Preservation group runs wildlife-focused Indy tours

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Downtown Indianapolis can be a wild place at times.

Lions roar along the sidewalks. Turtles glance at passers-by. Bison and bears keep watch along Monument Circle.

A whole menagerie can be found on the buildings, fountains, sculptures and lampposts around the city. People just need to know where to look.

Curious and adventurous alike are invited on a safari through downtown Indianapolis, looking for bears, bison, frogs, and fish among the city’s architectural features. Indiana Landmarks, a statewide preservation group, and the Indiana War Memorials Commission are hosting the Indy Downtown Safari on July 31.

The 45-minute family tours include activities and stories about the symbolism behind the sculptures and ornaments on display. Organizers hope to inspire wonder and appreciation for Indy’s unique structures.

“If you don’t live there or are not there very often, it’s very easy to miss these things,” said Kasey Zronek, director of volunteers and heritage experiences for Indiana Landmarks. “One of the things we love to do on our tours is to introduce people to some of these things that they maybe don’t see every day. And we can tell them the story behind it, so the next time they’re downtown, they can share it too.

Indiana Landmarks is a nonprofit organization that helps people save and revitalize historic structures statewide. Notable projects of the organization include the restored Morris-Butler House in Indianapolis, the renovation of the Ayres Clock in downtown and the hope of revitalizing the Beth-El Temple.

The idea of ​​the downtown safari arose out of tours organized by Indiana Landmarks for school groups. Part of the tours is to point out historical and interesting architectural elements, and the organizers realized that these elements were often animals.

So they decided to organize a new event focused specifically on the hidden wildlife represented around Indianapolis.

“We knew we wanted to be downtown because we love to bring people to downtown Indianapolis. We thought about the monuments there and surrounding buildings, as well as the university park, which has some interesting sculptures, ”Zronek said.

With that in mind, the organizers of Indiana Landmarks have put together a list of animal-themed items in the areas centered around Monument Circle.

Some are quite obvious and well known. The DePew Fountain at University Park, a serene green space south of the Indiana War Memorial, features carved fish sculptures on the fountain itself. In the fountain basin, other fish sculptures project water.

Visitors to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument certainly saw the buffalo heads displayed around a fountain – believed to symbolize early Indiana history, Zronek said – and the bears on the lampposts at the monument.

“We also have horses, panthers, fish and wolves,” Zronek said. “There are actually a lot of animals there. “

But others probably go unnoticed unless you spend a lot of time downtown, Zronek said.

At the Columbia Club, frogs carved into the facade of the building lurk in an ordinary site. Hieroglyphic animals dot the Circle Tower, in keeping with its ancient Egyptian theme. Flying eagles were trained on the decorative lampposts of the Birch Bayh Federal Building.

“We are always looking for ways to encourage people – especially children – to look around, to examine details of buildings and other things,” Zronek said.

Visits will take place every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on July 31. People will meet at University Park and then go on a field trip. Groups of around fifteen people will be paired with a guide who will guide them through the various attractions.

As part of the event, the Indiana War Memorials Commission will also offer activities and self-guided tours of its monuments.

Each visit lasts approximately 45 minutes and will take place regardless of the weather. The event is open to everyone.

“There will be stories and activities along the way. Then, when they return to University Park, tents will be set up where people can do creative activities, ”Zronek said.

If you are going to

Safari in downtown Indy

What: A public tour of Indiana Landmarks and the Indiana War Memorials Commission that explores the stone and metal “wildlife” in downtown Indianapolis architecture and sculpture, including bears, bison, frogs and fish.

When: Every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on July 31

Where: Tours depart from University Park, 307 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis

Cost: $ 5 per person (6 years and over), $ 3 per Indiana Landmarks member (6 years and over). Children 5 and under are free.

RSVP: indydowntownsafari.eventbrite.com or by calling 317-639-4534.


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