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State Soldiers' and Sailers' Monument

Monument Circle

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At the very center of Indianapolis is the "State Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument" (1902), designed by Bruno Schmitz (1858-1916), Germany's foremost architect of national monuments. Completed in 1901, the Monument appears to be Schmitz's only commission outside of Germany and Switzerland. Most of the bronze and stone sculptures on the Monument were designed, executed and manufactured by Germans. The limestone sculptures are the work of Vienna-born sculptor Rudolf Schwarz (1866-1912). The bronze Army Astragal sculptural band above the monument base was designed by Nicolaus Geiger (1849-1897) of Berlin. The Astragal and the eight candelabra were manufactured in Berlin.  The State Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument was dedicated in 1902 to Indiana's heroes who died in wars before World War I. Erected as a memorial to the soldiers and sailors of the War for the Union (1861-65), it also commemorates the War with Mexico (1846-48), Indian and British Wars (1811-12), War of the Revolution and the capture of Vincennes from the British on February 25, 1779. The Monument rises from a circular plaza, 342 feet in diameter, where once stood the governor's house--but where no governor ever lived. At the lower level of the Monument is a Civil War exhibit.

"Monument Circle," as it is called today, is the site of frequent festivals and lunchtime concerts. Water cascades into collecting pools brilliantly illuminated at night. For a panoramic view of the city, one can walk or take the elevator 230 feet up to the glass enclosed balcony. From the glassed-in observation area, the original city plan of Indianapolis is apparent, although modern high-rise buildings have begun to dominate the view.

The "mile square" was patterned after Washington, D.C.  The center was known from its beginnings as the "Governor's Circle," since according to Ralston's plan, the Governor's mansion was to be built there. The geometric pattern of roadways would spread from the circle, surrounded by the circular plaza, with four diagonal avenues leading outward, and streets that cross at right angles.

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In 1821 the mile square was still almost unbroken forest with only a few cabins within miles. Weather conditions added to the early settlers' difficulties. Dense underbrush, decaying vegetation, mosquitoes and other insects brought an epidemic of illness that was finally stopped by cold weather. In the years following, new settlers came with astonishing rapidity, and the 40 cabins in 1822 increased to one hundred in 1825. Also in 1822, a market house was built in the center of the Governor's Circle, with market held every Saturday, until 1824.

In 1827 the Assembly voted $4,000 to build the Governor's mansion, the final cost was closer to $6,500. Neither Governor James Brown Ray nor any other governor ever lived there, but it housed a diverse array of tenants. Seldom has one house had such a variety of uses. Finally, in 1857 the Governor's Mansion was demolished. The Civil War brought much activity to the Governor's Circle, including young men congregating to be mustered into service.

During the war and the years immediately following, the city grew rapidly. In 1867 the City Council ordered the Governor's Circle graded, fenced, walks laid out, benches placed, and the whole encircled by a sidewalk. Its name was changed to "Circle Park."

There had been talk and early attempts at building a war monument. In 1875 a Monument Association was formed and it raised $1,000. Since plans did not materialize, the money was set aside. Several locations had been proposed, including Crown Hill Cemetery.

In 1877 Governor Oliver P. Morton had died and funds were raised to honor the great war governor with a permanent memorial. A sculptor contest was won by Franklin Simmons, an American Sculptor who lived in Rome, Italy. The Morton Statue by Simmons was placed in the center of "Circle Park," facing south, and was unveiled June 15, 1884.

In 1887 the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill committing the state to build a state monument to honor the veterans of the Civil War. The legislature made a grant of $200,000, appointed a Monument Commission and ordered the commissioners to build the Monument "on the ground commonly known as Circle Park." The appointed commission held an international architectural competition for the design of the memorial. Ten outstanding American architectural firms were invited to submit designs, among them Frederick Baumann of Chicago and Adolph Scherrer of Indianapolis. Also advertisements were placed in the newspapers of leading cities in the United States, Canada, England, France, Germany and Italy, inviting architects to enter into the competition. Seventy designs were submitted and, to conceal the contestants' identity, entries were identified by number only. The Commissioners and their Board of Experts chose the shaft design of Number 4. The winning entry design of Number 4, for a towering obelisk, fountains and monumental sculpture, was by Bruno Schmitz of Berlin. His work was familiar to the commissioners as he and James F. Gookins, the secretary of the board, had been fellow artists and friends in Munich.

