Indianapolis is just big – about 20 miles across, in either direction. (368 square miles – significantly bigger than New York City). This great size leads to a corresponding variety – a large and spread-out downtown, and many residential neighborhoods – from old and decrepit, to close-in and gentrifying, to old ones that are a few miles out from the center and unbelievably grand, and newer neighborhoods of McMansions on the periphery, which feel like they are out in the woods. Bill Adams took us on a great tour which really showed the variety of places, but I felt that I had barely scratched the surface.
The downtown has some fine old buildings:
And then the city has a fairly normal array of postwar buildings and juxtapositions, which vary from the commonplace to the truly weird
The strangest thing was seeing what aspects of civic life are most valorized. The Statehouse is quite impressive, but who are those individuals being accorded a place of honor on the banners hanging out front? Statesmen, or perhaps war heroes?
No, it’s the Colts’ cheerleaders!
But by far the most amazing thing in Indianapolis is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, which is in the center of town where the two main streets intersect, similar to the Philadelphia City Hall. The urban space is very grand, a circle 500 feet in diameter between building walls, with the buildings enclosing the traffic circle and the Monument. The Monument is covered with the kind of histrionic and spectacular civic sculpture which was common in the late 19th century (such as at the Columbian Exhibition, or the Maine Memorial in NY).
It’s a fantastic, over-the-top piece, and it may be the best means we now have to experience what the White City must have felt like.