Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument Cartouche, Northeast Corner

Cartouche. One might be familiar with the term cartouche as the ellipse frame surrounding a group of Egyptian hieroglyphs. However, the term cartouche can also be applied to the oval or oblong objects, typically carved to resemble a scroll of parchment, with a circular center containing some type of inscription or relief decoration. In American architecture, cartouches are frequently found above entrances or on a primary facade. This allows the cartouche to feature decoration or information identifying the history or use of the structure; for example, the date of construction. Cartouches can be carved of a variety of materials, while Indiana limestone may be common to Indianapolis, you might also see cartouches of bronze, terracotta, or marble.

With a trained eye, you can find cartouches scattered across the historic structures of Indianapolis. Starting at the circle, the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument features cartouches on the limestone columns on its perimeter. This cartouche is a typical presentation, the scroll features around the central relief ornament. The bronze cartouche includes a relief with Americana ornament, featuring the stars and stripes with the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” across the center on a ribbon.

Tyndall-Moorhead Armory, 711 North Pennsylvania Street, with Cartouche

Another cartouche is found above the primary entrance at the Tyndall-Moorhead Armory (711 North Pennsylvania Street). This terracotta cartouche features a floral themed scroll surround, with an oval center relief. The relief on the armory cartouche includes American iconography, incorporating the eagle with stars and stripes, identifying its connection as a public structure.

The last example of cartouches is found at the entrance of the Turnverein building (902 North Meridian). This structure, historically built as a home for the German immigrant society named the Turner movement, was built in 1914 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Then why does the central cartouche feature the date of 1879? As it turns out, the Turner movement was founded in 1879 and that date was chosen to adorn the central cartouche above the entrance. Two other limestone cartouches, each with a scroll surround with a plain center, rest as ornament on top of the limestone columns.

Add it to your vocabulary – how might one use today’s Building Language term in their everyday life?

The only piece of information we have on the building’s history comes from the date found on the cartouche.

The Turnverein 902 N Meridian Street with Cartouches

One response to “Building Language: Cartouche”

  1. Dave Osborn, Indpls says:

    ““` Curious, I looked more closely at the photo of The Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument cartouche you use for your exemplar. It has a “Stars and Stripes” shield on it, bearing forty-five stars. A quick Web search showed that Old Glory had forty-five stars from 1896 (when Utah became a State) to1908 (marking Oklahoma’s admission to the Union.) This neatly brackets the timeframe in which the bronze cartouche must have been cast. Cool. (Presidents Cleveland, McKinley, and T. Roosevelt served under the forty-five star flag.)
    ““` I’m a fifth-generation Hoosier, and the Monument is my favorite piece of Indianapolis’ monumental architecture heritage. I’m always happy to learn something new about it.

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