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Terre Haute ( ) is a city in Vigo Countymarker, Indianamarker near the state's western border with Illinoismarker. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 59,614 and its metropolitan area had a population of 170,943. The city is the county seat of Vigo Countymarker and the self-proclaimed capital of the Wabash Valley. The federal death row is in Terre Haute at the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complexmarker.


Terre Haute is at (39.469586, -87.389762), alongside the eastern bank of the Wabash River in western Indianamarker. The city lies about west of Indianapolismarker.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 32.1 square miles (83.1 km²), of which, 31.2 square miles (80.9 km²) of it is land and 0.9 square miles (2.2 km²) of it (2.68%) is water.

The physical geography of the city is dominated by the Wabash River, which forms the western border of the city. Small bluffs on the east side of city mark the edge of the historic flood plain. Lost Creek and Honey Creek drain the northern and southern sections of the city, respectively. In the late 1800s (particularly during the Terre Haute Oil Craze of 1889), several oil and mineral wells were productive in and near the center of the city. Those have not been tapped for many years.

Terre Haute is located at the intersection of two major roadways: the National Road from California to Maryland, and U.S. 41 from Michigan to Florida (locally named "3rd Street"). Terre Haute is located southwest of Indianapolis and within of Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville, and Cincinnati.

When Interstate 70 was built in the early 1970s, the community's major shopping area became centered near the interchange south of the city. U.S. 40 still runs through the downtown area as of 2005. The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) plans to transfer the route number to State Road 46 and Interstate 70 through the Terre Haute area once the new State Road 641 bypass is completed. The old US 40, known as Wabash Avenue, will be transferred to city and county control.


The name of the city is derived from the French phrase terre haute (pronounced in French), meaning "high land". It was named by French explorers in the area in the early 18th century to describe the plateau-like rise of land next to the Wabash River (see French colonization of the Americas). When the area was claimed by the French and English, these highlands were considered the border between Canadamarker and Louisiana.

During "Tecumseh's War" in 1811, the construction of Fort Harrison during an expedition led by William Henry Harrison marked the known beginning of a permanent population of European-Americans. A Wea village called Weautano (also known as "Rising Sun" and "Old Orchard Town") already existed near the fort. Captain Zachary Taylor defended the fort from a British–inspired attack by an estimated 600 Native Americans during the Battle of Fort Harrison on September 4, 1812. The orchards and meadows kept by the local Wea populations became the site of present–day Terre Haute, a few miles south of Fort Harrison. Before 1830, the few remaining Wea had departed under pressure from white settlement.

The village of Terre Haute, then a part of Knox County, Indianamarker, was platted in 1816. Its early identity was as an agricultural and pork-packing center and as a port on the then-navigable Wabash River for steamboats and other river-craft. Between 1835 and late 1839, Terre Haute served as the headquarters for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Major Cornelius A. Ogden during the construction of the National Road. As a result, a number of West Point graduates and other highly educated people located in the town. Wealthy Terre Haute entrepreneur Chauncey Rose built The Prairie Housemarker, a fancy hotel, in 1838 primarily to accommodate those families. In 1855, the name of The Prairie House was changed to the Terre Haute Housemarker.

Development in anticipation of completion of the Wabash and Erie Canal, the longest manmade body of water in the western hemisphere, also brought prosperity to the community. The canal finally reached Terre Haute in October 1849. Founded by Chauncey Rose, the Terre Haute and Richmond Railroad began operations between Terre Haute and Indianapolismarker in February 1852 and its traffic soon surpassed that on the canal. The name of the Terre Haute and Richmond Railroad soon was changed to the Terre Haute and Indianapolis Railroad. It became the operating company of the Vandalia Railroad System. The community quickly gained the reputation as a transportation hub.

In 1832, Terre Haute became a town and, in May 1853, elected to become a city. After the American Civil War, it developed into an industrial and mining center, with iron and steel mills, hominy plants and, late in the 19th Century, distilleries, breweries, coal mines and coal operating companies. Business boomed.

