Carmel

The Carmel-Clay Township area serves as a northern suburb of Indianapolis.  It has, in recent years, grown rapidly and become a self-supporting community of significant commercial, industrial, and residential importance.  Clay Township, covering 50 square miles of mixed use property, is bounded on the south by Marion County (96th Street), the west by Boone County (Michigan Road), the east by White River, and the north by 146th Street.  The City of Carmel is located in the east central portion of Clay Township and has been the largest center of population throughout the township’s long history.

During the earliest part of its history, what is known today as Clay Township was part of Delaware Township which comprised the lower half of Hamilton County.  In 1833, county commissioners divided the county into nine townships with Clay spanning from the southwest corner of Boone County on the west to present day Range Line Road on the east.  Delaware Township was sandwiched between Clay on the west and Fall Creek Township on the east with the White River bisecting the township north to south about midway.  In 1837, four farmers with adjoining property each donated equal acreage to create a town called Bethlehem along the rangeline with equal parts in Delaware and Clay townships.  In later years, this town came to be known as Carmel.  These political boundaries remained in place until 1954.  By that time, the town of Carmel had developed largely towards the east into Delaware Township.  Problems arising from the administration of local schools and government necessitated a change, however.  Local officials placed a referendum before the voters, proposing to move the Clay Township boundary eastward to the White River; voters accepted this alteration.

Once a quiet farming village serving a surrounding agricultural township, the city of Carmel is at the center of the one of the fastest growing townships in Indiana.  In 1990, the 3rd class city of Carmel had a population of 25,380, while Clay Township totaled 43,007 residents.  Developers are confident that the fast-paced growth of residential, business, and commercial centers in the city and surrounding Clay Township which began in the early 1970s will continue well into the 21stcentury.

The social and economic characteristics of the Carmel-Clay population reflect an educated, affluent citizenry vastly different from surrounding Indiana counties.  Married couples with children comprised nearly 73 percent of township and 70 percent of Carmel households.  Forty-three percent of Clay residents and 51 percent of Carmel residents over the age of 25 had a college education, as compared to 30 percent in Lawrence Township and 41 percent in Washington Township of Marion County. [1]  This family-centered, educated population reaped the economic benefits of their stability with a mean family income of $61,236 in Clay Township and $62,686 in Carmel.  The median home value for the township was $132,100 and $142,500 for Carmel.  All of this contributes to a community of wealth and stability that many in America find enviable.[2]

The change from rural farming community to affluent suburb has come about in the recent past, with the most significant change occurring in the last 35 years.  In 1960, the US Census Bureau reported Carmel’s population to be 1,442; Clay Township had 10,215 residents.  Over the next three decades, Carmel’s population grew by 287 percent while Clay Township grew 321 percent; during the same period, the City of Indianapolis experienced a 32 percent growth rate. [3]   This meteoric growth has all but destroyed the agricultural industry that was the economic base for the area prior to the 1970s.  By 1991, only 1.32 percent of Carmel’s population and 1.1 percent of Clay’s residents were involved in agricultural industry. [4]   The last farm within the city limits of Carmel ceased operation in 1993, thereby ending Carmel’s connection with its agricultural roots. [5]

It was the bounty of nature that attracted the earliest settlers to the area.  Long a hunting area for the Lenni Lenape (or Delaware) people who had settled along the White River north of present day Conner Prairie Museum, a French trapper and his Native American wife in the early 1820s lived briefly in the area that is now Carmel.  Between 1822 and 1823, following the opening and sale of government lands, about a dozen families moved to the west bank of White River in the western half of what would become Delaware Township.  In 1824, the year after Hamilton County was organized, William McShane purchased property in the future Clay Township near present day 106th Street and Westfield Boulevard.  There, he erected a cabin and had his family in residence by 1825.  All of the settlers were engaged in clearing land and establishing farms.  The settlement in the southwestern corner of Hamilton County was aided by the survey of the Indianapolis-Peru Road (now Westfield Boulevard/Range Line Road) through the area.  The new toll road was, however, little more than a clearing in the trees with triple notches marking the route.

