The “Garrison” Flag is the largest American flag flown over a military installation

The Indiana War Memorial, the southern bookend of the American Legion Mall is imposing, impressive and not frequently visited by locals. The monument was constructed after World War I (between 1926-1933) for $2.2 million dollars. Speaking with Brigadier General, J. Stewart Goodwin last week, we discussed some thoughts on why more locals don’t visit. One assertion is that some people didn’t realize there is, in fact, an inside TO visit. And if there weren’t, it would still be a beautiful structure. But there IS an inside to visit–and days worth of exploring to do. You may do so Wednesdays-Sundays between 9am and 5pm and admission is free.

There is a substantial museum in the basement (30,000 square feet!) with military memorabilia from all the wars in which Hoosiers have participated; Pershing Auditorium is a breath-taking space, used for a variety of events, including weddings and even Governor Mitch Daniels’ response to the President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address; and the crown jewel: The Shrine Room, located above Pershing Auditorium.

Thought and meaning went into the most minute of design choices throughout this structure, but today, we will share highlights from The Shrine Room, probably the most replete with meaning, and in need of a decoder or really great tour guide, as I was afforded with General Goodwin.

Upon entering The Shrine Room, there are many elements competing for your attention, let’s decode some of the symbolism within the space–you can impress your friends and family when you visit:

  • General ‘Blackjack’ Pershing himself laid the cornerstone of this monument on July 4, 1927
  • Stone cutters and craftsmen from the six major countries who fought in World War I to create this monument (representing USA, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Serbia and Italy)
  • There are other flags inside the room which represent other countries who provided service members for the efforts of World War I.
  • The Garrison flag hangs in the center of the room, below the ‘Star of Destiny’ the Swedish crystal chandelier.
  • The colors of the American flag are represented in various elements of the room: Blue, representing freedom, is showcased in the beautiful stained glass windows that flank the space, and in the heavenly lights installed at the top of the space. The exterior is highlighted in blue at night time also, as representing freedom.
  • Red, representing the blood shed for our country, is represented in the red Vermont marble used to construct the columns, which stand 40 feet in height, on the four sides of the room.

The 40 foot columns are made from red Vermont marble

  • White, representing purity, is utilized in the frieze that lines the four walls, under the blue glass windows
  • The north wall frieze represents preparation for the war; the south side represents victory and the east and west sides show depictions of the war

    The frieze depicts the story of World War I

  • ┬áThe chandelier is known as a “Star of Destiny,” known as a symbol of hope within the United States in the 1920’s and 30’s.

  • Above the 40 foot red Vermont marble columns is a cat walk (not open to the public) that has above it, the names of all the states and territories that were part of the USA at that time, for example “The Canal Zone,” is now known as the Panama Canal. From the ground, you cannot currently read the names.

Stars and state names that line the top of the room, difficult to see…

Indiana’s marker, closer-up

And a closer up view of the decorative papers that line the upper recesses of the ceiling and walls, above the state medallions and aglow in heavenly blue light:


4 responses to “Indiana War Memorial, Shrine Room- 10 Elements Decoded”

  1. Bryan Fisher says:

    What an absolutely amazing tour you were able to get. I am envious. I try to visit the monument whenever I am in town. It is funny that people in Indy don’t realize the jewels they drive(rarely walk) past every day.

  2. Tom Davis says:

    I haven’t been inside for awhile but I’m sure I’ll go back soon. I used to work across the street and often wandered the building during my lunch hour. The video captured its beauty well (and honestly, it looks like they may have done some major cleaning since the early 90s that really bring out that beauty.) Everyone should make a point of going inside. Like you, they’ll be surprised.

    Both you and Nickerson Films did a great job on this!

  3. Tom Renick says:

    I was born in 1940 at Methodist Hospital and used to visit the War memorial many times as a child. I also enjoyed going to the Soldiers and Sailors monument old picture gallery in the basement. I moved to Florida 50 years ago and when I visit my old hometown I wonder if the money spent on the World War memorial might have been better spent on a Stadium like Philadelphia or Chicago did.

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