Charles A. Pike
Charles A. Pike was perhaps Bloomington’s most active general contractor during the building boom of the 1920’s. In addition to construction, he also sold lumber and building materials and provided design services to both residential and commercial customers. Pike was a native of Knightstown, Indiana, and relocated to Bloomington from Newcastle, Indiana in mid-1924.
Pike advertised regularly and frequently in the Bloomington Weekly Star, which often featured his activities prominently in brief news articles. A Pike advertisement on June 8, 1928 noted that the firm had built “more than thirty five important buildings” in Bloomington, and listed the following institutional projects:
- The Wicks Company - (photo)
- Becovitz Building - (photo)
- First National Bank
- Beta Theta Pi House - (photo)
- Indiana University Field House
- High School Coliseum
- Kappa Kappa Gamma - (photo)
- Delta Upsilon - (photo)
- College Avenue Motor Sales
- City Waterworks Filtration Plant
- Bloomington Nash Motors Co.
The High School Coliseum was a multi-purpose building designed by Alfred Grindle that stood on the grounds of Bloomington High School on Second Street on the east side of the Monon railroad tracks (now the B-Line trail). College Avenue Motor Sales (415 N. College Ave.) and Bloomington Nash Motors Co. (319 N. College Ave.) also no longer exist. All others still stand. The Field House, designed by Robert Frost Daggett, is now referred to as the Bill Garrett Fieldhouse. Beta Theta Pi, designed by Frank Logan of Carrere and Hastings, is located at 919 E. Tenth St and is now known as Informatics East. Pike built a new façade for The Wicks building (McGuire & Shook) at 120 W. Sixth St. The First National Bank contract was a remodeling and addition project at the southeast corner of Fifth and College. Kappa Kappa Gamma, designed by Lowe & Bollenbacher, and Delta Upsilon (Nicol, Scholer & Hoffman) still serve as Greek houses and are both located on East Third Street. The Filtration Plant (Pearse, Greeley & Hanson) is located near the Griffey Lake dam. The Becovitz Building (McGuire & Shook) is at 110 N. Walnut.
Pike is also cited in ‘Architecture and Design’, June, 1938 as the builder of
Both are still standing and both were designed by Burns & James of Indianapolis. Kappa Alpha Theta still functions as a sorority house. Delta Tau Delta is part of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.
Another advertisement in the Weekly Star on February 10, 1928 listed residential projects:
- Von Graham Residence (727 S. Jordan)
- Alfred C. Kinsey Residence (1320 E. First) (photo)
- V. C. Haskett Residence (324 N. Jordan Ave.)
- C. F. Tourner Residence (707 Ballentine Rd.)
- W. J. Moenkhaus Residence (1300 E. First St.)
- C. T. Haver Residence (1100 E. Second St.)
- C. A. Pike Residence (600 Ballentine Rd.)
- W. N. Culmer Residence (1403 E. Tenth St.)
- Wm. Karsell Residence (1401 E. Tenth St.)
The Culmer and Karsell houses stood side by side on the site of the present day Indiana University Health Center. According to data from the Indiana Construction Recorder, the Culmer house was designed by the Chicago firm Lowe & Bollenbacher. The Karsell house was designed by Alfred Grindle. The Haskett Residence was demolished in 2019 to make way for an Indiana University office building. All other houses listed are still standing.
The Indiana Construction Recorder reported many of these projects and a few more. Pike built houses for:
- Charles Sembower (702 Ballantine Rd.)
- Dr. J. E. P. and Beryl Showers Holland (1015 Atwater Ave.).
He also was awarded the contract for an addition to:
- McCalla school (Alfred Grindle).
Pike also built an office building for his own use at:
The nature of Pike’s involvement in some of the residential projects can be difficult to determine. The von Graham residence is listed in the February 10, 1928 advertisement as a Pike project, but in another Pike advertisement on February 3, 1928, Glen George is listed as ‘Local Contractor’. The advertisement lists building materials by brand name and praises the architectural design, but does not attribute the design to anyone.
Another home featured in Pike advertising, 511 S. Jordan Ave., is also featured in an advertisement by R. D. Landis, “Builder of Beautiful Homes”. The Pike advertisement is for the “Pike Complete Home-Building Service” and stresses the correct choice of materials for a given architectural style, but never claims to have designed the house.
Data regarding which structures Pike supplied designs for is sparse. Two short articles in the Bloomington Weekly Star indicate that the Pike firm designed the Cline and Wylie residences, which stand side by side at 1323 and 1319 East First Street. An advertisement featuring a photo of the Kinsey house (1320 E. First St.) states that an architect working for Pike designs similar houses regularly, but does not specifically claim to have designed the Kinsey home. The photograph used in the advertisement is included in collections at both the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the Monroe County History Center.
A possible indication of the identity of the architect working for the Pike firm can be found in the Bloomington Weekly Star of March 30, 1928. In an article describing plans for the Hare Motor Sales Company Edith Brehm is identified as ‘designer of the Charles A. Pike plan service’. An illustration accompanying the article shows an English Tudor design that was apparently never built.
An article entitled ‘Building Firm Announces Executive and Technical Staff ‘ in the June 8, 1928 Weekly Star lists E. C. Read as engineer for “Chas. A. Pike company, building contractors and material dealers”. It indicates that after a recent remodeling of the firm’s building it included an ‘architect’s studio’. The article goes on to state: “The Pike ‘plan service’ has become one of the features of this organization, and incorporates the working out of nearly every detail in the arrangement and construction of a new home or building. This service has been used in the planning and building of some of the city’s most picturesque new homes.”
Another Pike ad contains the following copy: “Let us help you plan a DIFFERENT home - one that you have dreamed of oftimes. Our Architectural Department is offered to prospective builders and our files contain an unlimited number of house plans to select from.” This seems to indicate that even having identified Pike as the source for a particular architectural design, the architect may not have worked for the firm. Bloomington architect John L. Nichols had a similar advertisement in the March 15, 1927 Bloomington Evening World, which read in part: “We have over 3,000 other stock plans for you to choose from. These plans are from the leading architects of the United States.”
Pike’s firm was not the only lumberyard that also supplied plans. According to an August 10, 1928 announcement in the Bloomington Weekly Star, Raymond Fuson had done “architectural work for several years” at the Fulwilder Lumber Company before opening his own office in the Kresge building. Edwin Fulwider recalled in a memoir that as a youth he worked as a draftsman in his grandfather’s lumberyard making drawings for construction projects.
Pike eventually retired to St. Petersburg, Florida where he died in December 1955. He was buried in Knightstown in May 1956.