As you may already be aware, Indiana is celebrating its bicentennial this year! On Dec. 11, 1816, Indiana became the 19th state in the union, and 200 years later, we're celebrating the bicentennial by honoring our Hoosier heritage and history all across the state.
This event got me thinking: Where does Hendricks County fit into the state's 200-year history?
So here are 10 things that you may or may not know about Hendricks County's past and present but should know if you are planning a visit sometime this year for the Bicentennial celebration.
The Birth of Hendricks County
Hendricks County is not much younger than the state of Indiana itself. On Dec. 20, 1823, we became the 51st county to be organized within the state. Hendricks County is named for William Hendricks, who was serving as the third governor of Indiana at the time of the county's formation.
Our county also is one-of-a-kind as the only Hendricks County in the country.
In a history of Hendricks County published in 1914, Hon. John V. Hadley wrote, "In 1823, Indianapolis was a mere village, with a few log cabins and a population not to exceed two hundred. In fact, the whole population of the state did not exceed one hundred and fifty thousand..."
How Hendricks County Looks Today
Fast-forward 193 years, and Hendricks County definitely looks different now.
Most of our population is concentrated in the eastern half of the county, where our three largest towns -- Plainfield, Brownsburg and Avon -- are located. The western half of the county is still predominantly rural, agricultural land.
Our county seat, Danville, is located in the center of Hendricks County and is a unique blend of rural life and suburbia, history and modernity, tranquility and culture.
Established in 1839, Plainfield currently holds the title of Hendricks County's largest town with about 30,000 residents. Plainfield's settlement was heavily influenced by Quakers, and the Plainfield Friends Meeting still plays a major role in the community, including hosting the annual Quaker Day Festival.
Plainfield is accessible by both I-70 and the National Road -- also known as U.S. 40 -- and it's right next door to the Indianapolis International Airport and boasts the county's largest cluster of hotels.
Visitors to Plainfield will enjoy the large outdoor shopping mall called The Shops at Perry Crossing, the historic Oasis Diner, the popular Chateau Thomas Winery, and many other locally-owned shops and establishments.
Plainfield is also renowned for its parks system that includes Guilford Township's Hummel Park, Swinford Park, Friendship Gardens (a popular site for weddings), Franklin Park, Splash Island Family Waterpark (indoor and outdoor), the Richard A. Carlucci Recreation and Aquatics Center and a fantastic trail system that winds throughout the town.
Brownsburg was established in 1848 and is currently Hendricks County's second-largest town in the northeast corner of the county with roughly 23,000 residents. I-74 runs through Brownsburg, as does U.S. 136, and the town has the county's second largest cluster of hotels.
When I think of Brownsburg, I think of auto racing.
Lucas Oil Raceway is in Brownsburg, and its drag strip and paved oval track host a slew of racing events including the Cheverolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the Day Before the 500 USAC sprint car race, No Hatin' Drag Racing events, Slamology, the NMCA Muscle Car Nationals, the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience, and much more.
Additionally, the area around Northfield Drive in Brownsburg is lined with headquarters and garages of all sorts of racing teams, including that of John Force. There is much more to Brownsburg than motorsports, which will be covered next month right here on the Hendricks County Insider blog.
(Insider tip: Race fans will enjoy the food and atmosphere of Pit Stop Barbecue & Grill in Brownsburg.)
While the first settlement went up around 1830, Avon wasn't officially incorporated as a town until 1995. It is, hands down, the fastest-growing community within Hendricks County, more than doubling its population over the past 15 years. Today, around 16,000 people call Avon home in the eastern section of the county.
U.S. 36 runs through the center of Avon, connecting it to Indianapolis. Visitors to Avon will find just about every nationally-recognized store and restaurant that can be imagined, as well as locally-owned gems such as Old Bob's, Avon Gardens, and the incredibly popular Opa! Greek restaurant.
(Insider tip: One of my favorite places in Avon is the Washington Township Park, where you'll find a huge playground, a dog park, a splash pad, a wonderful Pavilion Center that can be used for meetings and weddings, hiking and biking trails, and more.)
