All About Indianapolis
The city of Indianapolis was established not by settlers but by proclamation when Indiana was granted statehood in 1816. The United States Congress set aside four sections of public land for the site of the capital of the Union’s nineteenth state. In January 1820, the Indiana legislature picked 10 commissioners and charged them with the mandate to locate the new capital as near as possible to the center of the state, the purpose being to take advantage of western migration. The following February, George Pogue and John McCormick settled with their families on land that was to become the site of Indianapolis. Other settlers soon arrived and by the summer of 1820 a dozen families had built cabins along the riverbank in a settlement named Fall Creek. In June 1820, the commissioners selected for the capital a location that was close to the exact center of the state; on that spot was the cabin of John McCormick.
After the legislature approved the site in 1821, the name Indianapolis, a combination of Indiana plus the Greek word polis for city, was chosen. Four square miles were allotted for the city, but the chief surveyor, E. P. Fordham, plotted an area of only one square mile because it seemed inconceivable that the capital would ever be any larger. Alexander Ralston, who previously had helped plot the District of Columbia, was hired to design the future city. He decided to model it on the nation’s capital, with four broad avenues branching out diagonally to the north, south, east and west from a central circle.
In 1821 Indianapolis became the county seat of the newly configured Marion County, and four years later, when the state legislature met for the first time, Indianapolis boasted one street and a population of 600 people. By the time the town was incorporated in 1832 the population had reached only 1,000 people. Growth was slow because Indianapolis?which now holds the distinction of being one of the world’s most populous cities not situated near navigable waters?lay on the banks of the White River, which was too shallow for commerce.
Road/Rail Transport Create a Regional Center
The construction of the Central Canal from Broad Ripple to Indianapolis seemed to solve the problem temporarily, but the canal turned out to be useless when water volume decreased. The routing of the national highway through the center of Indianapolis in 1831 provided a more permanent solution, fulfilling the original purpose of the city’s location. In 1847, the year Indianapolis was incorporated as a city, the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad arrived, soon to be followed by seven additional major rail lines, which gave the city access to the Ohio River.
On the eve of the Civil War the population, aided by an influx of German immigrants, had increased to 18,611 people; the city now provided modern services and supported a stable, manufacturing-based economy. With 24 army camps and a large ammunition plant, Indianapolis became a major wartime center for Union campaigns on the western front. Progress continued into the postwar period only to be set back by the inflationary recession of 1873. During the last two decades of the nineteenth century, Indianapolis experienced a period of growth known as the “golden age.” It became, in 1881, one of the first American cities to install electric street lighting. Many downtown landmarks were erected in an explosion of public architecture that helped establish the city’s identity. A new market, a new statehouse, and Union Station were completed in the late 1880s. The neglected Circle Park had deteriorated and was revived when the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument was constructed in honor of the people who served in the Civil War. During this period, wealthy citizens built palatial Victorian homes on North Meridian Street, and as the result of the growth of new neighborhoods and suburbs along tree-lined avenues, Indianapolis became known as the “city of homes.”
At the turn of the century, Indianapolis was a leader in the burgeoning automobile industry. Local inventor Charles H. Black is credited with building in 1891 the first internal combustion gasoline engine automobile, which eventually proved to be impractical because its ignition required a kerosene torch. Sixty-five different kinds of automobiles were in production before World War I, including Stutz, Coasts, Duesenberg, and Cole. Other Indianapolis industrialists originated many innovations and improvements in automotive manufacturing, including four-wheel brakes and the six-cylinder engine.
Sporting Events Attract International Attention
The most significant development was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 2.5-mile oval track, which was inaugurated in 1911 when an Indianapolis-made car named the Marmon won the first race. The Indianapolis 500, held on Memorial Day weekend each year, has since become one of the premier international sporting events, drawing world-wide attention. Indianapolis was a major industrial center by 1920, with a population of more than 300,000 people, yet retained much of its small-town ambience.
A pivotal event in the total transformation of Indianapolis from a manufacturing to a sporting town occurred in 1969, when a change in federal tax laws required charitable foundations to spend more money. The Lilly Endowment, a local foundation based on the Eli Lilly drug fortune decided to concentrate on Indianapolis. The result was a massive capital infusion promoting sport business in the city and leading to the conversion of the city’s convention center into a 61,000-seat football stadium.
