History of the Walker Building
The historic Madame C.J. Walker Building, has long symbolized the spirit of creativity and community pride in the city of Indianapolis. Named after America’s first “self-made” female millionaire—Madame C.J. Walker—the site represents the achievements, art forms, culture and history of African-American people.
Our mission: The Madame Walker Theatre Center, an internationally recognized National Historic Landmark, preserves and builds upon the entrepreneurial and philanthropic legacy of its namesake by celebrating the best of African American culture and performance arts, by nurturing youth through arts education and by providing a welcoming venue for arts programming and entrepreneurial activities for all cultures in our community and nation.
Madame Walker began the development of the Walker Building and Theatre prior to her death in 1919. The project was subsequently completed by her daughter, A’Lelia Walker, and [Walker Company attorney and manager, Freeman B. Ransom and] opened to the public December 26, 1927.
The Walker Building, located on the Indiana Avenue corridor, was the center of entertainment, business and pride for the city’s African-American community from the 1920s to the 1950s. During the mid-50s, the building and its surrounding neighborhood began a gradual decline.
By the late 1970s, the Walker Building stood nearly abandoned (Walker Manufacturing Company remained housed in the building) and faced certain demolition. However, a group of committed Indianapolis citizens recognized the structure’s rich history and dedicated themselves to preserving the building. After becoming incorporated as the Madame Walker Building Urban Life Center in 1979, the group purchased the ailing building from the Walker Manufacturing Company and began planning for its restoration.