Athenaeum designated as National Historic Landmark

Top historic distinction is first in Indianapolis in nearly 15 years

INDIANAPOLIS (November 2, 2016) – The Athenaeum Foundation announced today it has been designated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Register and National Historic Landmarks Program. The historic Athenaeum is now part of an exclusive group of just more than 40 Indiana landmarks to receive the designation, and one of approximately 2,500 landmarks nationally.

The National Historic Landmarks (NHL) Program grants the honorable distinction to places that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Historic places are deemed nationally significant, and designated by the Secretary of the Interior.

“The designation of the Athenaeum as a National Historic Landmark has long since been a goal of the Athenaeum Foundation,” said Athenaeum Foundation President Cassie Stockamp. “This honor is a testament to all of the hard work and dedication we have poured into maintaining the history and nostalgia of our beloved building.”

The NHL’s nomination process can last anywhere from two- to five years, and places seeking the designation as a National Historic Landmark must meet at least one of six criterion.

Landmarks seeking the honorable designation must be associated with major events, or major patterns in American history, and individuals who have made a significant or exceptional contribution to American history. The landmark should also represent a belief, or goal that is unique to the United States, be the key work of a nationally significant architect, must be located in a historic district, and also recognized as a nationally significant archeological property.

“The Athenaeum is one of the most recognizable and historically significant buildings in Indianapolis,” Stockamp said. “The architecture, the history – there is so much about this building that is deserving of this recognition, and we are proud that the day where we can call this building a National Historic Landmark is finally here.”

The Athenaeum, which is already listed three times in the National Registry of Historic Places for architecture and historical significance, began the process to become an officially designated National Historic Landmark in 2008.

This distinguished honor comes in the same year the Athenaeum began a $1.2 million campaign to renovate and update portions of the facility. The campaign, titled “A Makeover on Mass Ave”, is a much needed effort to improve the quality of the 94,000 square foot structure, which hosts approximately 750,000 visitors annually. Some of the work has already begun, and notable renovations include upgrades to the facility’s west entrance, west entrance reception area, first and second floor lobbies, theatre, and portions of the Biergarten.

The Athenaeum is close to reaching its $1.2 million fundraising goal. Anyone interested in making a contribution should contact the Athenaeum Foundation at 317.655.2755.

During the planning process, the Athenaeum Foundation consulted with the NHL to ensure upgrades and renovations wouldn’t interfere with the criteria that qualifies the building as a National Historic Landmark.

For more information about the Athenaeum or the Athenaeum Foundation, please visit the organization’s website.


The Athenaeum, formerly known as the Das Deutsche Haus, is a historic German-American landmark that advances the “sound mind in a sound body” values of its founders through programming that lifts spirits and engages diverse communities. Built in 1894, it serves as a community center for many cultural, business and nonprofit groups including the YMCA, Young Actors Theatre and the Rathskeller restaurant. The Athenaeum is listed three times in the National Registry of Historic Places for architecture and historical significance, as part of the Massachusetts Avenue Commercial District and as being within the Lockerbie Square historic district. In 2010, the Biergarten was voted the No. 1 music venue in the city of Indianapolis by NUVO magazine. Metromix voted the Rathskeller as the No. 1 bar in the city in 2010. The Athenaeum Foundation Inc. was established in 1991 and is a 501(c) 3 organization.