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Thursday, April 18, 2024

A Landmark Renovation

Its curved corners and metal exterior panels make Evansville’s old Greyhound bus station stand out. Though similar structures once dotted the American landscape, only a handful remain.

Since 2007, when the last bus departed, the moderne-style terminal has been vacant and slowly deteriorating. For a time, it seemed the old station might be razed and the site used for a new Downtown arena. Now, the station’s owner, Indiana Landmarks, is ready to move forward with plans to renovate the building, restoring both the inside and outside close to the original 1938 appearance. The estimated $1 million project will begin in mid-May.

Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks, says the plan is to restore the building’s shell with hopes of attracting a market, restaurant, or similar business.

We want to take it back to the original space,” says Davis. “The goal is to save this building, and to begin with the exterior. What would be best for Evansville is to have something here that contributes to the economic vitality of the Downtown. Indiana Landmarks has considered using part of the building for its regional office, and that’s still a possibility, but isn’t certain. Once an occupant is found, Indiana Landmarks could either lease or sell the building.

At some point, the station’s interior was drastically altered. A false ceiling was put in, and the old men’s and women’s lounge areas were closed off. Some fixtures, including sinks, toilets, shower stalls, and — bizarrely — a bathtub in the women’s lounge, were kept in place but hidden away.

In early April, Indiana Landmarks began pulling out the false ceiling and other alterations that had been made to the original layout. The renovations will expose the lobby’s original two-story ceiling. The lounges, which each have balconies that overlook the lobby, also will be revealed.

The building’s exterior is covered in metal panels, painted mostly in different shades of blue. Indiana Landmarks plans to study the panels to make sure the new paint is as close as possible to the original.

Anybody of a certain age in Evansville would certainly have experienced this building,” says Davis. As we work on the exterior, we will be bringing in parties to hopefully find the highest and best use for the building there can and should be.” Located at the corner of Third and Sycamore streets, the station has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979. Because of its unusual appearance, the Greyhound terminal has been the subject of several pieces of art.

It’s a streamlined, modern-style that mimicked the kinds of industrial designs applied to vehicles, locomotives, and buses,” says Davis. “The building looks like it is moving through space. It was a very popular style in the 1930s. Indiana Landmarks received ownership of the building from the city of Evansville, though that process was lengthy. The station finally changed hands in April 2013, with a deal that Indiana Landmarks would take full ownership after the city removed asbestos and lead-based paint. Philip R. Hooper, executive director of the Evansville Department of Metropolitan Development, says when the building is bright and shining again, it will be not only be a link to the city’s past, but also a way to bring people together.

Downtown is really everybody’s neighborhood, and this is one of the most iconic buildings in our Downtown,” says Hooper. “You may not be a fan of historic preservation per se, but this is a building that has been featured on historic postcards and has, for decades, been seen as a standout structure in our Downtown. There are only a handful of these left in the U.S.

On May 10, Indiana Landmarks opened the building to the public for a pre-restoration open house.

We want to explain our vision for this place,” says Davis. “I know people have been very patient, because this has been vacant for some time now. But the goal is to announce that we are commencing the exterior renovations and to share our vision for bringing it back into service for the community. While the city was involved in the environmental cleanup of the terminal, it won’t be directly involved with the exterior renovations.

"We are out of the way,” says Hooper. "This is Indiana Landmarks’ project now. We are certainly excited about the open house, and it will be a great day for Downtown (when this project is finished)."

For more information about the Greyhound Station, visit indianalandmarks.org or call Indiana Landmarks at 812-423-2989.

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