Crown Hill Cemetery Tour Themes

We are pleased to offer a wide variety of PUBLIC and PRIVATE Award-Winning Guided Tours covering the themes listed below. With the exception of our "Trees of Crown Hill" tour, all of our tours are historic in nature, and some could argue that even our Tree Tour is historic because of the ages of some of our amazing trees! Our tours provide a fun and educational way in which to learn about some of the over 200,000 fascinating people buried and entombed at Crown Hill, as well as history of Indianapolis and Indiana. In addition to the many famous and accomplished individuals who have found their final resting place within our gates, there are thousands of others who also have a story that needs to be told. We are continually seeking information on those buried here and developing new tours as a result.

 A number of the tour topics below are limited to the availability of the tour guide, which is often evenings and weekends. The tours indicated in blue below are available at most times.

Please contact Marty Davis at mdavis@crownhill.org or (317) 920-2644 if you have questions or would like to schedule a private group tour. For the most current Calendar info, please visit our Online Calendar. You may also call our Special Events Recording at (317) 920-2726 for current public tour and event information. 

Also, be sure to check out our "Frequently Asked Questions" page, which is all about Private & Public Tours.


Heritage Tour (our most popular tour!)

This tour presents the history of Crown Hill Cemetery while visiting the graves of some of the many interesting people buried here, both the famous and not so famous, recent and long gone. A variety of monuments, including some of our most recognized statues are included, as well as the view of the downtown skyline from James Whitcomb Riley's tomb high atop beautiful Crown Hill. This tour is appropriate for all ages, and when asked which tour an adult or student group should take, this is our first recommendation. It provides a number of elements from other tours and is enjoyed by all.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 1 hours.

Actors, Artists, Architects, and Musicians

Bop to the jazz of J.J. Johnson as we visit his grave, the graves of our city's first artists, and those of the artists in the turn of the century Hoosier Group. An actor, an actress, and the architects that built both Crown Hill's and our city's enduring structures are also discussed. Much of this tour takes place in the eastern half of Crown Hill which is not covered by the other tours.
A combination driving/walking tour, approximately 1 hours.

African Americans

Learn about our city's Black heritage as we see where some of our most famous and influential African American citizens are buried and learn their stories. We will visit the graves of a poet, jazz musician, civic leaders, ministers and other notable citizens.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 1 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Around the Gothic

The "Around the Gothic" walking tour covers the area around Crown Hill's historic Gothic Chapel (1875), and includes the popular figures buried in that area of the cemetery. Your guide will talk about the newly renovated and restored Gothic Chapel; two of the three vice presidents buried at Crown Hill; the National Cemetery and the thousands of soldiers buried there; Gov. Oliver P. Morton, Indiana's Civil War governor; Richard Gatling, inventor of the Gatling Gun, and many others. Note: This tour is designed to be wheelchair friendly and compared to our regular tours, is shorter in time and distance for those unable to take a longer tour!
Walking Tour, less than a mile, 1 hour.

Angels of Crown Hill (new in 2012)

Angel Visitations ... Crown Hill is home to approximately 30 wonderful angel statues, from delicate marble angels of the Victorian era to very recent angels of granite and bronze. We'll also learn about the families who put them there. (This is a great tour for those wanting to take photos.)
Combination walking and driving tour, less than a mile, 1 - 2 hrs. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Art and Architecture

By wandering through just a handful of the cemetery's burial sections, you will discover first hand Victorian and modern day attitudes toward death and memorialization and see the symbolism used in a variety of statues, monuments, and mausoleums.
The regular walking tour lasts 1 hours, but optional additions to visit some of the statues in the less often seen eastern portion of the cemetery, and/or some unique monuments incorporating photographs of the deceased could add another 30 to 45 minutes.