During the late 1820s significant numbers of families of the Society of Friends (or Quakers) began to move into southern Hamilton County.  Many were from the North Carolina upcountry while others were from Friends settlements in southeastern Indiana.  All were industrious farmers who quickly established themselves on the lands in the vicinity of the White River.  They immediately began worshipping in their homes and by 1830 requested permission to begin an Indulged Meeting.  With permission granted, the Friends established a meeting and, as was customary for Friends, a school, both of which convened in local homes.  The school was open to all who could pay the subscription.  Schools were an important part of Friends settlements due to the theological emphasis on education as a preparation for daily life. [6]

The land near William McShane soon had several families residing around present day 106th Street and College Avenue.  In 1832, Methodists began holding class meetings at Isaac Sharpe’s cabin, which became known in the community as Sharpe’s meeting house.  Local families also began a subscription school at Sharpe’s home.

As the townships of Clay and Delaware took shape in the 1833 subdivision of the county, the Quakers and Methodists continued to develop their institutional structures.  The Friends organized a Preparatory Meeting which they named Richland Meeting and erected an 18 by 20 foot meeting house which doubled as a school.  The Richland Meeting, school, and cemetery located at present day Range Line Road and Smokey Row Road would maintain a presence at this location throughout the 19th century.

The Methodist class meeting at Isaac Sharpe’s quickly outgrew his cabin and in 1834 Sharpe donated property at the corner of present day 106th Street and College Avenue for the formation of a permanent church and school.  The log  Pleasant Grove Methodist Episcopal Church also doubled as Pleasant Grove School.  By 1837, residents constructed a separate school next to the church.  That same year Sharpe donated additional land behind the church for a cemetery. [7]   The next year Methodists in southwest Delaware Township organized a class meeting in area homes.  Periodically a circuit rider conducted services.  By decade’s end, Methodists had established another class at Poplar Grove in south central Clay Township.  One year later in 1840, the Poplar Grove Class organized as Poplar Grove Methodist Episcopal Church and members erected a log building to house their worship.

The 1840s was a decade of growth and entrenchment of religious and educational centers throughout both Clay and western Delaware townships.  In 1837, four enterprising farmers with adjoining properties platted a small community to serve the needs of the surrounding farms.  Each man contributed equal parcels which were situated on either side of the Indianapolis-Peru Road, half in each township.  The central location of Bethlehem, as the town was named, rendered it immediately successful.  By 1838 settlers had purchased all government land in both townships and had begun clearing and putting it under the plow.  The presence of the Friends became more visible as they established two more meetings west of Bethlehem in Delaware Township.  As was their custom, each group established a school that was open to any person who could subscribe.  The Richland meeting, located at the edge of the new town of Bethlehem, thrived.  In 1843, members erected a frame meeting house and school which also served the Richland Monthly Meeting, comprised of Richland and the new Delaware Township meetings of Poplar Ridge and Grassy (East) Branch, today called Gray Friends.

Meanwhile, the Methodists established a Bethlehem class in 1848 and by the end of the decade had constructed a church in town.  The Methodist and Quaker communities both affected the settlement tremendously.  Between the two groups, they were responsible for the creation of every school in the area, save the Farley School, which was located in west central Delaware Township.  These schools, established early in the settlement period, as well as the solid religious base, had a profound and positive effect on the continuing settlement of the area.  The momentum provided by the Friends and the Methodists occurred almost to the exclusion of other denominations.  In 1849, local residents organized a United Brethren congregation; Mt. Zion Baptist Church struggled to survive from its formation and finally dissolved in 1877. [8]   The decade closed with Samuel Carey adding to the Bethlehem plat.

