The Architecture of Indianapolis

Indianapolis architecture
39.7684° N, 86.1581° W

Indianapolis is a unique place. Its identity is partially tied to its architecture. There is so much to see, so many sights to admire, especially for visitors. You have several reasons to love and appreciate Indianapolis architecture, including:

World War Memorial Plaza
World War Memorial Plaza

1). The Size

The structures in the city are renowned for their size. Admittedly, their impact has waned over the years as much larger structures have arisen elsewhere. However, some of Indianapolis’ gems were truly spectacular when they were first completed. One example is The World War Memorial Plaza. This is one of the best memorial created – not a death chamber.

When it was first constructed, there was no larger WWI memorial. You also have the West Baden Springs Hotel with its domed structure and the impressive concentration of Masonic temples in Downtown Indianapolis.

Scottish Rite Cathedral
Scottish Rite Cathedral

2). The Beauty

Indianapolis architecture isn’t renowned simply because of its size. The city has some of the most beautiful structures in the country. Just look at the Scottish Rite Cathedral which was designed to mirror some of Europe’s massive cathedrals. There is also the Museum of Arts which is guaranteed to take your breath away with its scenic landscapes.

3). The History

The city is filled with buildings and structures that encourage visitors to remember and appreciate the distant past and to reuse. For instance, Veterans Memorial Plaza’s aesthetic was copied from the funeral structures that Egyptian pharaohs favored.

The Tomb of King Mausolus (Halicarnassus) inspired architects to design the Indiana World War memorial. The Murat Temple also bears heavy Egyptian influences. Even if you know nothing about history, you cannot fail to enjoy the homage the city has chosen to pay to ancient cultures.

4). The Limestone

The beauty for which Indianapolis architecture is known can be partially blamed on the limestone exteriors which add an element of dignity and class to the city’s streets though not perfect protection against the elements. A multitude of churches, schools, and libraries feature Indiana’s famous Bedford limestone.

Union Railway Station
Union Railway Station

5). The Roman Buildings

Indiana had a lot of public buildings boasting a distinct Romanesque style. That is no longer the case. Many of these buildings have been torn down. However, a significant number has survived. Structures like the Union Railway Station are an amazing sight to behold.

Equally impressive are the Greek revival landmarks. The Greek Revival period did not have as lasting an impact on Indianapolis. But the few remnants of this period are a reminder of Indianapolis’ architectural ingenuity. One notable example is the mansion that Francis Costigan designed for James F.D. Lanier in 1844. You can still find the exquisite house in Madison, an Ohio River Town.

Along with the Italianate houses, Neo-Classical Public buildings, English Tudor, and Islamic Architecture, you would be hard-pressed to find a rival to Indianapolis architecture. Some specific places that you might want to see if you ever visit the city include:

Repertory Theater
Repertory Theater

1). Repertory Theater

Back in 1927, it was a movie palace and ballroom. It became a historical site in 1979. Today, the building is still standing strong. The concrete structure is six stories high with a 3,200-seat auditorium. Some of the building’s distinguishing marks include Spanish Baroque-inspired plaster ornamentation in the auditorium and a ballroom with an elliptical dorm.

2). Test Building

Another example of Indianapolis’s historical relevance, anyone with a fascination for 1920s architecture shouldn’t look any further than the Test building. It began as a six-story structure. It became a nine-story building later on. Like many of the city’s most notable buildings, this one uses Indiana limestone. It also manifests Neo-Classical elements.

3). City Market

The City market doesn’t sound like the most exciting of attractions but it is another example of memorable Indianapolis architecture. First of all, it has been around since 1886. Secondly, it was influenced by German styles of construction and design. It doesn’t have the original flanking towers and pilasters but what remains paints a decent picture of what they looked like centuries ago.

 Old National Center

4). Old National Center

This is another ancient building that will transport visitors to a different era. The Old National Center has been around since 1884. The Freemasons founded it. The most impressive aspect of this structure is the Murat Theater. This is what most people come to see, along with the Egyptian Room. It is a special place, and not simply because it became the Freemason’s base of operations back in 1909.

5). Freemason’s Hall

This building also makes use of Indiana limestone. Though, that isn’t necessarily the reason for which it is known. The building is eight stories tall and it has everything from ballrooms to auditorium, and lodges. It came into existence in 1909 which is why it is historically relevant in the eyes of some people.

The design has been imputed to Rubush and Hunter Architects. They used Greek, Roman, and Neo-classical styles in their design.

6). Union Station

Union Station has been around since 1853. It was the first of its kind when it opened all those years ago. The granite and brick structure is charming, boasting brick arches, a massive rose window, and a clock tower that stands at 185 feet. It is a fascinating complex that deserves all the praise it gets.

Indiana State Library
Indiana State Library

7). Indiana State Library

The State Library (and Historical Bureau) is the state’s largest library. It was created in 1934. Over the years, it has accumulated quite the impressive collection of literary materials, including sixty thousand manuscripts, a million and a half images, and a thousand maps.

The Indiana Historical Bureau, which began as the Historical Commission, is housed within the State Library. Besides operating a gift shop, the bureau is concerned with placing new historical markers and educating people about the state’s history.

8). Circle Tower

This structure has a ziggurat peak. This is the building’s most notable element. It was constructed in 1930. The building’s appearance is further enhanced by the Indiana limestone that was used to make it. If you pay close attention, you will notice the Egyptian elements in the entrances.

Indianapolis has too many impressive structures and many great architect Indianapolis for anyone to list them all. But this works in your favor as a visitor because it gives you so much to see.