Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs Director Dennis Wimer was not sure who had said it at the dedication ceremony in 1925. It may have been the National Commander of the American Legion, James A. Drain. But one of the speakers on June 17 of that year predicted that the new building at 777 North Meridian Street in Indianapolis, the first in the Indiana War Memorials Commission plaza, was intended to be ” a veterans’ service center for decades to come.
On Wednesday October 6, 2021, this prophecy was both remembered and renewed.
The National Commander of the American Legion, Paul E. Dillard, unveiled a new Indiana Office of Historical Markers sign in front of the reconstructed original permanent national headquarters of the American Legion, which has been transformed into a “one stop shop” Technology to provide multiple services to Hoosier veterans and their families. Wednesday’s ceremony to unveil the new marker was both a celebration of the Legion’s legacy as original tenants and a forecast for the future of the Indiana Veterans Center.
Installing the marker honoring the early accomplishments of the American Legion ensures that future veterans will understand that the building has been a center of honor and service for former members of the U.S. military, Dillard suggested.
“History has been made within these walls,” Dillard told a crowd of about 200 at the unveiling ceremony, including members of the National Executive Committee of the American Legion in Indianapolis for their annual fall meetings. “Here, the founding generation of legionaries wired over 15,000 community stations across the country. Serving the community, state and nation, these positions would establish an identity now described as “Veterans Who Make America Strong.” Here, the first multi-million dollar American Legion Youth Scholarship Scholarship was processed. Here, the Legionaries collected and distributed over 30 million guidebooks for schools, cities, and states… what later became the American Flag Code. Beginning with 777 North Meridian, the American Legion demanded that the federal government repair a corrupt and dysfunctional mix of agencies supposed to provide services to wartime veterans. In 1930, this request became the US Veterans Administration.
A century of American Legion accomplishments had to come down to two 50-word paragraphs for the sign. “There is so much research and documentation that supports these markers,” said Casey Pfeiffer, historic marker program director for the State of Indiana, who thanked the staff at the American Legion National Headquarters for have met strict documentation requirements.
Dillard explained that American Legion institutions such as Boys State, American Legion Baseball, and the National Oratorical Contest were designed in the original permanent headquarters. “And the Military Readjustment Act of 1944 – the GI Bill of Rights that transformed America after WWII – was crafted and geared toward passing decisions made here.”
US Air Force Brigadier. General (Ret’d) J. Stewart Goodwin, Executive Director of the Indiana War Memorials Commission, has followed the history of the building from a state budget allocation of $ 2.2 million “to a time when a gallon of milk cost five cents “made it a reality in 1925.” Since then this building has been continuously used to help veterans.
After the National Operations of the American Legion moved to its largest building in the plaza at 700 North Pennsylvania Street in 1950, the Indiana Department of the American Legion and the National Auxiliary Headquarters of the American Legion were based there. The structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Monuments in 1994 and continued to house the Indiana American Legion State Office until 2014.
It was then that General Goodwin and the US Army Command Sgt. Retired. Major Jim Brown, then head of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, began formulating a new type of veterans resource center – one that would provide local, state, federal, and local service organization programs. to veterans under one roof. “The Indiana Veterans’ Center is the first of its kind,” Goodwin told the crowd. “777 was the perfect location.
However, it would take a lot of work.
“The nearly 100-year-old building required major upgrades, including the removal of asbestos and mold,” said Goodwin. New toilets, elevators, ramps and internet infrastructure were needed, as was a new entrance to the building. To bring the entire structure into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, modernize its utilities and maintain respect for the historic marble floors, the original National Executive Committee room on the fourth floor and other features , it would take 7.5 million dollars. Funded from various state budgets, the center opened in 2020 and proceeded as planned, with providers from state, federal, local and veterans service organizations assisting veterans of the ‘Indiana and their families in 94 counties across the state.
“To the best of our knowledge, there is no other place in the United States that offers all of these services in one place for veterans,” Goodwin said. “We are extremely proud to be at the forefront. “
“May the spirit of our founders guide the Indiana Veterans Center through a more certain future to make more history from this cherished place,” Dillard said before discovering the marker in a light rain. . “It has been an honor since 1925 for the American Legion to call such a place our first true home, and we are delighted that this new marker from the Indiana Historical Bureau will remind visitors in perpetuity of all of the history that has been made. here.”
After the ceremony, members of the current NEC toured the center, where they saw the familiar offices occupied by their ancestors in the organization, as well as other historical elements preserved in the new center.