Indiana State House Tour

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

David Smitherman
11 min readJul 4, 2022

The Indiana State House was completed in 1888 after ten years of construction. It is located on a landscaped square in the center of Indianapolis Indiana facing east toward the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, which is also included in this article. The main visitor entrance is on the first floor below the portico at the top of the staircase shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. East entrance.

The west side shown in Figure 2 has a handicap accessibility entrance provided at ground level.

The State House was designed by the architect Edwin May who died in 1880 before the construction was complete, so his associate, Adolf Scherrer, completed the design and supervised the construction. The design is in a Neoclassical architectural style with Corinthian and Italian Renaissance elements. Interior modernization updates were made in the 1920s, 1960s, and 1970s. In 1988, a major restoration was completed by the Cooler Group Architects that restored most of the State House to closely match its original design and grandeur. This is the fourth building used as a State House since Indiana became a state in 1816.

Figure 2. West entrance.

The first State House was in Corydon Indiana. It was built in 1813 and used as the Indiana Territorial Capitol until Indiana became a state in 1816, and then used as the State Capitol until 1824. Today Indiana’s First State Capitol is a museum and part of the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site. The building was designed by William Mitchel and the George L. Mesker & Co. in a Federal architectural style, Figure 3.

Figure 3. First Indiana State House in Corydon Indiana.

In 1824 the state government moved to Indianapolis, so the second State House was jointly used with the Marion County Courthouse in Indianapolis. The courthouse building was built in 1822 and designed by an unknown architect in a Federal architectural style with some Italianate and Queen Anne elements, Figure 4. In 1876 the old courthouse was demolished and replaced with a larger facility.

Figure 4. Second Indiana State House, Indianapolis Indiana.

The third State House was built in 1840 which is sometimes noted to be the first Capitol building in Indianapolis. The architect’s winning design competition rendering is shown in Figure 5. It was designed by Town and Davis Architects in a Greek Revival architectural style as directed somewhat by the design competition rules. Its appearance was not popular in part because of the dome structure that did not blend very well with the Greek Parthenon design. By 1877 it had to be demolished due to structural issues with the foundation that could not be economically repaired. This led to a competition for the fourth and current State House standing today by the architects Edwin May and Adolph Scherrer.

Figure 5. Third Indiana State House.

The Indiana State House used many artisans to embellish the interior and exterior structure. Figure 6 features two gables at the southwest corner that match two more at the southeast corner and two at the north end on the east and west face of the building. The north end of the building has less adornment as if an addition were planned for that end at one time.

Figure 6. Exterior gable details.

The south end of the State House, Figure 7, features the sculptures “The Westward Journey” by Herman Carl Mueller, which were completed and installed above the portico in 1887.

Figure 7. South entrance.

“The Westward Journey” features a Native American Family, a Reaper or farmer harvesting wheat, a Blacksmith, and a Pioneer Family, Figure 8.

Figure 8. “The Westward Journey” by sculptor Herman Carl Mueller, 1887.

The State House Dome is somewhat blocked from view on the east and west sides due to the extensions of the east and west porticos behind which the House and Senate Chambers are located. The best views of the Dome are from a distance or at an angle from the corners, Figure 9.

Figure 9. The State House dome.

The State House Interior

Inside the State House the first floor entrances lead directly to the Rotunda where the Dome above provides light through an art glass ceiling. At the second level are eight sculptures watching over the Rotunda, Figure 10.

Figure 10. The Rotunda.

The sculpture grouping in the Rotunda is known as the “Values of Civilization” by sculptor Alexander Doyle. They represent Agriculture, Art, Commerce, History, Justice, Law, Liberty, and Oratory, Figures 11 and 12.

Figure 11. The “Values of Civilization” by sculptor Alexander Doyle, 1880s.
Figure 12. The “Values of Civilization” by sculptor Alexander Doyle, 1880s.

To the north and south of the Rotunda are three story galleries with skylights above that provide natural lighting in the daytime, Figure 13.

Figure 13. The galleries.

At night, interior lighting is provided with ceiling hung and wall mounted fixtures that were originally wired for electricity, an advanced undertaking at that time in 1888. The local utility could not supply the power needed at that time so they were reworked to use gas and then later converted back to electricity in a 1920 renovation, Figure 14.

Figure 14. The skylights and illumination of the galleries.

Along the walls of the galleries on every level are sculptures of important figures in Indiana history. They include George Washington by sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon, George Rogers Clark by sculptor David McLary, and Calvin Fletcher by an unknown sculptor in Figure 15.

