Moment of Indiana History

Governor’s Mansion

Alexander Ralston was no stranger to the art of city planning when he arrived at the site of the new Indiana state capital in 1821. Ralston had previously worked with architect Pierre L’Enfant in mapping the city of Washington, D.C. and elected to apply the same principles to the new city of Indianapolis. The city was to be a mile square with diagonal arteries connecting the city’s outer reaches with what we know today as Monument Circle. It was originally known as Governor’s Circle because Ralston had set it aside for construction of the governor’s mansion.

Built in the late 1820’s, the mansion was a handsomely constructed two-story yellow brick building, but the interior was another story altogether. Awkwardly laid out, the mansion didn’t even have a kitchen. It was so bad that when the wife of the governor James Brown Ray saw her new home, she refused to move in.

In fact, no governor’s family would ever live in the mansion. Instead, it found many diverse uses until it fell into disrepair and was ultimately demolished in 1857.

(Photo Credit: Bass Photo Co. Collection, Indiana Historical Society)

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