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A brief and far-from-thorough history of Indianapolis..


Indianapolis Timeline

1821- Indiana General Assembly selects site to build new city to become its state capital Indiana General Assembly selects site to build new city to become its state capital

1825- Indianapolis becomes state capital, platted as a one mile-square grid

1830- harbinger of Crossroads of America, The National Road (now US 40) routed through Indy

1847- the first railroad line was built and later Indy became a rail hub with the country’s first union station (centralizing multiple track lines)

1876- pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company is founded

1888- Indianapolis resident Benjamin Harrison becomes 23rd president of the United States

1902- the city’s landmark, the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument, is dedicated to honor the common soldier

1909- the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is built, with first 500 mile race held two years later

1913- Stutz Auto Car Company builds its first production cars, including the famed Stutz Bearcat

1926- The Children’s Museum, now the largest in the world, opened

1950s- post-Great Depression and war, construction boom returns to Indianapolis, including building first segments of I-465 beltway

1970- Indianapolis merges with surrounding Marion County to form consolidated government structure dubbed Unigov

1972- Indiana Convention Center opens which subsequently expanded five times

1980- Indianapolis hosts its first NCAA Final Four at old Market Square Arena

1984- Indianapolis welcomes the NFL Colts to the city

1987- Indianapolis sport strategy in full stride by hosting the 10th Pan American Games, and more than 400 sports events

1988- White River State Park welcomes its first major attraction, the Indianapolis Zoo, followed the following years with the Eiteljorg Museum, Indiana State Museum, Victory Field home of the Indianapolis Indians and the NCAA headquarters and its Hall of Champions

1995- Circle Centre opens downtown

2008- New state-of-the art Indianapolis International Airport terminal opens

2011- first 1,000 room hotel opens in downtown, the world’s largest JW Marriott

2012- Indianapolis hosts the NFL Super Bowl


When platting Indianapolis in 1821, surveyor Alexander Ralston allowed one square mile for the city, never imagining it would grow larger. Though Ralston's original design for downtown remains largely unchanged, Indianapolis has long since grown to become the nation's 13th largest city.

Originally home to several different Native American tribes, the name “Indianapolis” was proposed by Jeremiah Sullivan, a judge of the Indiana Supreme Court. Though White River, the city's largest waterway, proved too sandy to accommodate steamboats, the city gained access to the National Road in 1830, and was reached by its first railroad in 1847.

Other railroads soon came to the city, and Indianapolis connected their multiple lines by erecting the nation's first union station in 1849. Subsequently, the city's growing status as a transportation hub earned it the nickname of “the Crossroads of America.”

Initially agriculturally-centered, the city's economy saw foundries, machine shops and other industries develop in the late 19th century. As the city spread outward, outlying suburbs were reached by streetcar lines—and, later, automobiles.

Indianapolis fully embraced the automotive age. By the early 20th century, the city was home to many manufacturers of autos and auto parts. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, originally built as a test track in 1909, hosted its first 500-mile race in 1911 (an event which has subsequently developed into the world's largest single-day sporting event).

Home of a thriving 20th-century arts scene, Indianapolis was home to such acclaimed authors as James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and others—while Indiana Avenue, a historically African-American section of town, hosted a thriving jazz scene (commemorated today by the city's annual Indy Jazz Fest).

The arts have also been well-represented by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (one of less than 20 American orchestras that perform year-round), the Indiana Museum of Art (one of the nation's oldest and largest art museums, and recipient of the prestigious National Medal for Museum and Library Services) and the International Violin Competition—a quadrennial event that is regarded as one of the most respected musical competitions in the world.

Eli Lilly and Company, started in the 19th century, grew throughout the 20th century to become a global pharmaceutical company and remains one of the city's major employers, as well as one of its most notable philanthropists.

Some of that philanthropy takes the form of the “Indianapolis Prize”—the largest individual monetary award for animal species conservation in the world. The award, funded by Lilly, is presented annually by the Indianapolis Zoo.

Though formed relatively recently (in 1964), the city's zoo now plays a major role in worldwide conservation efforts—and, with the addition of neighboring White River Gardens, became the nation's first institution to be accredited as a zoo, an aquarium and a botanical garden.

Long associated with sports (the Indianapolis Indians baseball team was founded in 1902), Indianapolis has become a center for competitions both pro and amateur. As well as such professional teams as the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, the NBA's Indiana Pacers and the WNBA's Indiana Fever, the city is home to the headquarters of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), USA Gymnastics, USA Diving, US Synchronized Swimming, USA Track & Field, and the National Federation of State High School Associations. Hosting such competitions as college basketball's Men's and Women's Final Fours and the Big Ten Tournament, Indianapolis is home to several colleges, including Marian University, the University of Indianapolis, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Butler University.

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