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Indiana War Memorial Plaza Parks


The grounds include:
Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument   University Park   Depew Memorial Fountain
The Indiana War Memorial Museum    The Veterans Memorial Plaza (Obelisk Square)
The American Legion Plaza    Cenotaph Square
The USS Indianapolis Memorial
The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library


The Indiana World War Memorial Building was conceived by its designers, Walker & Weeks, as the centerpiece of the plaza to align on axis with the federal building and public library. The architects based their winning design for the building on reconstruction renderings of the Tomb of King Mausolos, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The raised plinth nearly fills the square block of the site, and the main block of the memorial rises above it, crowned with rows of Ionic columns on each face and a stepped pyramid. Grand stairs rise to entrances on the north and south sides with the heroic scale bronze, Pro Patria, by Henry Hering centered on the south flight of steps. The magnificent interior includes rich marble paneling, refined metal fixtures and fittings, decorative plaster cornices, and marble floors. The raised base of the memorial building was designed to accommodate a large auditorium (peek inside if possible) and two large meeting rooms. On the upper floors, the grand Shrine Room is a breathtaking example of American classicism.

The Indiana War Memorial, known more formally as the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza Historic District, was constructed in the very center of downtown Indianapolis and doubles as a stunning entrance to the commercial sector of the city from the north. The plaza and all its installations were created to honor those who fought for the values of America and to inspire patriotism in all who visit them.

Originally built to honor the veterans of World War I. It is modeled after the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and was designated a National Historic District on October 11, 1994.

The Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District contains two museums, three parks and 24 acres of monuments, statues, sculptures and fountains in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, making the state's capital second only to Washington D.C. in acreage and number of monuments dedicated to veterans.

On the Indiana War Memorial grounds, which occupy a full six aligned city blocks of monumental public architecture and landscape architecture, united into a cohesive whole. There are three parks and some 24 acres of awe-inspiring statues, monuments, fountains and sculptures. Inside are two large war museums and the American Legion's state and national headquarters.

Indiana World War Memorial Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, is located in the near north downtown area bounded by St. Clair, Ohio, Meridian and Pennsylvania Sts.  The Federal Building at Ohio and Meridian Sts. is only open to court attendees.

The World War Memorial Building at Michigan St. between Meridian and Pennsylvania is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Wednesday-Sunday. Call 317-232-7615 for information or group tours. The Shrine Room is one of Indiana's most inspiring interiors. A museum on the lower levels portrays Hoosier involvement in every military conflict from revolutionary times to current Middle East actions. Grounds are open from dawn to dusk.

The grounds include:

Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument   University Park   
The Indiana War Memorial Museum    The Veterans Memorial Plaza
The American Legion Plaza    The USS Indianapolis Memorial

Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument

This installation is considered one of the premiere landmarks in the state. It is a 285-tall memorial honoring Indiana war heroes from the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Mexican-American War and the Spanish American War. An observation area on the top, reached by elevator, is a popular destination for visitors seeking for a bird's-eye view of the metropolis. This monument contains the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, with 9,000 square feet of fascinating exhibits of the Civil War period. Colonel Eli Lilly, who distinguished himself in the Civil War, went on to found Eli Lilly and Company, now a super-powerhouse among the world's pharmaceutical groups.

See detailed information on The Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument

University Park 

University Park, bounded by New York, Vermont, Meridian and Pennsylvania Sts., is open dawn to dusk.

This gracious park is the physical entryway to the Indiana War Memorial Plaza Parks and comprises most of the exterior plaza. Used originally for war maneuver practice and drills, it was not made into a people's park until 1876.

The site of University Park was set aside in Ralston's 1821 plat for a state university that was never built, but it did become the site of the Marion County Seminary in 1832. All that remains of it is a small memorial plaque. The block was used as a drill grounds for Union troops during the Civil War and in 1876 became University Park. The state and city placed the first of a series of bronze sculptures in the park in 1887. In 1914, George Edward Kessler redesigned the park as part of his park and boulevard system plan. The central circle with radiating diagonal concrete walkways and heavy plantings at the corners of the park remain today. Kessler's favorite light post for his Indianapolis projects, the acorn-globed "Washington, DC standard," was used throughout the park.

The Depew Fountain is its crown jewel . . .

The Depew Memorial Fountain is a free standing fountain completed in 1919 and located in University Park in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana within the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza.

