The Founding of Carmel, Indiana: A Historical Overview

Carmel Indiana is a northern suburb of Indianapolis located in Hamilton County. Learn more about its founding history & facts here.

The Founding of Carmel, Indiana: A Historical Overview

Carmel, Indiana, located in Hamilton County, is a northern suburb of Indianapolis, situated 14 miles north of the city. The area was originally inhabited by Delaware (Miami) Indians before Quakers settled there in 1837. On April 13th of that year, John Felps (Phelps), Alexander Mills, Seth Green and Daniel Warren established the city of Bethlehem, which was comprised of fourteen lots. In 1846, the post office was renamed Carmel due to the existence of another post office called Bethlehem in Indiana. Ninety people petitioned Hamilton County Commissioners to change the name of Clay Township to Carmel Township and move the eastern boundary to White River.

This request was granted and Carmel has since become a self-sufficient community with significant commercial, industrial and residential importance. The city is bounded on the south by Marion County (96th Street), on the west by Boone County (Michigan Road), on the east by White River and on the north by 146th Street. The main east-west streets generally end at 6th and include 96th Streets (the southern border), 106, 116, 126, 131, 136 and 146 (marking the northern border). Main Street (131) runs east to west through Carmel's Art & Design District; Carmel Drive generally runs east to west through the main shopping area; and City Center Drive runs east to west near the Carmel City Center project.

The history of Carmel is a rich and complex one. From its humble beginnings in 1837 to today, the city has changed and grown.

Early settlers came to Carmel seeking the bounty of nature. They platted the town of Bethlehem and established a meeting house and school, which evolved into the Carmel Clay Schools.

The Birth of Carmel

Carmel began as a farming town and evolved into a thriving city. Originally platted under the name Bethlehem, Carmel became incorporated in 1874.

Throughout the years, Carmel has welcomed many creative people to its community. Among them were impressionist artist William Ritschel, psychologist Eric Berne and author Leon Uris.

The Early Years

The early settlers of Carmel were enamored with the beauty of the surrounding land and sea. They sought to create a community with strong families, a quality education and a sound economy.

They also recognized the importance of fostering the arts. This became a cornerstone of their community.

The Great Depression

The stock market crash of 1929 sparked a worldwide recession that devastated economies around the world. In America, the Great Depression lasted for years and left millions of people jobless and out of work.

Indiana was not hit as hard as other midwestern states. However, Indianapolis saw employment levels fall 20 percent below their pre-Depression peak in 1932.

The Second Great Depression

The 1929 stock market crash sparked an economic depression throughout the world. Countries such as Germany, France, and Great Britain were all affected.

The depression resulted in a slow recovery. New federal taxes, increasing regulation, and growing government control of business made it difficult for the economy to grow again.

The Second World War

After the shock of Pearl Harbor, Indiana’s factories shifted full blast to war production. From Allison’s airplane engines to Republic Aviation’s P-47 Thunderbolts, Hoosiers contributed to America’s “great arsenal of democracy.”

But, like all great events, World War II also left lasting shadows. For many, it marked the end of a way of life.

The Third Great Depression

The Great Depression of 1929 was the biggest economic contraction in modern world history. It began in the United States and spread around the globe.

The government spent a great deal of money during the New Deal to help lift the economy out of the Depression. But many economists believe that the country could have gotten out of the Depression more quickly without such extensive government intervention.

The Fourth Great Depression

The Great Depression was the longest and most severe economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world. It was triggered by a combination of deteriorating consumer demand, misguided government policies, and the collapse of the gold standard that linked the economies of most of the Western world together in fixed exchange rates.

The downturn led to a severe reduction in industrial production and a rise in unemployment. It also led to a dramatic change in the way the United States viewed its role in the economy.

The 1950s

During the 1950s, Carmel became a bedroom community for people who worked in Indianapolis. Initially, the population was small and agrarian.

Local government was managed by a town board, which regularly held public meetings about community issues. However, the board's power was limited.

The 1960s

The 1960s saw an explosion of growth in Carmel. The city was transformed into an affluent edge community with fast-paced development of commercial, business and residential areas.

The influx of money into the city has led to the establishment of many banking, investment and insurance concerns of local, state and regional importance. These businesses have created a significant economic impact on the city and surrounding Clay Township.

The 1970s

The 1970s saw subtle changes in Carmel. The town board became more accountable for its daily operations, and the city was on its way to becoming a major hub of business.

The growth of the city and surrounding Clay Township during this period resulted in an attractive place to raise a family. Forbes Magazine listed Hamilton County as the best place in America to do so.

The Monon train passes through Clay Township and connects Carmel to Indianapolis, Westfield and Sheridan. Celebrating decades of automotive engineering and craftsmanship, the Carmel Artomobilia Collector's Car Show presents a wide range of classic, vintage, exotic and rare cars and works of art inspired by car design. Carmel has been recognized with numerous awards and ratings for its programs and services. The city is home to the Performing Arts Center which includes a 1,600-seat concert hall called “The Palladium” and a 500-seat theater called “The Tarkington” as well as a black-box theater with a capacity for 200 people.

The inventor of Carmel, Leslie Haines, installed automatic stop and start lights of his design at the intersection of Main Street and State Road 31 in Carmel. Carmel's educational institutions have also grown over time. Two elementary schools were added: Carmel in 1961 and College Wood in 1965; as well as a high school in 1964 which helped alleviate overcrowding in “Old North” which is still used on the high school campus.

Lorene Batteiger
Lorene Batteiger

Unapologetic web scholar. Lifelong zombie ninja. Certified travel evangelist. General pizza aficionado. Devoted beer ninja. Unapologetic travel advocate.

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