All Indiana

Tours offer a look at Indianapolis’s history, below the surface

It is a chance to go below the surface and step back in time. Down in the bowels beneath the Indianapolis City Market, there are roughly 20-thousand square feet of darkened passageways lined with brick archways and limestone columns known as the Indianapolis Catacombs. Indianapolis Landmarks offers tours of the eerily empty passages.

On a recent spring afternoon, this reporter was treated to a personal tour of the subterranean hallways filled with cool, dank air where goods and ice were transported and stored for the marketplace above.

Above these passageways once stood Tomlinson Hall, a public gathering place and auditorium adjacent to the Indianapolis City Market. Tomlinson Hall was built in the late 19th century. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the venue hosted everything from a music festival featuring John Phillip Sousa to a political rally addressed by famed Olympian Jesse Owens. In 1958, Tomlinson Hall was consumed by a massive fire and later torn down. All that remains of the structure are the catacombs below.

“The catacombs are the foundation for Tomlinson Hall,” said Kasey Zronek of Indianapolis Landmarks as she walked me through the darkness punctuated by bare lightbulbs casting ghostly light against the worn brick walls.

The musty smell in the darkened corridors got this reporter thinking about the catacombs of a bygone era when subterranean passageways might contain skeletons or decomposing dead bodies.

“Are the catacombs haunted?” I asked Zronek as we strolled through a cool, hard, dirt-floored ingress.

“It’s a great question,” she said with a wry smile. “I will let our viewers decide for themselves. There are a few paranormal groups that have been down and have done recordings. I encourage folks to go to YouTube and take a look at those and decide what they think.”

Throughout the spring and summer, Indiana Landmarks is offering adult tours of the catacombs.

“We’re doing one catacomb after-hours tour session a month,” said Zronek. Those are forty-five-minute tours instead of half an hour. We encourage folks to stop by Tomlinson Tap and grab a beer and bring it down with them.”

For more information about all of the many catacomb tours and tours of other landmark locations, visit: https://www.indianalandmarks.org/