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Historic Indianapolis war memorial statue returned after restoration

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Indiana War Memorial Soldiers and Sailors Monument statue Victory returns home Friday after restoration at Indiana National Guard headquarters.
INDIANAPOLIS -- She's ba-a-ack.

Lady Victory, the 38-foot-tall bronze sculpture that resides atop the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, more than 284 feet above Monument Circle in the center of Indianapolis, has been restored and was returned home Friday.

The statue was removed from the monument last April after workers discovered corrosion while repairing the observation deck in 2009.

The $1.5 million restoration began in Indiana National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters at Stout Field, Indianapolis, in April and were finished two months ahead of schedule

Hoosiers will have their best chance in 118 years to get an up-close and personal look at Victory, who will be on display at ground level until Tuesday. That is when a crane will hoist the 20,000-pound bronze sculpture back atop the monument Tuesday, beginning about 6 a.m.

"The last time she was lifted up there was 118 years ago, and they used horses and pulleys," Brig. Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin, executive director of the Indiana War Memorials Commission, said. "The next time they'll need to bring it down, they'll probably be able to use spaceships."

Just 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty, the monument was originally intended to memorialize Indiana's Civil War veterans (and ongoing as it was built, Spanish-American War vets). It is the tallest Civil War Monument in America dedicated to ordinary Soldiers and Sailors.

But if it weren't for Greencastle, there probably would not be a Soldiers & Sailors Monument in the heart of downtown Indianapolis at all. One of the lesser-known facts in Indiana history is that the idea of such a landmark was born in Greencastle.

It was actually the editor of the old Greencastle Banner who is credited with rallying the forces to create a Civil War monument to Hoosiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the Union.

It was in 1875 that George J. Langsdale, editor of one Banner Graphic's predecessor, attended a reunion of Civil War veterans and presented his monumental idea.

"The Banner Alley Sextet" -- a group of six Greencastle Civil War veterans who met regularly in Langsdale's print shop to discuss the affairs of the day -- were behind the idea. Besides Langsdale, they included Putnam County residents J. A. Jackson, Capt. Joseph Donohue, Lt. Henry Meltzer, Capt. J. F. Fee and Capt. Lucius Chapin.

Langsdale was picked to head the Monument Commission, appointed by Gov. Oliver P. Morton after the Indiana Legislature appropriated $200,000 for the monument in 1887.

The monument, dedicated on Sept. 5, 1893, cost $598,318 to erect. The recent restoration has cost $1.5 million, and building a similar structure today would cost more than $500 million, it has been estimated.

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