Schmitz was invited to Indianapolis and was appointed supervising architect in February 1888. Frederick Baumann of Chicago was appointed deputy architect and authorized representative for Schmitz. Schmitz was no stranger to Indianapolis. Otto Lieber, who lived in Schmitz's home town of Düsseldorf, had introduced him to his brother Hermann Lieber of Indianapolis, and to Julius Lemcke and Theodore Stempfel. While in Indianapolis he usually stayed with the Liebers or the Lemckes.

In May 1888 the contract for the central foundation was let to Enos Hege of Indianapolis. It was completed by the end of the year. In January 1889 Schmitz brought a plaster model of the monument, and on August 22, 1889, the cornerstone was laid. In it is as large box containing reports, a list of all soldiers from Indiana who fought in the War for the Union, and other items including a photograph of Schmitz. The inscription on the cornerstone reads:

August 22, 1889


Act of General Assembly March 3, 1887

The Monument, commemorating the war between the States, was the first in the nation to be dedicated to the common soldier. It took twelve years to complete at a cost of app. $600,000.

In 1895 the Board of Commissioners was abolished and a Board of Regents was established, with Gen. Fred Knefler of Indianapolis as President.

One of the four large bronze candelabra, each 40 feet high, 

designed by Bruno Schmitz and manufactured in Berlin. 

(Photo by Ruth Reichmann)

One of the four smaller Bronze Candelabra.  Designed 

by Bruno Schmitz and manufactured in Berlin. 

(Photo by Ruth Reichmann)

Schulte, a German who was in charge of the work, spoke very little English. Many of the workmen had great difficulty in  following instructions. Frank Langsenkamp, who did many of the castings, came to the rescue. With his help and knowledge of German, the candelabra were easily assembled. The model for the motto "To Indiana's Silent Victors" was furnished by Frank Fertig. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument is built of Indiana Oolitic limestone from Terre Haute Stone Company quarries at Stinesville, IN. Its total height is 284 ft. 6 in. (15 ft. shorter than the Statue of Liberty). 32 flights of stairs with 330 steps lead to the observation deck. An elevator was installed and began carrying the public to the top in April 1894. 

On the north and south sides, stone steps, 70 feet long, lead to bronzed entrance doors. Terraced fountains flow at the east and west sides. The cascade fountains each hold a minimum capacity of seven thousand gallons of water per minute. The water for the fountains is supplied by wells beneath the Monument. The water flows from the terrace level down three tiers into the pool which is bordered by a molded stone curb. The corners of the fountain pools are marked by ornate bronze candelabra. Three sides of each pedestal have bronze bison-head foundations from which water spouts into the attached stone basin. At the second-tier level are a second set of four candelabra, each 40 feet high, which rest upon sculpted stone pedestals, bearing bronze swags and American flag escutcheons.  The four large bronze candelabra, four bronze fountain candelabra, and twelve bison heads were designed by Bruno Schmitz, They were modeled and executed in "hammered aluminum bronze" by the studio Bruno Schmitz, and cast in Berlin.

