Historic Homes & Buildings, Indianapolis
From the front porch of this Italianate-style home Benjamin Harrison gave a number of speeches, leading to his election to the Presidency in 1888. One of the United States' least distinguished Presidents, Harrison is best remembered for signing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and being the grandson of the ninth President, William Henry Harrison.
Before serving in Washington DC, Harrison ran a successful law practice and served from 1881-87 as a United States Senator. He returned to Indianapolis following his defeat in the 1892 Presidential election.
The State House is a beautiful building that was constructed in 1888. Many of the government offices are now offsite, but the building is still an important symbol of the state of Indiana.
The original State House was built in the Greek Revival style in 1831 and demolished in 1877. The cornerstone for the current State House was laid on September 28, 1880 and was completed in 1888. It is made of Indiana limestone and as many materials from Indiana as possible.
The shape of the building is in a Greek cross, while the exterior is in the Corinthian style. The architect was Edwin May (who died before the project was finished) and the cost was just under $2 million. The State House underwent a major facelift in 1988 to restore its original look.
The building has been the important site for many historical events in Indiana, including funerals for dignitaries, and will continue to do so in the future.
Tours are available every weekday at the north entrance. Saturday and Sunday tours are available at 10:15, 11, 12, and 1. I only had time to walk the grounds but I will take the tour next time I am in Indianapolis.
See the following tips for some more specific info on the grounds.
Formerly known as Obelisk Square, the Veteran's Memorial Plaza sits between the Indiana World War Memorial and the American Legion Mall. In the center is the Obelisk Fountain and north of that is the 100 foot, black granite Obelisk, sculpted by Henry Henring in 1929. Four bronze tablets, representing law, science, religion and education, surround the structure.
Opened in 1888, Indianapolis' Union Station is, according to Indiana: A New Historical Guide, "one of the last remaining Victorian train stations in the Midwest."
In the 1980s Union Station was turned into a restaurant and shopping center. According to reports I read during one of my last visits to Indy that idea isn't fairing too well anymore. I guess folks got their fill of rock'n'roll T-shirt shops and Left-handed stores.
If you're looking for Amtrak service, head to the nearby Greyhound bus station at 350 S. Illinois Street.
Pay attention to the ornate details given to the exterior of the State House. Many of the artists, metalworkers, and plasterers were newly arrived immigrants to Indiana from Germany, Italy, and Slovenia.
The photo shows one of the columns at the east entrance along Capitol Ave. at Market St.
War Memorial Plaza
Most of the area immediately north of the circle in downtown Indy is a dedicated war memorial plaza. It starts just to the north of the main Post Office and features parks and monuments all the way to the library on St. Clair Street. In fact, even the monument in the center of the circle is a war memorial and houses the Eli Lilly Civil War Museum.
The Benjamin Harrison House is on Delaware Street just north of 12th street (a couple of blocks north of the interstate bridge). Also adjoined by a small park, the house is the former residence of Pres. Benjamin Harrison and is now a museum dedicated to his life. The museums web site is where you can find exhibit info, hours, and more detailed directions. While you're there, you may want to walk around the neighborhood a bit since you just happen to be in the St. Joseph's Historical District. Believe it or not, the St. Joes neighborhood association also has their own web site too! They have a lot of great background information and you can write in for a free brochure that includes a map for walking tours.
Located between Univeristy Park and Veteran's Memorial Plaza, the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza is an impressive tribute to Indiana soldiers killed in World War I. General John Pershing laid the cornerstone on July 4, 1927 but delays in funding prevented completion until 1965.
At its heart is the 210 foot memorial building, which contains a very interesting war museum, an auditorium and two meeting rooms. The museum is free and is open 9 am - 6 pm, Wednesday through Sunday.
As I said earlier, I got a personalized tour by my Great Uncle so I don't exactly know what an organized tour shows the visitor. But the 1880 Rennaissance Revival building is open to the public from 9 am to 4 pm weekdays and is free.
The capitol of Indiana relocated from Corydon in southern Indiana to here in 1824. The present Statehouse is the third building in Indianapolis to serve that function and dates to 1888. Construction took some eight years costing $1.8 million. In the 1990’s, the building was extensively renovated at a further cost of $11 million. Tours are available during the work week. A statue of the governor during the Civil War, Oliver P. Morton, stands out in front of the building, flanked on both sides by Union soldiers. The face down Market Street towards the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. The statue group dates to 1907.
Benjamin Harrison returned from the Civil War and he bought the double lot on which this house stands in what was then the outskirts of the city. The house was built in 1874 to 1875 and except for his time in the U.S. Senate and the Presidency, this was home for Harrison. He died in the house in 1901, but before that, he continued the idea of the “front porch speech” that had started with James Garfield during his campaign for President in 1888. The idea must have been a good one even though the elegant front porch you see today dates to 1896 after he had left the Presidency.
