Located on the near northside of Indianapolis in the heart of Butler University’s campus, the gardens encompass twenty acres of hillside overlooking a small manmade lake and the historic Indianapolis Central Canal. The gardens were designed in 1949 by James Holcomb, a Trustee of Butler University, and Arthur Lindberg, then superintendent of buildings and grounds for the campus. Construction of the gardens was completed by 1950.
Accessible via pedestrian bridge from the Canal Towpath, the Holcomb Gardens are composed of thousands of trees, shrubs, and other native flora of the Central Indiana region. The grounds contain a lake, waterfalls, garden house, gazebo, the poets’ corner (a niche of stone benches inscribed with quotations by famous poets), and the philosophers’ bench (a similar area with philosophers’ quotations). Central to the landscape is a 500-foot-long grass mall running parallel to the canal, flanked on its eastern and western sides with three lengths of hedges and allées of trees. The mall terminates on axis with a raised, octagonal pool, featuring a statue of Persephone by French sculptor Armand Toussaint atop a raised plinth at its center. To the south of the mall, a circuitous road leads to the Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium that crowns a wooded knoll, and affords panoramic views to the main campus and neighborhood surrounds. The gardens also contain the Mrs. James Irving Holcomb Memorial Carillon Tower designed by Holcomb and Lindberg, which was dedicated in 1959 as a memorial to Holcomb’s wife Musetta, who died in 1957. The tower, composed of three 130-foot Indiana limestone pillars, accommodates a broad stairway descending to the edge of the lake below.