Rapp Owen Granary
413 West Granary Street
New Harmony, Indiana 47631
Article by Stacy Nurrenbern
New Harmony—twice a utopia—continues to value many things including contemporary art, architecture, and their preservation. These values are made evident in many ways including the restoration (1997-1999) of the Rapp-Owen Granary.
Theof the Granary has a subtle grandeur, consistent with the style and craftsmanship of the buildings and homes George Rapp and his Utopian community (1814-1825) built. The simple yet strong design of the Granary exhibits the humility, work ethic and hard labor the Rappites believed in. It has a massive feel that includes a unique wooden door that is still unlocked by an iron key. The exterior is rustic and composed of sandstone and brick, which is visible from the inside of the building. There are striking robust windows on first and second floors of the structure, most of which are 10 feet in height.
Inside, the main floor is tiled and has two identical, magnificent wood staircases. The radiant light that enters the building from the grand 10-foot windows illuminates the highly polished wooden floors on the second floor. The soaring height of the exposed wooden ceiling along with the rays of light pouring through the windows adds to the inspiring feel of the Granary. Lanterns are mounted throughout the building on the beams, adding to the rustic atmosphere. Iron chandeliers hang from the ceilings of both the first and second levels. The wood plats, exposed beams and iron light fixtures all contribute to the humble magnificence important to George Rapp and his community.
The Granary is now used for dinners, weddings, wedding receptions, business and personal meetings, conferences, and many other events. The acoustics of the second floor are good for concerts and as a result the Granary hosts the “Under the Beams” concert season.
George Rapp was the leader of a communal harmonist society that settled New Harmony in 1814. The communal members of this group farmed, built homes, buildings, churches, and many other structures including what is now known as the Rapp-Owen Granary. All of this was done while the harmonist group awaited the second coming of Christ.
Robert Owen later bought the town of New Harmony from the members of George Rapp’s utopian community in 1825. Robert Owen had a vision to make this city an example by valuing science, equal opportunities, religion and education. Despite the fact that neither of the two utopian communities survived the test of time, the principals that founded each groups are apparent today in the architecture and art work still located in New Harmony.
David Owen, a descendant of Robert Owen, obtained the Granary in 1843; this was still during the harmonist period. Rapp-Owen Granary has had many duties through the years. The building has been used for storage, workspace, a laboratory, a museum, and a lecture hall. After David Owen died (1860), the building was used as a grain and wool mill.
The Granary was later destroyed by fire in 1878 and was rebuilt by John Ribeyre in 1893. Many years later the Granary was purchased by Kenneth Owen and then, soon after gifted, to the Rapp-Owen Granary Foundation.
The attention to detail is obvious. The stone exterior was done to replicate that of the Harmonist time of 1818, while also respecting and following the traditional practices. The windows on the second floor are 10 feet high to reproduce the lecture hall that David Owen used 1840.