Friday, January 6, 2012

#37. Climb the Monument

Punctuating the center of downtown Indianapolis is the 284.5 foot tall Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. The stately monument is a popular backdrop for wedding photos and the facilitator of the holiday season's Tree of Lights. On any given day, thousands of Hoosiers and tourists alike gaze at this impressive limestone structure paying homage to the state's military veterans. While spectators can undoubtedly appreciate the exterior beauty of the monument, few know what lies inside.

Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument strung with lights for the seasonal Tree of Lights

Located inside the monument are a Civil War museum and an observation deck, both of which are free of charge. The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum is relatively small and features several collections of authentic wartime items varying from military uniforms to medical equipment. Interactive activities and documentaries add punchy twists to the typical exhibits. 

Civil War doctor's medical kit....yikes!

Civil War military coat

The museum is respectable, especially considering the absence of an admission fee. It is very similar to the Indiana War Memorial Museum that I blogged about here.

After meandering through the museum, my friend and I moved on to the task that brought us here: climbing the monument. Although an elevator is available for $2/person, we decided the only way to get the actual monument experience (and save $2) was to climb the 331 steps to the observation deck. It was a long climb on narrow stairs, but markers counted down the remaining steps. The markers were tremendously motivational and made the ascent significantly easier. 

Once we reached the top and caught our breaths, we took in the view around us. We visited the monument on a bland January day, so the scenery was nothing notably special. Had snow covered the roofs, leaves made a green treetop oasis, or fall foliage burned in the distance, it would have been a beautiful vista. This was not the case, however, so the view was dismally industrial. 

View from the observation deck
Despite the lackluster view, it was a cool experience. I have passed the monument countless times, but before reading the Indianapolis Monthly article I did not know that it was possible to climb the monument. After asking several friends and family members who have lived in Indianapolis their entire lives, I discovered that none of them had visited the interior of the monument. One fellow observer commented, "I lived in Indianapolis for 20 years and never climbed the monument. Why did I wait until I moved away to do this?"

Indianapolis Monthly headquarters across from the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument
For whatever reason, it seems that relatively few Hoosiers take advantage of this experience. Climbing the monument made me look at Indianapolis with fresh eyes, allowing me to be a tourist in a very familiar city.

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