Figure 15. Gallery sculptures of historical figures.

Abraham Lincoln by sculptor Thomas Dow Jones, Richard Owen by sculptor Belle Kinney, and Stephen Neal by sculptor Clara Barth Leonard in Figure 16.

Figure 16. Gallery sculptures of historical figures.

Ashbel Parsons Willard by sculptor Henry Dexter, William H. English by an unknown sculptor, and Daniel Wolsey Voorhees by his son sculptor James Paxton Voorhees in Figure 17.

Figure 17. Gallery sculptures of historical figures.

Benjamin Harrison by sculptor Richard Peglow, James Sidney Hinton by sculptor Jon Hair, Henry F. Schricker by sculptor David Kresz Rubins in Figure 18.

Figure 18. Gallery sculptures of historical figures.

Sherman Minton by sculptor Robert Merrill Gage, “Indiana” by sculptor Retta Matthews, and Matthew E. Welsh by sculptor Daniel Edwards in Figure 19.

Figure 19. Gallery sculptures of historical figures.

Robert D. Orr by sculptor Donald Ingle, Edgar D. Whitcomb by sculptor Greg Harris, Otis R. Bowen by sculptor Lou Ann Lanagan in Figure 20.

Figure 20. Gallery sculptures of historical figures.

Frank L. O’Bannon by sculptor Kenneth G. Ryden, and Julia May Carson by sculptor Jon Hair in Figure 21.

Figure 21. Gallery sculptures of historical figures.

The Indiana State House includes primary meeting chambers for all three branches of government, the Governor, the Indiana Supreme Court, and the Indiana General Assembly which includes the Senate and House of Representatives.

The Supreme Court Hearing Room in Figure 22 and the Governors Suite were restored maintaining their original Victorian elegances. But the House and Senate Chambers had been extensively modernized in the 1960s and 1970s and so were not included in the 1988 restoration.

Figure 22. The Indiana Supreme Court hearing room.

The Senate Chambers was modernized in the 1970s and includes a visitor gallery off to one side, Figure 23.

Figure 23. Senate Chambers.

The House Chambers in Figure 24 was modernized in the 1960s and includes a visitor gallery that wraps around the back and sides with a large mural at the front known as the “Spirit of Indiana” by artist Eugene F. Savage.

Figure 24. House Chambers.

The “Spirit of Indiana” was originally called the “Apotheosis of Indiana (1860 to 1960)” Figure 25, eluding to the State’s grandness over time. The mural depicts Education on the left along with a variety of issues the state has dealt with over the years. Near the center, Indiana a female, is escorted by William Henry Harrison a military officer and the 9th President of the United States. On the right are figures representing the agriculture and industry of the state.

Figure 25. House Chambers mural the “Spirit of Indiana” by artist Eugene F. Savage, 1964.

The State House Grounds

Outside, the State House grounds have corner markers displaying the Indiana State Seal, Figure 26, and a number of sculptures depicting historical figures and abstract art on the east, west, and south sides. The north side is primarily an employee parking area that is sized to someday become an extension to the grounds.

Figure 26. Corner markers on the State House grounds.

Thomas Andrew Hendricks, Governor and Vice President, is flanked by two allegorical figures representing “History” and “Justice” by sculptor Richard Henry Park in Figure 27.

Figure 27. Thomas Andrews Hendricks by sculptor Richard Henry Parks, 1890.

George Washington by sculptor Donald De Lue, and a Coal Miner by sculptor John J. Szaton in Figure 28.

Figure 28. George Washington by sculptor Donald De Lue, 1959, and the Coal Miner by sculptor John J. Szaton, 1963.

The sculpture of Christopher Columbus by Enrico Vittori, Figure 29, includes three reliefs around the base, one of which along with a plaque has drawn criticism over the years. Discussions are ongoing about removal of this stature due to the statement “perineal genius of the Italian race” in the plaque and character depictions making women and minority races subject to white men.

Figure 29. Christopher Columbus by sculptor Enrico Vittori, 1920.

Oliver Perry Morton, Governor during the Civil War, by sculptor Rudolf Schwartz, is flanked by two soldiers in Figure 30.

Figure 30. Oliver Perry Morton by sculptor Rudolf Schwarz, 1907.

Two relief sculptures by Rudolf Schwarz depict Governor Morton visiting an infirmary tent during the Civil War in Figure 31 and giving a speech in Figure 32.

