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Hoosier History Live is an independently produced new media project about Indiana history, integrating podcasts, website www.HoosierHistoryLive.org, weekly enewsletter, and social media. Its original content comes initially from a live with call in weekly talk radio show hosted by author and historian Nelson Price. You can hear the show live Saturdays from noon to 1 pm ET at WICR 88.7 fm or stream the show live at the WICR HD1 app on your phone, or at our website.


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March 02, 2024

Carnegie Libraries in Indiana

How often does Indiana rank as the No. 1 state in a national list? Well, here's a record for the books: More Carnegie Libraries were built in Indiana than any other state.

Between 1901 and about 1918, 164 public libraries built in large part by funding from philanthropist and industrialist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) were constructed in Indiana. More than 100 of them are still used as public libraries across the state. Others have been repurposed as everything from restaurants to museums, art galleries, local government offices and civic centers, with many retaining the "Carnegie" name in some way.

To explore a range of aspects about "the Carnegies" – which include two branches still in use in the Indianapolis Public Library system – Nelson will be joined by studio guest Dr. William McNiece, president of the Marion County Historical Society, who has done a deep dive into the topic. The first Carnegie Library built in Indiana was in Goshen and the last town to receive funding was Lowell, Ind. OF Indiana's 92 counties, only 9 did not receive any Carnegie funding for a public library, according to Dr. McNiece.

During our show, we will explore the commitments that cities and towns needed to make (including a pledge to have funds available annually for maintenance) to receive Carnegie funding for libraries as well as Carnegie's preferences on the designs for them. We also will discuss various explanations about why Indiana had more public libraries funded by Carnegie than any other state.

In Carmel and Greenfield, Carnegie Libraries have been repurposed as popular dining spots, Woody's Library Restaurant and Carnegie's Restaurant. In New Albany, the former library is now the Carnegie Center for Art & History. The Anderson Museum of Art is Anderson's former Carnegie Library, which was built in the beaux arts style and has a stained glass domed ceiling.

In the Indianapolis Public Library system, the East Washington Library and the Spades Park Library were built as Carnegie Libraries. The city received funding for six libraries. Two of the others have been razed, and another has been repurposed as the Hawthorne Center for Working Families. The sixth that received funding never was built; during our show, Dr. McNiece will explain why.

The 106 Carnegie-funded libraries still being used as public libraries include those in the towns of Wabash, Boswell and Atlanta. "Some, if not most, have been architecturally modified to make room for bigger collections and modern technology," according to a blog by Regan Steimel, a reference librarian at the Indiana Historical Society. As a resource, Regan and our guest Dr. McNiece recommend the book "Temples of Knowledge: Andrew Carnegie's Gift to Indiana" by Alan McPherson.

Dr. McNiece, an anesthesiologist at IU Health's Riley Hospital for Children, has been a previous guest on Hoosier History Live shows, including programs about Epidemics in Indiana history in 2014 and the Influenza Epidemic of 1918-19. He has made presentations about Carnegie Libraries to various civic groups in Indiana.


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February 03, 2024- Latino Hoosiers during the mid and late 1900s Click here for podcast.

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Hoosier History Live looks back...

Arabs in Indianapolis, then and now

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Willard Street

Major landmarks in downtown Indianapolis today include Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts. During the early 1900s, though, the site was the home of Arab Americans. A thoroughfare in the neighborhood called Willard Street (which vanished in the 1920s as the area was repurposed) was the hub of what was known as the city's "Syrian colony" because most of the Arab Americans residents then were of Syrian and Lebanese heritage.

Today, Marion County is the home of more than 5,600 Arab Americans, while about 3,200 others live in neighboring Hamilton County, according to arabindianapolis.com, a multimedia project. In addition to Syria and Lebanon, the immigrants or their descendants now come from an array of homelands, including Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

Hoosier History Live’s podcast explores the Arab American heritage in Indianapolis, which has been far more extensive and has deeper roots than many realize.

