Award-winning PRIVATE Guided Walking & Driving Tours!

WHAT IS A PRIVATE GUIDED TOUR at CROWN HILL?

A private guided tour is a walking or driving tour of historic Crown Hill Cemetery that is scheduled at least two weeks in advance and can be conducted for one or more persons or for a group. A private guided tour is led by a tour guide that has been scheduled specifically for you. We offer private guided tours for individuals, adult groups, families, school groups, and child groups, like Scouts. Tours typically last 90 minutes to 2 hours. Those scheduling the tour can choose the tour theme. (Private Tours differ from our Public Tours that are held on specific dates and times that we organize with the theme already planned.)

AWARD-WINNING!
Yes! Our tours were twice voted the "Best Walking Tour" by Indianapolis Monthly magazine and were chosen as one of nine "Terrific Tours" by Midwest Living magazine! 


TYPES OF PRIVATE GUIDED TOURS
  • WALKING TOURS comprise the majority of the tours we conduct. Participants will cover about one mile at a comfortable pace (for most people), and the tour will last approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours. Most, but not all, tours go up to the top of the Crown, the highest hill in Marion County. From this amazing vantage point, you can see the entire Indianapolis skyline. (See above.) Many private groups schedule their tours to see the sunset from the Crown.
     
  • DRIVING TOURS are also available as long as you provide your own transportation - a small bus, van, personal cars, or possibly on bicycles. If needed, tours can be shortened and most walking tours can be modified into driving tours. Participants touring in personal cars will get out of their vehicles at a variety of stops and walk around a bit.
     
  • SMALL BUS or VAN TOURS are private guided tours for those who desire a step-on guide. Participants can get off their small bus or van to see various monuments and grave sites as much as they'd like within the timeframe of their tour. Most tour groups get off their bus or van at James Whitcomb Riley's memorial at the top of the Crown to see the stunning 360-degree view of the entire Indianapolis skyline. All driving tour groups must provide their own transportation. (Please note that there's a circle drive around the Riley monument at the top of the Crown that can accommodate buses/vans.) IMPORTANT: even if driving a small bus, there's a very real possibility of hitting low-hanging branches while driving throughout Crown Hill.
     
  • CHARTER, COACH, AND DELUXE MOTOR COACH TOURS - Our apologies, but we CANNOT provide guided tours for charter, coach, or deluxe motor coach buses because of our many low-hanging branches, narrow roads, and very tight turns. We can only accommodate very small buses or vans. If you choose to enter Crown Hill on your own, it is at your own risk.

DATES AND TIMES AVAILABLE TO SCHEDULE A PRIVATE TOUR

  • Our PRIVATE Guided walking and driving tours are offered from April through October
  • Can be scheduled on any day of the week, from 9 am to dark, excluding holidays
  • Tours must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance 
  • Tours scheduled after dark may be available for a higher fee
  • The scheduling of all tours depends upon the availability of the tour guide

SUNSET TOURS!
We offer the opportunity to schedule guided tours during one of the most dramatic times of day for light - the "golden hour" - right before and at sunset when the light is warmer and much softer, the shadows are long, and our deer are most active. Tour participants can then see the sunset from the top of the Crown, at James Whitcomb Riley's memorial (see the photo at the top), before walking back to their vehicles. From this amazing vantage point you can see a 360-degree panoramic view of the entire Indianapolis Skyline. The Crown is Marion County's highest natural hill and is 842.21 ft. tall. (The highest elevation in Marion County, according to the Indiana Geological & Water Survey, is 925 ft. Because the Crown has such a dramatic elevation change and provides a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of the city, it certainly appears to be the highest elevation!) If a sunset tour is of interest to you, please mention it when you inquire about scheduling a tour. 

TOUR FEES 

  • ADULT & FAMILY TOUR RATES are $10.00 for adults, ages 18+; $5.00 for children, ages 6-17, and FREE for children, ages 5 and under. The minimum fee is $75. Tours must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. (The further you can schedule your tour in advance the better, especially if it's for April, May, September, or October.) Tour rates are not prorated for groups requesting shorter tours. We recommend tour sizes not to exceed 30 people. 
     
  • SCHOOL & STUDENT GROUP TOUR RATES are $5 for adults, ages 18+; $3 for students, ages 6-17; and FREE for children, ages 5 and under. The minimum fee is $50.  One teacher or adult chaperone per every 10 students is admitted free. Bus drivers are always free. Tours must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance.  (The further you can schedule your tour in advance the better, especially if it's for April, May, September, or October.) Tour rates are not prorated for groups requesting shorter tours. ("Schools" include homeschool groups. "Student groups" include groups like Scouts.)  

