Indiana World War Memorial Plaza

The Indiana World War Memorial Plaza is located in Indianapolis, originally built to honor the veterans of World War I. The five-city-block plaza was originally conceived in 1919 as a location for the national headquarters of the American Legion and a memorial to veterans. At the north end of the plaza is the American Legion Mall, which is the site of the administration buildings of the Legion, as well as a memorial cenotaph. South of that is the Veterans Memorial Plaza with its obelisk.

The centerpiece of the plaza is the Indiana World War Memorial which was modeled after the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Inside the memorial are the military museum, the Shrine Room, and an auditorium. At the south end is University Park, the oldest part of the plaza, filled with statues and a fountain. On October 11, 1994, the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza was designated a National Historic Landmark District.


Architects Walker and Weeks planned the Indiana World War Memorial Building as the plaza’s centerpiece, sitting between the federal building and the public library. Work on the actual memorial to the veterans of World War I began in early 1926. General John Pershing laid the cornerstone of the memorial on July 4, 1927, saying he was “consecrating the edifice as a patriotic shrine”. Funding problems in 1928 slowed the building of the interior. Even a new contractor in 1931 and $195,000 provided by the Public Works Administration in 1936 did little to speed the process of completing the structure. Although its interior was incomplete, it was dedicated on November 11, 1933 (Veterans Day) by Governor Paul McNutt and Lt. Gen. Hugh Drum, Deputy Chief of Staff of the United States Army.

The memorial’s design is based upon the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. At 210 feet tall it is approximately 75 feet taller than the original Mausoleum. The blue lights which shine between columns on the side of the War Memorial make the monument easily recognizable. It is the most imposing Neoclassical structure in Indianapolis due to its scale and size.

The cubical structure is clad in unrelieved ashlar Indiana limestone on a high, lightly rusticated base, and is topped with a low pyramidal roof that sheathes its interior dome. It stands on a raised terrace approached by a wide monumental staircase. The structure has four identical faces. On each face an Ionic screen of six columns, behind which are tall banks of windows, and is surmounted by symbolic standing figures designed by Henry Hering: Courage, Memory, Peace, Victory, Liberty, and Patriotism. The sculptures are repeated on each façade. On the south side, standing on a pink granite base in the center of the grand access stairs, is Hering’s colossal exultant male nude bronze Pro Patria (1929); it is 24 feet high, weighs seven tons, and was the largest cast bronze sculpture in the United States.

The north and south entrances are guarded by shield-bearing limestone lions, and on each corner of the terrace sits an urn. The pyramidal roof is stepped and has a lantern on top. Above the tall bronze doors on each side is the inscription “To vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the world.” On the north side is the building’s main inscription:

To commemorate the valor and sacrifice of the land, sea and air forces of the United States and all who rendered faithful and loyal service at home and overseas in the World War; to inculcate a true understanding and appreciation of the privileges of American citizenship; to inspire patriotism and respect for the laws to the end that peace may prevail, justice be administered, public order maintained and liberty perpetuated.


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