Soldiers and Sailors Monument
The Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument is a 284 ft 6 in (86.72 m)-tall neoclassical monument located on Monument Circle in the center of Indianapolis. It was designed by German architect Bruno Schmitz and completed in 1901.
The Monument was erected to honor Hoosiers who were veterans of the American Revolution, territorial conflicts that partially led up to the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the US Civil War, and the Spanish American War. In addition to its external commemorative statuary and fountains (made primarily of oolitic limestone and bronze), the basement of the monument contains the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, a museum of Indiana history during the American Civil War.
At the top of the Monument is an observation deck that can be reached by stairs at no cost or by elevator for a $2.00 charge (elevator brings you to the level just under the observation deck, with 30 additional steps). The staircase contains 331 steps, 330 of which are numbered. In 1902 the cost to build this Monument was (US) $598,318. It has been estimated that building a similar structure today would cost over $500,000,000.
It is about 21 feet (6.4 m) shorter than the 305-foot (93 m) tall Statue of Liberty.
Indianapolis was founded in 1821, and the city’s layout was platted by Alexander Ralston, whose design included a circle at the center of the city. The circle, a 3-acre (1.2 ha) plot surrounded by an 80-foot (24 m) wide street, was originally called the Governor’s Circle because it was to serve as the site of the governor’s residence. The Governor’s Mansion was built there in 1827. However, due to the mansion’s public location and poor construction, no governor ever lived there, and it was torn down in 1857. As Indianapolis grew and developed after the Civil War, the area became a popular meeting place and was designated Circle Park. In 1884, a statue of Oliver P. Morton, governor during the Civil War, was dedicated at the center of the park. This sculpture was by the artist Franklin Simmons, and was later incorporated into the design of the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument.
Many times after the Civil War suggestions were made for a monument to be built to honor Indiana’s veterans. Action was finally taken in 1887 when the Indiana General Assembly made a $200,000 grant and formed a Monument Commission, which included General Mahlon D. Manson, Thomas W. Bennett, and Thomas A. Morris. Seventy designs were submitted in the international contest, of which two were chosen for further consideration. The commissioners then unanimously chose the design called Symbol of Indiana by the Prussian architect Bruno Schmitz, who was named supervising architect and paid a commission of 5% of the monument’s total cost. Schmitz brought over a young German sculptor, Rudolf Schwartz, who was responsible for designing and fabricating all the figural compositions on the monument. In 1899 the design of the approaches to the Monument was redesigned to include full-length bronze portrait of four wartime leaders: George Rogers Clark, military conqueror of the Old Northwest; William Henry Harrison, first governor of the Indiana Territory and general during the War of 1812 (and, later, 9th President of the United States); James Whitcomb, governor of Indiana during the Mexican-American War; and Oliver Morton, governor during the Civil War. John Mahoney, a Welsh-born artist living in Indiana, sculpted three of the four “governor” figures (the fourth was Franklin’s earlier portrait of Gov. Morton). The figure of Victory at the top was made by sculptor George Brewster from New York, who had won a competition released by the monument’s organizing committee.
The cornerstone was laid on August 22, 1889. Inside it is a copper box containing a list of all Indiana soldiers as well as newspapers, the Constitution of Indiana, a national flag, and other related paraphernalia. Ceremonies included a speech by President Benjamin Harrison, the firing of artillery, and a parade. It was the first monument dedicated to the common soldier. The structure took twelve years to complete, and more funds were required. The legislature appropriated an additional $160,000 and raised over $123,000 with an additional property tax. In 1893 the circle was renamed Monument Place.
The Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument was formally dedicated on May 15, 1902. After a parade of flags with veterans of the Mexican, Civil, and Spanish-American Wars, General Lew Wallace was the master of ceremonies. General David R. Lucas led in prayer, and Governor Winfield T. Durbin, Lew Wallace, and former Secretary of State John W. Foster gave speeches. Next, a male chorus sang and poet James Whitcomb Riley read his poem “The Soldier”. John Philip Sousa had composed a march for the occasion entitled “The Messiah of the Nations”. Following a second parade, the bells of Christ Church sounded and its choir sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”.
In 1918 a museum opened in the basement of the monument with equipment and artifacts from the Civil War. Flood lights were added to the surrounding candelabra in 1928. Since 1945, the monument has been decorated for Christmas, and in 1962 it was first decorated as the “world’s largest Christmas tree”, with garlands and cables of lights stretching to the top. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ 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 Circle is surrounded by retail shops, including the South Bend Chocolate Factory; studios for several local radio stations; the Hilbert Circle Theatre, home of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra; financial institutions; the Columbia Club, one of the oldest social clubs of Indiana; Christ Church Cathedral, a historic Episcopal church; and the IPL corporate headquarters. The Circle is the standard symbol of the city of Indianapolis, and the flag of Indianapolis is an iconic representation of Monument Circle and the two streets (Meridian and Market) that feed in and out of it.
Every Christmas season the Monument is decorated as an enormous Christmas tree. This city tradition is known as the Circle of Lights and has been done annually since 1962. The tree lighting ceremony is held the day after Thanksgiving. The decoration of the Monument uses 4,784 lights and 52 strands of garland put in place by volunteers from the local IBEW. More than 200,000 people attend the ceremony and the event is televised to an even larger audience.
Quoted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soldiers’_and_Sailors’_Monument_(Indianapolis)