Celebrating Black History
Samuel M. Plato, architect
Samuel M. Plato set out not only to build things but to design buildings. Some of those structures still stand, as does his legacy as one of Indiana’s first black architects.
Born in 1882 in Alabama, Plato was 10 when his family moved to Marion. His father was a carpenter, and Plato followed in his footsteps.
Initially, though, he wanted to be a lawyer and enrolled at the State University of Louisville, where he supported himself using his carpentry skills to do repair work for the school. He happened upon an advertisement for an architecture course at a correspondence school and found his passion.
In Marion, where he had been denied work as a carpenter because he was black, he fought to open up the building trade unions to African-Americans.
Many of the buildings he designed were known for having broad porches, square windows and beautiful facades; he often favored Greek Revival and Craftsman-style houses and elegant mansions.
Among the buildings he designed were banks, schools, office buildings, theaters, government housing projects and churches, including Second Baptist Church in Marion.
Plato, who died in 1957, also is credited with designing at least 39 U.S. Post Offices.
ONE OF HIS: Second Baptist Church, 1824 S. Branson St. in Marion, was designed by Samuel Plato. He also designed banks, schools, theaters, post offices and other buildings. – DAVID S. BLUNK II