Group fights to save unique "Ruins" at Holliday Park

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It's one of the city's oldest parks and its best-known feature is in ruins. Indy Parks says it doesn't have the money needed to repair The Ruins at Holliday Park, so the Friends of Holliday Park have stepped up to the plate.

Thursday night they launch their public campaign with a free concert at the park. Over the last 20 months they've already raised $2.3 million from private donors and foundation. They still need $900,000.

So, what exactly are they trying to save?

Lisa Hurst, co-chair of the fundraising campaign, described it as "an iconic part of the park's history."

The Ruins are best described as a large "art installation" begun by an Indianapolis artist in the 1960s.

Elmer Taflinger, who had a reputation for being a bit "eccentric" acquired the façade of New York City building in a design contest. The main feature was the Races of Mankind sculptures.

But Taflinger just kept adding on it with columns, fountains, planters, pieces from other old buildings.

Casey Cronin, president of the Friends of Holliday Park, said the installation kept evolving and kept getting bigger with city officials growing more and more impatient.

Cronin said Taflinger "was here for years and the city finally said, great job, you're done."

After a while the ruins fell into disrepair. When the city wanted to tear the site down and build a nature center there, Hurst said there was a huge public outcry, so it was fenced off, locked up and left alone.

The ruins are now overrun with weeds, the reflecting pools cracked, some of the brick crumbling, but Hurst stressed, "actually it's structurally quite sound. We've had engineers in here."

Hurst and Cronin said the goal now is to restore the ruins, open them up and make them much more accessible.

Plans include a shimmer fountain and other interactive water features, benches along a tree-lined promenade, rain gardens and a festival lawns.

Hurst said the improvements will "make (the Ruins) safe and open and allow everyone to interact with them and enjoy the beauty of the ruins."

She said Friends of Holliday Park hope to raise the last $900,000 by year's end. That would allow them to start construction next year, which would take 9-12 months.

Part of the money raised will also go toward updating the exhibition hall at the park's nature center.

Cronin said the Friends of Holliday Park have been around for roughly 20 years and have helped raise money for other park amenities.

Friends of Holliday Park - Make a donation here.