. . . but there are many other impressive pieces of statuary, including a monument to Abraham Lincoln and one of famous Indianapolis resident U.S. President Benjamin Harrison.

  University Park hosts a significant collection of figural sculpture by leading American and international artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Depew Fountain, the central fountain called for in Kessler's plan, with its playful mythological figures, was initially designed by Viennese sculptor Karl Bitter. After his death, the design and figures were completed by A. Stirling Calder, father of the famed modern sculptor Alexander Calder. The figure of Schuyler Colfax, 1887, east of the fountain is the work of artist Laredo Taft. Benjamin Harrison in the south center part of the park was completed by Henry Bacon and Charles Niehaus.

Lincoln Seated, 1934, in the southeast corner of the park is by Henry Hering.

A statue of Schuyler Colfax, a Representative from Indiana and a Vice President of the United States sets on the east side of fountain with the Wood Nymph located directly behind Colfax.

Detail of bronze sculpture resting on limestone base. Sculpture also known as Syrinx. Original sculpture created by Myra Reynolds Richards in 1923 was stolen. This version installed in 1981

and on the west end of the fountain sets Pan by artist Myra Reynolds Richards

The Indiana War Memorial Museum
The Indiana War Memorial Museum is the centerpiece of The Indiana War Memorial. It consists of an enormous shrine, constructed in a Neoclassical Greek style. Its exterior is punctuated by various pieces of sculpture and five long, rectangular windows decorated by huge, sculpted columns. Inside, there are three levels containing some of the most fascinating war memorabilia in the country, and some of the most moving. The Shrine Room, on the top floor under a large domed ceiling, is one of the prime Indianapolis attractions, not to be missed.

The Veterans Memorial Plaza

The Veterans Memorial Plaza, also called Obelisk Square, features a large fountain out of which rises a 100-foot obelisk. Made of black granite, this simple yet somehow awesome obelisk symbolizes the continuity of all life, including the life of a nation.

The base of the memorial has a fountain basin of Georgia marble. Henry Hering designed the bronze relief panels on each face of the lower part of the obelisk. Work was complete on Obelisk Square in 1930.

The rows of poles with flags of all states were installed along the north edge of the square for the Bicentennial in 1976.

The plaza has become a major meeting place for informal and formal gatherings.

The American Legion Plaza

The American Legion Plaza contains the national and state headquarters of the American Legion in two buildings separated by the Sunken Garden/Cenotaph Square, which is the plaza's signature memorial piece. Three monolithic columns on the plaza honoring Hoosier veterans are the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial. The two buildings define the east and west sides of the plaza at the north end.

The two auxiliary buildings have been used by the American Legion. One at Meridian and St. Clair currently houses the Indiana Department of the American Legion; it once held the national headquarters. The national headquarters is at Pennsylvania and St. Clair. It deals with the mail, archives, and other internal functions of the Legion; the lobbying efforts of the Legion are based in its Washington, D.C. office.

 Although both were designed by the architects along with the 1923 master plan, the west building was built in 1925 and the larger east building not until 1950, using the original exterior plans and elevations drawn in 1923.

Cenotaph Square

The Cenotaph Square is located between the two auxiliary buildings used by the American Legion. It is a sunken garden, with the black granite cenotaph centered in it resting upon a base of red and dark green granite. Four shafts of black granite, with gold eagles surmounted on them, mark the boundaries of the square.

Cenotaphs were built in ancient times to commemorate leaders or artists. In 1919, Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the first World War I memorial tomb in London, borrowing the ancient Greek term cenotaph or "empty tomb," to describe his classically influenced memorial. Remains of an unknown British soldier were placed in the tomb. The concept and the tomb were revered by the public and adopted by the American Legion for its headquarters. The Walker & Weeks design was completed in 1930 and features a raised black granite symbolic tomb with bronze cover but without any remains in the tomb. James Bethal Gresham, whose name is inscribed on the north face of the cenotaph, was the first member of the American Expeditionary Force to be killed in action. Four Art Deco-style black granite columns flank the tomb, topped by gold-leafed bronze eagles.

The USS Indianapolis Memorial
The USS Indianapolis Memorial was built by that cruiser ship's crew which remained after it was sunk in 1945, taking many of their shipmates with it. It took them 50 years of tireless effort to complete the job. This memorial is situated outside on the Canal Walk's north edge. It is a simple yet moving representation of a ship, with a memorial wall as its body.

