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Travel back in time underneath Indianapolis City Market

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — You can travel through time inside of Indianapolis City Market as Indiana Landmarks is offering limited guided tours of what lies beneath the building called the Catacombs.

The Catacombs may look like it contains crypts and bones, but it’s actually rows of brick archways made of limestone. 

In 1886, there were two public buildings on Market Street. City Market was downtown’s only grocery store at the time and remains a thriving part of the community.

Tour guide and Director of Volunteers and Heritage Experiences at Indiana Landmarks Kasey Zronek says City Market started as a place for farmers to bring in their produce and feed the urban population.

The second building was Tomlinson Hall, which was just next door.

“It had the vendor space on the first floor and then the second floor was this really large space that could hold about 4,200 people. I like to think of it as the convention center before we really had one,” Zronek said.

Tomlinson Hall burned down in January of 1958 and left tons of rubble in its place. Crews removed the remains of the building later that year. However, the bottom floor is still intact and the name Catacombs came to life.

“In the 1970s, there was a project proposed to reuse the space and they give it the formal name of the Catacombs, and it sort of stuck,” Zronek said. “What was a hidden space to the public is no longer a secret. Its purpose remains a mystery although the floor was originally used as storage space.”

The dark layer now serves as an event space rented out for parties, gatherings and even weddings. The Catacombs is one of many hidden gems lying underneath Indy’s history.

“The most important thing, I think, is that it’s still alive. It’s not just a historic structure; it’s one that’s still making history today,” Zronek said.

Indiana Landmarks said city officials adopted the theory that a pigeon picked up a cigarette and dropped it over the building as the cause of the fire at Tomlinson Hall.

The next scheduled tour is at 10 a.m. on Aug. 7. You can get tickets and find more information on the Catacombs here.

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