Indianapolis Monuments & Memorials
Indianapolis devotes more acreage than any other U.S. city to honoring our nation’s fallen, and is second only to Washington, DC, in the number of war memorials. This guide showcases the patriotic spirit of Indy and the monuments and memorials that every visitor should experience.
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The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is the physical and spiritual heart of Indianapolis. The circle was originally intended to house the governor's mansion, but no governor wanted to live in such a public location. Instead, it was decided after the civil war to erect a monument to those who fought. An international competition resulted in the selection of German architect Bruno Schmitz in 1887. The monument was completed in 1901 and measures 284 feet tall. The basement contains a Civil War Museum and the top is crowned with a statue of Victory. You can visit an observatory via stairs or (for $1) an elevator.
This memorial honors the Indiana men killed in World War I. The Military Museum inside also lists all of the Hoosiers killed or missing in action through the Vietnam War. The memorial building is set far above street level, and ascends almost 210 feet. On the south side of the building sits the largest bronze casting sculpture ever made in America, "Pro Patria." Inside the building you'll encounter an art deco lobby, a theatre used for public gatherings, and the awe-inspiring Shrine Room on the top level.
The land occupied by University Park was initially designated for a state university, but the idea never came to fruition. Following the Civil War funds were raised to transform the land into a park. At the center of the park is the Depew Fountain, a five-level fountain built in 1919. You’ll also find sculptures of President Benjamin Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, Schuyler Colfax, and Ulysses S. Grant. Syrinx the wood nymph and Pan the satyr also call the park home.
The American Legion Mall stretches between two city blocks, from St. Clair Street on the north to North Street on the south. The mall is flanked by the American Legion National headquarters and the headquarters for the American Legion’s Dept. of Indiana. In 1931, the Sunken Garden/Cenotaph Square was built to pay tribute to Hoosiers who have died in war. It also remembers the nation’s first casualty of World War I, James Bethal Gresham of Evansville, IN. The tomb for James Bethal Gresham is surrounded by four art-deco pillars topped with gold eagles.
Created by artists Eric Fulford and Ann Reed of ROAMworks, this series of 27 curved glass walls pays tribute to 3,456 Medal of Honor recipients representing 15 different conflicts. Every day at dusk, the Medal of Honor Memorial plays recorded stories of medal winners or of the conflicts in which they fought.
Centrally located in the seven-block war memorial district, Veteran's Memorial Plaza honors all Indiana veterans. The centerpiece is an Obelisk that reaches 100 feet. It was constructed out of black Berwick granite in 1930. At the base of the Obelisk are bronze tablets that share the four essential elements of the nation’s hopes; law, science, religion and education. A 100-foot diameter fountain made from pink Georgia marble and terrazzo surrounds the Obelisk. The plaza accommodates large gatherings and serves as a dedicated space for the 50 state flags.
A feature of the American Legion Mall, the half-cylinder Korean and Vietnam memorials were dedicated in 1996. You may notice that the Vietnam piece is a little bit larger than the Korean. This is to show the relationship between the number of people killed or missing in action in the two wars. 1,525 men and women were killed in Vietnam and 927 were killed during the Korean War. The names of each person have been inscribed on the concave side of each sculpture. The convex side contains excerpts from letters home from troops deployed to the battlefield, and some narrative about the war.
Designed with the intent to be similar to the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, this monument is on the east side of the American Legion Mall. It is just shy of 20’ wide, much larger than the other two, reflecting the size and scale of World War II, and is truly a half-circle. This memorial displays messages on the concave and convex sides of this half-circle. The concave side displays letters from Indiana World War II veterans, and the operations completed during the war. The convex side of the memorial exhibits a history of the war, and acknowledges the Hoosier Medal of Honor recipients and notable Hoosier units.
Installed on the east bank of the Central Canal in 1995, the USS Indianapolis CA 35 Memorial was designed by Joseph Fischer to recognize those who died on the last U.S. ship to sink in World War II. Created in the shape of the cruiser itself, the gray and black granite memorial has the story of the sinking etched on one side and, on the other, the names of all of those who served. Of the approximately 1,200 sailors that were on board, only 317 survived.
Established in 2010 to honor those killed in 9/11 attack, the memorial consists of two 11,000-pound beams from the Twin Towers. Behind the beams stand a pair of six-foot tall black granite walls inscribed with remembrances of the events in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Perched atop one of the beams is a bronze, life-size sculpture of an American Bald Eagle, with wings outstretched and gazing east toward New York City.
The Living Monuments Project
Dedicated at the end of 2019, The Living Monuments project is located on the grounds of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. At just 2-ft tall and 5-ft wide, it was created to serve as both an independent marker as well as a podium in which individulals can stand and interact with the memorial. The Living Monuments project is carved from Indiana limestone from Polycor Inc., the world's largest natural stone quarrier, and honors the living men and women who served our country. We invite you to visit Downtown Indy and become a part of the celebration.
Want to learn more about Indy's Monuments & Memorials? Visit IndianaWarMemorials.org for comprehensive information, consider a self-guided tour using the Walk Indianapolis website, or check tour availability through Indiana Landmarks or ActiveIndy Tours.