Read Nancy Germano's article from the Winter 2008 issue of Circular on the historic flooding in 1913 and how Indianapolis fared.
It is most illuminating to think that what is now a sizeable city sprawling over an entire county began nearly 200 years ago as a mere square mile carved into swamp land far from the majority of the rest of Indiana settlement. What is more improbable is the inspiration for Indianapolis’ original design; none other than the palace of Versailles itself in Paris. The designer of the Indianapolis Mile Square, the heart of the city, was Alexander Ralston. He in turn was an assistant to the French architect L’Enfant. L’Enfant was responsible for the design of Washington D. C. and took inspiration from the palace of Versailles. Thus, by a few degrees of separation, the designer of our city was inspired by Versailles, one of the great palaces in the world.
[With thanks to Jeffery Tenuth’s Indianapolis: A Circle City History and the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis]
In the Beginning…1816- Indiana is admitted as the 19th State.
June 7, 1820- State commissioners select the site for the new state capital for its flat ground and proximity to the White River and its potential for river commerce.
Early 1821- Indiana General Assembly accepts the site of the new Capital.
December 31, 1821- Marion County is established, Indianapolis is the county seat.
1824- State Government moves from Corydon to Indianapolis.
1836- Construction on the Central Canal is begun in the city.
1837- By now Michigan Road is completed and operates as the first major north-south road in Indiana.
1839- Indianapolis portion of Central Canal is complete, but the State of Indiana goes bankrupt.
Civil War Era Growth
1850- Agriculture clearly dominated life and commerce in Indianapolis.
1852- First State Fair held in Military Park.
1853- Free common schools open in the city, which later become known as the Indianapolis Public Schools.
1857- Ignatius Brown’s “Historical Sketch of Indianapolis” is published in “A.C. Howard’s Directory of the City of Indianapolis”.
1861- Civil War begins- Indianapolis is the nexus of the State’s war effort, hosting a prison camp (opened in 1862), training camps, and supply depots.
1872-74- L.S. Ayres became the first modern department store in the city.
1876- Eli Lilly and Company is founded in the city.
1880 to 1920- “Golden Age” of literature featuring James Whitcomb Riley, Meredith Nicholson, Booth Tarkington, Gene Stratton Porter, George Ade, Lew Wallace, and Theodore Dreiser, among others.
1884- Berry Sulgrove’s A History of Indianapolis and Marion County is published.
1888- Indianapolis resident and politician Benjamin Harrison is elected the 23rd United States President.
A Manufacturing and Transportation Center
1898- Waverly Electric, the first battery powered car, begins production.
1900- Interurban cars begin service in Indianapolis, Greenwood, and Franklin.
1901- Soldiers and Sailors Monument is completed.
1902- Marmon produces its first car.
1902- May 15, Soldiers and Sailors Monument dedicated with General Lew Wallace [author of Ben Hur] and James Whitcomb Riley attending.
1904- Traction Terminal built in Indianapolis for interurban lines.
1909- Carl Fisher, James A. Allison, Arthur Newby and Frank Wheeler join forces to construct a 2 ˝ mile track to test automobiles.
1911- First Indianapolis 500 mile race, won by a Marmon car; Stutz also had a car in this race.
1913- Stutz builds first production car.
1914- Ford begins producing cars in the city.
1917- The US enters World War I. The war sees Indianapolis residents contribute charitably to the allied cause while ethnic German citizens suffer unwarranted suspicion.
1917- The Indianapolis Public Library opens its new building on St. Clair Street (the current location of the Central Library).
1918- World War I ends.
1920s- Ku Klux Klan first establishes roots in Indiana; the Klan publishes The Fiery Cross newspaper in Indianapolis.
1925- Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon David C. Stephenson is convicted in the murder of Madge Oberholzter and imprisoned in the Indiana State Prison. Stephenson and the Klan exercise great influence in state and local politics.
1929- Duesenberg begins production of Model J, its most elegant car.
1927- Construction of the Indiana World War Memorial begins.
The Great Depression and World War II
1929- The Stock Market crashes Tuesday October 29.
1933- New Deal begins.
1934- Marmon plant closes because of Great Depression. Stutz also stops production.
1934- A new building for the Indiana State Library opens. Note: the library had been in existence since the 1820s.
1935- Duesenberg fails because of the Great Depression.
1941- Last interurban line serving Indianapolis ceases operation.
1941- December 7, Pearl Harbor is attacked. The US enters World War II. Indianapolis contributes soldiers and war material to the effort, including tanks, bombsights and airplane parts.
1945- World War II ends.
Prosperity, Recession, and Renewal
Late 1950’s- Construction begins on portions of what would become I-465
1965- World War Memorial is completed.
1968- Richard Lugar is elected mayor.
1969 – Unigov legislation is adopted by Indiana General Assembly.
1970- Unigov goes into effect, merging Indianapolis and Marion County into one government.
1972- Indiana Convention Center opens at cost of $26.1 million.
1974- Market Square Arena, home of the Indiana Pacers, opens.
1979- Worst Recession since the 1930s begins.
1984- Hoosier Dome, later the RCA Dome (now demolished), is added onto the Convention Center.
1984- March 28, Indianapolis Colts move from Baltimore to Indianapolis.
1988- New Indianapolis Zoo opens as part of revitalization of White River State Park.
1989- Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art opens.
1994- Inaugural Brickyard 400 Race, now Allstate 400, is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
1995- Circle Center Mall opens.
1996- Victory Field, home to the Indianapolis Indians baseball team, opens downtown.
1999- The national offices of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) move to White River State Park. Conseco Fieldhouse opens as the new home of the Pacers.
2000- Inaugural United States Grand Prix is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
2002- New Indiana State Museum opens in the White River State Park.
2008- Renovated and expanded Central Library of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library opens.
2008- Lucas Oil Stadium is completed and becomes the new home of the Indianapolis Colts. Indianapolis wins bid to host the 2012 Super Bowl.