Brick By Brick
Greenwood Resident Builds Replica LEGO Soldiers & Sailors Monument
Photographer / Amy Garro
In the heart of downtown Indianapolis, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument stands at 284 feet and 6 inches, towering over the city’s historic Monument Circle. Less than one mile north, however, a slightly smaller LEGO version Monument can be found on display at the Indiana State Library, measuring in at an impressive seven feet in height.
Constructed by Greenwood resident and longtime architecture enthusiast Jeffrey Smythe, the LEGO Soldiers and Sailors Monument is made up of more than 65,000 bricks in total. Originally displayed at the 2018 Brickworld expo in Indianapolis, Smythe’s LEGO Soldiers and Sailors Monument returns to the Indiana State Library, where it can be seen on the second floor through Jan. 17.
A graduate of IUPUI, Smythe admits that architecture and design have always been passions of his. It wasn’t until he retired early, however, that Smythe decided to pick LEGOs back up again.
“I saw my nephew’s LEGO tubs in my brother’s garage, so I asked my brother what he was doing with them,” Smythe says. “My brother didn’t really know because my nephew was at the age where he had discovered girls. So I brought them back to my place and started trying to put sets back together from the tubs.”
After completing some small projects, Smythe decided it was time to step it up a notch. Taking his interest in architecture into consideration, he thought a well-known monument might be fun to recreate.
“A lot of the national monuments had been built, and I wanted to do something no one had done before,” Smythe says. “I started looking locally, and no one had done the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. So I thought, ‘Okay, that’s what I’ll do.’”
With no proper instruction manual for the project, Smythe had to do his fair share of research in order to ensure his LEGO creation did the monument justice.
“I found some old landscape blueprints from when Ayres used to do the decorations downtown every year, and I was able to find some dimensions,” he says. “Every time I found a dimension or a height listed in a book, I would jot it down and then convert it to mini-figure scale, kind of like [you would with] train scale.”
Through a process of trial and error, he eventually was able to construct an initial LEGO version of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. In reflecting on the structure’s various elements, Smythe says some parts were certainly more difficult to recreate than others.
“In the terrace, the monument has a lot of curves, and LEGO does not make curved bricks like that,” Smythe says. “So I kind of had to be creative. I’d build something and have it fall apart, and then build it and have it fall apart again.”
Another element of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument that caused him some trouble was the water on both sides of the structure.
“I thought the water would be easy, and it ended up taking six weeks,” Smythe says, chuckling. “I tend to be a perfectionist, and I redo things until I’m happy with them.”
After finalizing his LEGO ode to Indy, Smythe was granted the opportunity to display his miniature Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the city’s 2018 Brickworld expo. Here, he was given constructive criticism from fellow LEGO enthusiasts.
“When it was at Brickworld, the mini-figures were just random figures that I wanted to add to it, and everyone was like, ‘Well, why aren’t they wearing winter clothes?’ So I went and found mini-figures this year that had winter clothes,” Smythe says. “The kids are real truthful with critiquing it.”
When transporting his LEGO Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Smythe splits the structure into several sections, which ultimately equate to two separate carloads.
“When it comes apart, there are nine sections at the base that just slide apart,” he says. “And then, the tower and the Monument itself are in four or five sections.”
While installing his LEGO Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the State Library this November, Smythe says the Red for Ed Action Day was also going on in downtown Indianapolis, which granted him with an excellent opportunity to meet many Indy educators and their students.
“Two years ago, basically no one was in the library when I set it up,” Smythe says. “This year, with Red for Ed, it was busy all day long downtown and in the library, so I got a chance to talk with teachers and the kids they brought along, which was really cool.”
Smythe’s LEGO Soldiers and Sailors Monument will be on display at the Indiana State Library through Jan. 17 and can be found on the second floor in the library’s Young Readers section. The State Library is located at 315 W Ohio St and can be reached via phone at 317-232-3675. For more information on the library and its operating hours, visitors can also go to in.gov/library/.