Smaller bronze candelabra above a drinking fountain fitted 

into bronze buffalo heads.  Designed by Bruno Schmitz and manufactured in Berlin.  (Photo by Ruth Reichmann)

North side of Monument: 

Limestone sculptures by Rodolf Schwarz, representing 

Artillery and Navy and plaque honoring soldiers of other

wars.  Above it the bronze Army Astragal sculpture band 

designed be Nicolaus Geiger.  (Photo By Ruth Reichmann)

In 1897 Schmitz brought from Germany sculptor Rudolf Schwarz. He was hired essentially to do the "War" and "Peace" groupings (the larger ones on the east and west), designed by Bruno Schmitz and modeled by Hermann Matzen. The West-side group represents "Peace" with the returning soldiers. In the center, Liberty holds the flag, at her feet a freed slave lifts up a broken chain. The angel of peace holds the wreath of Victory and the olive branch of Peace. The East-side group represents "War." It is represented by a battle scene showing cavalry, charging infantry, and artillery. In the center the goddess of war urges on the charge, while Columbia in the background holds high the Stars and Stripes.

East side of monument: Statuary group "War" 

with "The Dying Soldier" below it by Rudolf Schwarz 

(Photo by Ruth Reichmann)

Bronze Astragals  designed by Nicolaus Geiger and 

George W. Brewster.  (Photo by Ruth Reichmann)

South side of Monument:

Limestone sculptures by Rudolf Schwarz, representing 

Infantry and Cavalry and Civil War plaque.  Above it the 

bronze Army Astragal sculptured band designed by 

Nicolaus Geiger of Berlin. (Photo by Ruth Reichmann)

West side of Monument: Statuary group "Peace" 

with "The Return Home", by Rudolf Schwarz below it. 

(Photo by Ruth Reichmann)

Schwarz designed and sculpted two more related groupings below them, just above the water: "The Dying Soldier" and "The Return Home."  The groupings on each side obviously relate to each other; the larger allegorical "War" and then beneath it the smaller (albeit still huge) grouping, translates the allegory into human terms "The Dying Soldier" while "The Return Home" represents the homecoming of the victorious troops and the joyous reunion of families.

The Bronze Doors for all Monument entrances were designed and executed by Rudolf Schwarz and cast by American Bronze Company of Chicago. Above the entrance facing south is the inscription of dedication: "To Indiana's Silent Victors." Directly above the entrances are the rolls of honor inscribed with the State's contributions to America's armed conflicts.

Also by Schwarz are the four soldier figures, two flanking each entrance, and each cut from a huge block of stone. The two statues on the south side represent Infantry and a Cavalry Scout. On the north side the Artillery and Navy are represented.

The story goes that when Schwarz's finished work was viewed, all of the soldiers were bearded. This was deemed too German. So Schwarz patiently went to work and shaved the beards off with his chisel.

The squared limestone shaft juts 284 feet, 6 inches into the air, and is capped by a 38-foot high statue representing "Victory."  Three bronze astragals are encircling the Monument. The lowest astragal, 70 feet above the monument base, is one of its impressive features. It was designed by the Berliner Nicolaus Geiger (1849-1897), noted for his naturalistic sculptures and public monuments. He had his work cast by the Statue Foundry Gladenbeck & Son, Berlin. It depicts the army and shows the implements and carnage of war. The second astragal, 12 feet above the first, representing the Navy, and the third, another 80 feet higher, were designed by George W. Brewster of Cleveland. "Victory," popularly known to Hoosiers as "Miss Indiana," was also designed by Brewster. The Torch is emblematic to the light of civilization. The young eagle atop her head represents freedom. Her right hand holds a sword, the point rests upon the globe, symbolizing the army to which victory was due. Victory faces south, supposedly to look over the vanquished battlefields of the South.

Bronze statues of Gen. George Rogers Clark and of Govs. William Henry Harrison, James Whitcomb, and Oliver P. Morton commemorate four historical periods of Indiana development. The Morton statue is that by Franklin Simmons. It honors the great war governor and represents the Civil War for the Union (1861-65). The statues of Clark, Whitcomb, and Harrison were designed by John H. Mahoney of Indianapolis. George Rogers Clark represents the War of the Revolution and the capture of Vincennes from the British on February 25, 1779. James Whitcomb represents the War with Mexico (1846-48). William H. Harrison represents the Battle of Tippecanoe and Indian and British Wars (1811-12). There is a story that William Hoeltke, a German grocer on East Washington Street, served as a model for Harrison. 

