Walking Tour #1
Fort Benjamin Harrison
The Original Base
From Former Java Junction 1.1 miles round trip 2600 to 4000 steps
Built from 1906 to 1908 the base is named after Indianapolis’ own President Benjamin Harrison. It was created during the term of President Theodore Roosevelt and part of his policy to “speak quietly and carry a big stick”. The original streets were all named after Spanish-American War soldiers. Later Streets honored soldiers from other conflicts.
Starting from the east side of Eagle Creek Coffee Company go north on East Lawton Dr. Java Junction is the logical starting point because it originally was the depot serving the interurban line from Union Station in downtown Indianapolis. Here is where most troops arrived to be garrisoned at the Fort.
Lawton Loop is named after General Henry Wade Lawton who fought in both Cuba and the Philippines, where he lost his life in December 1899. Going north the next building on your right was the original base bakery, now part of the Schneider Engineering complex.
You will next cross Otis Avenue, which was named after General Ewell S. Otis military commander in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. The next three buildings on your right are three of the six enlisted men’s barracks. They originally had broad porches to catch cool breezes before the days of air conditioning. On your left note the sign about the Fort’s history, and note the reviewing stand.
The next building between the six enlisted men’s barracks was the original Post Exchange and featured a gymnasium in the basement. The road connecting the two halves of the loop is named Funston after Brigadier General Frederick Funston. He fought gallantly in the Philippines. The next three original enlisted men’s barracks have been converted to luxury residential housing.
The next building was the guardhouse complete with iron barred windows and cells. The present owner, an insurance agency, has maintained one of the cells (better pay your premium). The next building on the corner of Kent and East Lawton Loop Dr. is the barracks for the regimental band. The building immediately behind was for the base fire department. Kent Ave. was named after Brigadier General Jacob Kent who served under Lawton in the Philippines.
The building to the north of Kent is the original base headquarters. The next building was the barracks for the bachelor officers. The next home, which is one of the few single homes on the base was for the commanding officer. In later years it was the closest home to the first tee with a private short cut.
The rest of the homes on the loop were for married officers. Each house is huge with the typical half a double containing 5,000 square feet. As you walk around the loop note the enormous parade ground, which has been protected by the State of Indiana. Note the Gazebo where many weddings and parties have taken place. Further to the south note the 3 concrete slabs. These were used to display tanks, while the base was active.
As you walk down Lawton Loop West Drive, Try to imagine the tremendous activity on the parade ground when the base was newly opened. There would be troops, horses, and mules everywhere. Parades, maneuvers, inspections would be common place. Bugles, shouted orders, cadence and music would fill the air. As you look across the parade ground note the water tower, which is shown in so many old pictures. Upon reaching Otis Ave turn left, and note the flag pole and sidewalk. This is a recent addition to house the moving Vietnam Wall when it periodically comes to the Fort during Lawrence’s July 4th celebration. Follow Otis to East Lawton Loop and go south to Java Junction to complete the tour.