Support Us Button Widget

The history of The Ruins at Holliday Park

The Ruins that have imbued Holliday Park with a historical flair for decades lived an interesting life before they came to Indy.

INDYtoday: INDY_Rock the Ruins at Holliday Park_MAY24

Since 2021, the Ruins have come back to life each summer with the Rock the Ruins outdoor concert series.

How often do we think about the Roman Empire? Maybe not as often as the people who flooded TikTok with their answers late last year — but what we do think about often is The Ruins at Holliday Park, which look like they came straight from an ancient Roman palace. Especially now that Rock the Ruins is starting back up, we’ve been wondering: Where did these mysterious, beautiful structures come from?

The provenance of The Ruins isn’t quite as ancient as you might believe. Most of the structures are actually the remains of the former St. Paul building in Manhattan. Completed in 1898 and demolished in 1958, it was once one of the tallest skyscrapers in New York City, standing 26 stories tall.

The most prominent feature of the St. Paul building were the three squatting figures, collectively known as “The Races of Man.” Created in the 1890s by sculptor Karl Bitter, the bodies represent people of different ethnicities working together to hold up the building, according to Visit Indy.

When the St. Paul building was scheduled for demolition, The Committee to Preserve American Art stepped in to save the building’s works of art. Several organizations and entities in the United States made requests for the sculptures, with Indianapolis ultimately winning, thanks to Elmer Taflinger’s detailed plans for The Ruins.

INDYtoday: INDY_Holliday Park Ruins limestone statue_MAY24

Many of the sculptures and structures seen within The Ruins were made from Indiana limestone.

Over the next 20 years, Taflinger, once described as the “grand old man of Indiana art,” surrounded the St. Paul remnants with other local salvaged pieces. These included a horse trough once located at the base of a historic monument in Fountain Square, 26 Greek columns from the Sisters of the Good Shepherd Convent, and eight statues of goddesses that stood above the entrance to the original Marion County Courthouse.

True to their name, The Ruins have undergone several periods of dilapidation. They were first cleaned up and formally dedicated in 1973, and after another stretch of deterioration during which they sat behind a chain link fence for over 20 years, the structures were restored and rededicated again in 2016.

Today, The Ruins serve as the backdrop for events in Holliday Park throughout the year, including the Rock the Ruins summer concert series and the seasonal ice skating rink. Here’s hoping they retain their glory for many years to come.

More from INDYtoday