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.
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.
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.
- Road Trip
Indiana's Small towns
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.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
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.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Indiana State Flag
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 FlagRelated to:
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Old National Road Welcome Center in Richmond, IN
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, INRelated to:
- Road Trip
Indiana's Capitol Building in Indianapolis
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.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Old Bluff Town: Terre Haute
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.Related to:
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Indiana's Industrial Area: Calumet Region
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!"Related to:
- Historical Travel
Madison, Indiana, An Architectual Treasure
Favorite thing: Madison appears today much as it did during its steamboat days. The historic district claims 133 blocks as this city has converted almost every corner in town into an architectually visual paradise! It has two national historic landmarks & eight historic museums. There's a collection of 19th-century homes as well as shops that invite visitors to browse. There are many stores, restaurants, historic buildings & museums along the main streets & in scattered, quiet neighborhoods within easy walking distance.
You'll see it all here: early Federal-style buildings next to Greek Revivals, Italianates, or even modest shotgun-style cottages. I especially liked the soda fountain & the operating movie theater. Plus, gardens seem to bloom on almost every patch of dirt, which only adds to the beauty of this delightful town.
You'll find stores in old mansions, century-old storefronts, & 1800's factories. Of real interest is a 145-year-old mill with walls 4-bricks thick that houses an antique mall. At some point in your visit, take a walk along the riverfront. May through October, the Mississippi Queen and other paddle wheelers dock here as they did more than a century ago.
I really enjoyed Lanthier Winery in a small, refurbished 19th-Century fort. You might prefer the Thomas Family Winery in a refurbished 1855 Carriage House and Stable.
A multitude of Bed and Breakfast establishments are available in this wonderful town that's protected by wooded bluffs.
I especially admired the extra-wide streets, imposing homes, & rows of lovely townhouses.
I made sure that I obtained a walking tour map at the Visitor's Center on Main Street. You are able to take walking tours. The walking tour of the town is divided into two 2-hour tours; west and east.
Fondest memory: My two favorites on the tour were the J.F.D. Lanier State Historic Site & The Shrewbury House.
James F. D. Lanier was a financier & railroad tycoon, & his mansion has an imposing columned facade and a porticoed balcony. From the balcony, a wide view of the restored gardens and the Riverfront Parkway are quite impressive. It's an ocher-colored Greek Revival mansion built in the 1840s.
More subdued, but just as impressive, is the Shrewbury-Windle House. It has an incredible spiral staircase that seems to float upward without visible support! Built for a riverboat captain, it has massive 12-foot-tall doors!
Besides house tours and eating, you might like to do some shopping. In addition to antiques, Madison has a growing reputation as an arts and crafts colony Main Street has 20 specialty shops with items such as woodcarving & tinwear, as well as paintings & pottery.
This is one city not to miss. It's located 86 miles southeast of Indianapolis, & it's only 55 miles northeast of Louisville and 65 miles southwest of Cincinnati.Related to:
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
New Harmony Was Not Always Harmonious
Favorite thing: Is a perfect society a possibility? Robert Owen thought so. He bought the town of New Harmony on the banks of the Wabash River. He purchased it from George Rapp's and his German Religious group. Owens wanted to form a society in which all members would work together. "Equal work=equal profits" was the philosophy so that community members would own the town.
Owen gathered scholars, scientists, and educators, and in 1825, Owen's hand-selected community arrived by boat. They were known as the "boat load of Knowledge".
Soon, New Harmony became known as the "intellectual heart of the pioneer West." But, there were no factories and no industry, and these intellectuals did not have farming skills; thus, they had to buy whatever they needed. By 1827, the Utopian community had failed. But, the town lived on as a regular Indiana town, and in the 1940's, a female descendant of Robert Owen began a project to restore the town to preserve its history.
Today, visitors see the fruits of those efforts. New Harmony looks much the same as it did in the 1800s. There are museums and historic homes, and the famous Labyrinth (a maze of hedges). Those people who reach the end of the labyrinth will find a "temple" that the New Harmony community erected.
So, even though New Harmony did not become the Utopia that Owens dreamed of, it's a wonderful place to visit today in order to soak up the history, the architecture, and the 1800s ambience.
Fondest memory: New Harmony HIstoric District is located in the far southwestern area of Indiana, and is really worth the effort to see.
This town is in a rural area and is surrounded by rich farmland.
Visit first the Atheneum Visitors' Center on North and Arthur Streets. All tours begin here, and tickets must be purchased here to view the sites.
1830 Owen House at Tavern and Brewery Streets. English architectural style and quite historic.
Harmonist Cemetery at Church, West, Arthur, and North streets. 230 members of the Harmony Society are buried here in unmarked graves dating from 1814-1824. There are also prehistoric Woodland Mounds.
Robert Henry Fauntleroy House at West & Church Streets. Harmonist family residence. House museum contains period furniture.
Solomon Wolf House at Granary and Brewery Streets. Electronic scale model of New Harmony in 1824 plus audiovisual program.
Thrall's Opera House at 612 E. Church St. Originally Harmonist Dormitory Number 4 & converted to a concert hall by Owen descendants.
Plus many, many more sites.Related to:
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Brown County and the Town of Nashville
Favorite thing: Brown County is the center of tourism for Southern Indiana. Its got the cute little town of Nashville with its 200 shops and restaurants geatred for tourists. By this I mean it tends to sell antiques and Amish furniture, jellies, jams, mustards and other country style goods. They have good restaurants, music jamborees, horseback riding and just a lot of things to entertain you.
Fondest memory: This area is set up for visitors. Even though there is a little something lacking in originality and authenticity, they have good accomodations, good restaurants and a friendly attitude.
Daylight Savings Time - Hello Headache
Favorite thing: The vast majority of Indiana is on Eastern time, but does not set their clocks forwards in the Spring. The counties immediately around Chicago and Evansville are on Central time and do use daylight savings time. Add to this that there counties near Cincinnatti and Louisville are on Eastern time and do use daylight savings and you have a big headache.
Fondest memory: Fortunately, the setting on your clock isn't usually that important unless you're on a schedule. What I usually do is just consider Indiana to be on Central time during Summer and Eastern time during Winter.
Favorite thing: Indiana has lower sales taxes than our neighbor Illinois so many people who are close to the border come over for the cheaper sales tax of 6% on general goods and 0% on food (compared with 8.75% for general goods and 2% for food in Chicago) and cheaper cigarettes (around $6 per pack in Chicago).
Until recently Indiana also had a favorable gas tax and although it is still cheaper than in Cook County where Chicago is located, many of the surrounding suburbs are now cheaper than Indiana.
You will notice when you cross from Chicago into Indiana, many gas stations and cigarette stands because of it.
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