Athenaeum Tour

Sound Thinking

Explore the evolution of an Indianapolis landmark from a German clubhouse to a hub of modern urban life on monthly guided tours with Indiana Landmarks and the Athenaeum Foundation.

Photo by Chris Bucher

See a German-American Landmark on our Athenaeum Tour

The Athenaeum, built in 1894 and 1898 as Das Deutsche Haus, remains true to the “sound mind in a sound body” ethos of its freethinker German founders. Author Kurt Vonnegut’s architect grandfather’s firm Vonnegut & Bohn designed the German gymnasium and clubhouse, which the author declared his favorite of all of his ancestor’s works. Anxious to preserve their culture, and accustomed to clubs, German-Americans created societies for music, recreation and social activity, political and philosophical discussion, theater, exercise, and more. The Athenaeum united all Indianapolis’s German clubs under one roof.

In partnership with the Athenaeum Foundation, Indiana Landmarks offers guided tours of the National Historic Landmark on the second Saturday of the month, May through September. The tour explores the evolution of the building from a German clubhouse to a hub of modern urban life, with a theater, YMCA, and the Rathskeller, a restaurant/pub in continuous operation since the landmark’s earliest days.

You’ll learn about the German Renaissance Revival architecture, and the original mix of activities—a gymnasium that promoted gymnastics and other physical exercise, a lecture hall and a theater, a restaurant and pubs (there were 8 in the building!). You’ll hear how the building was saved when it faced an uncertain future and restored, still fulfilling the role of clubhouse for cultural development and physical health.

Tour Schedule

We offer Athenaeum tours on second Saturdays, May through September 2018, including the following dates: May 12, June 9, July 14, August 11, and September 8.

Tours last approximately one hour and depart from the vestibule inside the Coat Check Coffee entrance to the Athenaeum, 401 East Michigan Street, Indianapolis. Enter using the west wing doors, or use the Rathskeller entrance and ride the elevator to the lobby, adjacent to Coat Check Coffee.

Parking: Park in the lot immediately east of the Athenaeum, a pay lot accessed from Michigan Street, or at meters on the surrounding streets.

Tickets Must be purchased in advance

The tour costs $8 per person age 12 and up; $4 per child (age 6-11); $6 per member of Indiana Landmarks, and is free for children ages 5 and under.

Tickets must be purchased in advance, using the online form below, or by calling Indiana Landmarks, 317-639-4534 or Refund requests must be received seven days in advance of tour date.

GermanFest 2018

On October 13, 2018 we will offer an abbreviated ½ hour tour as part of the Athenaeum’s GermanFest 2018. Tours are free with GermanFest admission and depart from the vestibule inside the Coat Check Coffee entrance at 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Purchase GermanFest tickets in advance or at the gate the day of the event. Adults $8 in advance and $12 at the door, Children 2-12 $3 in advance and $5 at the door.