Terre Haute's Famous "Four-Cornered" Race Track was the site of more than 20 world harness racing records and helped trigger the city's reputation as a sporting center. The bustling economy also led to establishing several institutes of higher education: Saint Mary-of-the Woods Institute (now Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College), John Covert's Terre Haute Female College, Indiana State Normal School (now Indiana State Universitymarker), Terre Haute School of Industrial Science (now Rose-Hulman Institute of Technologymarker) and Coates College for Women. The city developed culture and a reputation in the arts. As a base of industry, it also developed a strong tradition of union activity, which resulted in hosting a two-day conclave beginning on August 3, 1881 of the National Trade Union Congress, renamed the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the U.S. and Canada. In 1886, the Federation was renamed the American Federation of Labor. The city also produced labor leader Eugene V. Debs.

The city's river traffic contributed to its reputation for being "wide open", with gambling and a well-developed "red light district". The latter was not fully eliminated until urban renewal of the riverfront in the 1960s. During the second decade of the 20th century, Terre Haute was rocked by political scandal and that reputation persisted for several decades. In 1955, Terre Haute was labeled Sin City by the monthly magazine Stag.

Prohibition had a major adverse impact on the city's economy. It forced the closure of several distilleries and all but one brewery, which reduced its payroll by 70% and converted to produce root beer. Four large glass manufacturing firms drastically reduced production, and two eventually closed. The Root Glass Company survived, primarily because it had secured the patent for the Coca-Cola bottle in 1915. Two of the distilleries were sold to Commercial Solvents Corporation, which acquired the rights to produce acetone from Chaim Weizmann in exchange for royalties.

With some aspects of the economy booming in the mid-1920s, the owners of the Terre Haute Housemarker decided to demolish their older building and erect a grand edifice befitting such a modern city as Terre Haute. In 1928, the new Terre Haute Housemarker opened, attracting the wealthy – famous and infamous alike – to its luxurious splendor. Al Capone is rumored to have been a guest in the new hotel's early years. After closing in 1970, the structure remained nonoperational for 35 years until 2005 when it was sold to a local developer. He demolished it and two other properties on the same block and sold the property to Dora Brothers Hospitality for development of a Hilton Garden Inn.


Vigo County Courthouse
The current Mayor is Duke Bennett, a Republican (the first Republican mayor of Terre Haute in over 35 years). During the second decade of the 20th Century, Terre Haute was rocked by political scandal and that reputation persisted for several decades. Businessman Kevin Burke was elected the city’s Mayor in 2003 and vowed to make cleaning up the city’s image and notorious smell one of his administration’s top priorities. The offensive odors that plagued the City were primarily emitted from a coal tar creosote railroad tie manufacturing facility, a waste water treatment facility, and a paper plant. To date, the odor has been drastically reduced.

Duke Bennett was elected Mayor in late 2007, but Bennett's election was subsequently challenged by the losing incumbent, Kevin Burke, based on an alleged violation of the "Little Hatch Act" by Bennett (the violation of which would have made Bennett ineligible for office). Former Mayor Burke filed suit, and following a bench trial, the trial court rejected Burke's challenge and declared Bennett elected as the qualified candidate who received the highest number of votes. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new election. The Indiana Supreme Court, on June 16, 2009, unanimously affirmed the trial court's confirmation of Bennett's election as Mayor. Former Mayor Burke stated that he would not appeal the decision further to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The City Council has six members each representing a district and three members-at-large. The National Arbor Day Foundation has designated Terre Haute a "Tree City." The city is also home to a federally-sponsored AmeriCorps program called the Sycamore Service Corps.

Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex

Terre Haute is the location of the federal death row. Inmates are held at the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complexmarker. Located on Highway 63, two miles (3 km) south of the City of Terre Haute, the complex includes the medium security Federal Correctional Institution and the high security United States Penitentiary. The Penitentiary houses the Special Confinement Unit for inmates serving federal death sentences.