In 1970 the creation of UniGov combined city government with Marion County government, immediately making Indianapolis the eleventh largest city in the nation. The city made dramatic strides in its national reputation through initiatives implemented by the UniGov structure. Indianapolis renovated its core historical structures, built new sports facilities, and invested in the arts and entertainment. The city positioned itself as an international amateur sports capital when, in 1987, it invested in athletic facilities and hosted both the World Indoor Track and Field Championships and the Pan American Games, second in importance only to the summer Olympics.
Indianapolis 2000 . . .
In January 2000 Bart Peterson, a Democrat, took office as mayor of Indianapolis. During his 1999 campaign for mayor, Peterson introduced “The Peterson Plan,” a bold and detailed vision for Indianapolis in the new millennium. He focused on fighting crime more aggressively, improving public education in Marion County, and delivering better services to neighborhoods. In his first month as mayor, Mayor Peterson convened the nation’s first citywide summit on race relations, bringing people together to discuss ways to bridge the gaps that sometimes exist between people of different races, religions and backgrounds. He also appointed the most diverse administration in the city’s 180-year history.
Indianapolis today is a cosmopolitan blend of arts, education, culture, and sports; a city with plenty of vision for its future. Building on momentum gained in the last decade of the twentieth century, the city is in the midst of a cultural and quality-of-life resurgence. World-class sports, a diverse economy, and the presence of healthy and successful businesses round out the story of Indianapolis in the twenty-first century.
Historical Information: Indiana State Library, 140 N. Senate Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46204-2296; telephone (317)232-3675. Indiana Historical Society, Willard Henry Smith Memorial Library, 315 W. Ohio St. Indianapolis, IN 46202-3299; telephone (317)232-1879; fax (317)233-3109
Indianapolis Population Statistics
Metropolitan Area Residents
Percent change, 1990?2000: 16.4%
U.S. rank in 1980: 30th
U.S. rank in 1990: Not reported
U.S. rank in 2000: 29th
2003 estimate: 783,438
Percent change, 1990?2000: 6.9%
U.S. rank in 1980: 12th
U.S. rank in 1990: 13th
U.S. rank in 2000: 17th (State rank: 1st)
Density: 2,163 people per square mile (2000)
Racial and ethnic characteristics (2000)
Black or African American: 199,412
American Indian and Alaska Native: 1,985
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 322
Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 30,636
Percent of residents born in state: 67.5% (2000)
Age characteristics (2000)
Population under 5 years old: 57,523
Population 5 to 9 years old: 57,020
Population 10 to 14 years old: 54,675
Population 15 to 19 years old: 52,446
Population 20 to 24 years old: 58,365
Population 25 to 34 years old: 129,409
Population 35 to 44 years old: 127,782
Population 45 to 54 years old: 99,336
Population 55 to 59 years old: 32,613
Population 60 to 64 years old: 26,843
Population 65 to 74 years old: 45,358
Population 75 to 84 years old: 30,168
Population 85 years and older: 10,332
Median age: 33.5 years
Births (2002, Marion County) Total number: 14,540
Deaths (2002, Marion County) Total number: 7,487
Money income (1999)
Per capita income: $21,640
Median household income: $40,051
Total households: 320,518
Number of households with income of . . .
less than $10,000: 28,240
$10,000 to $14,999: 20,046
$15,000 to $24,999: 44,902
$25,000 to $34,999: 45,676
$35,000 to $49,999: 56,718
$50,000 to $74,999: 63,369
$75,000 to $99,999: 30,508
$100,000 to $149,999: 20,506
$150,000 to $199,999: 5,034
$200,000 or more: 5,519
Percent of families below poverty level: 9.1% (40.6% of which were female householder families with related children under 5 years)
2002 FBI Crime Index Total: Not reported
City Government Information
Indianapolis and Marion County operate as a consolidated governmental functions to form Unigov, with jurisdiction including all of Marion County except the town of Speed-way and the cities of Beech Grove, Lawrence, and South-port. The mayor, who serves a four-year term, holds executive powers; the 29 members of City-County Council are elected to four-year terms by district and at large. A six-department city government administers Unigov programs.
Head Official: Mayor Bart Peterson (D) (since 2000; current term expires December 2007)
Total Number of City-County Employees: 3,800 (2005)
City Information: City of Indianapolis/Marion County, 200 East Washington Street, City-County Building, Indianapolis, IN 46204; telephone (317)327-3601