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Favorite thing: Located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Indianapolis, Bloomington is a pleasant city of around 80,400 inhabitants, and is the county seat of Monroe County. Known as the "Gateway to Scenic Southern Indiana," the Bloomington area offers numerous outdoor recreational opportunities at nearby state parks, state and national forests, and lakes Monroe and Lemon.
The city was established in 1818 by a group of settlers from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas. At the time of their arrival, many flowers were in bloom, a "haven of blooms" as one settler wrote, and they therefore called their town Bloomington. Most early residents made their living from farming, the quarrying of limestone (see my tip under the "Local Customs" category for more information), and lumbering. In 1853, the coming of the railroad made travel and the transportation of limestone easier. Communities and businesses grew up along the railway, and the city flourished.
In 1820, President James Monroe selected the site for a seminary in Bloomington, which later became Indiana University. The university is now the city's main employer, and Bloomington's 11-block downtown area caters to the university's 40,000 students with numerous restaurants, outdoor cafes, art galleries, specialty shops, and a majority of the city's night spots.
Updated Sep 13, 2012
Favorite thing: Indiana's capital and largest city, Indianapolis is the center of a metropolitan area of over 2,040,000 inhabitants. Indianapolis was settled in 1820, but did not become the state capital until 1825, when the city was chosen to give Indiana a centralized capital. This ensured that Indianapolis would become the largest and most important city in the state. Further growth was guaranteed when, in 1825, the city was successful in persuading Congress to to run the National Road (now U.S. Route 40) through the city, instead of 15 miles (24 kilometers) to the south.
The city was founded on the banks of the White River with the hope that the river would serve as a major transportation artery. However, the river proved too shallow and sandy for inland navigation. The city later did become a regional transportation hub after the arrival of several railroads. Major roads also led out from Indianapolis in all directions to other Midwestern cities. This gave rise to the state's nickname of the "Crossroads of America."
When the new capital city was established, Jeremiah Sullivan, a justice of the state Supreme Court, invented its name. He combined Indiana with polis, the Greek word for city, so Indianapolis literally means "Indiana City." The state government commissioned Alexander Ralston to design a plan for Indianapolis. Ralston was an apprentice of Pierre L'Enfant, the architect of Washington D.C.'s unique plan. Ralston's city plan consisted of a grid with a large circle, now called Monument Circle, in the center of the downtown area. This gave Indianapolis its nickname of the "Circle City."
Because of its central location and excellent transportation infrastructure, Indianapolis became a major center of industry and commerce in the early 1900s. It rivaled Detroit as a center for automobile manufacturing. The city grew and prospered. Indianapolis was not without its problems, however. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, cutbacks in federal aid and an overdependence on the declining automobile industry turned Indianapolis into a rustbelt city with a stagnant economy. However, in the early 1980s, a partnership of government, business, and philanthropy caused a turn-around in the city's fortunes when new public-works projects and an influx of industry and business rejuvenated a once-dying city.
Nowadays, Indianapolis once again has a vibrant economy, and is the financial and cultural center of the State of Indiana.
Updated Sep 12, 2012
Favorite thing: Ninety-Two counties divide the state into political and governmental areas. The first county was incorporated in 1790 (Knox County along the Mississippi River at the southwest corner of the state) and the last county formed was Newton County (northwest corner of the state) in the 1850s.
Marion County has the largest population and Ohio County the smallest population.
Allen County is the largest in size and again Ohio County is the smallest.
There is a website dedicated to all the information you ever wanted to know about the counties in Indiana.
Written Nov 28, 2007
Favorite thing: Indiana has numerous small towns dating from the end of the 19th Century and the start of the 20th Century. It was a time of rapid industrial growth. Much of which was not dependent on the exact location of the business as transportation was expanding, demand was rising for finished products and farm production was producing value. These towns grew up as the hub of business for there area. There is at least one substantial town in each county and if it's large enough or the geography splits it up, there may be 2 or 3.
