Did you know Indy hosts the greatest spectacle in racing every year?
Nah, just kidding. If you know us, you know we’re here for the deep cuts — and there’s plenty of interesting factoids to go around. As connoisseurs of the quirky and unconventional, we put together a list of the Circle City’s history, oddest characteristics, and more. Maybe you’ve lived here your whole life and know some of this, or maybe you’ll learn something new.
Either way, test your local knowledge with these 15 interesting facts.
1. Indy is home to the world’s largest Children’s Museum, with over 130,000 artifacts + 472,900 sqft. That’s right, that building with an indoor carousel + dinosaurs guarding its walls comes with bragging rights.
2. Indiana Avenue was once a mecca for jazz musicians who may be responsible for Indy’s nickname, “Naptown.” It may seem surprising, but greats like Wes Montgomery + Freddie Hubbard got their start in the Circle City. If you want to learn more about the city’s musical roots, go on a “walk and talk” with local tour guide Sampson Levingston.
3. Just a couple of years after Neil Armstrong took one small step for man, nearly 500 tree seeds made their way into orbit, as well. One of those “moon trees” can be found downtown, right in front of the Indiana Statehouse. It orbited the moon 34 times as an experiment, to see if the seeds would sprout like normal when they returned.
4. No surrounding building is allowed to be taller than eight stories on Monument Circle. It may seem arbitrary, but it’s only so that sunlight can fall on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument’s limestone + flowing water all day long.
5. The downtown Athenaeum was designed by Kurt Vonnegut’s architect grandfather + it was Kurt’s favorite of all his ancestor’s designs. It was originally used as a gymnasium and clubhouse by German-Americans striving to preserve their culture in Indy.
6. In 1930, Indy was home to a major feat in modern engineering. The 11,000-ton Indiana Bell building — another one of Kurt Vonnegut Sr.'s designs — was rotated 90 degrees (roughly 52 feet) south along Meridian Street in a little over a month. Learn how they did it — spoiler alert, it was pretty complicated.
7. Some of Indy’s streets don’t point due north — at least not exactly. Inside the inner loop of I-65 + I-70, a whole grid of streets vary from directly north by about 2.5 degrees. That’s because when the streets were built in what’s now known as “Mile Square,” a magnetic needle was used instead of true north.
8. The Canal was originally meant to run a total of 296 miles. It was intended to connect the Wabash + Erie Canal to the Ohio River, but was never completed due to a lack of funding.
9. Indy used to have one of the largest streetcar systems in the US. It was the main mode of transportation for Hoosiers in the 1890s, transporting around 126 million passengers a year. However, the rise of the automobile after World War I plunged ridership significantly.
10. The Circle City is considered the largest city in the US that is not on a navigable body of water. The White River does run through the city, but it was deemed too shallow for trading + has gone unused for commercial transportation.
11. The original Union Station was the country’s first “union” passenger rail station. Its initial construction was in 1853, but was rebuilt 30 years later. Union Station was frequented by many prominent figures, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman + Woodrow Wilson.
12. Ever wonder where sliced bread came from? Well, look no further than the Circle City, where Wonder Bread creator + local bakery Taggart Baking Company kicked off its 91-year reign as the most popular bread in the world.
13. Milk is the drink of choice for Indy 500 winners because of a guy named Louis Meyer. Legend has it, you could often find Meyer drinking buttermilk to cool down on a hot day + he did just that after he won the 1936 race. Except for a brief period in the 1940s and 1950s, it’s been Indy’s quirky tradition ever since. Get more 500 fast facts.
14. The city’s beloved Slippery Noodle Inn was a stop on the Underground Railroad. It served as a way station during the Civil War, with enslaved people hiding out in the building before catching the northbound train nearby. Not only that, but it was also a watering hole during the prohibition era + a mobster hangout.
15. Elvis performed his last concert outside City Market. In 1977 — six weeks before his death — the King of Rock performed at the Market Square arena to a screaming crowd. This venue was torn down in 2001, which is a story in itself.
Your turn. Think you can get one over on us? Let us know your favorite local trivia tidbit and you just might make it into the newsletter.