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Studio 2000 has closed. What will happen to the iconic Art Deco space it occupied?

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Silver Olympic figures grace the black tile walls of Studio 2000. Lucky Lindy airplanes fly through storm clouds and lightning bolts in each corner. Arch windows overlook Monument Circle, and footprints are worn into the original terrazzo floors from decades of barbers standing in the same spots beside the chairs.

“It’s an unbelievably unique space in the building,” said Adam Slutsky, an asset manager for Novel Coworking, the company that owns the space. “There’s nothing else like it.”

The details of the salon, including its black-and-gold color scheme, are characteristic of the 1930s architectural style Art Deco. The style, known for its simple, clean shapes, streamlined look, and stylized, geometric ornamentation, also had a fascination with modern machines like planes and boats.

The interior of the space that once housed Studio 2000 in the Circle Tower includes Art Deco details including Olympics-inspired figures and depictions of planes on walls and the studio's black tile walls. (Photo: Novel Coworking)

The salon operated as a men’s barbershop from 1929 to 1989 until Studio 2000 owners Linda Williams and Mel Brandenburg acquired the space and reopened in December 1989.

“It’s operated in that form, passing from one hand to the next, until the present,” Slutsky said.

In the 1920s, there was a glamor to downtown shopping, Indiana Historical Society archivist Jordan Ryan said.

“It was an event,” they said. “It was an experience.”

Art Deco, known for its glamour, was often used to decorate salons of ocean liners, trains and skyscrapers like Circle Tower. Salons and barber shops were also a part of the glamor of downtown shopping in Indianapolis. The 1920 Indianapolis City Directory lists more than 350 barber shops.

“We don’t know of any other space like this, any other Art Deco barber shop that’s so complete and preserved.”

Adam Slutsky, Novel Coworking

Studio 2000, on Monument Circle, lived in one of the most complete original 1920s Art Deco barber shops left in the country. The spa’s interior has been hailed by historians as one of the best surviving examples of original Art Deco in the world. Located in the historic Circle Tower, the Studio 2000 space is one of the most recognizable and historic features of the entire building.

“We don’t know of any other space like this, any other Art Deco barber shop that’s so complete and preserved,” Slutsky said.

Studio 2000 closes

But after three decades on the Circle, Studio 2000 shuttered its doors Aug. 7. 

After the coronavirus pandemic shut the salon down, its owners were left without an income. As companies moved to working from home, office towers and parking garages surrounding the salon remained empty. In a Facebook post announcing Studio 2000’s closing, the salon’s owners said current social and economic conditions have cut their sales by more than half.

“We cannot operate at a loss and keep our head above water during this downturn in retail business,” the owners wrote.

In the Facebook post, the owners reflected on memories of weddings, fashion shows and charity fundraisers. They reminisced about watching clients grow up, get married and bring their own children to the salon. The owners said the salon closing was like losing a family member.

“We had our season in the sun,” the owners wrote. “But it is time to say thank you everyone and goodbye.”

As Studio 2000 shuts down, lovers of the space are left wondering what will happen next for this historic time capsule.

Based on its layout, Slutsky said it would make sense for another salon type business to move in, but he imagines the space would also work well for a number of other professional services and offices. Most importantly, he said he hopes whoever takes over the space will appreciate its beauty and historical significance.

“The owners of Studio 2000 were such great stewards of this space and really had a love for this space,” he said. “We’re committed to helping find someone like that who can continue the legacy of this space and be committed to preserving and enhancing that historical significance like Studio 2000 did.”

“It’s really a public treasure for the city. And we want it to continue to operate in that way.”

Adam Slutsky, Novel Coworking

With the coronavirus pandemic still raging, Slutsky said it is difficult to say when the space will be filled once again but he hopes the company will find a new user in a few months.

“With everything that’s gone on with the pandemic, it’s a difficult time,” he said. “But we’re cautiously optimistic that as these dark clouds pass, that people will feel more comfortable coming back to work and to downtown.”

Slutsky said it would also be ideal if the space remains open to the public in some way as it was while it was Studio 2000.

“It’s really a public treasure for the city,” he said. “And we want it to continue to operate in that way.”

The history of the space

The Studio 2000 space was designed by the iconic architectural firm of Rubush & Hunter, who designed the rest of the Circle Tower. When they came together in 1905, Ryan said Rubush and Hunter were a dream team of architectural style chameleons, capable of designing in Renaissance Revival, Tudor Revival, Art Deco and more.

Art Deco details are shown inside the Market Street entrance of the Circle Tower building. (Photo: Bass Photo Co. Collection, Indiana Historical Society)

Rubush & Hunter designed many well-known downtown buildings, including the Hilbert Circle Theatre and the Madame C. J. Walker building. The duo designed more than 250 buildings in Indianapolis, the Midwest and Florida, but 100 have been demolished. Their remaining Art Deco projects in Indiana include the Coca-Cola Bottling Co., the Heslar Naval Armory and the Architect and Builders Building.

“Sadly, we’ve lost a lot,” Ryan said. “Losing some of these buildings was a real tragedy.”

While Indianapolis doesn’t have as many Art Deco buildings as certifiable Art Deco cities such as Cincinnati, Miami and Chicago, Ryan said the style has still shaped Indianapolis architecture today.

“Sadly, we’ve lost a lot. Losing some of these buildings was a real tragedy.”

Jordan Ryan, Indiana Historical Society

A departure from the elaborate ornateness of Victorian architecture, Art Deco preferred a simpler, more streamlined style with stylized, geometric patterns. The style was also associated with luxury and modernity and used expensive materials. As Art Deco replaced Victorian styles, in 1930, the Circle Tower replaced the ornate Victorian style Franklin building that came before it.

The building was constructed by William P. Jungclaus of the Jungclaus-Campbell company, one of the longest running construction companies in the country. The company still operates out of the same office on Massachusetts Avenue.

Ryan said the Circle Tower is arguably the best example of Art Deco in Indianapolis.

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Clad in smooth Indiana limestone punctuated with Art Deco details, the tower boasts a two-story entrance of carved granite, limestone and bronze opening into a lobby decorated with black marble and bronze detailing in the Art Deco black-and-gold style.

“The difference between old and new is striking,” Slutsky said. “You’d walk off the elevator and be transported back to 1928. The building is breathtaking from when you walk into the lobby.”

The lobby’s elevator includes aquatic scenes of bronze fish that Ryan said is influenced by the architects’ time in Miami and by the stylized representations of nature often found in Art Deco. Circle Tower is also known for its Egyptian motifs with Egyptian figures carved below the archway entrance and scattered throughout the building’s interior and exterior.

A historic photo shows the elevators in the lobby of the Circle Tower in 1930. (Photo: Bass Photo Co. Collection, Indiana Historical Society)

Ryan said the designs tell a story of the time. The Egyptian details come from a nationwide obsession with all things Egyptian following the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922. In Studio 2000,  the Lucky Lindy airplanes harken back to aviator Charles Lindbergh’s historic first solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Many of the salon space’s details are also inspired by the Olympics that took place during the time.

“You need the buildings and the places to have that visceral feeling of memory and shared history,” Ryan said. “Circle Tower is a really important structure in that sense.”

Contact Pulliam Fellow Christine Fernando at cfernando@gannett.com.

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