Authors

A walking tour in which we will see the graves of several of Indiana's early poets, three of the giant's of the Golden Age of Indiana Literature, and family members of Indianapolis's two best known contemporary writers, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Dan Wakefield. While relaxing on one of Crown Hill's largest bench monuments, we will also discuss authors such as Kin Hubbard, William Herschell,and Etheridge Knight, who are buried in the distance. Not only are the authors' lives discussed, but we will read selections from their works, many of which refer to Crown Hill or some of its permanent residents.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 2 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Butler University at Crown Hill

This is a specialized tour concentrating on visits to names commonly associated with Butler University -- Tony Hinkle, Arthur Jordan, James I. Holcomb and Ovid Butler himself, among others. Two lesser known women, Catharine Merrill, the second female professor west of the Appalachian mountains, and Albertina Allen Forrest, whose monument is perhaps Crown Hill's most striking, are also included.
A walking/driving tour, approximately one hour long. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Civil War Generals

On this fascinating tour, visitors will tour the gravesites of Civil War Generals who made a contribution to preserving the Union in very different ways. Among the many interesting stories to be shared, visitors will learn about John Coburn's saving Democrat Thomas Hendricks from being assassinated on May 20, 1863, in Indianapolis, and about Jefferson Columbus Davis shooting his commanding officer and getting away with it in 1862.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 1 to 2 hours.

Civil War Personalities

The Civil War was still being fought when Crown Hill opened its gates in 1864. On this tour we examine the lives of the many brave soldiers and generals who took part in the War Between the States, and of the politicians, journalists, and even household servants whose lives influenced and were influenced by our county's great conflict.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 1 hours.

Civil War Women

Learn about the Union spy who was captured three times by the Confederates, and then how she escaped, and also about the career of the woman who performed on stage at the assassin of President Lincoln. At the graves of two Civil War nurses, we will find out what it was like to serve in that capacity. By the monument of a poetess, we'll hear her words that predicted the Civil War. Several Civil War letters will be read at the graves of the authors, including the wife of the founder of Butler University, whose son fought for the Union. Not every woman was loyal to the Union, and one such woman's grave will be on the tour. Some of these stories are long forgotten but worthy of remembrance.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 1 to 2 hours.

Crown Hill Founders & Early History

On Crown Hill's Founders & Early History, developed for the celebration of the 140th anniversary of the dedication of Crown Hill Cemetery, we talk about the beginnings of the cemetery in 1863 and the thirty local leaders, (twentyseven of whom are buried here), who saw a need and gathered together to create Crown Hill. In addition to the founders, we'll visit to the grave of Frederick Chislett, the first superintendent and the one who implemented their plan, and then climb Crown Hill to see the panoramic view of Indianapolis which inspired them to pick this as the site of a new cemetery for a growing Indianapolis.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 1 - 2 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Dillinger & Other Notables

This tour includes the sections just north of the Waiting Station, which is a part of the cemetery not regularly covered on other walking tours. Bank robber John Dillinger's grave will of course be one of our destinations, but we will also stop at the graves of many other interesting and important people and others who, although unknown, have memorialized themselves with some rather unique monuments.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 1 - 2 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Favorite Monuments - Treasures All Around the Cemetery

Join us as we drive all around the cemetery seeking out unique monuments, most of them not included on any other tour. Whether it's because of their material (one monument is a little piece of Ireland), the unique subject or carving, or even the story behind them, we think you'll enjoy seeing some of Crown Hill's most interesting monuments. One stop will be the monument of Herbie Wirth, the humble door-to-door salesman whose funeral in 1971 turned out to be one of Crown Hill's biggest and the subject of a Reader's Digest article.
Driving Tour, 2 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Flu Epidemic of 1918

This tour discusses the causes of death of approximately 100 individuals buried side by side in the fall of 1918, revealing the enormous impact this world-wide epidemic had even deep in the heartland and demonstrating, in a very tangible way, that its victims were, more often than not, those in their early adulthood, including young mothers and soldiers returning home from World War I. Elementary classes taking the tour have used some of their time to do grave rubbings of the monuments of some of the flu victims here.
The entire tour takes place in less than a hundred yards, but time is taken to mention the causes of death of a number of individuals. Approximately 45 minutes, but time can be added to do grave rubbings and/or tour the graves of President Harrison and James Whitcomb Riley. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Glimpse into Indiana's Medical Past - Crown Hill Cemetery

This tour, developed in cooperation with the Indiana Medical History Museum, tells the story of many of the professionals important in the history of the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane, in whose pathology building the current museum is located. It includes a visit to Crown Hill's Anatomical Section to honor those who have donated their bodies to the continuing study of anatomy and disease. It makes a perfect companion to a group tour of the museum itself.
Driving Tour, 1 hour. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Heritage Tour (our most popular tour!)

