Any visitor exploring the bustling streets of Indiana’s capital Indianapolis would hardly guess that a network of abandoned subterranean tunnels lie underneath. Below the famous City Market is an incredible 20,000 sq ft expanse of brick-arched passageways, that once served as a means to store and transport the goods served in the market above. Now, thanks to tours that run on the first and third Saturdays of the month, guests can learn all about the history of this very unique space.
“Despite their name, the Catacombs at Indianapolis’ City Market contain no bones,” says Gwendolen Nystrom of Indiana Landmarks, who run the tours. “They’re the below-ground remains of Tomlinson Hall, an imposing 1886 building next door to City Market that burned in 1958. They contain scores of brick barrel-vaulted arches that remain from what was the basement of Tomlinson Hall.”
According to Gwendolen, this grand building was once an imposing structure. “Tomlinson Hall was a massive building,” she explains, “the equivalent of four to five stories tall, although it only had two interior floors, with towers on each corner. The fire consumed the structure, leaving only the basement; a dirt-floored space filled with brick columns. It was spanned by brick arches and barrel-vaulted ceilings that supported the structure, known in the decades since as the catacombs. A popular outdoor plaza and a wing of the City Market sits atop the subterranean space.”
Those who opt for a tour are in for a treat, as the tunnels are so eerie, yet visually striking. “Every way you look,” says Gwendolen, “north-south, east-west, or on a diagonal – you see brick columns and arches. Guests on Indiana Landmarks tours of the Catacombs spend a little time above ground learning about the development of Indianapolis and the historic City Market, before heading underground to experience the space and hear about its various uses over time.”