The 1850s echoed the growth patterns of the previous decades.  As the farms prospered so did the local schools and churches.  By 1852, public education was in place in Clay Township, evidenced by eight district schools. [9]   Several of the schools were those sponsored by Quaker and Methodists, but were called “public.” [10]   Cultural activities also increased as residents formed literary societies at Poplar Ridge (ME), White Chapel (ME), and East Branch (Friends) as well as three area schools—Rural Valley, Dawson, and Myers.  Women’s suffrage and slavery were most often discussed and debated topics, both a reflection of Quaker and Methodist concerns and theology.  Several congregations established Sunday Scripture schools and the area even boasted a spelling school and geography school. [11]   In 1857 local resident Nathan Hawks made another addition to the Bethlehem plat.  At decade’s end, the cultural framework of western Delaware and Clay townships was impressively complete.  Fourteen schools served the area:  three district schools in northern Clay Township, five district schools in southern Clay Township, three schools in southwest Delaware and one district school and Richland Academy in the village of Bethlehem.  Ten well established congregations served the local residents:  Poplar Grove Friends and a Wesleyan Methodist in northern Clay; two Methodist, one Christian, and one United Brethren in southern Clay; East Branch Friends in northwestern Delaware; White Chapel Methodist Episcopal in southwestern Delaware; and the Methodists and Richland Friends in Bethlehem proper. [12]

The 1860s were a continuation of the steady economic and cultural growth of earlier years.  By this time, Clay Township had 1,161 residents and Delaware Township had 1,267.  The Civil War had a significant impact on the area with local husbands and sons of all faiths serving in the Union Army.  A number of local Friends served in the Union Army, all of whom were “read out of the meeting” as Quaker beliefs in pacifism required.  Upon returning home, however, they were reinstated to the meeting after examination and repentance. [13]

In 1862, the Pleasant Grove Meeting experienced a split over a disagreement regarding the justification of the war.  Pastor John McCarty and the pro-government faction left the church.  Two years later, the rift was healed and Pastor G.W. Bowers reunited the congregation.  At war’s end, the Richland Friends made a significant contribution of $1,021.37 to Quaker agencies established to aid the “freedmen.”  The meeting concerned itself with the condition of people of color throughout the decade by maintaining a “committee on freedmen” to present concerns and needs to the meeting. [14]   The Richland Meeting also constructed the brick Richland Academy; this academy soon became the public school for Carmel and the surrounding area but continued to be maintained by Richland Friends.  It was graded through the 12th grade and served Carmel into the 20th century.

Slow and steady growth with few significant changes continued through the remainder of the century.  Two events are of particular note, however.  The first occurred in 1874 when residents of Bethlehem presented a petition to Hamilton County commissioners, requesting authorization to hold an election for incorporation and to change the town’s name to Carmel.  Earlier in 1846, Bethlehem had requested a post office, but the name was already in use.  A member of the Richland Meeting suggested “Carmel,” which was a biblical reference (I Samuel 25:2) to a prosperous region of the Holy Land.  Now, twenty-eight years later after the creation of the Carmel post office in the village of Bethlehem, county commissioners accepted the residents’ petition and approved the incorporation of the community of Carmel.

The second key event occurred in 1883 when the Monon Railroad began to serve Carmel and Clay Township.  The line connected the town and township  with Indianapolis to the south and Westfield, Sheridan, and Lafayette to the north.  The passenger and freight line enhanced the steady growth and strengthened the township economy.

The first decade of the 20th century introduced “modern” conveniences to the households of Carmel and Clay Township.  In 1903 the interurban (Indiana Union Traction Line) began service to Clay Township, entering Hamilton County at Nora, running to Carmel, and continuing northward through the county.  The line provided speedy, comfortable travel to Indianapolis and connections to the rest of the state.  Electricity and telephone service also arrived, bringing the amenities of urban life to the farming community.

In spite of its modern conveniences, Carmel still served a decidedly agricultural community.  One event that illustrated this fact was the beginning of the Carmel Horse Show.  At the turn of the century, the Clay/Delaware townships area claimed numerous farms devoted to the breeding of horses, especially draft horses used in farming and driving horses.  Between 1906 and 1910 the Carmel Horse Show drew competitors from Hamilton and surrounding counties.  Show sponsors constructed large grandstands along Range Line Road south of present day Main Street and all businesses closed for the four day event.  The first show advertised over $800 in prizes.  The event ceased with the arrival of World War I, returned in the 1930s and after World War II, only to fade away in the 1950s as the emphasis on agriculture began to wane.[15]

The period between the two world wars saw little change in the Carmel community.  The town built a new high school, dubbed “Old North” by local citizens, in 1923, replacing the 1887 building on Carmel’s southside.[16]  In the wake of the Great Depression, Carmel’s only bank  failed to reorganize after being closed in 1930, thereby leaving the small town without a financial institution.  But the creation of Indiana State Road 31 (Meridian Street), Indiana State Road 431 (Range Line Road), as well as the Monon Railroad kept commercial traffic moving in and out of the township and helped to stabilize the economy.

