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Lack of funds hinders repairs to Soldiers and Sailors Monument

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -- The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum in the basement of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument remained closed Thursday with no re-opening date in sight.

The museum is managed by the nonprofit Indiana War Memorials Foundation. Its executive director, J. Stewart Goodwin, explained to 24-Hour News 8 that the closure is due to a round of flooding that occurred in the fall that still hasn't been addressed.

He said fall rains leaked through the structure sending water onto the floor and down the walls of the museum. No artifacts were damaged, but the museum closed immediately and artifacts were slowly removed as the months passed, with the last items making the trip to the Indiana War Memorial Museum last week.

"We've done several projects down there in the last four of five years," Goodwin said, referencing water damage that closed the facility in May and extensive renovations from 2013 to 2015.

He said he discovered the water had returned last year.

"Nothing surprises me anymore," he said.

Goodwin and his staff said the responsibility now shifts to the Indiana State Department of Administration, which oversees repair projects to state properties like monuments and museums.

24-Hour News Eight contacted the Department of Administration, which at first could not locate a report from Goodwin about the museum. They then submitted this statement, saying the main reason for the repair delay is funding:

IDOA is in discussion with the Indiana War Memorial Commission about the water infiltration issues with the skylights and limestone foundation at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Once the Commission identifies the needed funding for the project, we will be able to provide a better idea of the timeline for next steps.

Meanwhile, tourists and locals are faced with barred doors at one of the most iconic landmarks in Indianapolis.

"I remember coming here when I was a kid with my mother," said Shabaka Lands, a Hoosier native taking photos near the monument Thursday. "I hope it opens back up again and kids get a chance to come down here."

"I just love coming down here. It's a great break from my work," said Adam Lara of Greenwood, who was in Indianapolis on Thursday on business. "I think it would be great to have it open for tourism's sake."

Touring is exactly what the Lemont family were doing Thursday when they were met with padlocks on the museum doors.

"I am from Peoria, Illinois," said Becky Lemont, "and we're visiting today because my husband had an appointment at the VA (Veterans Affairs) hospital."

Her husband, Joe Lemont, said, "We came over last night and decided to see part of the city today. Came up to see the veteran's monument."

The two were flanked by their son and an exchange student in their care from Finland, Otto Lahdesuv.

As a 22-year Navy veteran himself, Joe Lemont especially wanted to take his family to the Civil War museum in the basement.

"Surprised and shocked. It was such a beautiful environment when we went and looked at it before last year," he said after being turned away at the doors. "Kind of surprised that they wouldn't have it properly affixed and repaired."

"I'm kinda bummed. We brought our son from Finland to watch it and we don't get to show it to him today," said Becky Lemont. "That is a real disappointment because I think they're fixing it and we're still having these issues, So, c'mon, let's get it together."

While the Civil War museum is closed, the artifacts are on display at the Indiana War Memorial Museum, along with the popular Civil War cannon.

The monument's observatory deck and gift shop are open despite the museum's closure. Visitors can ride the elevator or take the stairs to the top of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument form 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the winter.


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