The Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the “Circle” in downtown Indianapolis is a study of human endeavors. The land itself has a ong history of service to the residents of Indianapolis. Most of this time, it has been a gathering place of one kind or another.
In 1821, Alexander Ralston presented a plat for the city of Indianapolis to the town commissioners. He had been involved with the platting of Washington, D.C., so it’s no surprise that Indy was laid out in the same pattern. A circular center for government (his plan was for the governor’s residence) with a “wagon wheel” plan for the surrounding streets.
A governor’s mansion was built, but the governor didn’t live there. It had different uses and eventually was demolished. Later, the area was utilized as a type of farmer’s market, where the residents bought, sold and traded goods. Later still, it was cleared and enhanced for a residential park. Finally, in 1887, plans were made to create a monument at “Circle Park”. It took many years for the monument and all its statuary to be built.
Standing, as it does, in the middle of the city surrounded by a wide city street, it’s a good place for a lot of social gathering. Indianapolis has a diverse population with a multitude of festivals celebrating this diversity. It seems that a fair amount of these are downtown, so the Circle is a hotbed of activity on these occasions.
Lunchtime is another time when the Circle monument gets full use. On warm, sunny days, you can people watch for hours as workers and students lounge on the concrete columns eating lunch, laughing and conversing with friends or just lazing away the afternoon hours reading in the sun. You might even be lucky enough to catch one of the summertime concerts on the steps of the memorial at lunchtime. In the winter, it’s a little more subdued, but there is still activity. People getting their daily walk time in are trotting right along. They could be trying to keep up with the horses, since there are always carriage rides available. And if you have a child with you they just might get to give one of the horses a pat.
If you have some time to kill, you can venture inside for a walk up the 330 steps to the observation deck. If you’re not that adventurous, you can take the elevator, which may cost you a dollar. Although there are some tall buildings in downtown Indy, they don't block the view and at about 285 feet it's still pretty spectacular.
The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War museum is a part of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and is a unique experience in museums. Lodged beneath the monument, you’ll feel you’ve stepped into a cave when you enter. If you had a relative in the Civil War and are from Indiana, you should be able to find their name on one of the lists.
Most of us are familiar with the Eli Lilly name because we have been relieved of pain or illness by one of the drugs from the Eli Lilly Company. What we may not realize is that the drug company came from a family immersed in health care since the Civil War. You’ll learn not only about the family’s involvement, but you’ll be able to view artifacts from the Civil War era.
If you are going to be in the downtown area of Indianapolis, plan a short while at Monument Circle. It always has something going on.