This tour presents the history of Crown Hill Cemetery while visiting the graves of some of the many interesting people buried here, both the famous and not so famous, recent and long gone. A variety of monuments, including some of our most recognized statues are included, as well as the view of the downtown skyline from James Whitcomb Riley's tomb high atop beautiful Crown Hill. This tour is appropriate for all ages, and when asked which tour an adult or student group should take, this is our first recommendation. It provides a number of elements from other tours and is enjoyed by all.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 1 hours.

Heroes of Crown Hill

Designed to be held as a public tour in conjuction with the annual Beyond the Badge Run & Walk held each September, (www.heroesofpublicsafety.org) this tour can be scheduled any time. On this tour we will honor the memory of several of our city's law enforcement officers and firefighters who paid the ultimate price. By telling their stories as we visit their monuments we hope to create a greater awareness and appreciation of their sacrifice. This tour includes the beautiful "Heroes of Public Safety" memorial and section, dedicated one year after 9-11. We can also see the graves of other officers who distinguished themselves in serving our community as well as the graves of three Medal of Honor recipients. Note: funds from this public tour in September are donated to the Jason M. Baker Public Safety Scholarship, created to provide scholarships for students studying public safety.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 2 hours, with driving option to visit the Medal of Honor winners. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Indianapolis Auto Greats

Everyone knows that the month of May in Indianapolis is all about racing! From Charles Black, whose homemade auto was the first in Indianapolis, to Tony Bettenhausen, Jr., individuals buried at Crown Hill have long played a major role in making and racing cars. Included on this tour are Carl Fisher and the other founders of the Indianapolis 500; auto makers Fred and Auggie Dusenberg, Harry Stutz, and the Marmons; numerous Indianapolis 500 race car drivers, mechanics, officials, and sponsors; and other sultans of speed such as Cannonball Baker and Roscoe Turner.
Combination Walking / Driving Tour, 2 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Indianapolis Names

Why it is the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Morris Street, Binford Boulevard, Fletcher Place, etc., are graced with these names? Learn the stories behind many of the names we see as we run around town, as well as the history of the Lilly family.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 2 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Indianapolis Pioneers

Learn the early history of Indianapolis through the stories of those who lived here between 1820 and 1850. See the graves of the men whose names live on through our street names: Fletcher, Morris, McCarty; of Alexander Ralston, the man who laid out our city streets, and of other men and women who contributed to our city and state's early social, political, and commercial development.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 1 hours.

Photographer's Tour

PHOTOGRAPHERS! Bring your camera, tripod, shutter release cable, imagination, creativity, and lots of film or memory cards! This tour is designed for, but not limited to, photographers wanting an opportunity to take pictures in Crown Hill on a guided walking tour, blending history and photography. If desired, you may schedule your tour so you can photograph the Indianapolis skyline at sunset - or in the dark!
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 2 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Politicians

Because of Indianapolis's place as Indiana's capital city, and Indiana's pivotal place in national politics in the late 19th and early 20th century, on this tour we are able to visit the gravesides of one president, three vice-presidents (more than in any other cemetery) three other prominent, though unsuccessful vice-presidential candidates, eleven Indiana governors, fourteen U.S. Senators, and numerous other cabinet officers, representatives, diplomats, state legislators, and mayors. The tour is made more interesting by giving many personal anecdotes which reveal their personalities and not just their politics.
Walking Tour, a little over a mile, 1 to 2 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Skeletons in the Closet, Part I

Was it one of his three wives, or another long-time lover, that Skiles Test kept in a glass coffin in his House of Blue Lights along Fall Creek? Why does one headstone say simply "Mother of Rosalind" and not her full name, which would have been Helen Orr Hufnall Phaff English Wegmann English English Prince Prince? He followed in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather to become bank president, building himself a 40,000 square foot mansion on the east side of town, but by the time Stoughton Fletcher died, he'd lost the house, survived his wife's suicide, a runaway daughter's mysterious death, and was working as a hotel elevator operator in Los Angeles when his son committed suicide as well. On this tour we'll discuss their lives and the lives of others who show us that money does not necessarily bring happiness. Note: this is not a creepy tour about ghosts, but a historical tour about of some of the people buried at Crown Hill.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 2 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Skeletons in the Closet, Part II

