INDIANA, the Crossroads of America

What to see

South Bend Studebaker museum
Amish country Amish furniture - Nappanee - Goshen - Middlebury - Shipshewana
Nappanee An Amish Auction
Indianapolis The Motor Speedway - White River State Park
Bremen an Amish Barn Raising !
Articles The Amish | Studebaker
Other pages other states | articles

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This is an extract of what to see in this state, with small photos. You will find the full description, history and full-sized photos, in my e-book View America: North East - Part 2

In the travel series View America, North East - Part 2 covers Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 90 full-sized photos.

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INDIANA is known as the Crossroads of America, because of the many possibilities for transportation throughout the state. A second nickname is the Hoosier State, the origin of which is not entirely clear, but it could refer to a very influential businessman, Sam Hoosier, who employed nearly all the residents in the area, at the time the state was created.

The name Indiana refers to "Land of the Indians", because of the many local tribes. In 1816, Indiana joined the US as the 19th state. The capital and largest city is Indianapolis, and the population is approximately six million inhabitants, with a density of 66 per km2.

The surface is approximately 94,000 km2, and initially 80% of the state was forested. In the 1800's, virtually all of the forests were cleared for agriculture, but now the forestation is back to 20%.

Almost the entire state is part of the so-called Corn Belt, which stretches from Ohio to eastern Nebraska. After 1900, the industry rapidly developed, which gave rise to the emergence of the automobile industry. Elkhart is known for its manufacturing of Recreational Vehicles.

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South Bend : Studebaker museum

The car manufacturer Studebaker used to provide work for almost the entire city of South Bend. The first museum was located in an old Studebaker plant, but in November 2005 a new Studebaker National Museum was opened. Read the history of Studebaker.

This museum exhibits several nicely restored models, and it provides an interesting overview of Studebaker's history. An interesting visit, even if it is a bit nostalgic!

South Bend : Studebaker museum 1 South Bend : Studebaker museum 2
South Bend : Studebaker museum 3 South Bend : Studebaker museum 4

Amish country

Amish furniture makers - Nappanee

An interesting audio tour of Amish furniture makers can be made around Elkhart. The audio CD can be rented at the Visitor Center. The tour starts on SR 120 and leads to Bristol, where a nice drive can be made along the lake and the high-end neighborhood of Elkhart.

The tour goes on through beautiful Amish countryside, where everything looks immaculate. A breath of peace and quiet! Several Amish furniture makers and country stores can be visited, with all kinds of woodwork, furniture, beautiful hand-made Amish quilts, and all kinds of needlework.

In Nappanee, the Weaver Furniture Barn is a wholesale dealer of local furniture makers. Furniture maker Ayr Cabinet presents an extraordinary showroom and lets you visit their workplace. The quality of their cabinet work is truly phenomenal, and they tailor kitchens and bathrooms to suit. Another point of interest in Nappanee is the farm and hotel Amish Acres, especially focused on tourism. Certainly worth the visit!

Amish country 1 Amish country 2
Nappanee : Ayr Cabinet Nappanee : Amish Acres

Shipshewana - Goshen - Middlebury

Shipshewana is an interesting Amish village, which was named after an Indian Chief. The Menno Hof, a Mennonite-Amish Visitor Center, presents a very comprehensive presentation of both religious communities, with information about Amish history, their differences, and their similarities. It is noteworthy that only the more mundane Mennonites have such presentations, as the Amish live more restricted within their own community. Most informative !

The Shipshewana Flea Market is famous, and it attracts hundreds of buyers every day. In the Riegsecker Haus you can find practically everything, including furniture, linen, bakery, food and of course the inevitable souvenirs...

Goshen is located in the middle of Amish Country. Beautiful gardens and meadows, clean animals, flowers everywhere, what a difference! Country Road 22 will bring you to Middlebury, where you can visit the Deutsche Käse Haus and Das Dutchman Essen Haus.