After World War II, the Carmel area began to experience subtle changes. County officials enlarged Clay Township to include the area of Delaware Township west of White River.  This change made Clay the largest township in Hamilton County, covering 50 square miles–10 miles east to west, 5 miles north to south.  New families began to settle in the township, attracted by the area’s proximity to the Indianapolis business community and its decidedly rural atmosphere.  Many of these new citizens, as well as long time residents, realized that Carmel and Clay Township were on the brink of a population boom and began to prepare for future growth.  The community authorized the construction of a modern elementary school at College Avenue and 104th Street to replace the four-room Clay Center School, in service since 1911.  Orchard Park served students from the western and southern parts of the township.  In 1957, construction began on a new $1.5 million high school to replace “Old North”.  Both new buildings were outstanding facilities and set the standard for the excellent school structures for which Carmel would soon be noted.  That same year, Carmel and Clay Township schools were consolidated under one administration, known after 1964 as the Carmel Clay School District.

During the late 1950s, new churches also arose in the township—Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (1955), Pilgrim Lutheran (1955), Orchard Park Presbyterian (1955), St. Christopher’s Episcopal (1957), Carmel Christian (1958), First Baptist Church of Carmel (1959)–and joined the long-established Methodist and Friends congregations.  The forces of change were slowly working in this still quiet agrarian community.

By 1958, Carmel had changed so significantly as to be recognized by the Indianapolis Star.  The paper’s Sunday magazine described Carmel as a “sleepy little village” and a “dormitory” for city “suburbanites.”  At the time, Carmel’s population was 1,335.  The article, somewhat smugly, assessed Carmel’s future as a “bedroom community” for the Hoosier capital.  It also noted that the community had formed a planning commission to assess Carmel’s growth potential and emphasized the possibility for industrial expansion due to the large expanses of available farm land for factory construction.  The Star concluded basically that  Carmel would be relegated to the status of a satellite of Indianapolis. [17]

With the 1960s came the single most important factor for the future growth and development of Carmel and all of Clay Township—road construction.  In 1962, the state of Indiana began extending Keystone Avenue from 86th Street in Marion County through southern Clay Township, skirting the eastern edge of Carmel to join State Road 31 (Meridian Street) just north of Carmel.  State Road 31 was routed along the west edge of Carmel and widened to four lanes.  In September of 1967, the state began construction of I-465 along the southern edge of the township with interchanges located at Keystone and Indiana 31 (Meridian Street).  With the completion of these three projects, all roads indeed led to Carmel and the boom began.

Carmel and Clay Township’s historical interest in educational excellence continued with the addition of two elementary schools—Carmel, 1961; College Wood, 1965–and a junior high school—Carmel, 1964–which helped to ease the crowding at “Old North,” still in use at the high school campus.  In 1967, expansion at the high school totaled 188,000 square feet with the addition of labs, classrooms, a gymnasium, and library at a cost of nearly $5 million.

To augment the activities of the school board, a group of citizens organized an educational foundation.  Chartered in 1966 as the Carmel Clay Educational Foundation, the group’s primary activity was (and remains) the administration of funds raised in the private sector for scholarships to the system’s students. [18]

Three new churches organized in the 1960s—King of Glory Lutheran (1960), Central Christian (1966), and Woodland Springs Christian (1968).  Each built new church homes, not within the boundaries of old Carmel but in outlying parts of Clay Township.  Today each is surrounded by residential communities.