Nelson's guests include Edward Curtis, an IUPUI professor of Syrian and Lebanese heritage who is the founder of the Arab Indianapolis project. The project includes the book Arab Indianapolis and a documentary that has been broadcast on WFYI-TV and shown at the Heartland Film Festival.

St. George OrthodoxNelson and Edward will be joined for part of the show by Diana Najjar, a retired Indianapolis teacher of Lebanese heritage. Her grandparents were among the founders in the mid-1920s of St. George Orthodox Church, the city's first church focused on Arab American residents. St. George was located in the eastside of Indy until 2013, when the congregation moved to Fishers. It is the setting for a popular Middle Eastern Festival.

During the late 1800s, Arabic immigrants began settling in Indianapolis. Many who settled along Willard Street were peddlers, grocery store owners and factory workers, Edward says; he reports that, by 1910, about 1,000 residents of Arab heritage lived in the city. He documented 43 Syrian and Lebanese grocery stores in the Hoosier capital by 1935.

Today, Arab Americans in the metro area have a range of occupations, including careers in health care, education and business. "They have contributed to the cultural vitality, economic growth and social fabric of central Indiana", Edward emphasizes.

Before retiring, our guest Diana Najjar taught gifted math at Orchard School and created a dance  curriculum there. Her two sons are a judge and a physical therapist; her grandfather, who helped found St. George Orthodox Church, was a grocer.

According to estimates by Edward Curtis, about 50 percent of Arab Americans in the Indy area today are Christian, and 50 percent are Muslim. St. George Orthodox Church initially was located in the Brightwood neighborhood. That's where many Arab Americans in the city lived during the 1920s and '30s after Willard Street went away for repurposing, including the construction of a railroad line on part of the street, according to the book "Arab Indianapolis".

The book also describes the Syrian American Brotherhood, a clubhouse and cultural center in the 1930s near Riverside Park. The Syrian American Brotherhood had been founded about 1919; the civic organization rented venues for events before purchasing a building to serve as its home. In addition to social activities, the brotherhood hosted events to raise money for local hospitals and charities.

Trivia prizes sought

Our "History Mystery" on air contest continues to be very popular!  If you are an organization or business that would like to contribute tickets or admissions, please contact our host Nelson at nelson@hoosierhistorylive.org or our producer Molly at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org for instructions.

Prizes must fit in a standard business envelope. Hoosier History Live prefers to "snail mail" prizes to our trivia winners. And If prizes are time sensitive, they need to be offered well in advance of the event so that we can get them out in time.


We'd like to thank the following recent individual contributors who make this show possible. For a full list of contributors over the years, visit  Support the Show on our website.

  • Sandra Hurt
  • Chuck and Karen Bragg
  • Ken and Luan Marshall
  • Tom Swenson
  • Mike Freeland and Sharon Butsch Freeland
  • Dr. William McNiece
  • Serita Borgeas
  • Richard Stroup in memory of Robert W. Stroup
  • Bill Connor
  • Ann Frick
  • Charlotte Ottinger
  • John and Florence Stanton
  • Peggy Hollingsworth

Molly Head, executive producer (317) 506-7164 
Nelson Price, host and historian
Corene Nickel, web designer and tech manager

Richard Sullivan and Ryan DeRome, tech consultants
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer

Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support!

Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Acknowledgements to WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Monomedia, Henri Pensis, Maddie Fisher, Austin Cook, and many other individuals and organizations. We are independently produced and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorship and through individual contribution, either online at our yellow button on our newsletter or website, or by U.S. mail. For organizational sponsorship, which includes logos, links, and voiced credits in our podcasts and in our show, please contact Molly Head at (317) 506-7164 or email her at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org.

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Your contributions help keep Hoosier History Live on the air, on the web, in your inbox, and in our ARCHIVES!

© 2024 Hoosier History Live. All rights reserved.

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