Then & Now

Before the Native Americans made a treaty with the U.S. government in 1818 to sell the land now known as central Indiana, entrepreneurs like William Conner had established trading posts. The town that grew up around these thriving businesses was known as Bethlehem (“Tadpoles’ Glory” was also an early name, thanks to the swamp frogs).

When the town grew large enough to establish a post office in 1846, residents were forced to create a new name, since Bethlehem was already in use in Indiana. The new name, Carmel (beautiful gardens), was also inspired by the Bible.

The Monon Railroad (with its daily trips to Chicago) and a toll road along what is now Range Line Road ensured the town stayed on the map. Libraries, fire stations, a symphony orchestra and one of the country’s first automatic traffic signals were established.

Carmel’s real population boom didn’t begin until 1950 when edge cities became the American Dream. Churches sprang up, taxpayers approved a new high school campus, parents formed organized groups to offer their youth plenty of athletic opportunities, and Keystone Avenue (Route 431) opened. The town that boasted just 1,009 people in 1950 has grown to a city of over 60,000 today.


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