June 6, 2020
Early malaria epidemic in Indy, plus past visions for city's future
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As the city of Indianapolis celebrates its 200th birthday - and on the eve of what was supposed to have been a mass, public kickoff event for the Bicentennial era of the Hoosier capital - Hoosier History Live will explore a malaria epidemic during the early 1820s that almost wiped out the city just as it was getting underway.
We also will look back on the city's history at various proposals for its improvement, including some ideas that fizzled or needed to be reworked.
A Bicentennial era (2020-2021) launch had been planned for early June that involved a major public community gathering on Monument Circle. Instead, as our guest Deputy Mayor Jeff Bennett explains, civic leaders have been conferring to come up with a celebratory kickoff scheduled for June 28 that can happen amid COVID-era public health guidelines. Jeff will share more details during our show.
And listeners are invited to call in to share their visions and dreams for Indianapolis during the next 200 years. The phone number of the WICR-FM studio is 317-788-3314; Nelson will open the phone lines early during the show.
The coronavirus pandemic certainly isn't the first public health crisis Indianapolis has faced. During the summer of 1821, the new city confronted a devastating malaria epidemic that killed 72 men, women and children, according to Indianapolis: The Story of a City by Edward A. Leary. Dozens of terrified residents packed up and left.
Many victims were nursed back to health by Dr. Isaac Coe (1782-1855), a Rutgers-educated New Jersey native who was the second physician to arrive in the city. Dr. Coe scolded state leaders for choosing a swampy site as the location for the new state capital merely because it was the geographic center of Indiana. More than 20 of the children who died in the malaria epidemic were buried in Plague Cemetery, the city's first graveyard. A commemorative plaque marks the approximate site of the cemetery on the campus of today's IUPUI.
Despite that inauspicious start, the city endured. During the next 200 years, visionaries proposed various plans for Indianapolis and its historic sites. Our guest Jeff Bennett will discuss some plans involving transformations for City Market at E. Market and N. Alabama streets that never unfolded.
Nelson and Jeff also will discuss Lockerbie Fair, a proposal first suggested in the late 1950s by city planners to transform the Lockerbie Square neighborhood into a historic "theme park" with costumed reenactors. The concept gained steam as interest in history increased with the buildup to the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976.
However, the Lockerbie Fair plan drew strenuous protests from historic preservationists, who wanted to protect Lockerbie as a residential neighborhood and were restoring its 19th century cottages. Opposition from Indiana Landmarks (then the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana) was a key factor in causing the Lockerbie Fair concept to be scuttled.
The proposal in 1958 from the Metropolitan Planning Commission that advocated for the creation of Lockerbie Fair also suggested demolishing City Market and historic Union Station, replacing the latter with a "modern heliport and transportation hub." The planners predicted that city residents soon would be relying on helicopters for transportation to Broad Ripple and other neighborhoods beyond downtown's Mile Square.
The planners advocated for demolition of City Market so it could be replaced "with a cube-like structure ... which would give a festive atmosphere for the market shopper."
That didn't happen at the site, which was first envisioned as the location for a food market when Scottish-born surveyor Alexander Ralston laid out Indianapolis in 1821. Initially, an outdoor market flourished there. The current City Market building, which was constructed in 1886, has been renovated several times; a substantial redevelopment in the 1970s included construction of its two wings.
Both City Market and Union Station, which was also built in the 1880s, have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. An attempt in the mid-1980s to convert Union Station into a "festival marketplace" of boutique shops and restaurants failed after a few years. Today, Crowne Plaza leases most of the historic train station from the city for use as a hotel, banquet hall and conference center.
Earlier in his career, our guest Deputy Mayor Jeff Bennett worked for Indiana Landmarks. He also was our guest last January for a show about how the Centennial of Indianapolis was celebrated in 1920 as well as the 150th birthday festivities in the early 1970s.
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Roadtrip: Hoosier Hill near Richmond
Guest Roadtripper and retired bookstore own Kathleen Angelone has always been known to scale mountains - both literally and figuratively.
And while Indiana doesn't offer any mountains of the rock-and-dirt variety, we do enjoy the topological blessings of some fabulous hills - just ask anyone who has ever hiked in Brown County or biked the Hilly Hundred through Morgan-Monroe State Forest.
But at least in one respect, those hills pale in comparison to Kathleen's destination for this Roadtrip: Hoosier Hill, located next to a corn field north of Richmond in Wayne County. At 1257 feet in elevation, it's the highest point in Indiana.
The top of Hoosier Hill welcomes visitors with a clearing in the woods, which Kathleen tells us is a great spot for a picnic. Thanks to the work of a local Eagle Scout, the area boasts a campfire pit, a picnic table, signage and a notebook for visitors to leave their mark. The spot is maintained by the Highpointers Foundation, which supports public and private efforts to preserve the integrity of and safe access to the highest points in each of the fifty states.
And while the site doesn't offer much in the way of views, you will definitely reach new heights on this exciting Roadtrip!