Figure 31. Relief sculpture by Rudolf Schwarz.
Figure 32. Relief sculpture by Rudolf Schwarz.

There are several abstract sculptures on the west side shown in Figure 33 that do not provide identification as to their name or the sculptor.

Figure 33. Unidentified abstract sculptures.

The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

To the east is the Soldiers’ and Sailors Monument on Monument Circle, in line with the State House as if it is a part of the State House grounds, Figure 34. It is a Neoclassical design by architect Bruno Schmitz, and includes numerous sculptures by Rudolf Schwarz, Nikolaus Geiger, George T. Brewster, John H. Mahoney, and Franklin Simmons.

Figure 34. The State House grounds and Monument Circle.

Monument Circle has had several different names and functions over the years since the State House was established in Indianapolis. This included a governors residence, park grounds, and public space for protests and celebrations. In 1888 a competition was held for a veterans monument to be constructed which was won by the architect Bruno Schmitz with the rendering shown in Figure 35. The construction was completed in 1902.

Figure 35. “The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument” by architect Bruno Schmitz, 1888.

The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument faces south and is crowned with “Victory” also known as Miss Indiana by sculptor George Brewster, Figure 36. Brewster also provided three astragals that wrap the monument at the lower and upper segments.

Figure 36. “Victory” by George Brewster, 1902.

Rudolf Schwarz provided a majority of the sculptural work at the Monument which included “War” and “The Dying Soldier” on the east face, Figure 37.

Figure 37. “War” and “The Dying Soldier” by Rudolf Schwarz, 1890s.

“Peace” and “The Return Home” on the west side facing the State House, Figure 38.

Figure 38. “Peace” and “The Return Home” by Rudolf Schwarz, 1890s.

“Artillery” and “Navy” flanking a tablet on the north face with statistical information on the War with Mexico, the Indian and British War, the War of the Revolution, and the Mexican Border Service, Figure 39.

Figure 39. “Artillery” and “Navy” by Rudolf Schwarz, 1890s.

“Infantry” and “Calvary” flanking a tablet on the south face with statistical information on the War for the Union and the War with Spain, Figure 40.

Figure 40. “Infantry” and “Calvary” by Rudolf Schwarz, 1890s.

The four corners of the monument grounds include George Rogers Clark, William H. Harrison, and James Whitcomb by sculptor John Mahoney, and Oliver P Morton by sculptor Franklin Simmons, Figure 41.

Figure 41. George Rogers Clark, William H. Harrison, and James Whitcomb by sculptor John Mahoney, 1895, and Oliver P Morton by sculptor Franklin Simmons, 1884.

The interior of the Monument includes a stair and elevator to an observation deck near the top of the Monument, and a gift shop and museum below the monument, Figure 42, which were not accessible on this visit, but hopefully will be on future visits.

Figure 42. Monument interior.

The Tours

The Indiana State House is located in Indianapolis Indiana along the White River near the center of the state. North of Indianapolis are large expanses of agricultural land that is relatively flat with low rolling hills, and south of Indianapolis are more wooded areas and rugged terrain where the White River flows to the Wabash River along the southwest border with Illinois and then down to the Ohio River.

Tour 1: October 11, 2019

The first tour was part of a multi-day extension to a business trip to Louisville Kentucky. I took the next day off and toured the Visitor Center in Columbus Indiana to plan a future architectural tour, and then the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I discovered that there are no Tesla supercharger sites between Louisville and Indianapolis for my 2018 Model 3, so my future trip to Columbus for their architectural tour would have to be carefully planned. Indianapolis does have a supercharger downtown just a couple blocks from the State House and their city buses are all electric, so good planning!

Sadly it rained all day which limited my exterior photography, so I decided to plan a second trip.

Figure 43. Tour 1 in October 2019.

Tour 2: May 23, 2022

This tour was done on a return trip from Boston Massachusetts with overnight stays in Cleveland Ohio and Columbus Indiana. I was using a loaner car, a 2017 Model S, while my Model 3 was in the shop having some warranty work done. The weather was great so I was able to photograph the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument and retake the exterior State House images plus a few I missed on the interior.

Figure 44. Tour 2 in May 2022.

Notes and References:

Story, photographs and slides by David Smitherman, and data collected from onsite inscriptions and brochures, Wikipedia, and Google Maps.



David Smitherman

Retired architect and space architect from NASA. Married with a growing family. Currently into travel, historical architecture, photography and genealogy.