The Monument was officially dedicated with impressive ceremonies on May 15, 1902.

In 1918 Colonel Oran Perry created a photo gallery of military history in the lower level. Since October 1999 there is the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum in the lower level of the Monument. It tells the story of the Civil War, including that of the 32nd (1st German) Volunteer Infantry Regiment.


Christmas at the Circle.

(Photo by Ruth Reichmann)

The Monument has been decorated for Christmas since 1945. Since 1962 every year the Monument becomes a Christmas tree.

Sources: Indianapolis-Marion County Register of Historic Properties, Nomination Form, prepared by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, June 27, 1983.

Ernestine Bradford Rose, The Circle: The Center of Indianapolis, Indianapolis: Crippin Printing Corporation, 1971.





Entrance to the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum in

the lower level of the Indiana State Soldiers' and Sailors' 

Monument.   (Photo by Ruth Reichmann)

In October 1999 the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum was opened in the lower level of the Indiana State Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument on Monument Circle in Indianapolis. In a very limited space (it was not really designed by Herr Schmitz for such a purpose) it brings the story of the Hoosiers in the Civil war and the builders of the monument to life. The visitor is taken step by step through various focus areas.  By the time the visitor comes out Nikki Craig of Museum InterAction (the exhibit-design firm which developed the Museum for the Governor's Hoosier Heritage Foundation), wants for him/her to look at the monument with very different eyes. She definitely succeeded!

The story of the Civil War is told through actual words of the people who wrote letters, kept journals, gave speeches, or related oral histories of their experiences. These narratives are supported by photographs, documents, and objects—both genuine artifacts and accurate reproductions—that illustrate the essence of the period from approximately 1860 to 1902. Sound and picture of large video screens provide a sense of "being there."

Among those who fought in the Civil War and are depicted, is the 32nd, a German regiment under the command of Col. August Willich, who later became a brigadier general. In the focus area were Col. Eli Lilly is shown there are copies of Willich's recruiting ads from the Täglicher Louisville Anzeiger, accompanied by an English translation:

"(August 21, 1861) (German Title: Achtung, deutsche Patrioten!!) Attention, German Patriots! Mr. Willich, well known from the Revolution in Baden, is in command of the German Regiment to be formed in Indiana. All those who wish to join this regiment should report today in the Concert Hall, 5th St. between Market and Jefferson, where details and a sign-up list will be available. Only 30 more men are needed to complete the company. Therefore, if you want to join, immediate reporting is advised."

"(August 25, 1861) (German Title" Die Turner Schützenkompanie, ..) The Turner Sharpshooter Company, consisting of Turners from Indianapolis, Evansville and Fort Wayne, is now nearly complete and already encamped at Indianapolis. Since only a few more men are still needed, immediate contact with Capt. Wm. Mauk at the local Turner Hall is advised."

Nearby is a photograph of the monument at Cave Hill Cemetery at Woodsonville, south of Louisville, in honor of the men of the 32nd Indiana who died Dec. 17, 1861 in the battle at Rowlett's Station—with a label that contains the inscription (Eng.trans.) on the monument.

A reproduced image of General Orders No. 5 from the Indiana Adj. General's Office: A citation from Gov. Morton, via Adj. Gen. Lazarus Noble, thanking "Lt. Col. Von Trebra and the companies of the1st German, 32nd regiment Indiana Volunteers, who so gallantly and successful defended themselves and repulsed the enemy ... at Rowlett's Station ... on the 17th of December, 1861 ... and regards with confidence the future career of the regiment under Col.Willich and his brave officers."

And there is also a replica of the regimental flag of the 32nd Indiana-the "first" (only) all-German Indiana regiment. In full-size and authentic detail, this flag is based on the original flag in the battle-flag collection at the Indiana War Memorial.


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