Fondest memory: Kendallville is in northern Indiana and has retained it's turn of the century (18th-19th centuries) downtown.
Columbia City in northwestern Indiana, like many towns, the business' are moving out to the main road in strip malls, leaving the downtown undisturbed.
Greencastle, west of Indianapolis is still a thriving buisness center with an intact downtown. Here you can see change, but the retention of the historic structures.
Madison is down on the Ohio River, east of Louisville, Kentucky. The downtown is being restored to an earlier time period as the modern stores and chains are all 'on the hill', and downtown is returning to a period river town.
Valparaiso is on the edge of the spreading Chicago metropolis, yet it retains much of it's downtown.
Vincennes is the oldest city in the state and is located on the Wabash River at the Illinois border. Here, you'll be able to find several 'downtowns', although only one is the modern city center. The other are earlier commercial centers in the history of this city.
Written Nov 20, 2007
Favorite thing: Indiana Courthouses, have had a tradition of being similar. Square built with a central tower. Even with that tradition, the variation is wonderful. Of course, over the years, some have lost their towers, others have been replaced completely. Those remaining 19th Century (1880-1900) buildings are always fun to see.
Written Oct 9, 2007
Favorite thing: In 1917 the Indiana General Assembly adopted a "State Banner" as part of the commemoration of the The centennial of the Hoosier State. The banner was chosen in a competition sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the prize-winning design was submitted by Paul Hadley of Mooresville, Indiana.
The banner is a blue field with inscriptions in gold. The torch in the center stands for liberty and enlightenment; the rays represent their far-reaching influence. The outer circle of stars stands for the original thirteen states and the inner circle of stars for the five states next admitted to the union. The large star stands for Indiana, the nineteenth state. This banner is "regulation in addition to the American flag, with all of the military forces of the State of Indiana, and in all public functions in which the state may or shall officially appear."
The banner was later adapted as the Indiana State Flag by act of the 1955 Indiana General Assembly.
Indiana State Flag
Updated Jul 27, 2006
Favorite thing: The Old National Road Welcome Center is a GREAT place to stop as you come along US 40 in Richmond. The center is a part of the Wayne County Convention Tourism Bureau. The place houses TONS of brochures and information on nearly all points of interest statewide. The receptionist that works there is very friendly and will gladly make reservations for you or point you in the right direction. I cannot recommend stopping here highly enough, because it has a wealth of information. Also it has a little gift store where you can buy some Indiana souvenirs.
Fondest memory: 5701 National Road (US 40) in Richmond, IN
Written Jun 8, 2005
Favorite thing: I'm always amazed when I discover the number of citizens who never visit the capital of their state. Citizens of Indiana are really missing out on something special if they have not visited the Capitol Building in Indianapolis.
This revitalized Capitol Building called the "State House" represents nineteenth-century grandeur with the inner workings of a twenty-first-century. It's a beautiful building, the historic treasure Indianapolis and the state of Indiana.
The building is shaped like a Greek cross with a central dome and rotunda. The main floor is built 14 feet above ground level. This is where the governor, the House of representatives (east side), and the Senate (west side) do business as well as the Indiana Supreme Court (north end).
The interior is in the Italian Renaissance style. Indiana materials such as Indiana oak, maple, and walnut are used here. Skylights bring in natural lighting. The Atrium skylights brighten the north and south wings. The Art Glass inner dome, in blue tones, is suspended below a skylight.
The exterior of the building is Corinthian style design. Indiana materials are used here, too. Oolitic limestone quarried from Monroe, Lawrence, & Owen counties; foundation limestone from Greensburg & North Vernon quarries; cornerstone limestone from Spencer. So, the building is certainly representative of INDIANA.
Fondest memory: While taking the tour, I learned that many "blotched" changes happened in the first 100 years so in 1988, an eleven million dollar renovation and restoration took place to bring back its original elegance. The biggest project with the best results (I think) was removing 3 layers of paint and doing "four acres of plaster hand stenciling". The results are breathtaking!