Terre Haute received attention for the June 11, 2001, execution of Timothy McVeigh at the Federal Correctional Complex for his role in the Oklahoma City bombingmarker.


As of the census of 2000, there were 59,614 people, 22,870 households, and 13,025 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,908.3 people per square mile (736.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 86.3% White, 9.8% African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.2% Asian, 0.5% from other races, and 1.9% from two or more races. 1.6% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 22,870 households out of which 27.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.0% are married couples living together, 14.0% have a female householder with no husband present, and 43.0% are non-families. 34.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 14.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.28 and the average family size is 2.95.

The median income for a household in the city is $28,018, and the median income for a family is $37,618. Males have a median income of $29,375 versus $21,374 for females. The per capita income for the city is $15,728. 19.2% of the population and 14.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 17.4% of those under the age of 18 and 11.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Downtown Terre Haute.
Terre Haute entered a period of economic decline once the coal mines were spent and the importance of the railroads diminished. The town was labeled a "bad labor town" following the Terre Haute General Strike of 1935 and the city center began a decline from which it has never fully recovered. Although some remnants of its glory days remain and Terre Haute is home to some national events, The Indianapolis Star recently called it "A Model of Stagnation." A reputation the city has tried very hard recently to shed.

In addition to the downtown business district and the south side, there are several smaller business districts in the city. The first suburban shopping area was Twelve Points, on the northeast side of town; later, Idaho Station developed near Seventh Street and Lockport Road. In the post-World War II era, auto-centered shopping developed on the east side at Meadows. Plaza North is another important shopping area in the northern city neighborhoods.

The original curved Coca-Cola bottle was designed and first produced by the Root Glass Company, which was based in Terre Haute. In the mid-1990s, Coca-Cola honored this part of its past by introducing a short-lived Coke bottle-shaped can that was sold only in Terre Haute and one other city. Terre Haute was also one of the primary test markets for Pringles Potato Chips. The city is a familiar address to many, as it is home to the Columbia House mail-order club. It also is the home of the largest disc production facility in the United States, Sony DADC. Sony DADC was the first facility in the United States to manufacture the Compact Disc.


Terre Haute is served by the Vigo County School Corporation. McLean Education Center is located on Lafayette Avenue and serves 200-300 students.

Terre Haute is home to Indiana State Universitymarker (ISU). Indiana State has a student population of approximately 10,500. The Princeton Review has named ISU one of the nation’s “best value” undergraduate institutions. The Princeton Review has also placed ISU on its “Best in the Midwest” list of colleges and universities. The private engineering school Rose-Hulman Institute of Technologymarker is located just east of the city, and is consistently rated as the top undergraduate engineering school in the nation. The vocational schools Ivy Tech State College and Harrison College are also located in the city. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, a four-year, private Catholic primarily women's college, is north of West Terre Haute, Indianamarker.

The LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course has the distinction of being one of the few purpose-built cross-country courses in the world. The facility is part of 240 acres (0.97 km2) that comprise the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center east of Terre Haute. The course itself is built on a reclaimed coal mine and consists of an external loop of 3 km and four internal loops that allow for circuits of varying lengths. Indiana State University's Cross-Country team uses the Gibson Course for its home meets.



  • Terre Haute International Airportmarker - Hulman Field (HUF) serves Terre Haute and Vigo Countymarker. However, there is currently no scheduled airline or charter service flying out of Hulman Field. Most flights are from pilot school students from Ivy Tech and Indiana State and the F-16 fighter jets of the Indiana Air National Guard's 181st Fighter Wing, which has been recommended for realignment to non-flying status. A local unit of the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol, also conducts operations out of Hulman Field.
  • Sky King Airport - public use airport situated about two miles (3 km) north of Terre Haute on U.S. Highway 41. Most flights into and out of the airport are training flights from Indiana State University.


