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Essential Indy Walks

Indiana World War Memorial

Courtesy of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc.; indydt.com

The Indiana World War Memorial is the centerpiece of the Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District.

From war memorials to historic neighborhoods, notable sites surround The Circle City. Whether you prefer a tour of a presidential home or a stop at the graves of Indy’s famous residents, a walk through town is key to understanding the history of Indiana’s capital.

INDIANA WAR MEMORIAL PLAZA HISTORIC DISTRICT: Indianapolis is second only to Washington, D.C., in the number of monuments dedicated to veterans, though it covers more acreage. Two museums, three parks and 24 acres of monuments, statues, sculptures and fountains occupy the five-block War Memorial Plaza in the heart of downtown Indy. Start your tour at the iconic Soldiers & Sailors Monument at the center of the city. Dedicated in 1902, Monument Circle’s centerpiece commemorates Indiana veterans from all wars prior to World War I. (Fun fact: At 284 feet, 6 inches, the structure is only 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty.) Housed within the monument is the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum. Admission is free here and at the Indiana War Memorial Museum in the Indiana World War Memorial three blocks north. Along the way, you’ll see the Birch Bayh Federal Building, University Park and the park’s Depew Fountain. The northernmost portion of the district is the American Legion Mall, which contains memorials honoring Vietnam, Korean and World War II veterans, as well as the state and national headquarters of the American Legion. Look to the west to see the architectural beauty of the Scottish Rite Cathedral. Guided group tours of the district are available if scheduled in advance.

LOCKERBIE SQUARE: One of the oldest surviving neighborhood in Indianapolis is located near the Mass Ave cultural district. In the early 20th century, Lockerbie Square became famous as the home of Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley. Today, the poet’s house is open to the public as a museum with authentic furnishings. The museum was named a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and stands as an example of late-Victorian preservation. The neighborhood itself was the first historic district in the city placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Take a self-guided walking tour to see several preserved cottages and Italianate, Federal and Queen Anne houses.

CROWN HILL CEMETERY: This cemetery offers award-winning tours of varying themes: heritage, celebrities, politicians, Civil War history, authors, actors and more. Notable persons buried here include poet Riley, notorious outlaw John Dillinger, President Benjamin Harrison, and Vice Presidents Charles Fairbanks, Thomas A. Hendricks and Thomas Marshall. The 555-acre cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Ninety-minute walking tours are offered twice a month, either on a Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon from March through November. Evening tours include a sunset view atop the highest hill in the county. If you want to go on a specific tour, check the event listings before planning a visit.

PRESIDENT BENJAMIN HARRISON HOME: Indiana’s only president lived in this North Delaware Street home before and after his presidency. Harrison purchased the property in 1867 and began construction on the 16-room Italianate-style house in 1874. Harrison’s years in the U.S. Senate and in the White House took him away from Indianapolis, but he returned in 1893 and lived here until his death in 1901. In 1951, the house opened to the public and was later named a National Historic Landmark. During an hour-long guided tour, visitors can see 10 rooms in the house, some of Harrison’s personal belongings and other special exhibits.

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