Christmas around the Circle: A Poem Inspired by Edward D. Pierre

A cartoon of architect Edward D. Pierre at his drafting table, drawn ca. 1930s-1950s

‘Twas the night before Christmas, the Circle was dark,
Not a light could be seen, not even a spark.
The Monument stood cold and still as a tomb,
While snow fell around in flurries of gloom.
Walking around Indy’s tall, central fixture,
Ed Pierre mused, “What’s wrong with this picture?
Where’s the tinsel, the crèche and Old Nick’s reindeer?
This pillar should blaze with bright Christmas cheer!
In such dark times as these, when conflict won’t cease,
This testament to war should be a symbol of peace.”

Thus in 1937, that cold winter’s night,
Pierre was determined to set things to right.
He began to cajole his peers in construction,
To lend him a hand with this festive production.
And with help from his friends at the American Legion,
The scheme slowly took hold throughout the near region.
But, alas, war was brewing in the West and the East,
Soon everyone’s efforts went to feeding the beast.
For five endless years, brutal fighting raged on,
While all nations despaired of rapprochement.
And Pierre’s jolly plans simply fell by the wayside,
‘Till on one summer day, the war ended world-wide.

The south terrace of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Christmas, ca. 1946

With the aid of one passionate Wallace O. Lee,
The civically- minded formed a Christmas Committee.
This cohort of forty, with limited loot,
Decked the Circle in greens, which made it look gut.
(The state parks department gave ‘em cuttings from forests,
Left from pruning the foliage like Nature’s own florists.)
The mayor of Naptown applauded their spirit,
And promised a visit as weather permitted.
The group smiled and smirked at a job most well done,
Resolving next season to have even more fun.

At the Monument’s root sat a group of tableaux,
Augmented only by blankets of snow.In one of the scenes was a full-sized nativity
That satisfied Pierre’s most peaceful proclivity.
Designed by the muralist Williams, J. Scott,
It featured carved figures from Italy bought.
In the west, Santa’s reindeer scampered ‘cross the scene;
To the south, “Merry Christmas” wished a wreath of green;
Due north, a bold banner displayed “Peace on Earth,”
Forming a setting of bright comfort and mirth.

The Holy Night by J. Scott Williams, designed for the Indy Christmas Committee, ca. 1946

Edward Pierre was ecstatic with joy.
His dream had come true; he sat back to enjoy.
‘Till 1962, the tradition continued,
Each Christmas a vision, a most popular venue,
When one suggested, “How ‘bout string lights of gold?”
And after, a new yuletide custom took hold,
The Monument glowing on holiday nights
The column a tree, the Circle of Lights.
That Tannenbaum each season greets us all with a bright,
“Happy Christmakwanzakah to all, and to all a good night!”

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All information and images, unless otherwise indicated, was found in the Edward D. Pierre collection (L611) in Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library.

This blog post was written by Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarian Brittany Kropf. For more information, contact the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division at (317) 232-3671 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at