Although many references to the word "Dutch" are found in Amish country, this is historically incorrect. The original word is "Deutsch" (German), but the early Americans could not easily pronounce this word, with its difficult diphthong "oy" as in boy, and therefore it was simply turned into the more familiar "Dutch"...

Shipshewana : Menno Hof

Middlebury : Das Dutchman Essen Haus

An Amish auction

Our Amish friends invited us to an Amish Auction, given on an Amish Farm in Nappanee. Such an invitation is rather unusual, because usually the public is made up almost exclusively of Amish. Besides us there were only two other non-Amish couples.

An Amish auctionMany Amish were already present when we arrived at the farm, and many of their typical buggy's were parked out in front. In the back stood a tent, where we found home-baked bread, buns, cakes, biscuits, noodles, etc. The Amish certainly never seem to lack food...

The Auctioneer was already walking around with his microphone, and then the sale started, the proceeds of which would benefit the local Amish school. The auctioneer started rattling off a litany of numbers, but so incredibly fast that it was nearly impossible to understand a single word! Sometimes he would stop for a split second to catch his breath, but after that he would simply continue as before...

An Amish auction is a pleasant affair, since most buyers know each other, and they usually turn it into a party, with lots of food and drink. A good auctioneer will introduce a playful note in the bidding, and intersperse his sale with all sorts of details and comments. A most pleasant experience !


Indy 500 Race Track

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with its Indy 500 Race Track, was built in 1908 and opened in 1911, when the first 500 Mile Race was sponsored by Vanderbilt. The original objective was to test cars and safely organize competitions. Afterwards it was also used for several other events, and to promote the sale of new cars.

Imagine a race circuit of some 2.5 miles long, with raised corners, where the speed of the cars can reach 240 miles or 386 km/h! A complete circuit at full speed will take a little more than two minutes, which roughly corresponds to crossing an entire football field in one second...

At first the track was made of a mixture of gravel and tar, but later that was improved with a layer of bricks. Hence the name of Brickyard, from this original brick pavement. The bricks remained until 1960, after which several layers of asphalt were added. The Race Track houses the Indy 500, the Brickyard 400 and the SAP Grand Prix.

There are between 300 and 400,000 seats along the circuit, and it is used for Formula 1 cars, but also stock cars, motorcycles, go carts, etc. A bus offers visitors a ride along the Race track, albeit far slower than during a race...

Indianapolis : Indy 500 - 1 Indianapolis : Indy 500 - 2
Indianapolis : Indy 500 - brickyard 1 Indianapolis : Indy 500 - brickyard 2

Hall of Fame museum

The Hall of Fame Museum exhibits many original cars that date from 1900 to 2000, and even many winning cars are included. All of them are nicely restored, and the collection contains absolute gems, such as Cord, Lola, Mercedes, Cooper, and so on.

Many interesting tidbits can be found, such as the fact that in 1886 both Daimler and Benz separately submitted patents for the invention of a car, but that even before this, in 1876 another German had already invented the gasoline engine! Every automobile fan will undoubtedly love this museum.

Indy 500 : Hall of Fame 1 Indy 500 : Hall of Fame 2
Indy 500 : Hall of Fame 3 Indy 500 : Hall of Fame 4

White River State Park

The White River State Park is located in the heart of Indianapolis, at Washington Avenue. Along the River Promenade the sides are trimmed with huge limestone rocks. The origin of these rocks is local.

About three hundred million years ago, this entire region was under water. Hundreds of feet of shell layers were compressed into stone, and this became Indiana limestone! Sometimes small shells are embedded in the stone. The Empire State Building in New York and the Union Capitol building in Washington DC have been built with Indiana limestone, because it insulates far better than concrete.

The sides of the path are beautifully decorated with all kinds of trees and plants. During the walk the Old Washington Street Bridge can be admired, a beautifully restored one-hundred-year-old structure.

White River State Park Old Washington Street bridge

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