A Catacombs tour in Indianapolis

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Sara Broers of Travels With Sara and I had just wrapped up a whirlwind day at the Indy Media Marketplace before we headed to Indianapolis for a guided tour of what lies beneath the Indianapolis City Center.  While I didn’t get a first-hand close up glance I could see glimpses of the amazing Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument,  a 284 foot 6 in  neoclassical monument built on Monument Circle and it was quite beautiful.  The architecture and bustling traffic was both impressive and daunting since our first goal was parking.  After circling the City Center a couple of times, we secured a parking place in a lot and paid, but the parking envelope would not go down far in the parking  box. Worried about this, we spied an unusual site, a policeman in a broken down police vehicle waiting for assistance. Sara explained our dilemma and he assured us that our parking would be covered and safe so we left the gentleman waiting for his own help and headed on to meet our guide and another fellow writer in the City Center.

Joe Perin, our guide

We saw the writer right away, and quickly Joe Perin, our guide and the Public Relations and Events Manager for the City Market, came to meet us.  Established in 1886, the market itself is a historic landmark and was quite fascinating both inside and out.  Vendors were set up in this huge building that was an original farmers market where locals came to find fresh meat, vegetables and wares.  Listed on the historic register, I would have liked more time just checking out what the vendors had to offer, but Joe had other plans. He whisked us to the catacombs and took us beneath!

The beautiful City Center

The catacombs he told us are what remains of Tomlinson Hall, an imposing building whose main hall seated 3,500 people. Tomilson Hall was designed by Dietrich Bohlen  in 1886 to complement his earlier work at City Market. Joe said that Tomlinson Hall burned in January 1958, turning Market Street into an icy lake as firefighters battled the blaze. While the city took down the remains later that year and created what is now the City Center, what is below remains and can now be toured as the catacombs. The Roman looking catacombs have scores of brick barrel-vaulted arches that remain from what was the basement of Tomlinson Hall.

The catacombs beneath the City Center.

This area is often used as a venue for a variety of events and was quite fascinating.  Joe told us many stories but I won’t spoil the fun so that you can tour this yourself and see the wonder of this early architecture. One story though that I will share is that 100 years ago during a very cold winter the then Mayor of Indianapolis allowed the homeless of Indy shelter in this huge underground area.

What a fun tour.  It is fascinating to see this area that is such an architectural wonder and a  still a vibrant, albeit a bit scary space today.

To tour, tickets must be purchased in advance, using the online form  at Indiana Landmarks,  or call 317-639-4534 for tickets.

Be sure to take time to look both above and below when  coming to this fascinating place.  You can shop, you can eat, and you can tour. There are also lots of fun places for photo ops as well!

The City Market team has a goal, “The Indianapolis City Market aims to provide an exceptional dining, gathering, recreational, and event location in Indianapolis. We strive to provide diverse and quality food options, unique goods, and high quality services. We host and work to create exciting programming for a variety of audiences, and to provide fun and thoughtful activities for people of all ages. We are proud to serve as a small business incubator. We work to support local businesses, non-profits, the local economy overall, and the resiliency of Indianapolis as a whole.”

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