The Carmel-Clay community was the fastest growing community in Indiana from 1970 to 1980 [19] and its growth can best be illustrated by annexation history of the decade.  Between 1960 and 1969, the town board annexed properties on 21 occasions, sometimes ruling on several properties at one time.  The annexations were almost entirely residential developments.  The 41 actions taken during the 1970s included a school, a bank, office parks, and shopping centers. [20]   Clearly, Carmel was moving towards a new identity—as a banking, insurance and business center as well as a thriving residential community.  And it was growing at a phenomenal rate.  Land use at the beginning of the 1970s showed 86 percent devoted to agriculture, 8 percent public/semi-public, 5 percent residential, 0.6 percent industrial/manufacturing, and 0.3 percent office/retail.  Twenty five years later, residential land-use comprised 47 percent; agriculture, 34 percent; public/semi-public, 11 percent; industrial/manufacturing, 5 percent; office/retail, 4 percent. [21]

School issues were of acute concern throughout the 1970s.  As the area grew, so did the needs of the school system.  Clay Junior High School (1974) and two more elementary schools—Woodbrook (1970) and Mohawk Trails (1972)–were constructed, bringing the total schools administered by the system to eight—one high school, two junior high schools, and five elementary schools.  But the most controversial of the Carmel Clay system’s concerns was its inclusion in the 1971 desegregation suit against the Indianapolis Public Schools.  US District Court Judge S. Hugh Dillin ruled that the Carmel district should be included as one of several recipient suburban systems in a forced busing plan.  The Carmel Clay School Board fought the order and in 1974 the US District Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that Carmel had in no way contributed to the problem of segregation in the Indianapolis Public Schools and should, therefore, be excluded from the busing plan. [22]

Another issue of educational importance to the community was the expansion of the Carmel Public Library.  The library began in 1904 through the efforts of the ladies of the Wednesday Literary Club and Carmel schoolteacher Mahlon Luther Hains.  Together they collected and purchased books to be circulated at the town telephone office.  By 1910 library supporters, believing they needed a separate building to hold the growing book collection, approached the Carnegie Foundation for funds.  By 1913, Carmel residents had collected the needed funds to qualify for an $11,000 grant from Carnegie and began constructing a building at 40 East Main Street.  The library continued at this site through the 1960s.  By 1969 a new library became a necessity.  The Library Board purchased a site across from the high school in 1970 and constructed a $334,000 structure in 1971.  During the week of August 14, 1972, a caravan of volunteers moved 21,000 books to the new facility. [23]   Designed to house 50,000 volumes, the building quickly filled and was outgrown by 1984.  Two years later, on July 20, 1986, the community dedicated a $2.9 million addition to the library, thereby expanding the library’s capacity to 100,000 volumes. [24]   At present, the library has reached its capacity and Carmel is faced once again with the need to expand the current facility or to construct a new building. [25]

In 1976 Carmel resident Viktors Ziedonis, a Latvian immigrant, founded a unique cultural institution.  The Carmel Symphony played its first concert that December with 15 volunteer musicians.  The orchestra has since grown to over 65 musicians with a music director, general manager, and concert mistress.  Only those positions and the section leaders receive any payment; all other members are volunteers.  Music Director David Pickett has served in that capacity since 1985.  Performing mainly in the Carmel High School auditorium, the symphony has welcomed numerous guest musicians, including medalists from such prestigious events as the Van Cliburn and International Violin competitions.  Recently PSI and CINergy have helped to underwrite special symphony expenses with additional funds raised by the Carmel Symphony Orchestra Women’s Guild and symphony subscriptions.  Currently, Carmel is the smallest Indiana community to have a symphony orchestra.

The American Bicentennial in 1976 sparked interest in history nationwide.  One outgrowth of the Carmel Bicentennial Committee was the Carmel Clay Historical Society, founded by 50 Clay Township residents.  The group convened at the 1837 John Kinzer cabin to charter the organization which was dedicated to gathering local historical information.  Their first project was of a more tangible nature.  In 1975 the Monon Railroad offered the 1883 Monon Depot to the town.  The society moved and restored the station for use as a meeting hall and museum of Carmel-Clay history.