The Indiana Supreme Court courtroom did NOT have to be restored because it has never changed.
I do hope that local citizens visit and marvel at The Indiana State Capitol just as the hordes of tourists do. It certainly deserves the respect of those it serves.
Updated May 1, 2005
Favorite thing: Terre Haute is always mispronounced. The correct pronunciation is Terra Hote. This 1816 town sits on a bluff overlooking the Wabash River and takes its name from the French for "high land."
Terre Haute became a railroad and coal mining center until about 1960. Because of the outlying shopping malls, the downtown area almost collapsed. It certainly is not the shopping mecca that I once knew.
There are still interesting places in Terre Haute:
Eugene V. Debs Home Debs was a leader of the American labor movement, a five-time presidential candidate, and founder of the Socialist Party of America. He organized & was president of the American Railway Union.
The home is a large Victorian (1890) and contains period furnishings, campaign memorabilia & exhibits on the socialist & labor movement.
Sheldon Swope Art Museum (25 South Seventh St) has a good collection of American regionalist paintings of the 19th and 20th centuries, including one of my favorites, Edward Hopper.
Paul Dresser Memorial Birthplace (First & Farrington Streets). Paul was a popular composer who wrote the state song of Indiana. His brother is the famous Theodore Dreiser (note different spelling) who wrote "Sister Carrie" and many other novels.
Historical Museum of Wabash Valley (1411 S. Sixth St.) is housed in an 1868 Italianate building, and it has costumes, textiles, and Victorian furniture. It also has Indian artifacts and military implements.
Fondest memory: I grew up about an hour from Terre Haute, Indiana and thought that it was the greatest place. Of course, it's changed a great deal since then, but I have fond memories of shopping at "Davids", going to the "bib" movie theater, and going to the teen center where the kids were so "cool" that we imitated the way they danced and then called the dance, The Terre Haute!
Allan and I went to graduate school in Terre Haute, and I taught at Woodrow Wilson Jr. High School for one year. Besides Indiana State University, Terre Haute is also home to St. Mary-of-the Woods College, Poly Tech Institute.
Updated Mar 27, 2005
Favorite thing: The Calumet Region is the strip of Lake Michigan shoreline where the cities of Hammond, Whiting, East Chicago, and Gary are today. This area was originally swamps and sand dunes, but in the late 1800's, it grew into one of the most important industrialized regions in the United States.
My husband Allan was born and raised in the "Region" in East Chicago, so I have a fondness for this sometimes "gritty" industrial area.
The "region" began when Standard Oil Company laid pipelines from Ohio to the little village of Whiting, Indiana. Right there (1889) Standard built one of the largest oil refineries in the world. Other companies saw how great the site was, so many heavy industries opened in Hammond and East Chicago; thus, their port grew into one of the nation's greatest shipping centers.
Then, steel became the state's fastest-growing and most important industries. Inland Steel opened a plant in East Chicago (Allan worked there one summer). Then United States Steel Corporation erected massive steel mills along miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, which gave birth to Gary, Indiana. US Steel built homes for 100,000 families and more than half of the citizens were born in Europe! Immigrants from Italy, Poland, Hungary, and other European countries moved to Gary to work in the mills.
Dupont, Sinclair, and Shell companies moved to the area along with Republic Steel.
In 1970, the Port of Indiana, a deepwater port, opened at Burns Harbor so Indiana industries could ship more products in and out directly.
Imported steel really hurt the "Region", and many steel mills had to cut production or close down altogether, which caused poor economic conditions in the region. The towns of East Chicago, Gary, and Hammond suffered greatly.
Fondest memory: But, people who live in the area are loyal to it. As my husband says, "You can take the boy out of the "Region", but you can't take the "Region" out of the boy!"
Updated Mar 18, 2005
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