In January, Indianapolis civic leaders unveiled the official logo for the celebrations of the city's Bicentennial era. The logo chosen by the Indianapolis Bicentennial Commission was designed by Mandy Welsh. It is blue, red and white, with "200" in large blue numerals; one of the zeroes encircles a single star, with a design that salutes the city's official flag.
When the state of Indiana turned 200 in 2016, a mascot based on an animal was widely displayed. Fiberglass statues of the animal mascot were placed in all 92 counties in a project endorsed by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission. Life-sized replicas of the mascot also appeared at the Indiana State Fair and other major events.
Question: What animal inspired the state's Bicentennial mascot?
The call-in number is (317) 788-3314. Please do not call in to the show until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air, and please do not try to win the prize if you have won any other prize on WICR during the last two months. You must be willing to give your name and address to our engineer and be willing to be placed on the air.
The prizes this week are two tickets to the Seiberling Mansion, which opens on June 14th, and a gift certificate to Windmill Grill, which is open. All are in Kokomo, courtesy of Howard County Historical Society and Peggy Hollingsworth.
By the way, if your organization would like to offer History Mystery prizes, email email@example.com Good prizes are ideally vouchers or gift certificates that can be sent by postal service mail in a standard business envelope.
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June 13, 2020 - coming up
Ellis Island, immigration and Indiana: encore
Ellis Island - the "gateway to America" for generations of immigrants - is located in New York Harbor, of course, hundreds of miles from Indiana. Even so, a little historical sleuthing reveals various connections between Ellis Island and the Hoosier state, and it is these connections which will be the focus of this encore broadcast of a show that originally aired in 2018.
The receiving station for aspiring Americans now celebrated as an iconic aspect of our shared history opened on Ellis Island in 1892 during the administration of President Benjamin Harrison, so the only president elected from Indiana oversaw the lead-up to its debut. According to some estimates, about 22 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island during the years between 1892 and 1924, its peak period as the country's "door." (Ellis Island remained open as a receiving center until 1954, but during its final 30 years, limitations on immigration - and the creation of other points of entry - meant that far fewer immigrants were handled at the island.)
Not only will we explore the challenges that confronted all involved during the early Ellis Island years - immigrants often endured shockingly crude medical exams - we also will look at the waves of ethnic heritage groups that came to Indiana from the 1890s through the mid-1920s. Nelson's studio guests are:
According to timelines in Teresa's books and in other reference sources, the 1890s through the early 1900s in Indiana was an era of heavy immigration from Eastern European countries including Poland, Hungary and Russia, as well as such Mediterranean countries as Greece and Italy. Significant percentages of the immigrants were Catholic and Jewish.
During our show, we will frame the early decades of immigration through Ellis Island by describing the waves of ethnic immigration to Indiana that preceded it, including early Irish, German, English and Scottish arrivals.
Between the 1890s and the start of World War I in 1914, many waves of immigrants came from what then was the Austro-Hungarian Empire; today, after more than a century of geopolitical shifts and cartographic reconfiguration, their countries of ancestral origin are the modern nations of Hungary, Austria, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Slovakia.
According to Peopling Indiana: The Ethnic Experience (IHS Press, 1996), South Bend received larger numbers of Polish immigrants than any Indiana city during this era. Many Eastern European immigrants also settled in Lake County and other northwestern Indiana counties after U.S. Steel began operations in the early 1900s. The city of Gary was founded in 1906 and became the new hometown of many mill workers, as did Whiting, East Chicago and Hammond.
Italian immigration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries included hundreds of marble-cutters who settled in southern Indiana, including the town of Bedford, to work as limestone carvers. Hoosier History Live explored this aspect of Italian immigration in 2010. Other shows that explored immigration to Indiana during the heyday of Ellis Island include our programs about Latvian and Lithuanian heritage in 2016 and Russian immigration in 2014.
Our guest Jennifer Capps will share details about crude eye examinations - with unsterilized equipment - that were imposed on immigrants during the early decades of Ellis Island as a receiving station. Federal laws called for the rejection of those who showed indications of suffering from a "loathsome or contagious disease," but the reality was that many immigrants were turned away if they displayed any hint of illness or physical impairment, according to Ellis Island Interviews: In Their Own Words (Checkmark Books, 1997).
A fire at Ellis Island burned the first receiving station to the ground in June 1897, more than four years after Harrison's presidency ended. By then, more than 1.64 million immigrants had been processed. The fire destroyed immigrant records from 1855 to 1897, including those from Castle Garden. About 200 immigrants were on the island at the time of the inferno, but all were safely evacuated. Construction began immediately of new buildings made of materials deemed fireproof.
Some history facts:
The first site proposed for the immigrant processing station was Bedloe Island (now called Liberty Island), where construction on the Statue of Liberty had been completed just a few years prior, in 1886. Because of public opposition to that proposal, nearby Ellis Island was chosen instead.
The first official to climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty was Harrison's vice president, Levi P. Morton.
- As recently as 1997, more than 40 percent of the U.S. population could "trace their roots to an ancestor who came through Ellis Island," according to the Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation.
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