Summary of History and Significance
Monument Circle District is located in Center Township, in the center of the original Mile Square plat which dates back to the founding of Indianapolis. Platted in 1821, the City was designed by prominent planner Alexander Ralston and influenced by the Pierre L'Enfant plan for Washington, D.C. It consisted of a mile-square grid with a circular street centered in the gridded plat, named "Circle Street". Less than one hundred years later the street would be renamed Monument Circle and the location of the City's unofficial symbol, the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
Ralston's plan also designated Washington Street as the principal street in the new city. Its extra width and the fact that public land and major public buildings fronted it are evidence of the street's importance. Washington Street also became a portion of the National Road, the first federally funded interstate highway stretching through six states from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois.
Monument Circle District is located in the heart of this historic plat, today known as downtown Indianapolis. It includes surviving resources of the historic downtown established in the nineteenth century and resources from the early, mid- and late-twentieth century. It contains both historic and architecturally significant buildings constructed in a variety of styles, materials, shapes, and sizes. Its streets symbolize a mix of unique functions: Washington Street historically commanded great prominence as Indianapolis' "Main Street," while the two blocks of East Market Street developed as the city's financial district. Monument Circle evolved from a residential neighborhood into an urban public plaza with landmark buildings encircling and framing the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
Even though Urban Renewal and the growth of suburban retail slowly eroded Indianapolis' urban core in the 1960s and 1970s, the economic revitalization efforts of the 1980s and 1990s introduced new buildings bringing business, retail, and entertainment venues to the area. Combined with the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an urban bike and pedestrian path installed in the early twenty-first century to connect the city's core to other area attractions, these improvements have given downtown a new lease on life.
It is this amazing collection of resources that defines downtown Indianapolis.
The district boundary is based on the Washington Street-Monument Circle National Register Historic District, which was listed in 1997. It is generally bounded by East and West Ohio Street to the north, East and West Maryland Street to the south, North Delaware Street to the east, and North Capitol Avenue to the west. It includes the first two blocks of East and West Washington Street and East and West Market Street, and all four quadrants of Monument Circle. The boundary also incorporates the public rights-of-way of North Illinois Street, North Meridian Street, and North Pennsylvania Street, as well as the first block of Virginia Avenue.
The following documents are various sections from the Monument Circle District Preservation Plan. The plan was approved by the IHPC and adopted by the Metropolitan Development Commission at public hearings.