Another factor in the rapid growth of the 1970s was the active assistance provided by the local Chamber of Commerce.  Originally founded in 1960, the organization survived only two years.  With the steady growth experienced towards the end of the decade, Carmel saw a resurgent interest in reactivating the Chamber by 1970.  In its current incarnation, the Chamber has aided the business community by planning monthly business programs featuring government and business leaders from the region and nation.  The Chamber also provides a community directory, Community Economic Development Forum, educational seminars and sponsorship of area events.  Governed by a board of twelve, the Chamber has a staff of three.

Of all the changes of the 1970s, possibly the most significant in terms of future growth was the change in Carmel-Clay Township government.  Carmel’s municipal needs had always been managed by a town board.  While the number of board members varied over the years, its absolute power in making decisions for the town did not.  The board frequently held public meetings concerning issues of community importance, but it ultimately acted as its members wished.  In 1973 the board concluded that the needs of Carmel were becoming too numerous and complex to be managed at the board’s weekly meetings.  Recognizing the need for day-to-day management of the town’s government, the board appointed Neil Schmeltkop as town manager.  One year later, the board voted to place a referendum on the November ballot, asking voters whether they preferred to retain the traditional form of government or to change to city status and adopt a city council/mayor form of government.  The weeks preceeding the election were filled with debate but the change to city status won by a two to one margin.  On November 20, the town board voted to make Carmel a city and to adopt the new form of government following the next election.  In November 1976, voters elected Albert Pickett by an overwhelming majority as Carmel’s first mayor; they also selected a seven person city council.  At the December 23, 1976 meeting of the town board, the outgoing board members strongly recommended the expansion of utility services and fire and police departments, and street construction to prepare for the continued growth in Clay Township.  They also recommended building a new center of government to help improve daily services to the Carmel area.  Over the next four years, Mayor Pickett and the new city council addressed all of these needs, demonstrating that they were attempting to stay ahead of the anticipated phenomenal growth.  At the beginning of the decade, Carmel’s population was 6,578.  By 1980, it had grown to 18,272–a 178 percent increase over the decade.

The fifteen years leading to the present have witnessed continued growth.  The most significant change has been in the area of commercial and business growth.  Over this period, businesses of regional, national, and international importance have established offices and headquarters in Carmel and Clay Township.  Most notable are Conseco, Thomson Consumer Electronics, Mayflower Transit Company, and Delta Faucet:

  1. Conseco, founded in 1979 by Stephen C. Hilbert and currently located at 11825 North Pennsylvania Street, is a financial services holding company.  Its 1994 revenue totaled $1.9 billion; assets totaled $10.8 billion.  Conseco acquires and restructures insurance concerns and provides investment management for the insurance industry.
  2. Thomson Consumer Electronics, a French-based electronics research business which acquired RCA and which also produces GE and Westinghouse products, established its North American operations headquarters and research center in 1994.  Located at 10330 North Meridian Street, the company employs 2,200 at this site.  To lure the company to the area, the City of Carmel gave Thomson a $7 million tax abatement over an 18 year period.
  3. Mayflower Transit Company, established in 1926, served Indianapolis solely as an intercity transit company until the mid 1970s.  Two years after going public in 1976, the company began moving electronic, computer and trade show exhibits and acquiring school bus transit services.  Between 1981-1986, the corporation more than doubled its revenue.  Corporate headquarters are located on the western edge of Clay Township at 9998 Michigan Road.
  4. Delta Faucet, manufacturer of bathroom and kitchen fixtures, established its headquarters on Meridian Street and 111 Street in 1977.  Currently, the company employs 250 at the site.

Many banking, investment and insurance concerns of local, state and regional importance have located in Carmel, especially along the North Meridian Street corridor.  All of this has made Carmel a center of money, prestige, and influence in the areas of Indianapolis and Indiana finance.  Duke Associates and R.V. Welch have contributed to the growth by developing office parks extending north along Meridian Street from the county/township line at 96th Street to beyond 116th Street.  High rise office towers and low rise buildings are designed and landscaped to provide an impressive business development.

