American Historic Towns
Historic Towns of The Western States

Edited by Lyman P. Powell
G. P. Putnam Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press


THE visitor to the Hoosier capital familiar with the capital of the nation instantly observes a striking similarity between the two. Well he may, for Alexander Ralston, who carried the chains for Pierre Charles L'Enfant, and placed the stakes which fixed the lines and curves of the City of Magnificent Distances, was the surveyor of Indianapolis. When, in 1821, he carved out of the small cleared space, in the centre of a great wilderness the plan just one mile square for Indianapolis, his architectural abilities and ambitions had more than a superficial justification. The result was perhaps the handsomest city between Philadelphia and Denver.

When Indainapolis was platted on the surveyor's map it had but 800 inhabitants. By the year 1840 the town had grown to 2672 inhabitants. There were only 48,244 souls in the city in 1870. But by 1890 the population had increased to 105,436, and the census of 1900 placed the population at 169,164. In the latter decade. Indianapolis outstripped Rochester, New York, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Denver, and Omaha in increase of population. And the area occupied by the city grew in three quarters of a century from one to twenty seven square miles.

Entering Indianapolis today upon any one of the seventeen independent railroads operated by steam locomotives, or any one of the many, interurban electric systems, the traveller is entranced, in passing the wide, asphalted avenues, by the magnificent view which carries the vision to the hub of the city, where the eye readily perceives the panorama of the State House, four or five magnificent hotels, some majestic club houses, and the worldfamed Soldiers' Monument in the Governor's Circle. The city is not one over which dense clouds of smoke hover daily, marks unmistakable of great manufacturing interests. The sky is usually clear. Natural gas and oil are largely employed as fuel for the production of steam. Where coal is used the consumers are largely located in the remote outskirts. During half the year the foliage from the splendid system of shade and other trees along the avenues and streets and in the parks clothes the city in a verdure producing a pleasing effect upon the vision and the atmosphere. In winter time the well paved streets and the universal system of cement sidewalks are ever under the enforcement of perfect city regulations, clear of snow and sleet and other impediments to boulevard driving and pedestrianism.

There is about the history of Indianapolis much of quaint Indian tradition and historical attractiveness. While almost every trace of the rural, or the virgin forests which Were in view from any point a few years ago, has disappeared and modern structures and improvements abound, the visitor wherever he goes, cannot forget, that he is in a city which made great progress during the last half of the nineteenth century. On every hand this fact is illustrated. It was as late as April, 1816, that Congress authorized the construction of a constitution for the State. As recently as three quarters of a century ago the White River, on which Indianapolis is situated, was dotted from source to mouth, with the canoes of savages, and lined along its banks, in the dense wilderness, with Indian villages. The white man made his way in constant fear through the country. It is true that Vincennes had been settled by white people generations before, but its citizens had at this time few if any relations, social or commercial, with any other section of the Territory, and everywhere the red man continued to be a prime factor, holding and controlling the affairs of the domain. While the White and Wabash rivers in the interior furnished during a part of the year transportation by raft, the old buffalo trail from Vincennes to the Falls of the Ohio, cleared by immigrants, afforded the only safe outlet or inlet, and was in consequence a great thoroughfare. The Whetzels, known to history as the intrepid Indian fighters, paved the way through the Territory and made it possible for immigrants to find Indianapolis in its early days.

At the time this city was located and titled there was so much of Indian lore in the minds of the legislators, and in fact so much of the red man in the wilderness around, a constant source of apprehension, that great difficulty was found in securing a name for the new metropolis. Tecumseh, Suwarrow, Whetzel, Wayne, Delaware, and other names familiar to the paleface hunted by or hunting the red man, were suggested. Finally Mr. Samuel Merrill, a name significant in the modern history of indiana and Indianapolis, and prominent in the upbuilding and development of the best institutions of the State and city, proposed Indianapolis as the name for the city which is now the pride of all Hoosier hearts.

The original city was platted with streets just one mile in length from end to end. The avenues, or "diagonals," as they were termed on the original plat, radiated from the Circle (the hub) in the centre and constituted that beautiful design which makes the capital of France and the capital of the United States so attrac tive in appearance, and yet in some respects "a labyrinth or mesh to the unfamiliar." N ear the radiating point or Circle was early established a market, which is today one of the great conveniences to the residents of the city and to those who market their products and an attraction at most seasons of the year to visitors.

