If you've spent a decent amount of time around Mass Ave you're no doubt familiar with the "Coke Building" that takes up much of the street's west side on last section of road between College and 10th St. While it was up until recently being used as an IPS bus refueling and storage facility (among other things), this once was home to the world's largest bottling plant.
The original Coca Cola Bottling Co. plant on Mass Ave was opened in 1931, and at one point was the largest bottling operation and plant in the world, churning out around two and a quarter million bottles of Coca Cola, per week. That's a shit ton of Coke.
When Indiana Landmarks (who does a lot of awesome things for Indiana's history) put up tickets for the tour I was planning on getting a couple, but they sold out very quickly. Our only other option was to volunteer and get to run through the building ourselves at the end of our shift...and a 3 hour donation of our time was well worth it to get a look inside the building, even before the "media".
The inside of the bottling plant consists of a ton of rooms, both big and small. There were some very cool details and architecture during certain sections (as you wind towards the end), but mostly I felt like just walking through a large building you might find anywhere. Having said that though, the beauty is in the details. At first glance, it may look like an old, large room, but look closer and you'll see the craftsmanship and attention to detail.
One of the largest rooms in the building had to have been the old bottling area. At this point, being stripped of most of the equipment, it looks like just a large, open room...and in a lot of ways it is, but at one point in time I can imagine this being the heart of the entire operation. Something unique and pointed out to me after the tour was the degredation in the floor from years and years of erosion from the acid in spilt Cokes.
Personally, I didn't like the fact that not all of the IPS stuff had been removed. There were still some kids posters, handwriting, IPS signage, and obvious furniture for school work in some sections. This just killed the vintage and timeless vibe that the good, Coke related parts gave off, and just made me feel like I was walking through an old school. You could even see the lower ceilings built some places that covered up a lot of old architecture. Too bad they couldn't have stripped all of this out to make the tour feel more uniformly like you're walking through an old factory.
That's not to say the entire trip and buildling felt this way. There was a lot of beautiful interior work, mostly tiling, that was throughout the Coca Cola building. You can just sense the quality, over 80 years later and some of this stuff still looks amazing.
Some more very old rooms with clearly old wood paneling on the walls, not sure if this is from Coke or when IPS took over in the 60's. Either way, an oldschool feel that again shows off how different this place is room to room.
The spiral staircase leading back down to the first floor was the moment I realized why the building and event was getting so much coverage. Despite some color peeling off, the ceiling installation and marble walls made this a sight to be seen, even complete with a mostly original bathroom.
Perhaps the building's former tasting room was what coolest to me. It was the first room that really caught my attention and made me realize that this place was fucking booming at one point. The colors are just insane and still pop to this day. Even some real old safes in the tasting room...perhaps at one point housing pieces of the "infamous recipe"? 🤔
Continuing through my "solo tour", I took advantage of the lack of people/wandering eyes and decided to see if I could go through some caution tape (I'm the one who actually put it up, though!) and head to the roof. I made it up and was pleasantly surprised before setting foot on top by an incredibly old generator. I don't know the extent to it's prior use, but it was in great shape and sick to see some old machinery in such good condition.
Tile. it's everywhere in the Coca Cola building. I really did get a new respect for this type of architecture and craftsmanship, and it made me realize good tilework is the epitome of attention to detail.
I'm excited to see what comes of the new "Bottleworks" development for the area. It's good see efforts to keep some of the city's unique and memorable architecture, despite rapid development and razing just about everywhere in the city. While there aren't supposed to be any more tours of the Coca Cola building, I can only hope that they open it up for another session and allow for some more exposure and insight into the building's past. Buildings with as much history and money flowing through them are a rarity, even moreso at this scale. Shouts to Indiana Landmarks for another amazing and informative event!