In 1986, Robert V. Welch began construction on the Meridian Technology Center on 116th Street at Pennsylvania Street.  This 188 acre site was developed as a center for firms involved in high technology business.  At the same time, Guilford Associates and Carmel Associates jointly began planning the Carmel Science and Technology Park, located on 227 acres adjacent to the Meridian Technology Center.  Both centers are now complete and serve as outstanding examples of developers’ investments in and responsibilities to their host communities.  The developers absorbed the costs of utility installation and road construction rather than pass those costs on to the community.  They also created a beautifully landscaped environment to be enjoyed by employees and the nearby residential communities alike.

The residential areas that have developed in the surrounding areas reflect the affluence these businesses have brought to Clay Township.  In 1990, the median home value was $132,100, significantly higher than any township in the Indianapolis metropolitan area. [26]

Local government has responded to continued growth in several ways. City/township services have increased with expanded police and fire service, new roads have been constructed, and improved water and sewage services provided.  The most visible governmental response to the area’s growth was the construction of the new Civic Square on South Range Line Road, begun in 1986.  Phase I included a $5 million fire headquarters and amphitheater.  Two years later, planning for Phase II began.  This phase, completed in 1990, included a police headquarters, government office building, and public commons.  The center consolidates all city services to a single location.

Another proposed governmental response to the continued growth is one of heated debate.  First discussed more than 15 years ago, the consolidation of Clay Township and Carmel city governments is a proposal that, if passed, could have county-wide effects, beginning with the loss of federal funds now received.  A task force studied the issue in the late 1980s and eventually tabled the proposal.  The concept, which never really died, resurfaced in 1995.  Currently, the township has a three person board, a clerk and assessor to oversee poor relief, fire protection, and dog tag distribution.  The board oversees the work of the township trustee who administers their actions. [27]   Since the city of Carmel occupies one-third of the township, this issue will certainly grow with Carmel over the next several years.

As business and government have grown, so too have the educational, civic and religious institutions of Carmel.  The 1980s and 1990s residential growth stimulated the construction of two new elementary schools—Cherry Tree (1989) and Smokey Row (1992)–as well as the expansion of Carmel Junior High and Carmel High schools.  In 1994, Carmel Clay Schools had a budget of over $38 million to operate the 8 elementary, 2 junior high, and one high school, with a total enrollment of 9,750.  Ranked as one of the best overall districts in the state, the Carmel Clay system is also recognized nationally as a top college preparatory system.

Although financed by the city, township, or county governments, the parks of Carmel-Clay have tremendous volunteer support, the most important of which  comes from the Carmel Dads Club.  A not-for-profit organization founded in 1959, the club fosters, develops, and supports the athletic programs of the Carmel Clay schools.  The Dads Club has taken responsibility for developing and maintaining three school athletic facilities including a 40 acre soccer field complex and  Gray Road Park, a multi-use facility, for the county.  Badge Park on East 131st Street is a 39 acre baseball, football, and soccer complex owned and operated by the Dads Club.

In 1991, the Carmel Clay County Park at 106th Street and Gray Road received $60,000 in planning funds and playground equipment which local volunteers had solicited.  Carmel High School art students and Boy Scouts aided in raising funds and building the playground, known as “Camelot” because of its medieval theme.

The Flowing Well Park, rededicated in 1983, resulted from energetic volunteer activity and community/business support.  The parks and well are owned by American Aggregates Corporation.  In 1906, men drilling for natural gas accidentally opened an artesian well, which local residents have used as a source of spring water ever since.  To commemorate pioneer families of the area, residents place a small tablet on the well in 1929.  Over the years, the well site became rather dilapidated.  In 1982, a volunteer effort, begun with the enthusiastic support of American Aggregates, surfaced to rebuild, landscape, and rededicate the park.  Individuals and companies donated more than $40,000 in cash and materials.  As a result, a gazebo, landscaped site, and a new parking area greet the estimated 50,000 people who visit the well annually.

