The Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center is a Beaux Arts-style building designed by architects F.P. Riedel and John Nichols, and constructed by George Weaver. The building was erected in 1915, and opened in February, 1916. It was originally built for and used as Bloomington’s first City Hall. The building included offices for the Mayor, Treasurer, City Clerk, City Attorney, the Police Department, and the Bloomington Fire Department. It was also home to Bloomington’s finest public auditorium/courtroom, which was built to hold 500 people.
In later years, the building became a haven for the Bloomington arts. Once the building was vacant in the late 1980s, the Bloomington Area Arts Council (BAAC) sought to make it Bloomington’s Center for the arts. Members from the Bloomington Area Arts Council approached the City Council to see if they would support and donate the building to the BAAC for a community arts center. The City Council agreed, provided the BAAC raise $750,000. The BAAC received funding from many individuals and businesses in the community, but they received a sizeable donation from Mrs. Cecile Waldron. Cecile requested the building be named after her late husband, Charles’, grandfather, the late John Waldron, Sr., who was a prominent Bloomington businessman during the mid- to late 1800s. Mrs. Waldron went on to make an additional donation to Bloomington Community Radio (WFHB) in order to provide a space for a community radio station.
On July 31, 1990, the City handed the deed to the Bloomington Area Arts Council. The John Waldron Arts Center opened its doors on May 2, 1992. The John Waldron Arts Center, under the direction of the Bloomington Area Arts Council, became one of Bloomington’s most beloved spaces for the arts. Gone were the Mayor’s office, the Treasurer’s office, and the Police Department. In their place stood a gallery, classrooms, a gift shop, a small theatre, and a large auditorium.
WFHB opened its new doors in 1993. It has remained Bloomington’s community radio station and provides programming serving young and old alike.
In May, 2010, Ivy Tech Community College took ownership of the building and now provides space for credit and non credit coursework, 6 galleries, one of which is a virtual gallery, and 2 performance spaces.
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 and is listed as a “notable” structure in the Courthouse Square Historic District. The building is significant for its contribution to the history of the Bloomington community—its politics, its commerce, its art, and its entertainment. Its historic significance and large interior make it a perfect venue for Ivy Tech to continue its commitment to creating an educational environment that values civic engagement and community.
ABOUT JOHN WALDRON
John Waldron was born on June 27, 1827, in Drogheda, Ireland. He came to the U.S. with his two brothers in 1847. Waldron worked as a tanner in St. Louis, MO., until he learned about a tannery for sale in Bloomington. He purchased Judah Tannery and moved his family to Bloomington on April 1, 1856. His son, John Bodicum Waldron, was born the next day, April 2, 1856.
In 1874, John Waldron, Sr., was elected President of First National Bank of Bloomington. After retiring, he became a stockholder in Oolitic Stone Company, and he had 1/3 interest in the Waldron, Hill & Buskirk Hub and Spoke Factory. Waldron died May 11, 1899.