Clio Logo

A gift of Emma Ely Depew to honor her late husband, Richard Johnson Depew, this fountain was completed in 1919. This section of the city was known as University Park, a name that reflects the intention of city leaders to build a university in this section of the city during Indianapolis' early decades. When efforts to build a university faltered, city leaders dedicated funds create a network of boulevards and public spaces in the 1870s. City leaders approved plans to redesign the area in 1914, including the construction of this fountain and the public spaces surrounding it.


  • This bronze sculpture features eight children around the base and is topped by a woman who is playing cymbals and dancing with the children below.
  • George Kessler
  • DePew Memorial Marquette that was designed by Karl Bitter. Circa 1915
  • In 1926 young women from the Albertina Rasch ballet performed an interpretive dance around the fountain, mimicking the bronze sculptures thereon, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the fountain.
  • Karl Bitter in 1907.
  • Indianapolis's city park around the time the DePew Memorial Foundation was installed. Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society

In 1920, the Indiana General Assembly created the Indiana World War Memorial and the Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District. Closely related to this plan was the effort to bring the American Legion National Headquarters to Indianapolis.

The American Legion considered many cities including Minneapolis, Washington D.C., Kansas City, and Detroit, but the proposed War Memorial and five-block War Memorial Plaza gave Indianapolis the advantage. Architects Frank B. Walker and Harry E. Weeks of Walker and Weeks in Cleveland, Ohio, designed the Plaza, including the Indiana War Memorial, in 1923.

The War Memorial Plaza, with its grand monumental scale, displays the urban planning concepts of the City Beautiful movement of the early 20th century and contains the city's most significant grouping of neoclassical architecture. The Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District is truly one of America's most impressive public settings and the site of one of the nation's most outstanding war memorials.

University Park was redesigned in 1914 by George Edward Kessler for the park and boulevard system he had developed for the city of Indianapolis. Depew Fountain was an original component of the plan and was designed by the sculptor Karl Bitter in the same year.

The Depew Memorial Fountain was commissioned in memory of Dr. Richard J. Depew by his wife, Emma Ely, following Dr. Depew’s death in 1887. When Mrs. Depew died in 1913, she had bequeathed $50,000 from her estate to the city of Indianapolis for the erection of a fountain in memory of her husband “in some park or public place where all classes of people may enjoy it.”

An information plaque, located on the north side of the fountain, reads:

This fountain is the culmination of work by three noted figures in late-19th-century and early 20th-century public art. The original design was created by Karl Bitter, who was killed in a traffic accident in 1915 before the work could be realized. Following Bitter’s overall design, Alexander Stirling Calder created the bronze figures and the fountain. Henry Bacon, a well-known landscape architect, designed the fountain’s setting.

In 1926 young women from the Albertina Rasch ballet performed an interpretive dance around the fountain, mimicking the bronze sculptures thereon, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the fountain.


Depew Memorial Fountain, a freestanding fountain completed in 1919 and located in University Park in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, within the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza. Library of Congress. Accessed February 13, 2016. https://www.loc.gov/item/2016632131/.

Diebold, Paul. "Indiana World War Memorial Plaza Historic District". Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary: Indianapolis. National Park Service.

Culbertson, Kurt (2000). W.H. Tishler, ed. "George Edward Kessler Landscape Architect of the American Renaissance". Midwestern Landscape Architecture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Dennis, James M., Karl Bitter: Architectural Sculptor 1867–1915, University of Wisconsin Press 1967

Schevill, Ferdinand (1917). Karl Bitter: A Biography. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.