What exactly is the Monument Circle?
Directly in the center of Indianapolis is the State Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument known today as "Monument Circle". In 1902 it became the symbol of both Indiana and the city of Indianapolis. The original purpose of this monument was to honor the Hoosiers who were veterans of the American Civil War. It took twelve years to complete at approximately $600,000. It serves as a tribute to the soldiers and sailors who served in the Civil and Spanish American Wars. This significant monument was designed by German architect Bruno Schmitz and built over a thirteen year period. It's known to be Schmitz's only commission outside of Germany and Switzerland. The exterior is a neoclassical-style obelisk built of oolitic limestone from the Romana Stone Company quarries. Its total height is 284 ft 6 in. As for the interior, there's an elevator and stairway providing access to the observation deck. There's not much to see from the inside until you pass 32 flights of stairs with 330 steps and reach the glass enclosed balcony.
What do the panels of The Monument represent?
There's a lot more to the monument than just a circle. The Monument is an example of the art of its time, featuring images of both history and mythology. To this day, the statues appear to be very crisp and readable. If you take a look at the North Side as you're facing the South, you'll see one panel with sculptures representing Artillery and Navy. Respectively honoring soldiers of the War with Mexico, Indian & British Wars, Revolutionary War, and Vincennes, and the other, with the Civil War plaque and two sculptures representing Infantry and Cavalry. The South side contains two dates being 1861 and 1865 commemorating the start and end dates of the Civil War. Located on the East and West side are the fountains and pools. At night the cascades are illuminated. The fountains are not meant for swimming but after the announcement of the Victory in Europe, hundreds gathered to the circle and dove in the fountains. The West represents "Peace" and the East represents "War". There are bronze doors on the north and south sides. The stone steps lead to entrance doors. Above the entrance, you'll read "To Indiana's Silent Victors". The bronze doors for all entrances were designed and executed by Rudolph Schwarz and cast by American Bronze Company of Chicago.
As you approach the Monument Circle, there's tons of opportunity for activity. Surrounding the circle is small retail shops, local radio stations, The South Bend Chocolate Factory, Hilbert Circle Theatre, financial institutions, two churches, and one of the oldest Social clubs of Indianapolis. You're bound to find something to occupy your time. In the event you don't, the circle is the central point of the city. With that being said, you aren't far from the Circle Centre Mall, The State House, Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse (a venue for concerts, etc. Nearby the circle you'll also see many hotels, restaurants, and bars. It's a very populated area and a must to see if you're visiting town.
*At one point in time, it was illegal to build a building that exceeded the height of the Monument*
A Hot Spot for Activity
Being in the center of the city, the circle is typically very active and populated at all times! After the Colts won the Superbowl, it served as a spontaneous gathering place for celebration. The circle is known for frequent festivals and daytime concerts also providing a venue for various notable and cultural events such as the annual outdoor art display with an Indy 500 theme and The Chrysler Concourse Grand Prix.
The World's Tallest ARTIFICAL Christmas Tree
Christmas season is a time the locals do not miss in Indianapolis on the circle. It's a very festive time in the area. You'll often see carriage rides going from one destination to the other. The entirety of the monument is decorated like a huge tree. This tradition is known as "Circle of lights" and began in 1962. The tree lighting ceremony is held annually the day after Thanksgiving. It's 284 ft 6 inches. Every evening of the holiday season floodlights and spotlights illuminate the monument until 11:30 pm. Each bulb represents a branch of the military. Green for the Army, clear for the Air Force, blue for the Navy, yellow for the Coast Guard and red for the Marines.
On June 21st, many yogis surround the circle for the annual yoga event. People of all ages are encouraged to join for community yoga sessions. Not only are there yoga classes, but there are also about 80 vendors of all sorts. Anything from henna, drumming, Reiki, and food. It's a donation based event with all the proceeds going directly towards Indy Yoga Movement and Mighty Lotus (local nonprofit charities). The entire circle becomes one big yoga mat as instructors from all over the city lead a flowing class.
On May 15, 1902, the monument was officially dedicated. It was a huge event that thousands attended with a parade of flags and veterans of the wars. This evening went down in history with a beautiful firework display. Since the public dedication, the monument has certainly become an iconic symbol of the city. It is the first monument in the US to be dedicated to the common soldier being the largest outdoor of its kind. The monument has been modified since its dedication in 1902. In the basement of the monument, a museum opened with equipment and artifacts from the Civil War. It was a very limited space bringing the story of the Hoosiers in the Civil War and the builders of the monument to life. Some crucial repairs occurred beginning in 2009. The windows that previously allowed rain to seep in were replaced with vertical windows and steel supports for the Victory statue were replaced. Back in 2011, The American Planning Association recognized the circle as one of the nation's greatest public spaces in its annual "Great Places in America" ranking.