Hoosier History Live banner

Hoosier History Live is an independently produced new media project about Indiana history, integrating podcasts, website, newsletter, and social media. Its original content comes initially from a live with call in weekly talk radio show hosted by author and historian Nelson Price. You can hear the show live Saturdays from noon to 1 pm ET. It’s over the air in Central Indiana at WICR 88.7 fm, or you can stream at the WICR HD1 app on your phone.

Listen to the show:

August 26, 2023

  White River State Park history

Who knows if the soil is rich at the site that's now White River State Park? Regardless, the history of the site near downtown Indianapolis that's now a 250-acre cultural campus certainly can be described as rich and mighty colorful.

Beginning as a fishing ground for Native Americans and encompassing a long era in which the area was industrial, bleak and unappealing, the White River State Park site today has an array of enticements to attract visitors, including an amphitheater for popular concerts. The park includes a portion of the Central Canal, where gondola rides are available, and there are promenade pedestrian walkways. (The portion of the Central Canal west of the West Street bridge is considered part of White River State Park.)

The White River State Park campus also includes Military Park, which was the setting for the first Indiana State Fair in 1852. Later, Military Park was a training ground for Civil War soldiers.

To share insights about the White River State Park site, then and now, Nelson will be joined in the studio by Jake Oakman, executive director of the park. Before his current post, Jake was a speechwriter for Gov. Eric Holcomb and communications director for Visit Indiana. Today, the White River State Park campus has become one of Indiana's most-visited attractions.

The TCU Amphitheater has been a popular concert venue since opening in 2021 on the former site of the Beveridge Paper Company, one of the final industrial sites in the area to shut down. As a concert venue, the amphitheater replaced the Lawn, which had opened in 2004 with a temporary stage that had to be dismantled every fall and rebuilt in the spring.

According to historical accounts of the White River State Park site, industrial buildings, including mills, began there in the 1850s. The Acme-Evans Milling Company owned a sprawling complex that included the land where the Indiana State Museum now stands. The park also includes the NCAA Headquarters and Hall of Champions, an interactive museum; in 1999, the NCAA moved from Kansas City to Indianapolis.

That was nearly 180 years after a significant historical event occurred at the future White River State Park site. In 1820, state leaders met at the cabin of pioneer John McCormick to decide on the specific site for the new state capital of Indianapolis. A commemorative boulder with a plaque marks the site of the McCormick cabin in White River State Park.

Before the arrival of European heritage settlers, the park site had been fishing grounds for Native Americans, including the Lenape tribe, which the white pioneers called the Delaware. Hoosier History Live did a show in 2014 about the Lenape, who left Indiana in what has been called a "forced migration".

Some other history facts:

  • During the late 1970s, the White River State Park Development Commission, a quasi-governmental agency, was created. Its first task was to develop a master plan for the park.

  • In 1988, a promenade pedestrian walkway opened along the upper bank of the White River in the park.

  • In addition to exploring the evolution of the White River State Park site, Nelson will be asking Jake Oakman about future plans during our show. On the former site of the GM Stamping Plant, Elanco announced in 2020 that it will build a global headquarters. As part of that project, White River State Park will develop a 15-acre extension that involves rerouting White River Parkway.

  • Hoosier History Live has explored the history of the White River in several previous shows, most recently a program in 2022 that delved into the challenges to make it navigable that confronted early residents and state leaders. We also plunged into river history in two shows in 2019, a program in July and a follow-up in October. This new show, however, will be our first to focus on the history of White River State Park.

  • Jake Oakman has been a previous guest on Hoosier History Live shows. They include a program in 2017 that highlighted Frank Sinatra's connections to Indiana. (Jake is an avid Sinatra fan.)



 "Hoosier History really is 'Live' - and 'Lively' as well. The program brings to new audiences the delight and wisdom that comes with knowing more of our past and our connections as Hoosiers."

- James H. Madison, Emeritus History Professor, Indiana University


Donate button.

Your contributions help keep Hoosier History Live on the air, on the web and in your inbox!


Roadtrip: Oliver P. Morton House in Centerville

Guest Roadtripper Daina Chamness, author, foodie, and Traveling RV-er, recently visited the restored Oliver P. Morton House along the Old National Road in Centerville in Wayne County, Indiana. The house was built in 1848 and is a two-story, three bay, brick detached row house with Greek Revival style design influences. Oliver P. Morton (1823-1877) is best known as Indiana’s Civil War governor.

In recent years the home has been purchased, restored, and furnished by Ron Morris, a history professor at Ball State University. It is available for rent as a wedding photography venue. Daina always has great stories about her travels; tune in Saturday to hear more!


Logo Lucas oil

We'd like to thank the following recent individual contributors who make this show possible. For a full list of contributors over the years, visit  Support the Show on our website.

  • Susan Life and Mark Ostendorf
  • Dave and Theresa Berghoff
  • Joseph B. Young III
  • Tom Cochrun
  • Norma Erickson
  • Marion Wolen
  • Jane Ammeson
  • Kathleen Angelone
  • Bruce and Julie Buchanan
  • Mark Ruschman
  • Robin Winston
  • Phil and Pam Brooks

Molly Head, executive producer (317) 506-7164 
Nelson Price, host and historian
Corene Nickel, web designer and tech manager

Richard Sullivan and Ryan DeRome, tech consultants
Cheryl Lamb, administrative manager
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer


Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support!

Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Twitter logo for Hoosier History Live.Acknowledgements to WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Monomedia, Henri Pensis, Maddie Fisher, Austin Cook, and many other individuals and organizations. We are independently produced and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorship and through individual contribution, either online at our yellow button on our newsletter or website, or by U.S. mail. For organizational sponsorship, which includes logos, links, and voiced credits in our podcasts and in our show, please contact Molly Head at (317) 506-7164 or email her at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org.

Donate button.

Your contributions help keep Hoosier History Live on the air, on the web and in your inbox!

© 2023 Hoosier History Live. All rights reserved.

Share this email
Manage your preferences | Opt out using TrueRemove®
Got this as a forward? Sign up to receive our future emails.
View this email online.
This email was sent to [% member:email %].
Continue receiving our emails, add us to your address book.