  • Terre Haute is served by two exits on I-70. The easternmost (Exit 11) connects with State Road 46, approximatley four miles south of Rose-Hulmanmarker; the other one (Exit 7) connects with U.S. 41 (which goes both north and south of the city) on the south-west area of the city. A third exit serves West Terre Haute, Indianamarker via Darwin Road and provides easy access to western Terre Haute.

  • U.S. Highway 41 is the main north-south thoroughfare on Terre Haute's west side. From Maple St south to I-70 it is marked as 3rd St; along this stretch is US-41's interchange with I-70. From the north US-41 comes from Rockvillemarker. Traveling south the highway passes Sullivanmarker and Vincennesmarker on its way to Evansvillemarker.

  • U.S. Highway 150 enters Terre Haute from the west on the same route as US-40. At 3rd St US-150 turns south following the path of US-41.

  • State Road 46's western terminus is located its intersection with US-40 just west of Rose-Hulmanmarker. From here the highway runs south to an interchange with I-70. The road then heads through Rileymarker on its way to Bloomingtonmarker.

  • State Road 63 enters Terre Haute on the city's north side crossing the Wabash River. At this point IN-63 runs concurrent with US-41 along 3rd St from Maple Ave to Hulman St. At Hulman St, IN-63 heads west towards Prairietonmarker.

  • State Road 641, also known as the Terre Haute Bypass, is a project currently underway by INDOT. The bypass will be a limited access highway running from the interchange of IN-46 & I-70 to US-41 near the industrial park on the city's southside.




The Vigo County Historical Society Museum, at the intersection of Washington Avenue and South Sixth Street, boasts an extraordinary collection of artifacts maintained in a 150+-year old former residence and the Children's Museum in downtown Terre Haute are other community assets. The Swope Art Museum, opened and free to the public since 1942, boasts a nationally recognized collection of American art including work by Edward Hopper, Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, Janet Scudder, Andy Warhol, Ruth Pratt Bobbs, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg and many others. The Turman Art Gallery at Indiana State University features rotating exhibitions by student and faculty artists.

Sister City

Terre Haute has had a strong sister-city relationship with Tajimi, Japan since the 1960s.

In the Media

Frank Sinatra movie Some Came Running references Terre Haute several times. After Frank Sinatra (Dave Hirsh) and Shirley MacLaine's (Ginnie Moorehead) characters are engaged Ginnie asks "Dave, can we please go to Terre Haute for our honeymoon?"

The satiric newspaper The Onion published an article on the local music scene in 2001 entitled "Garage Band Actually Believes there is a 'Terre Haute Sound.'"

Terre Haute was the target of the dastardly plot by Nazi stooges in the 1982 spoof noir movie Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Terre Haute's "role" in the movie was the contribution of actor/comedian Steve Martin, the star and co-writer of Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Steve Martin had visited Terre Haute and performed his stand-up routine in the city a few years prior to making the movie.

Terre Haute was the original home of Cissy, Jody, and Buffy Davis in the CBS sitcom Family Affair. The characters mispronounced the city's name "Terry Hott." However, the mispronunciation may have been intentional, continuing a long-running "in joke" amongst Terre Hauteans. Due to the town's red light district and less than savory areas, from at least the mid-19th century, the name was used in a play on the words "hot" & "hut," Terry Hot, Terry Hut, and Terrible Hut.

In the closing minutes of the Pilot episode of Mr. Belvedere, when the family decides they don't need his services, the youngest child Wesley asks what he will do now. Mr. Belvedere replies "I've always wanted to see Terre Haute, don't ask me why."

Terre Haute was mentioned in the Peter Yates film Breaking Away when the characters were deciding what to do and one asked if they "wanted to go to Terre Haute."

Terre Haute was mentioned in 2 episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip when the local "NBS" refused to show the skit "Crazy Christians". This was in direct reference to Terre Haute's local NBC affiliate, WTWO, refusing to show "The Book of Daniel".

