There’s a lovely limestone monument to Thomas Taggart in Indianapolis’s Riverside Park. Or rather, you can tell it once was lovely. The city bought the land for the park during Taggart’s term as mayor, 1895-1901. The fountain doesn’t work and a tall chain-link fence surrounds the twenty-pillared limestone colonnade to protect the public from getting beaned by falling stone. Some tribute for a man who left such an indelible mark on his city, state and nation.
Tom Taggart was a fascinating guy. A Democratic Party powerbroker who affected the fate of candidates for state and national office until his death in 1929. An Irish immigrant who started out selling sandwiches in a railroad depot, he rose to dramatically shape turn-of-the-century America in more than one arena.
As owner of the French Lick Springs hotel, Taggart was the man who really put the place on the map. He bought the resort in 1901 and enlarged it several times over the years to a sprawling complex that achieved national prominence.
Taggart’s legacy as mayor Indianapolis deserves acclaim. Through leadership and political skill, and against opposition, he created the city park system. Taggart believed the increasingly-industrialized city needed green space where people could enjoy quiet contemplation and healthy recreation. During his two mayoral terms, the city bought hundreds of acres for parks.
In better days, the Taggart Memorial served as a stylish backdrop for the latest in automotive fashion. (Photo: Indiana Historical Society)
The Parks Department legitimately uses its budget to keep playgrounds and pools in working order, and the Taggart Memorial languished without maintenance for years until Indiana Landmarks created the Taggart Task Force and joined with the parks department to raise private funds for restoration. The task force managed to get the roof replaced while developing plans for further restoration and more active uses of the space.
You can reach the Taggart Memorial via a park entrance from Riverside Drive, midway between 16th and 30th Streets. If you’re a bicyclist, you’ll find the monument sits close to the bike path along White River Parkway East Drive.
To learn more about the Taggart Memorial Task Force, contact Mark Dollase, Indiana Landmarks' Vice President of Preservation Services, 800-450-4534, firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Hidden Gems Indiana
Each week Indiana Landmarks uses insider knowledge to highlight historic places worth a visit, from the quirky to the sublime: small towns, neighborhoods, restaurants, shops, parks, cemeteries, scenic drives, museums—you get the idea. Learn more about Indiana Landmarks at www.indianalandmarks.org.