The top cities for architecture include: Barcelona, Paris, Istanbul, Rome, and Columbus, Indiana. That is not a typo. The town of Columbus, 45 miles south of Indianapolis, holds the surprising distinction as a mecca for modern architecture fans, thanks to the wealthy industrialist J. Irwin Miller and his progressive commissions in the 1950s and ’60s. But the town’s tour de force landmark didn’t open until recently, after Miller’s death when his personal home—designed by trifecta of Mid-Century greats architect Eero Saarinen, textile artist Alexander Girard, and landscaper Dan Kiley—opened to the public. Already a National Historic Landmark, Miller House & Garden is an icon of American modernism and the only Saarinen house open for touring, anywhere. Access requires signing up for the 90-minute docent-led tour that starts at the Columbus Area Visitors Center. For a charming counterpoint to modern design and a snack, check out Zaharako Ice Cream Parlor, an ornate Victorian landmark that predates the city’s Modernist movement by a good 50 years. Sit at the counter with the completely restored vintage soda fountain, and order an ice-cream soda and an expertly grilled cheese sandwich with a side of fries.
Columbus is 45 minutes south of Indianapolis on I-65. Take State Road 46 (Exit 648) and go east. It’s a short drive into town. S.R. 46 turns into 2nd Street, and you’ll turn left onto Washington Street to reach the visitor center at 5th and Washington.
MILLER HOUSE & GARDEN: 506 5th St., Columbus; 812-378-2622; imamuseum.org/visit/millerhouse
COLUMBUS ARCHITECTURE TOUR: 506 5th St., Columbus; 812-378-2622; columbus.in.us/art-architecture/architecture-tour
ZAHARAKOS ICE CREAM PARLOR: 329 Washington St., Columbus; 812-378-1900; zaharakos.com