HOW TO SCHEDULE & RESERVE A PRIVATE GUIDED TOUR

  • Please email to Marty Davis at mdavis@crownhill.org with your name and size of your group, as well as the date(s) and time(s) you are interested in scheduling a tour. You may also call (317) 920-2644.
  • Your tour must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. Further in advance is always recommended.
  • Your tour must be reserved no less than two weeks in advance with a major credit card (it will not be charged), or by paying in full with cash or check. (Checks must be made out to Crown Hill Heritage Foundation.
  • IMPORTANT: You must finalize the number of people attending your tour one week in advance. You must pay for this number even if fewer people attend on your tour date. If more attend than stated, or that you have already pre-paid for, you will be responsible for paying for those when you arrive for your tour. 
  • We do not schedule rain dates. 

HOW TO PAY FOR A PRIVATE GUIDED TOUR

  • If you reserve your tour with a credit card at least two weeks in advance, this card can be charged following the tour or you can bring a check or cash on your tour date.
  • If you don't reserve your tour with a credit card at least two weeks in advance, you must pay in full with a check or cash no less than two weeks in advance. 
  • Tour rates are not prorated shorter tours.

CANCELLATIONS

  • We DO give tours in inclement weather as long as it's not severe or dangerous, and if the group chooses to proceed.
  • If you need to cancel for any reason, there will be NO CHARGE to you if you contact your tour guide at least 90 minutes in advance of when your tour is scheduled to begin. (If you do not have your tour guide's number, call Marty Davis directly at 317-920-2644 and leave a message.)
  • IMPORTANT: if you fail to cancel your tour at least 90 minutes in advance, you will be charged the full amount of your tour. 
  • If Crown Hill Heritage Foundation cancels your tour for any reason, you will receive a full refund. 

TOUR THEMES
Of the many tour themes available, our most popular is the Heritage Tour. This tour theme is appropriate for all ages and is available whenever we can schedule a tour guide - any day of the week, from 9 am to dark, excluding holidays. A few tours are available anytime a tour guide is available and the others are only available evenings and weekends. See below. 


The following three tours are available anytime a tour guide is available - any day of the week, from 9 am to dark, excluding holidays.

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 always our first recommendation. It provides a number of elements from other tours and is enjoyed by all. Pictured here is the Eastman Angel in the fall. It's located on Section 6, one of the cemetery's original sections. The Eastman Angel is a beautiful marble angel with a granite cross and base. It's one of our most popular statues and is included on the Heritage Tour. 
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 1½ hours. This tour is available any day of the week, from 9 am to dark, excluding holidays.

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 (pictured here); 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. This tour is available any day of the week, from 9 am to dark, excluding holidays.

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, 1½ hours. This tour is available any day of the week, from 9 am to dark, excluding holidays.


The following tours are available when a tour guide is available on evenings and weekends. 

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, including William Forsyth, whose monument is pictured here. 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 1½ hours. Available evenings and weekends only.

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 & Driving Tour, 1½ hours. Available evenings & weekends only.

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 1½ 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. 
Available evenings and weekends only.

Authors

A walking tour in which we will see the graves of several of Indiana's early poets, James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, and Meredith Nicholson, three of the giants of the Golden Age of Indiana Literature, and family members of Indianapolis' 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. Available evenings & weekends only.

Butler University Notables 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. Available evenings and weekends only.

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 interesting stories to be shared, participants will learn about Brigadier General Abel Streight, whose bust on his large monument is pictured here. Streight led 1,700 troops with 700 mules (against Confederate troops with horses) on an unsuccessful campaign across Alabama and Georgia before being taken POW and held in Libby prison, where he later escaped through a tunnel with 107 fellow POWs. His efforts were still considered important to the eventual success by other Generals. His wife Lovina assisted Abel in the south by taking care of the medical needs of the troops and was a POW three times. She was buried with full military honors in a large funeral. This tour also includes accounts of John Coburn saving Democrat (and later U.S. VP) Thomas Hendricks from being assassinated on May 20, 1863, in Indianapolis, and Jefferson C. Davis shooting his commanding officer and getting away with it in 1862. 
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 1½ to 2 hours. Available evenings and weekends only. 

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, 1½ to 2 hours. Available evenings and weekends only.

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, 1½ - 2 hours. Available evenings and weekends only.

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. Available evenings and weekends only.

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. Available evenings and weekends only.

Heroes of Crown Hill

Designed to be held as a public tour in conjunction 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. Available evenings and weekends only.

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 (mausoleum pictured here) and the other founders of the Indianapolis 500®; automakers 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. Available evenings and weekends only.

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. Available evenings and weekends only.

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, 1½ hours. Available evenings and weekends only.

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, 1½ to 2 hours. Available evenings and weekends only.

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? (English monument pictured) 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. Available evenings and weekends only.

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. Available evenings and weekends only.

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 artworks 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. (Note: Mary Ella McGinnis can be seen on the Heritage Tour.) In addition to these beautiful works of art there are many more included on this tour.
Walking Tour, approximately one mile, 2 hours. Available evenings and weekends only.

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. Available evenings and weekends only.

Veterans

Starting at the grave of John Morrow (pictured), 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 ¾ mile, 1-1½ hours. Available evenings and weekends only.

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. Available evenings and weekends only.