history industry and a 21st century economy
Evansville is the largest city and the commercial, medical, and cultural hub of Southwestern Indiana and the Illinois-Indiana-Kentucky tri-state area. Located along the banks of the Ohio River, it is often referred to as the Crescent Valley or River City.
Early History the area has been inhabited by indigenous cultures; archaeologists have identified several archaic and ancient sites in and near Evansville, with the most complex at Angel Mounds, built and occupied from about 900 A.D. to about 1600 A.D., just before the arrival of Europeans to North America. The European-American city was founded in 1812. French hunters and trappers were among the first Europeans to come to the area, using Vincennes as a base of operations for fur trading. The land encompassing Evansville was formally relinquished by the Delaware in 1805 to General William Henry Harrison, then governor of the Indiana Territory.
Evansville became a thriving commercial town with a river trade, and the town began to expand outside of its original footprint. The economy received a boost in the early 1830s when Indiana unveiled plans to build the longest canal in the world, a 400-mile ditch to connect the Great Lakes at Toledo, Ohio with the inland rivers at Evansville. The project was intended to open Indiana to commerce and improve transportation from New Orleans to New York City.
The main ethnic groups consisted of Protestant Scotch-Irish from the South, Catholic Irish coming for canal or railroad work, New England businessmen, Germans fleeing Europe after the 1848 revolutions, and freedmen from Western Kentucky.
The era of greatest growth occurred in the second half of the 19th century as a major stop for steamboats along the Ohio River, and the home port for companies engaged in the river trade. Railroads eventually became more important and in 1887 the L&N Railroad constructed a bridge across the Ohio River along with a major rail yard southwest of Evansville.
Automobile and Refrigeration Manufacturing Became Important Early in the 20th Century
In 1916, seeing the need for a dependable truck, the Graham brothers entered the truck chassis business. In 1921, after the death of both Dodge brothers, Graham Brothers started selling 1.5-ton pickups through Dodge dealers. These vehicles had Graham chassis and some Dodge parts. Dodge Brothers bought a controlling interest in Graham Brothers in 1925, picking up the rest in 1926.
The city saw exponential growth in the early twentieth century with the production of lumber and the manufacturing of furniture. By 1920, Evansville had more than two dozen furniture companies. In the decades of the 1920s and 1930s, city leaders attempted to improve Evansville’s transportation position and successfully lobbied to be on the Chicago-to-Miami Dixie Bee Highway – U.S. Highway 41.
During World War II, Evansville was a major center of industrial production which helped revive the regional economy after the Great Depression. A huge, 45-acre shipyard complex was constructed on the riverfront east of St. Joseph Avenue for the production of oceangoing LSTs (Landing Ship-Tanks).
After the war, Evansville’s manufacturing base of automobiles, household appliances, and farm equipment benefited from growing post-war demand.
Tourism the business district and riverfront feature riverboat gambling, restaurants, bars, and shops that attract tens of thousands of visitors each year and the city’s downtown district retains its early twentieth-century architectural style.
Evansville Has Thirteen Neighborhoods that Qualify as Historic Districts
A 21st Century Economy Evansville is the regional center for a large trade area in Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois. The largest industry sectors in size in Evansville are healthcare, finance, education, and manufacturing. Other major industries by employment are energy, warehousing, distribution, and retail.
Evansville’s strategic location on the Ohio River, strong rail and highway infrastructure, and its designation as a U.S. Customs Port of Entry, make it an ideal location for the transfer of cargo.
Tourism and Entertainment the business district and riverfront feature riverboat gambling, restaurants, bars, and shops that attract tens of thousands of visitors each year and the city’s downtown district retains its early twentieth-century architectural style.
Bosse Field Baseball Stadium built in 1915 is the third-oldest Operating Ballpark in the United States
The Victory Theatre is a vintage 1,950-seat venue that is home to the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra. Each year, the orchestra presents a seven-concert classics series and special event concerts, as well as numerous educational and outreach performances. The theater also hosts local ballet and modern dance companies, theater companies, and touring productions.
The Evansville Civic Theatre is Southern Indiana’s longest-running community theater, dating from the 1920s when the community theater movement swept across the country.
Museums Angel Mounds State Historic Site is nationally recognized as one of the best preserved prehistoric Native American sites in the country. The Evansville African American Museum was established to continually develop a resource and cultural center to collect, preserve, and educate the public on the history and traditions of African American families, organizations, and communities.
The Evansville Museum Transportation Center features transportation in southern Indiana from the latter part of the nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century.
The Reitz Home Museum is Evansville’s only Victorian House Museum
Transportation the city boasts road, rail, water, and air transportation systems. Public transit includes the Metropolitan Evansville Transit System – METS – which provides bus transportation to all sections of the city. Evansville has several multi-use trails for bikes and pedestrians as well as on-road bike paths that help cyclists get around the city by bicycle.
Public and Private Port facilities receive year-round service from five major barge lines operating on the Ohio River. The river connects Evansville with all river markets in the central United States and on the Great Lakes and with international markets through the port of New Orleans.
Evansville has been a U.S. Customs Port of Entry for over 125 years
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