Founded in 1824 and incorporated in 1835, Danville and its approximately 9,600 residents serve as the Hendricks County seat, situated in the center of the county. U.S. 36 runs right through Danville.
People who love art, music, and community events will love Danville. It is home to the Gallery on the Square, as well as the Melissa Cain Art Studio. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra comes to Ellis Park every year for a Symphony in the Park. Just north of town, the Longstreet Playhouse provides community theater. The historic Royal Theater hosts the annual Indiana Short Film Festival in addition to its normal slate of first-run and classic movies, live music, stand-up comedy, and community events.
Danville also hosts the annual Hendricks County 4-H Fair, Mayberry in the Midwest, First Friday Cruise-Ins, Summer Sounds on the Square, the Winterland Light Show, Fair on the Square, and much more. Visitors will have no problem finding something to do in Danville.
(Insider tip: Sink your teeth into a hand pie at The Beehive while you're in Danville. Delicious!)
The northwest corner of Hendricks County is home to the towns of Pittsboro, Lizton and North Salem, and while these towns are small, there are many reasons to explore this portion of the county.
Pittsboro is the second-fastest growing town in Hendricks County and is famous for being the childhood home of NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon and U.S. Olympic gymnast Bridget Sloan. Founded in 1834, Pittsboro is home to the One Room Schoolhouse that was built in 1883 and where every day is set in 1892.
Lizton was established in 1851 and like Hendricks County is the only Lizton in the country. The Lizton Dairy Bar is a must-visit during the summer months.
(Insider tip: Make plans to attend the annual Old Fashion Days in North Salem over Labor Day weekend. It's a weekend of parades, shopping, old cars, live music, activities and all kinds of stuff that the entire family will enjoy.)
Meet Mill Creek
In the southwest corner of Hendricks County is the Mill Creek area, which includes the towns of Amo, Clayton, Coatesville and Stilesville.
The Vandalia Trail begins (or ends, depending on your perspective) in Amo and is a gorgeous 12.3-mile trail for hikers, bikers and horseback riders that stretches to Greencastle. The town is also home to Amo Pizza Shop, which is a favorite among locals.
A little to the east of Amo is Clayton, where my kids like to play in Lambert Park and where locals love to eat at the Clayton Cafe.
In 1948, the town of Coatesville, which hugs the western border of Hendricks County, was obliterated by a devastating tornado. Today, however, this quaint town is home to Cruisin' in Coatesville, Christmas in Coatesville, Cinnamon Girls Bakery and Cafe and Fleurs de Beausoleil, among other events and attractions. The Vandalia Trail also runs through Coatesville.
South of Coatesville is Stilesville, where lies my favorite place to relax with good food and adult beverages -- the Cornerstone Roadhouse.
Presidential Visits to Hendricks County
Thousands upon thousands of people visit Hendricks County every year, and we're thrilled to have all of them. We've even had some U.S. Presidents visit us!
Back in 1842, former president Martin Van Buren visited Plainfield. His visit was marked by his stagecoach running into an elm tree, sending Van Buren sprawling into the mud. The tree in question is now known as the Van Buren Elm, and an elementary school in Plainfield is named for him.
Former president Ronald Reagan spoke at the historic Hendricks County Courthouse in Danville in 1983. A major north-south corridor through Hendricks County is now named for him: Ronald Reagan Parkway.
In 2008, President Barack Obama -- at the time, a U.S. Senator -- visited Plainfield to campaign for his presidency.
The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay will come through Hendricks County from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 23, giving visitors another great reason to visit Hendricks County this year. It will be the 40th stop for the relay as it tours all 92 counties in Indiana.
To find out how you can join the party, click here.
Each area of Hendricks County has its own unique personality, sites, flavor and activities, so now that you have a general overview of our county, we're going to send bloggers out to provide even more insider information on each area.
Stay tuned to our blog to learn even more about Hendricks County and why you'll want to visit over and over again to experience everything we have to offer!