It was not until the removal in November, 1824, of the archives of Indiana from Corydon to Indianapolis, that the latter became the actual capital... In 1827 the Legislatire appropriated four thousand dollars for a Governor's residence to be located in the Circle. Its construction was commenced, but never completed. The unfurnished portion was occupied at one time as a schoolhouse, until finally the officers of the Supreme Court made it their headquarters. After some years the crude building was demolished and the ground was converted into a park, the present location of the Soldiers' Monument.

It was not until a third of the nineteenth century had pissed, not until near 1840, that Indianapolis became more pretentious than any other country town. The public squares were feeding grounds for the ox and horse teams of countrymen who came to market. There were practically no industries, and the buildings were primitive and simple. As late as 1875 the wags of the stage and the humorists of the press amused themselves with jeers at the Hoosier capital. The Hoosier was a joke in the East. He was represented as the typical raw character, greatly in need of common advantages and ordinary enlightenment. And the impression persisted until some time after three quarters of the nineteenth centuty had passed that Indianapolis was simply a congregating point for him and his kind. About 1880 the city began to take on the appearance of a modern am. bitious metropolis. As wealth increased the people resorted in ever increasing numbers to the capital, to enjoy the schools for their children and the best civilization for themselves. Gradually there have gathered there not only the prosperous citizens of the State, but many who have at home or abroad achieved renown in letters, diplomacy, official life, the army and navy. Here have lived two Vice Presidents of our country. One of our Presidents, the late General Benjamin Harrison, lived and died here. Dialect poets, local historians, and novelists have spent their days here and been the pride of their fellow citizens.

In 1831 the Legislature made an appropriation of fifty thousand dollars for the construction of a State House. The investment, when completed, however, aggregated about sixty thousand dollars. And the State viewed the result with satisfaction and believed she had one of the most attractive and majestic State Houses in the entire country, as indeed she had after the substitution in 1887, at an expense of $1,936,000, of the present magnificent structure.

Indianapolis has more than one hundred church buildings. The City Hall, with a seating capacity of over five thousand, the gift of Mr. Daniel Tomlinson, was constructed at an expense of $150,000, and is principally used for conventions and musical festivals.

In 1836 the State began an elaborate system of internal improvements. Railroads, canals, and turnpikes were subsidized and encouraged in every manner possible. The first railroad to reach Indianapolis came up in 1847 from Madison, on the Ohio River, creating the usual sensation of the new railroad in those days. As long ago as 1860 Indianapolis became the railroad centre of the Central West. The diversified and almost limitless products of the State, of the frm and the mine, and the fact that Indianapolis is in the direct pathway between the East and the West, afforded great attraction to railroad builders. The Union Railroad Station, until recently the largest and best in the United States, is still one of the most commodious, comfortable, and beautiful in the country.

During the Civil War Indianapolis was a storm centre. The State was not, surpassed by any other in the percentage of soldiers sent out to defend the Union. Here they rendezvoused, and Camp Morton and other points about the city for many years after the war bore signs of the long presence. of the "Boys in Blue." Indiana possessed a great war Governor in Oliver P. Morton, the steadfast friend of Lincoln and a loyal antislavist. For five years in Indianapolis the shrill sound of the fife and the roll of the drum scarcely ever ceased, day . or night. Those living today who recall the activities of the days of the Civil War view the Soldiers' Monument, in the heart of the city, and the many evidences of reverence for the memory of our Union soldiers in the beautiful cemeteries without surprise. These to them are but simple sequences, natural results.

The straggling village of the first days of the war soon became a bustling little city. For the first time business blocks began to appear along the leading streets and avenues. The architecture in the residences evinced a tendency toward the modern as time progressed. The corduroy or cobble streets were improved. The heavy artillery and ponderous wagons carrying munitions of war required something more substantial in heavy weather, and gravel was thrown upon the muddy thoroughfares. Level as a plain, but beautifully drained by the slight inclines to the White River, it was possible to transform those streams of mud in winter time and heaps of brown dust in the dry summer into the magnificently paved or perfectly asphalted streets of the present day. The city now has 150 miles of improved streets, forty miles of asphalt, costing $2,514,576; twenty three miles of brick, $902,276; twelve miles of wooden block, $710,646, and seventy five miles of gravel and boulder, $777,306. There are 107 miles of cement sidewalks, which required an expenditure of $552,489; and ninety one miles of sewers, at an' outlay of $1,575,878.

