Indy’s Monument Circle and Scottish Rite Tours

Posted by on August 20, 2017

Friday 8/18

We left home, headed north to Indianapolis, about 8:00 am to be sure to get to our destination by 10:00 am.  We wanted to give plenty of time for any traffic delays, finding parking, walking to our destination and finding where we needed to be.

It’s a good thing we allotted extra time because we wasted 20 minutes messing with the parking meter.  It was supposed to take a credit card but after fiddling with it forever we were only able to get 15 minutes on the meter.  I finally gave up, scrounged up a bunch of quarters and got the 4 hours we wanted on the darn meter!

The center of the circle…the Soldiers & Sailor’s Monument

We found where we needed to be for the start of the Monument Circle Walking Tour.  The free tour is put on by Indiana Landmarks every Friday and Saturday morning at 10:00 am from May to October.

We were the first to arrive, followed by our tour guide and by our 10:00 am start time our group number close to 15 people.

Janet, our tour guide, was very personable and really knew her stuff.  She carried a binder that held pictures from the past so that we could compare what things look like today versus what they looked like many years ago.

Indianapolis was actually the third capital of the Indiana.  Indianapolis was actually chosen to be the capital before there was even a city in place.  It was chosen for several reasons, one of which was its central location.

The architect that designed the city was the same one who designed Washington DC, and you can easily see that if you were to look at a map of each city.

Janet always made sure to stop us in the shade, which was much appreciated.

The Governor’s mansion was originally built at the center of the circle with a residential area planned around it.  Unfortunately, the governor’s mansion was never lived in as the governor’s wife refused to live as the ‘center’ of attention.  Used passed and the mansion fell apart and was eventually torn down and a park created in its place.

Over the years the park evolved and eventually the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was erected and then dedicated in 1902.  The residential area surrounding the monument eventually evolved into more of a metropolitan area with an Opera House, newspaper offices, a theater etc.

As we strolled along the sidewalk around the base of the monument Janice spouted facts, dates, little stories and shared the pictures in her binder.

Christ Church Cathedral

Several buildings are original and have remained or been given face lifts.  Janet took us into three of the buildings for a brief glimpse.  Christ Church Cathedral was one of the buildings we entered.  Made of Indiana limestone and opened in 1857 the church is one of several that originally sat around the circle. Christ Church is the only one still standing today.

The lobby of the Columbia Club

Right next door to the Christ Church is the Columbia Club which dates back to the time that Benjamin Harrison was running for president.  A gorgeous establishment with a lot of history in its lobby area alone.  A painting of Benjamin Harrison looms over a marble table that was used in the White House while he was president.

A piano played by Hoagie Carmichael sits in one corner while one of the Eagle’s that hung above President Lincoln’s casket in the Indiana State Capitol building sits in another.

City Market, downtown Indy

We really enjoyed the tour and would highly recommend it.  Our tour guide really made it worth while. Hopefully all of the tour guides giving this tour are as friendly and knowledgeable.  Janet even pointed us toward City Market, a couple of blocks away.

City Market dates back to 1821.  Currently it’s mostly a place to grab some refreshments…anything from popcorn to BBQ, bakery, Greek food, ice cream, coffee, beer, wine…etc.  We roamed the whole place and decided to grab a soft pretzel to snack on.

After relaxing for a bit we headed back to where the truck was parked several blocks away.  I’d packed a lunch of cheese, sausage, nuts, veggies.  We enjoyed that in the comfort of the truck with the air conditioning running for a short while and then rolled down the windows to enjoy the day.

Scottish Rite Cathedral

After lunch we walked the few blocks to the Scottish Rite Cathedral.  They offer free tours Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 am til 2:00 pm.  The funny thing is…is we really didn’t know what we were going to tour other than a beautiful building!  LOL

Shortly after meeting our tour guide, Steve, we learned that the Scottish Rite is a fraternity of freemasons…related to the Masons.  Huh…who knew!?

For the second time, in the same day, we were blessed with an excellent tour guide!  Steve has been a member of the Scottish Rite since 1979 so we was very familiar with the Cathedral and all of its ins and outs.

The ballroom

The architect of the building was a German by the name of Schreiber and he was involved in nearly every aspect of the building process.  He also paid quite a bit of attention to detail.  Since there are 33 ‘degrees’  of the Scottish Rite he made sure to incorporate that number many times throughout the cathedral.  Steve pointed out the ’33’ over and over as we toured.  Ceilings 16.5 feet tall (16.5×2=33), Rooms that are 66 feet wide or 99 foot square.  Floor tiles that are 33 inches by 33 inches…etc etc etc.  Very cool and interesting as well.

The auditorium

This gorgeous piece of architecture was built faster than any building of equal measure would be done today.  Work began in May 1927 and first event was held in July 1929!  Just over two years later!  Crazy fast!  Plus, it cost a whopping 2.5 million dollars to complete.

We visited several of the grand rooms within the Cathedral – the Ballroom with its ‘floating’ floor, Auditorium with 1200 seats, Lounge, Library and each were beautifully done with patterned ceilings, ornate carved woodwork, and stained-glass windows.

Steve with his ‘class’ photo

Our tour guide, Steve, is a 32nd degree.  We also had one other person on the tour with us, a gentleman who will be 90 next month.  He gets around better than a lot of 50-year-olds and exercises 3 to 5 days a week.  He is also a member of the Scottish Rite and had never toured the building…although he’d been there many times.

Elbert Bradshaw, our tour mate, class of 1951!

The last stop on the tour was the ‘Photo Room’.  Here there are pictures of every ‘graduating class’.  We found both Steve and Elbert’s pictures from when they joined – Steve in 1979  and Elbert in 1951!  So fun!

Our 1 hour tour took nearly 2 hours and we were fine with that!  It was awesome.  Steve even gave Michael his personal card, in case he ever needed anything.

Several of the rooms are available to rent for events such as weddings, graduations, plays, etc.  Wow, what be like to attend and event in the grandeur of the gorgeous place!

We headed home, hitting a little bit of Friday rush hour traffic but nothing terrible.  We stopped at El Jeffe in Edinburgh for an early dinner.  We were there shortly after we first arrived in the area and enjoyed it so much we wanted to go back.  I got the same thing (steak nachos) while Michael opted for a burrito this time.  Once again everything was very good and we enjoyed it thoroughly.

Back home not long after 5:00 pm we had lots of time to enjoy several episodes of Sons of Anarchy before calling it a day.



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