Tours are given regularly on weekdays by the Indiana War Memorials Commission. Groups are welcome and should pre-register for an optimal experience of this magnificent facility.

The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library is located at St. Clair St. between Meridian and Pennsylvania. The new 6-story addition to the original building offers spectacular views of the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza. INDYGO bus line from downtown: an easy walk from Monument Circle.

The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library sits on the north end of the plaza. In 1913, the city library board, a division of the school board in charge of the library system, hired nationally-known architect Paul Phillipe Cret to design a new main library building for the system, which was completed in 1916. Cret's design, executed in Indiana limestone, is noted for its restrained, ancient Greek-inspired flavor. The massive Greek Doric colonnade framed by blank end pavilions is a strong visual terminus of the plaza. The interior includes a grand central circulation room with Neo-Classical ceiling murals.


The plaza was developed over decades. Architects Walker & Weeks combined the existing University Park and two extant buildings into their 1923 master plan; the Federal Building at the south end and the Public Library at the north end of the plaza.

The Federal Building set the trend of grand classicism and was constructed to house federal courts, offices, and the main city post office. Designed by architects John Hall Rankin and Thomas Moore Kellogg of Philadelphia, the building was completed in 1905. The impressive main façade fills a city block. The Indiana limestone exterior features massive engaged Ionic columns, with projecting end pavilions framing free-standing columns. In 1935, local architects McGuire & Shook designed the addition on the north face of a monumental series of Doric pilasters and full classical entablature. On either side of this section, large round arch openings served the post office once located here. The spandrel panels of the arches have fanciful Deco-style relief carvings of hands sorting letters.

The origins of the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza lay in attempts by the city of Indianapolis in 1919 to lure the newly formed American Legion from its national headquarters in New York City. One of the promises the city made was to erect a fitting memorial to those who served in World War I. Thus, in January 1920 a public library, St. Clair Park, University Park, and two occupied city blocks were designated for the construction, with one new building for the American Legion to use as their national headquarters, various public buildings, and a war memorial. Work began in 1921, with the city to pay for the site and maintenance costs, and the state of Indiana to pay for the memorial.

Various architects were invited by an appointed War Memorial Board to design a memorial not only intended to honor all who fought in World War I, also to provide meeting places, archives, and offices for the American Legion. The partnership of Walker and Weeks of Cleveland, Ohio was chosen in 1923. Their plan consisted of a main memorial and two auxiliary buildings, an obelisk, a mall, and a cenotaph. Bids for the American Legion building, one of the two auxiliary buildings, were put out in 1925 and construction began the same year. In style the structure complemented the nearby local library. The other auxiliary building was not constructed until 1950.

The work for the actual memorial to the veterans of World War I began in early 1926. Five of the seven buildings located on the site had to be demolished before the actual construction commenced; the other two, both churches, were not demolished until 1960. General John Pershing laid the cornerstone of the memorial on July 4, 1927, saying he was "consecrating the edifice as a patriotic shrine". Funding problems in 1928 slowed the building of the interior. Even a new contractor in 1931 and $195,000 provided by the Public Works Administration in 1936 did little to speed the process of completing the structure. In 1949 a local newspaper leaked the information that the memorial was already deteriorating, its limestone scaling, paint peeling, leaks forming, and plaster cracking. Such stories continued to be published until the memorial was finally finished in 1965.

The cubical structure clad in unrelieved ashlar Indiana limestone on a high lightly rusticated base is topped with a low pyramidal roof that sheathes its interior dome. It stands on a raised terrace approached by a monumental stair. The cenotaph has four identical faces. On each an Ionic screen of six columns, behind which are tall banks of windows, is surmounted by symbolic standing figures designed by Henry Hering: Courage, Memory, Peace, Victory, Liberty and Patriotism. The sculptures are repeated on each façade. On the south side, standing on a pink granite base in the center of the grand access stairs, is Hering's colossal exultant male nude bronze, Pro Patria (1929).

The War Memorial was a late structure of the City Beautiful Movement. The memorial is based upon the Mausoleum of Maussollos, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. At 210 feet (64 m) tall it is approximately seventy-five feet taller than the original Mausoleum which was demolished to build a fort during the Crusades. The blue lights which shine between columns on the side of the War Memorial make the monument easy to spot. It is the most imposing Neoclassical structure in Indianapolis due to its scale and size


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