16 Indianapolis sightseeing

[Indiana Capitol]

Architecture buff Hopper would have a field day with the bevy of beautiful buildings left downtown. (Even the New York Times said about Indianapolis, "It's a hell of a city if you just give it a chance.") The domed State Capitol is built with Indiana's famous limestone. The International Association of Architects designated the gray block Scottish Rite Cathedral "one of the seven most beautiful buildings in the world" shortly after its completion in 1929. The Indiana Theater is a rococo confection on Washington Street, and the 1909 Murat Theatre is a vision from the tales of Aladdin.

Minarets launch up from the Murat's light-and-dark striped walls riddled with windows flaunting leaded glass images of a curved sword dangling a crescent moon and star. This ornate piece of Morocco dropped on New Jersey Street is a perfect Hopper subject: breathtakingly beautiful and horrifyingly out of context. Right across from the Murat stands the 1897 Renaissance Revival-style German cultural center, the Athenaeum (changed from Das Deutsche Haus due to World War I anti-German sentiments). The building was designed by Bernhard Vonnegut, grandfather of writer Kurt Vonnegut Jr.--probably Indianapolis's most famous son besides David Letterman, who once bagged groceries and spouted weather forecasts here.

Now, Indianapolis has made itself famous as the nation's amateur athletics capital and home to the world's largest single-day sporting event: the Indianapolis 500 car race. The college basketball tournament also often comes here, where basketball fever is known as "Hoosier hysteria," inspiring Hollywood to name its film devoted to high school basketball Hoosiers. (The origin of the word "Hoosier" is unknown, and there are dozens of theories about it.) [Hopper drew this illustration]

As I walked the city's open spaces, flat terrain, and sparsely populated streets, the place felt as if the air had been sucked out. This may explain "Hoosier hospitality:" in this atmosphere, even the least interaction with another person qualifies as entertainment.

No comments: