History of Elwood

The International Headquarters For The Robert M. Palmer M.D., Institute Of Biomechanics, Inc.

The 1899 Neoclassical structure is a civic symbol of monumental architectural significance in a town of Elwood’s small size. The structure occupies two city lots and approximately 25,500 square feet.  Over its 100-year lifetime, the structure has incurred additions and adaptations, but has continued to function as a civic center for the community until 2005 when it became the International headquarters for The Robert M. Palmer, M.D., Institute Of Biomechanics, a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit pedorthics biomechanics school.  The changes that have been made to the school are reversible and do not danger the integrity of the city building.  This three-story cross-axial structure is constructed with a stone foundation with brick masonary bearing walls and wood floor structure.  With respect to the Neoclassical style, the main elevation is symmetrical with regularly spaced windows. The wings of the structure have pitched gable-ended roofs. The octagonal dome is set on a raised square base in the intersection of the cross-axial plan. A locally known architect from Lafayette, Indiana, J.F. Alexander and Sons designed the building. The City Building in Elwood, Indiana remains as a token of history in architecture and a time of growth and wealth for small towns during the Gas Boom.  It is a building of grand scale in a small Midwest town.  The monumental structure tells a story of Elwood’s past and present Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana has placed Elwood’s city building on the ten most endangered places in Indiana. It is now termed a “White Elephant” with the efforts of The Robert M. Palmer, M.D., Institute Of Biomechanics, Inc., and a $100K endowment awarded by Superfeet Worldwide of Ferndale, Washington as well as other generous donations made by local, national and international individuals and corporations.  


Historic Elwood
Officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places the city of Elwood is located in Madison County, Indiana, 24 miles northeast of Indianapolis.  Settled in 1823 along the banks of Duck Creek, the first store was opened in 1852.  Elwood was fist christened Quincy, but it was discovered that another community had already taken that name in a different county.  Legend has it that a group of men were discussing a new name when they noticed a small son of one of the town’s fathers and suggested the town be named Elwood after the young boy. Quincy officially became Elwood on June 15, 1869 with a population of 300 people.

In 1887, natural gas wells were discovered in central Indiana. The town prospered as new businesses came to take advantage of the cheap fuel.  The populations boomed to over 15,000 by 1891, leading Elwood to incorporate as a city. In 1903, to the region’s surprise, the gas boom collapsed.  The city survived the bust, however, and later came to be known as the “Heart of Hoosierland”. This mark describes both its location in Indiana, and more importantly, the character of her people.

In 1892, Wendell L. Wilkie, lawyer, industrialist, author of “One World” and 1940 Republican nominee for President was born in Elwood.  On August 17, 1940, Elwood prepared for the homecoming of her favorite son as Wilkie delivered his nomination acceptance speech before an estimated crowd of 250,000 on the grounds of Callaway Park. A state historic marker commemorates this notable event near the large shelter house at Callaway Park on North 19th Street.

In 2002, while the community celebrated its 150th anniversary, the city’s downtown area was given great distinction by being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Some of the notable buildings include the Carnegie Library building, the Elwood Opera House, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and the domed Elwood City Building that was modeled after the original city hall of Chicago.  Today, the community’s historic downtown commercial district offers visitors a glimpse of the past while offering unique shopping, dining and service opportunities.

Award-Winning Economy
After the gas boom collapse in 1903, the local economy transitioned its focus to another strong point – growing crops that were suited to the rich, acidic soil in the area – the chief crop being tomatoes.  While the economy has continued to diversify through the years, tomato canning and production has remained an important part of Elwood’s economy to this day.

Today, Elwood’s largest employers include Red Gold (tomato processing), ELSA (automotive component manufacturing), St. Vincent Mercy Hospital (medical services), Elwood Community School Corporation (public education), Plastech (automotive injection molding), State Plating (nickel-chrome plating) and many others.

Elwood’s top employers are optimistic, with close to $100 million of investments in property and equipment having been made in recent years.  Remarkably, while the nation lost over two million manufacturing jobs during the recession of the early 2000’s, Elwood’s manufacturers actually grew their employment levels by almost four percent.  This achievement was so noteworthy that the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns awarded its 2003 Community Achievement Award to Elwood in recognition of the city’s community and economic development efforts.

Food production, advanced manufacturing, health care and other service industries are expect to continue to offer Elwood a strong economic base for years to come.  

Local Attractions
Elwood enjoys two special festivals during the year, both produced by the Elwood Chamber of Commerce. The Elwood Glass Festival is the pride of the community and a leading festival in all of central Indiana.  Held annually the third weekend of August, the festival pays tribute to Elwood’s unique hand-blown, beautifully crafted art-glass that is produced in the community’s two art-glass factories. Factory tours are available and over 250 craft, food and collectibles booths are on display at Callaway Park offering unique shopping opportunities. Other attractions at the festival include the Vintage Rollers Car Show that welcomes more than 300 classic and antique cars each year, a midway carnival, interesting demonstrations, fun contests, a big parade, and live performances on the Glass Festival Main Stage. Prestige Glass offers custom designed glass blown gifts for a remembance of your visit to historic Elwood, Indiana. And don't forget to enjoy homemade candies at our local Chocolate Shop. Junie Theoharris is a chocolate maker in Elwood. Her parents moved to Indiana in the 1920s from Greece and opened a chocolate shop. Theoharis grew up with the shop and in 1974 opened her own store, the Venus Chocolate Shop. She still uses antique German chocolate molds, antique marble tables, and her father's recipes which she knows by heart. Easter is her favorite time of year because her chocolates are "the most colorful, most beautiful, and require lots of handwork."
 You may contact either shop to determine business hours: Prestige Glass: 526 South 28th Street, Elwood, IN 46036 (765) 552-0688 and Venus Chocolate Shop: 2840 South A Street, Elwood, IN 46036 (765) 552-0430.

The Red Gold Chili Cook-Off is a hometown favorite featuring local and regional competitors cooking hugh pots of chili in the downtown area to the delight of chili fans everywhere.  Cash prizes are awarded to the winners and samples of all the great tasting chili are available for purchase.  Crafts, baked goods and fall items are also on sale throughout the morning, making the second Saturday of October a date to mark on your calendar!

The Finer Things In Life
Thirty-four churches are located in Elwood, offering residents the opportunity to worship in small neighborhood churches as well s the cathedra-like setting of St. Joseph Catholic Church, located in historic downtown Elwood.  

The Elwood Family YMCA offers exercise equipment for young and ole alike in Elwood.  Thoughtfully planned public parks in Elwood remember those residents who are mobility-impaired. Callaway Park features paved paths, handicap accessible picnic areas and the counties first wheelchair swing.  All together the city features more than 40 acres of city parks, two bowling alleys, a public skate park, city pool and much more. Elwood is also conveniently located within 30 miles of several recreational reservoirs for boating and fishing enthusiasts.

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