Many beautiful, residences, surrounded by well kept lawns and. parks, may be viewed by a drive through the city or. by a tour over any of the lines of the splendidly managed consolidated street railway system. The city has 1207 acres of parks, more attractive than the parks of Washington. Riverside Park, containing 953 acres, the ground for which was purchased in 1900, lies along the White River. Garfield Park contains 103 acres; Brookside Park, eighty one acres; and there are various smaller parks throughout the city. The municipality of Indianapolis has a large park fund, created from the sale of bonds and from a tax levied for park purposes. The financial condition of the muncipality is, the pride of the citizens. The value of school property is $1,993,620. The city library is a handsome building, erected especially for library purposes, and contains one hundred thousand volumes.

In 1887 the Legislature appropriated $200,000 for the erection in Governor's Circle of the monument to the soldiers and sailors of the State. The corner stone was laid August 2, 1889. The monument was designed by Bruno Schmidt, of Berlin, and was built of Indiana limestone, at an expense of $600,000, including the images at the base. The monument, stands 268 feet in height. Around the approaches are eight magnificent candelabra, valued at $40,000. The two cascades are the largest artificial waterfalls in the world, discharging each minute seven thousand gallons. The water is derived from driven wells beneath the monument, and after flowing over the cascade returns to the reservoir, from which it is again used through power furnished by force pumps. In 1900 the revenue of the city was $1,341,861, and the expenditure $1,245,000. The bonded debt was $2,135,700. The assessed valuation of property for 1900 was $126,672,652. There are five national banks with a combined, capital of $2,400,000, and four trust companies with a combined capital of $3,000,000. The wholesale trade is extensive, confined mostly to drygoods, boots and shoes, and hats, and reaches as far south as Texas and west to Oklahoma.

Manufacturing interests are large, consisting mainly of structural iron, mill machinery, engines and various kinds of bent wood. It is contended that only Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and New York surpass Indianapolis in the amount of many manufactured products. Mill machinery and structural iron is shipped in large quantities to Europe, South America, and other foreign lands. Indianapolis is one of the greatest horse markets in the country, and is surpassed by only three.. cities as a market for hogs and cattle. A belt railroad circles the city, connecting the two immense stockyards with all the steam railroads.

In May, 1895, John Herron willed to the Art Association $200,000, with which to erect an art gallery. A site has been purchased, and the gallery is this year to be built. The Commercial Club, composed of the leading business men of the city and devoted to advancing the interests of the city, occupies its own building, an elegant eight story structure. The home for the Columbia Club, a Republican organization of State importance, which has just been completed at an expense of nearly $200,000, is one of the finest club properties in the entire West. The Marion and the University clubs both own their buildings, and the women, too, have a club house. The Law Building is a handsome and valuable structure of twelve stories, occupied exclusively by attorneys. The corporation has a large law library for the use of the tenants.

State institutions are the Insane Hospital, containing fifteen hundred patients; Institute for the Education of the Blind, and a similar institution for deaf mutes. The city has a large and handsomely equipped hospital, and there are two others well appointed. A new hotel building will this year take the place of the Bates House, at a cost of more than $2,000,000. The city is adorned with impressive statues of her favorite sons: Morton, Whitcomb, William Henry Harrison, and George Rogers Clark in Monument Place, Vice President Colfax in University Park, and Vice President Hendricks in the State House grounds. To these will be added in 1901 one of General Henry W. Lawton, a native Hoosier, who fell in battle in the Philippines, one of General Pleasant A. Hackleman, the only general officer from Indiana killed in the Civil War, and one sometime, of course, of the late ex President Harrison.

Except Philadelphia, it is doubtful if there is a city in the Union where a greater percentage of the wage earners possess their own homes. Labor strikes or disturbances are here almost unknown, and the conditions of peace and prosperity are assured for many years to come.

Historic towns of the Western States

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