Indianapolis: Sacred Spaces

Tour curated by: Lyndsey Blair, Nicholas K. Johnson, John Sureck

What is a sacred space? For the following stories, “sacred” refers to places that have been (and continue to be) regarded with reverence by the people of Indianapolis. This includes traditional religious spaces such as churches, synagogues, and cemeteries. Other sites that have occupied a “sacred” position among specific Indianapolis groups are featured as well.

For example, many Hoosiers have visited the Circle City’s war memorials and monuments to honor the country’s war dead. Others have gone to one of Indianapolis’ most famed sports arenas to witness the nation’s best athletes compete. Meanwhile, members of a noted fraternal organization built one of Indy’s largest temples as a meeting ground for their organization, while another venue was established to provide the city’s African American community with first-rate entertainment. Finally, female shoppers regularly went to a popular downtown department store that was noted for its quality products, top-notch service, and numerous holiday events. Each site holds deep meaning for different groups in Indianapolis.

In the end, the purpose of this tour is to provide a glimpse at the diversity of revered establishments throughout the city. We also hope that the following stories will encourage you to consider what “sacred” means to you.

Locations for Tour

You're standing in front of Etz Chaim Sephardic Congregation's current synagogue. The members of this congregation have fostered and maintained Sephardic laws, customs, and traditions in Indianapolis for over a century. Sephardic Jews are…

Rising 168 feet above you, St. Mary’s Catholic Church opened in 1912, though the German Catholic parishioners of Saint Mary’s built their first church in Indianapolis 1858. For more than 150 years St. Mary’s parish has been dedicated to…

Crown Hill Cemetery has served the Indianapolis area for more than 150 years as both a place of interment and a peaceful green space within the city. The burial ground sees more than 25,000 visitors annually; beyond those attending services, many…

As you stand in the Indiana War Memorial Plaza, look north and south and take a moment to consider the vast scope of this area of remembrance. Although the plaza is now dedicated to all of Indiana’s veterans, it was initially designed specifically…

L.S. Ayres Department Store was located at the intersection of Washington and Meridian Streets from 1905 to 1992. L.S. Ayres was not just a department store, but an experience that transformed the way women participated in urban society. While public…

Nicknamed “Indiana’s Basketball Cathedral” by ESPN, the Hinkle Fieldhouse, formerly known as the Butler Fieldhouse, is one of the best known and oldest continually used college basketball arenas in the world. Listed as a National Historic…

You are standing in front of the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument within Monument Circle. Although the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument primarily honors Indiana’s Civil War veterans, it also honors veterans from all American wars up…