The first contact between Cologne and Indianapolis took place in 1985 when the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne presented an exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. On this occasion, the desire arose to establish closer relations between the two metropolises. In September of that year, Mayor William H. Hudnut from Indianapolis visited the city of Cologne. The following year, Mayor Dr. Norbert Burger returned the visit and became acquainted with Indianapolis. Both mayors agreed that there were a number of similarities between the two cities, making a sustainable exchange of experience and closer cooperation an obvious choice. They were both firmly convinced of the importance of promoting German-American relations and fostering contact between the citizens of Cologne and Indianapolis.
In May 1988, Mayor Hudnut delivered the formal declaration of the Indianapolis city council to enter into a partnership with Cologne. The partnership documents between Cologne and Indianapolis were signed on November 28, 1988 in the Historic City Hall of Cologne by Mayors Burger and Hudnut. On the same day, Cologne was twinned with Volgograd - a clear message of peace during the Cold War.
Further cementing the partnership is Indianapolis’s strong German roots. During the city’s rapid growth in the mid-19th century, the city and region became a center of German immigration, especially after the failed revolution of 1848. Even today, the influence of German immigrants in construction, culture and trade can be seen in many places. Germans from Indiana were also fought in the Union army in their own regiments because they wanted to stand up for the freedom of all people.
The central landmark of the city and the state, the “Soldiers and Sailors Monument”, was planned and built from 1888 by the German monument architect Bruno Schmitz. From 1893 the German architects Vonnegut and Bohn erected Das Deutsche Haus, today known as the Athenaeum.