The entire house has been open for tours since 1874. There are sixteen rooms in the house and ten are visited on the tour. Three quarters of the memorabilia on display actually belonged to the President and his family. Tour cost is $10 and hours are 10 am to 3:30 pm Monday through Saturday with Sunday hours running from 12 to 3:30 in the afternoon. Tours run on the hour and the half hour and last just over an hour.
Harrison was the 23rd President and was the grandson of William Henry Harrison, the 9th President. He grew up in North Bend, Ohio near Cincinnati graduating from Miami University in 1852. Harrison married his first wife Caroline in 1853 and they moved to Indianapolis the following year so that he could practice law. Growing up in a Whig family, the Republican Party was a natural migration for him in 1856. He successfully ran for political offices while working at his law practice and building up his family in the years before the Civil War.
Harrison didn’t initially sign up since he had his family to support – wife and two children, but hearing Governor Oliver Morton complaining that not enough men were enlisting in 1862, he agreed to help raise a regiment. He was made colonel of the 70th Indiana despite his misgivings on his lack of military experience. The first two years saw the 70th guarding rail tracks most of the time, but they joined Sherman’s army in 1864 – Harrison was a brigade commander by that time – and fought many battles during the Atlanta campaign. Harrison was nominated by Lincoln to the rank of brigadier general of volunteers at the war’s end for his service.
After the war, Harrison returned to his law practice speaking out for local Republican candidates. He unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1872 and 1876. As a delegated to the Republican National convention in 1880, he was instrumental in breaking a deadlock giving James Garfield the nomination. Offered a cabinet position, Harrison declined in order to serve as a senator from Indiana. In 1887, Harrison was denied re-election by the State legislature when redistricting resulted in a Democratic majority.
In 1888, the GOP favorite was James Blaine, the same man who had lost to Grover Cleveland in 1884, but Blaine declined to run. Harrison emerged as the dark horse candidate winning the nomination on the eighth ballot. Campaigning from his front porch, Harrison received visiting delegations in Indianapolis making over ninety speeches in his hometown. He lost the popular vote by some 90,000 out of eleven million votes, but he won the electoral vote 233:168.
During his presidency, tariff rates were raised; the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed; national forest lands were created; the Navy was modernized. He also tried to enforce voting rights and provide federal funding for schools for African Americans, but those measures would have to wait for another 60 – 70 years to come to fruition. The tariff rates brought in surplus revenues and the Republican Congress spent much of the money for which they were defeated in the mid-term elections of 1890, a major factor in the defeat of Harrison, himself, in 1892.
Harrison’s wife died just a couple weeks before the 1892 election which was another factor in Harrison’s defeat. After the election, he returned to pick up his law practice here in Indianapolis. In 1896, he remarried to the 37 year old widowed niece and former secretary of Caroline, Mary Dimmick. That was something which his adult children did not approve of and they did not attend the wedding. Benjamin had one child with Mary and died five years later at the age of 67.
Harrison is not a well-known president, but his presidency showed the direction for the modern presidency of William McKinley to take. His idea of leadership was quite a contrast to the negative style of Grover Cleveland.
This is the second Harrison, to be President. Benjamin was president from 1889-1893. His Grandfather (William Henry) was old "Tippecanoe", the oldest man to be president and to have served the shortest term.
This Italianate home (1875) is just north of downtown on Delaware Street. Here, you can learn about Harrison and his time. He set aside millions of acres of the Great American Forest as Forest Preserves to insure that there would timber available to future Generations of Americans.
Vist by tour only. M-Sat (10-3:30), Sunday 12:30 - 3:30 in June & July
Indianapolis is full of historical architecture. Many of the cities iner-city neighborhoods are featured as historical places and are well worth visiting. Raditaing about 2 miles fgrom the circle, and some further, are various historical landmarks such as the historical woodruff place with some of the cities most historical residential houses. Indianapolis is a great place to visit if you are interested in old but excitimg places.
The war memorial was built using the pay from the soldiers from Indiana who served during World War I. The beautiful stone building depicts Indiana's involement in every American war. There is a walk in exhibit of what is like to be inside a fox hole. The greeters at the front desk can help anyone with Indiana relatives that served in a war to find the section where their name is listed. You must vist the top shrine room. All sides contain blue stain glass windows. It is wonderful room.
If you look up to the top of the south entrance to the State House along Washington St., you will see some figures above the entrance. These represent figures from Indiana history.