Terre Haute was mentioned in the classic favorite Christmas movie A Christmas Story, 1983, when the line at the shopping mall to see Santa "stretched all the way to Terre Haute." A Christmas Story takes place in Hammond, Lake County, Indiana where the author, Jean Shepherd, of the books on which the movie are based was from. Terre Haute is approximately due south of Hammond and US 41 connects the two cities.

In Stephen King's post-apocalyptic horror novel The Stand, Donald Merwin Elbert (aka The Trashcan Man), after committing several arsons due to his pyromania, was sent to a mental institution in Terre Haute before being incarcerated in a separate institution for teenage delinquents. (Father Gibault School for Boys, just south of Terre Haute on US 41, was briefly the home of Charles Manson.) In King's The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass, the main protagonists stumble into a parallel universe version of the post-apocalypse world of The Stand in which all of Terre Haute was burned down.

In Stephen King's, writing as Richard Bachman, novel "The Regulators" Terre Haute is mentioned as one the places to escape to by the character Audrey Wyler.

Terre Haute's history is the subject of a weekly public radio program based in Bloomington, Indianamarker, called Hometown with Tom Roznowski, which describes various aspects of Terre Haute in the summer of 1926. Terre Haute: Queen City of the Wabash, by Vigo County Historian Mike McCormick, is a concise history of the city published in November 2005 by Arcadia Publishing Company.

On Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, the character of teacher Mrs. Quick identifies Terre Haute as her hometown.

America's Next Top Model: Cycle 4 contestant Michelle Deighton is from Terre Haute.

The popular web comic Penny Arcade mentions Terre Haute in a strip. [14960]

Terre Haute is the stated home town of Tony, the stalker of hero Theresa Bedell, in Rebecca Gilman's play "Boy Gets Girl".

The Nerd, a two-act comedy by playwright Larry Shue, is set in Terre Haute.

Terre Haute was mentioned in the NBC series Parks and Recreation as the origin city of the founder of the town where the show takes place.

Terre Haute is mentioned in T.S. Eliot's French poem Lune de Miel.

In the Blues Brothers film, Matt "Guitar" Murphy mentions spending time in the Terre Haute Federal Pen.

Urban Legends

A well-known horror story is based on this city: South of Terre Haute there is an abandoned road near a covered bridge that was the favorite parking spot of many young couples. For a time young people reported being approached in their cars by a woman in a purple velvet dress holding a dead baby. She would ask the couples to take the dead child and, if they refused, she would then place it under the wheels of the car so they would drive over it. This same event happened to several couples on several different occasions.

Another well known Terre Haute legend is the story of Stiffy Green, a stuffed bulldog (though it is admittedly very difficult to stuff concrete) which allegedly at one time guarded the mausoleum of florist John G. Heinl, the brother-in-law of Eugene V. Debs and the father of esteemed journalist Robert Debs Heinl. For many years Stiffy stood watch over his master's mausoleum - actually sat inside the mausoleum (center, rear, between the crypts) in Highland Lawn Cemetery on the east side of town. While popular legend says Stiffy was given green glass eyes, at least at the time this writer viewed him they were actually yellow. He was placed to "guard his master for eternity", and as a result (predictably) Heinl's mausoleum became a popular rendezvous for teenagers. They would shine flashlights through the mausoleum's glass doors - he was somewhat difficult to see - to witness the glow of Stiffy's eyes. The legend drew believers to Highland Lawn Cemetery regularly. It is said that he remained there until one visitor aimed a gun instead of a flashlight, shooting out one of Stiffy's glass eyes. Apparently due to this attack and the continuing threat to this unique and arguably treasured part of Terre Haute history the animal that had captured the imaginations of so many was removed and placed inside a life-sized replica of Heinl's vault in the Vigo County Historical Museum. Stiffy still draws fans who buy Stiffy Green sweatshirts in the gift shop. There are many known legends of murderers and strange noises that center around a small wooded area just north of helen avenue and south 12th street. many myths tell of a killer clown living in the woods and many eye witness accounts support the myth. many residents also speak of hearing strange noises such as screaming and laughing coming from the area.

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