Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Soldiers and Sailors Monument undergoes renovation work

At the very heart of the city of Indianapolis stands an impressive limestone monument erected to honor Indiana soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War and other wars prior to World War I. It's officially called the State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, but locals tend to refer to it as Monument Circle, or just the Circle. Visually, it's a stunning piece of art and architecture that functions as the central axis from which the original city plat radiates.

Completed in 1901, the structure and sculpture has spent over a century exposed to the harsh climate of Indiana so it's no surprise that it is in need of repairs. The City of Indianapolis is embarking on a $600,000 project to rebuild the leaky observation deck and repair the water damage that has resulted from the leaks. You can read more about the project at

One of the tasks of the project is to install anchors to make it easier to hang Christmas lights on the monument. Every Christmas since 1962, it transforms into a gigantic Christmas "tree", with lights strung from the top to the ground. It's a popular destination in December and a well-loved city symbol that brightens up the often-dreary winter weather.

Who do we have to thank for thinking to decorate the monument? Indianapolis architect Edward D. Pierre (1890-1971) came up with the idea in the 1930s, but due to limitations of the Depression, it wasn't realized until 1945. Pierre began with modest displays on each side of the monument that expanded over time, culminating with the addition of the lights in 1962. Themes of the first display were Peace on Earth, on the north side, Hoosier Christmas on the south, The Night Before Christmas, on the east fountain, and Fairy Land--Little Orphan Annie, on the west fountain.

Pierre was an extraordinary architect who combined is passions for architecture and urban planning into a long and influential career. He was so influential that Indianapolis mayor Richard Lugar eulogized him as being "one of the most significant and imaginative thinkers in regard to the beauty of Indianapolis." The Indiana Society of Architects established the Edward D. Pierre Medal to honor subsequent architects who also embody his spirit of urban renewal through architecture.

The Drawings and Documents Archive chose its Pierre and Wright Architectural Records as the first collection we digitize. Over 2,000 pieces of the collection are currently being photographed and scanned and entered into our online Digital Media Repository (

We're going to debut the first part of the collection--the amazing 3-D model set of downtown Indianapolis Edward Pierre created in 1953--soon, but I wanted to give you one sneak peak at the collection before it goes live, here is the model (scale is at 1:720) of the State Soldiers and Sailors Monument:

With the dark backdrop it looks remarkably similar to two night scene postcards we have in another collection:

For more information on the State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, visit


  1. The cost of repairs to the Monument will be paid by the State, not the City.

    The Monument is owned and maintained by the State of Indiana on behalf of all Hoosiers.

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