Guided Tours Offer A Glimpse Of The ‘Catacombs’ Of Downtown Indianapolis | Indiana News


By RYAN TRARES, Daily Journal

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Through calm and shadows, the small group of history-conscious visitors literally stepped into the past.

The musty smell of damp air and dust filled the space. Electric lights attempted to illuminate the hallways between the brick arches, but intriguing pockets of darkness tempted exploration.

They call this place the catacombs, but the space under the Indianapolis City Market was not meant to be anyone’s final resting place. Rather, they are the remains of one of the city’s most ornate buildings from the early 20th century.

“People love to be underground. We don’t have a lot of opportunities to do it here, ”said Kasey Zronek, director of volunteers and heritage experiences for Indiana Landmarks. “Just walking in and seeing the remains of a place you wouldn’t be otherwise makes it truly unique.”

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Intrigued local residents are invited to travel in the dark on Indiana Landmarks’ new evening tours of the city’s Market Catacombs. On some Thursday evenings through October, people will be guided through the underground collection of brick arches, vaulted ceilings and raw limestone columns.

Along the way, guides from Indiana Landmarks will guide people through the history of the space, connecting it to the city’s current market and its vibrant role in the community. Events 21 and over will include photo op props and drink specials created especially for the event.

“It’s another way to connect people to the story and reach a larger audience,” Zronek said. “We decided to take the catacombs tour and make some adjustments, to try it in a different way.”

The series of arcades and hallways are what remains of a once iconic Indianapolis building. Tomlinson Hall was an imposing building that could accommodate 3,500 people, located next to the existing town market.

The Great Hall was designed by Dietrich Bohlen, the same man who created the town market and the Morris-Butler house nearby. Construction was completed in 1886 and the imposing building housed orchestral performances and other cultural events.

John Phillip Sousa has conducted concerts in space. The first basketball game ever played in Indianapolis – featuring Yale University against players from the local YMCA – was at Tomlinson Hall. Olympic star Jesse Owens spoke at a political rally there, and the Anti-Saloon League held a large convention in the hall during their campaign for the ban.

“I like to think of it as the convention center before we have one,” Zronek said.

For 71 years, the room has been a centerpiece of downtown Indianapolis. But on January 30, 1958, a fire broke out in Tomlinson Hall. More than 20 fire trucks attempted to save the structure and their hoses flooded the streets around the building.

“But they couldn’t save Tomlinson Hall,” Zronek said.

The walls were still standing, but the interior had collapsed. It would have been far too expensive to rebuild.

Above ground, the only indication that Tomlinson Hall had existed is a single arch that stands in the pedestrian plaza. But underground, its story survives. Brick arches, limestone columns and other architectural elements create a unique atmosphere.

In recent years, events such as yoga classes, bourbon tastings, and haunted houses have taken place in the catacombs. A couple even rented the space to host a wedding, Zronek said.

“It’s still a very active space,” she said.

Since 2012, Indiana Landmarks has been organizing space tours on select Saturday mornings from May through October. The events turned out to be so popular that the organizers wanted to expand their offering with a new type of tour.

Night tours take place in the evening, creating a different vibe than the daytime versions. Tours are also longer than those on Saturdays, allowing Indiana Landmarks tour guides to provide more detail and history.

Participants meet on the second floor of the City Market, near the aptly named Tomlinson Tap Room. Before embarking on the adults-only tour, people can purchase an Indiana beer or other beverage to take with them.

“People will have one or two more stories and have more time in the catacombs. We will also set up a table with photo props so people can commemorate their experience, ”Zronek said.

City Market Catacombs Night Tour

What: A 45-minute tour of the remains of the old Tomlinson Hall, a space that has been dubbed the Catacombs.

When: Tours take place every 30 minutes from 4:45 p.m., with the last visit at 7:15 p.m.

Dates: Sept. 9 and 23 and Oct. 7 and 21

Cost: $ 15 for the general public; $ 12 for Indiana Landmarks members

Tickets: Tickets must be purchased in advance at, or by contacting Indiana Landmarks at 317-639-4534 or [email protected]


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