Since early childhood, I’ve been rooted to the sites of Indianapolis’ Monument Circle, most especially, The Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument that graces the three-acre site.
Each opportunity afforded me, I take a moment to simply drive by the monument or stop for a few minutes of walking the site. I treasure the visits where I can walk from the Indiana War Memorial, several blocks to the north, to Monument Circle and then a westward trek to The Indiana State Capitol to be greeted by the statue of Gov. Oliver Hazard Perry Throck Morton that looms high above passersby.
I was eight years old the first time I actually got to climb the winding stairs to the monument’s observation deck. My grandparents, Donna & Leroy Barmes, then only 48 and 50 years old, were young and energetic guides as we explored the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, lunch at Shapiro’s Deli, the Indianapolis War Memorial, and then a jaunt around Monument Circle and up the inside the monument. It was mid-November, 1972, and workers had just completed stringing the lights from the top of the monument for the annual Christmas tree lighting. I was mesmerized by the large bulbs and cords that would soon light the magnificent kaleidoscope.
The evening after Thanksgiving, my grandparents returned us to Monument Circle for the annual celebratory lighting of the tree after the arrival of Santa Claus to officially kick off Hoosier holidays. Years later the lighting of the tree would be capped off with fireworks from the tops of several buildings.
While researching for a current project, I stumbled across the history of The Soldiers and Sailors Monuments and was quite captivated.
By 1827, a second governor’s home had been built in the center of the circle drive. It was named Governor’s Circle. Due to its location and the collection of celebrants during historic moments and patriotic holidays, Indiana governors did not live in the house. Indiana supreme court justices used the structure for their offices. Soon, the property became dilapidated and the building was raised in 1857 and turned into a park.
After the Civil War, there arose a need to honor Indiana’s fallen soldiers and the political games and funding began for a structure suited for the three acres. A Berlin, Prussia architect, Bruno Schmitz, submitted the winning design, The Symbol of Indiana. It turned out that Schmitz was a friend and artistic colleague of the monument commission’s secretary, James Gookins.
April 22, 1889, a vast crowd gathered for the laying of the cornerstone in which was placed a copper box time capsule.
May 15, 1902, the Soldiers & Sailer Monument was dedicated.
For more reading on the history of Monument Circle, please follow the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument.
- The monument has been modified and updated several times since its dedication in 1902.
- In 1918 a museum opened in the basement of the monument with equipment and artifacts from the Civil War. Floodlights were added to the monument’s surrounding candelabra in 1928.
- Since 1945 the monument has been decorated for Christmas. In 1962 it was first decorated as the “world’s largest Christmas tree”, with garlands and cables of lights stretching to the top.
- The monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 13, 1973.
- A series of repairs to the monument began in September 2009. Angled windows, which had allowed some rain to seep in, were replaced with vertical windows, and steel supports for the Victory statue were replaced. The Monument’s observation deck reopened on November 28 of that year.
- In April 2011 Victory was removed for restoration and returned to its original position atop the monument.
I do love this wonderful memorial in the heart of Indy!