. “I think that’s simply a signal for us to say, ‘Let’s find a way to invite some of those previous visitors back so they can have a different experience.’”

So Visitors Center marketing director Erin Hawkins is working with the Indianapolis Museum of Art board to offer a Miller House Christmas tour, complete with holiday décor next year.

“But we have to make sure everything we’re portraying, whether it’s the Miller House or the architectural tour, is both factual and accurate,” Niverson said.

Others such as Peggy Woods of Atlanta already have decided to return to Columbus because she was impressed with the bus architectural tour. Although she enjoys her home city’s buildings, she mentioned that she liked seeing the local architecture on a slightly more personal level.

“We thought it was awesome,” Woods said. “I think Columbus is so unique. We lived all these years in Ohio, and there was this little jewel right here we didn’t even know about.”

Indianapolis school principal Andrea Hunley loved the behind-the-scenes story of late, wealthy industrialist J. Irwin Miller and how he served as a catalyst for the local design program for major architects as far back as the 1940s. He commissioned Eliel Saarinen to build First Christian Church.

Her favorite building? Simple. Harry Weese’s Lillian Schmitt Elementary School, with its trademark front, gabled roof.

“I love the idea that he wanted it to look like a home for the children,” Hunley said.

Niverson said the impact of thousands of visitors arriving here to admire the city is possible only because of the Visitors Center’s Joyce Orwin’s training and guidance and a volunteer staff that has donated more than 1,000 hours for tours so far this year.

“You just don’t normally see that kind of community pride and commitment in very many communities,” Niverson said.


Source: The (Columbus) Republic, https://bit.ly/1V4BiLl


Information from: The Republic, https://www.therepublic.com/

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