Where once Quakers and Methodists were the predominant denominations in the community, the Carmel-Clay religious community has become larger and somewhat more diverse.  The 1990 Chamber of Commerce Resource Directory listed 38 congregations, 24 of which were affiliated with ten different denominations; there were 14 independent congregations.  These religious bodies have rather limited involvement in the larger community of central Indiana and the world at large.  Some churches with denominational affiliations are involved in larger social ministries, such as helping the homeless or addressing urban violence.  But, the non-affiliated churches tend to have a greater emphasis on “hearing the word” and prayer than on acting on the word or direct involvement in the community. [28]   The concern that church members demonstrate for matters of social justice and larger community issues is extremely limited and appears to be a reflection of prior involvement and exposure rather than an awareness of and commitment by the community at- large.

In December 1995, the Carmel/Clay Plan Commission contracted with HNTB Corporation, an Indianapolis-based engineering and consulting firm, to update the Land Use Thoroughfare Plan and the Comprehensive Plans that had been in use.  HNTB took six months to complete an extensive and inclusive survey of a cross-section of the local population.  HNTB contacted individuals ranging from school age children (30 percent of the Carmel/Clay population is under the age of eighteen) to the elderly to participate in a series of focus groups, neighborhood meetings and surveys.  The final product was a set of ten goals, grouped into four major categories that the community wished to maintain, refine, or achieve into the next century.  Called “2020 Vision,” the goals are a concise list of quality of life issues and are intended to be the guidelines for policy-making decisions by the Carmel-Clay community into the next century.  The areas that citizens wished to see addressed in future plan proposals included:  housing and neighborhoods, management of area growth, commerce and economy, and recreational use of open space.  Such issues as continuing former mayor Reiman’s moratorium on apartment building construction and allowing only single-family homes in the area and continuing the Dads Club athletic programs were cited as important community goals.

It is projected that by the year 2020, Clay Township will be completely built and will be home to some 85,000 residents. [29]  How the township proceeds to grow over the next 25 years will most certainly impact the quality of life in the City of Carmel and Clay Township for the next century.  The vision of local residents in 1996 reveals a community wide respect and need for the same goals and values reflected in the earliest years of the area’s settlement—strong families, quality education, and a sound community economy.

[1]      Center for Urban Policy and The Polis Center , IUPUI, A Report on The City of Carmel, Sec. 2, pp. 7-8.

[2]      Center for Urban Policy, Sec. 2, p. 6.

[3]      Center for Urban Policy, Sec. 2, p. 6.

[4]      Center for Urban Policy, Sec. 2, p. 10.

[5]      Carmel News-Tribune, Apr. 7, 1993.

[6]      Thomas Rumer,  “‘Requesting the Privilege’: A Historic View of Carmel Friends Meeting.”  Unpublished manuscript, n.d., p. 15.

[7]      Jack R. Edwards, A View of Home Place (Noblesville: Rowland Printing, 1992), pp. 119-120.

[8]      Thomas B. Helms, History of Hamilton County, Indiana (Chicago: Kingman Bros., 1880), p. 112.

[9]      John F. Haines, History of Hamilton County, Indiana (Indianapolis: B.F. Bowen & Co., 1915), p. 157.

[10]    Interview with  Thomas Rumer, May 1996.

[11]    Rumer, p. 14.

[12]    Hinshaw, p. 8

[13]    Rumer, pp. 18-20

[14]    Rumer, pp. 17-18

[15]    Hinshaw, pp. 66-67

[16]    Carmel Centennial Souvenir Program, October 1937,  p. 20

[17]    Indianapolis Star Magazine, Apr. 6, 1958

[18]    Dorothy A. Smith, Carmel, A Second Glance (Carmel: Carmel Sesquicentennial Committee, 1987), pp. 140-141.

[19]    Smith, p. 79.

[20]    Smith, pp. 73-74

[21]    HNTB Corporation, Carmel/Clay 2020 Vision Planning Process(Carmel: Carmel/Clay Township Plan Commission, 1995).

[22]    Smith, p. 42

[23]    Marilyn Campbell, “Carmel Public Library – A History.” Unpublished manuscript, 1983,  pp. 1-15

[24]    Smith, pp. 94-95

[25]    The Library opened a new building in 2000.

[26]    Center for Urban Policy, Sec. 2, p. 7

[27]    Carmel News-Tribune, September 1991

[28]    Phone surveys conducted by Sheryl D. Vanderstel, May 1996

[29]    HNTB, p. 17