Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument

The history and importance of the Monument Circle


 Tiffany Dailey

It's the reason Indy is called "The Circle City" and the Soldiers and Sailor Monument has defined downtown for over 110 years. The monument recognizes Hoosiers that served in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Frontier Wars and the Spanish-American War. 

Monument Circle is the epicenter of Indianapolis. It receives thousands of visitors during the Circle of Lights ceremony, which takes place the day after Thanksgiving each year and it also saw hundreds of thousands of visitors during Super Bowl XLVI. Monument Circle serves as the very center of Indianapolis. All street addresses are numbered based off of Monument Circle. 


The Design

Seventy proposals were received by architects around the globe. Bruno Schmitz of Berlin, Prussia (Germany) was awarded the project .Schmitz was a well-known and respected architect in Germany but had not worked in the United States previously.For the winning design, Schmitz offered a remarkable Victorian design, part Egyptian obelisk, part Romantic-era sculpture, part Neo-Baroque with cascading fountains and theatrical, stage-like groupings. The design filled an entire city block, and became the largest Civil War memorial.

Schmitz brought to the project a sculptor named Rudolf Schwarz, who created the statuary groups entitled "War" and "Peace", "The Dying Soldier" and "The Homefront", as well as the four corner statues that represent Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, and Navy.


Monument Fun Facts

  • The monument is 284 feet, 6 inches high and made of gray oolitic limestone from Owen County quarries. At that height, it is just 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty.
  • It cost $598,318 to build in 1902. It has been estimated that a similar structure today would cost more than $500 million to construct.
  • The monument is located on the site that was originally designed by Alexander Ralston as the site for a governor's house.
  • During the Circle of Lights Ceremony, the monument is covered in 4,784 colored lights, 52 garland strands and features 52 larger-than-life decorations. The ceremony has taken place on Monument Circle for over 50 years and over 100,000 spectators attend.


Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum

The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum resides at the base of the monument. The museum is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.


Gift Shop and Observation Level

The Soldiers & Sailors Monument also features a Gift Shop and Observation Level that are open Friday - Sunday from 10:30 5:30 p.m. The Observation Level provides a 360 view of the city at 275 feet up. If you're up for a climb, you can tackle the 331 steps to the top. Or, take the elevator and finish the last 31 steps. When outside temperatures reach 95 degrees or higher, the Observation Level is not available due to safety concerns.

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