Indianapolis, United States of America

Reference work entry


Indianapolis is the capital of Indiana, the word ‘Polis’ coming from the Greek word for city.


In 1821 the Indiana State Legislature approved a plan to build a new capital in the centre of the state’s rich farming area. Indianapolis was designed by Alexander Ralston who based his plans on Pierre L’Enfant’s designs for Washington, D.C.

Indianapolis became state capital in 1825 but grew slowly as the shallow White River restricted the quantity of raw materials that could be brought to the city to sustain industry. Growth accelerated after the arrival of a major road and rail links and in the Civil War, the city was a major training post for the Union Army. The discovery of gas fields in the 1890s was a further boost and by World War I Indianapolis had thriving automobile, metal work and agricultural industries. In 1909 the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built by local businessmen Carl Fisher, James Allison, Frank Wheeler and Arthur Newby as a facility to test new cars. Two years later the inaugural Indianapolis 500-Mile Race was held at the arena.

Several labour unions established their headquarters in Indianapolis which in World War II was known as the ‘Toolmaker to the Nation’. Manufacturing declined in the postwar years, until the merging of the city and county government structures in 1970 helped revitalize the city with an ambitious programme of public and private projects. Many of these projects were funded by the Lilly Endowment, an offshoot of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly which is still based in the city.

Modern City

The city is served by Indiana International Airport. Four interstate freeways and four federal highways link Indianapolis to the rest of the United States and there is an Amtrak train station and a Greyhound bus terminal. A Shuttle Express Van Service also operates in the city along with Skyline and RTD buses and a light railway system.

Manufacturing includes pharmaceuticals, electronic equipment, machinery, transportation equipment and metal products. The local, state and federal government are the city’s biggest employers. Tourism, particularly linked to the Indianapolis 500 event, is also important to the city’s economy.

Important higher educational institutions in Indianapolis include Butler University, Marian College, Purdue University at Indianapolis, the University of Indianapolis, Indiana University, the Christian Theological Seminary and Ivy Tech State College.

Places of Interest

The ten-block large area known as Mile Square is the historical heart of Indianapolis, housing the 87 m-tall Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which serves as the city’s major landmark. Important cultural institutions include a medical history museum, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, The Indianapolis Museum of Art and The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. The restored house of former president Benjamin Harrison, who was from Indianapolis, is a popular visitor attraction.

The city has resident symphony orchestra, opera and ballet companies and a repertory theatre company. Indianapolis hosts several major track and field athletic events, and is often used for the United States Olympic and World Championship trials. The annual Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on the Memorial Day weekend is the world’s largest annual single-day sporting event, attracting around 450,000 spectators to the Indianapolis Speedway Track. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum charts the history of the event.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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