More skeletons! On this tour we'll learn about the more sensational stories in the Indianapolis news from the 1860s to the 1970s: the Cold Spring Murders, the Bowen-Merrill Fire, dirty politics in the 1920s and 1970s, bank robber John Dillinger, the rising executive slain by his mistress in the 1950s, and the Marjorie Jackson case of 1977. Note: this is not a creepy tour about ghosts, but a historical tour about of some of the people buried at Crown Hill.
Driving Tour, 2 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Smithsonian Art Museum Tour

This tour takes us to twenty of Crown Hill's beautiful sculptures included in the Smithsonian American Art Museum Art Inventories Catalog. Participants will learn about the history of these art works as well as many of the people they memorialize. Several of the works included are the bronze sculpture memorializing the young Butler professor, Albertina Forrest, who died suddenly in 1904 at age 32; the granite Sayles monument with a relief carving of an angel with wings standing beside a kneeling mourning woman; and a life-sized sculpture marking the grave site of Mary Ella McGinnis, who was buried Sept. 5, 1875. The 5 1/2 year old was the daughter of Civil War general George McGinnis. She died on Aug. 6, 1875 due to lung congestion. In addition to these beautiful works of art there are many more included on this tour.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 2 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Sudoku, Stained Glass & Disney's Prince

Visitors can take a look inside the Crown Hill Community Mausoleum on this unique walking tour, conducted completely indoors, and learn about many interesting people! One of the best secrets around is that a local architect created the immensely popular Sudoku puzzle game that's known around the world! He's entombed in the Crown Hill Mausoleum, along with the actor who was the voice of the Prince in Disney's Sleeping Beauty movie, as well as many other prominent personalities! Also included on this tour is a peek at several of our beautiful custom-made stained glass windows featuring colorful birds, rabbits and butterflies.
Indoor Walking Tour, approximately 2 hours. Usually only available evenings & weekends.

Tombstones and Trees

See the impressive tombstones, and the equally impressive nearby trees, on this leisurely walk through the scenic grounds of the cemetery. With over 4,100 trees in the cemetery, the tour will look at about twenty, some of which are not native to Indiana. Among the trees, visitors will hear about people who are buried here, and what they did during their lives. Enjoy nature and history at the same time! Students are welcome to do a leaf collection at the same time. When available, Tree Maps will be provided.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 2 hours.

Trees of Crown Hill

We have trees! Our "Trees of Crown Hill" walking tour covers between 15-20 trees (or more), the majority which are species native to Indiana. (Currently 110 different tree species within Crown Hill have been identified; a rarity in an urban setting.) Blended into the tour will be an opportunity for participants to collect leaves from the trees covered on the tour for a leaf collection. When available, a Tree Map identifying over 100 trees will be included. In addition, your guide will share historical information about Crown Hill and the people buried here, giving visitors a unique learning experience. In addition to identifying specific tree species, you'll also learn about some of their unique components and the critical roles and benefits trees provide for the environment. This tour is great for students making a leaf collection and is designed to meet Indiana's academic requirements.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 1 hours.

Veterans

Starting at the grave of John Morrow, a soldier in the American Revolution, this tour visits the graves of a number of veterans from each of America's great conflicts down through the war in Iraq. Participants are invited to bring flowers to lay at the graves if they wish.
Walking Tour, approximately mile, 1-1 hours. Usually only available Memorial Day & evenings & weekends.

Women of Crown Hill

On this walk through the history of Indianapolis, we will discuss the lives of Indiana's leaders in the fight for women's right to vote, influential educators, cultural benefactors, artists, pioneers, Nancy Clem of the Cold Springs murders, and many other interesting women. Our stops include the grave sites of May Sewall, Grace Julian Clarke, Zerelda Wallace, Catharine Merrill, Eliza Blaker, and Albertina Forrest, whose grave is one of Crown Hill's most memorable.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 2 hours.