Spotlight on Terre Haute, Indiana

I spent last night in Terre Haute, Indiana. The city has made a few of the same mistakes that many small cities have, but at the same time has some really great urban design features.

I came into the city along 3rd Street, which may have looked different in the past, but has turned into the sort of suburban strip debris that can be seen all across the country. This is probably the worst feature of the city, so it’s all up from here.
Because of the flat terrain of the city, and especially along the barren expanse of 3rd Street, the Vigo County Courthouse can be seen from quite a distance. It’s a really grand building, and deserves a better setting than it has, but it does provide an air of dignity to the city.Wabash Avenue, Terre Haute’s main street, is a really classic American main street. For a few blocks east of 3rd Street, it is really a lovely street. The street, for these first few blocks, is very well laid out, with lovely planters, benches, cafe seating, and a few pieces of public art. After a few blocks Wabash takes a turn to the east northeast, and after this point it starts to fall apart, but right as you’re about to give up on the street, you get a real treat:Gilbert Park is a great urban park. It has a lot of green space, benches, and pathways, and at this time of year the leaves make it really lovely.The average streets of Terre Haute are a great standard to start from. They are relatively narrow, and the trees have been there long enough to mature and form a canopy. There are also more ceremonial streets, especially Ohio Boulevard.It has a great formal entrance, with both sides of the street marked by large gateways. The length of the boulevard is made up of two one-way streets, including bike lanes, separated by a large grassy median.The boulevard is the sort of traditional mansion boulevard you find in a lot of older cities, lined with large, attractive houses. Most of them are older, and a few plots are taken up with ranch-type houses, but all in all it is a great street.
Ohio Boulevard starts to peter out towards its eastern end, where some commercial strip development, bad cul-de-sacs, and vacant lots, but at it’s far eastern end it finishes in the Deming Park Arboretum, a large and beautiful urban park, which is built on one of the few hills in the city.

This was all I was planning on looking at, but on my way back to the hotel I went down 7th Street, which turned out to be a great residential avenue. The houses, although not as grand as those along Ohio Boulevard, are larger than the average ranch houses in the rest of the city, and they are lined by a low wall that gives the street some distinct character.

Terre Haute is an interesting city that I would not have thought to visit. I’m glad that I got out on the town and took a look; you’ll never know what you’ll find in a new city.


About Dave Munson
This blog is about architecture, cities, and myself.

2 Responses to Spotlight on Terre Haute, Indiana

  1. Pingback: Spotlight on Topeka, Kansas « Munson's City

  2. Jim says:

    Ohio Boulevard and Deming Park are said to be the work of George Kessler and his City Beautiful movement. Terre Haute’s park system is a real gem.

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