When European explorers arrived at the area around what is now Tippecanoe County, it was inhabited by a tribe of Miami Indians known as the Ouiatenon or Weas. In 1717, the French government established Fort Ouiatenon across the Wabash River and three miles (5 km) south of present-day Lafayette. The fort became the center of trade for fur trappers, merchants and Indians. An annual reenactment and festival known as Feast of the Hunters' Moon takes place there each autumn.
The town of Lafayette was platted in May 1825 by William Digby, a trader. It was designated as the county seat of the newly formed Tippecanoe County the following year. Like many frontier towns, Lafayette was named for General Lafayette, a French officer who significantly aided George Washington's Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Lafayette toured the United States in 1824 and 1825.
In its earliest days, Lafayette was a shipping center on the Wabash River. In 1838, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, the first United States Patent Commissioner, published a booklet titled Valley of the Upper Wabash, Indiana, with Hints on Its Agricultural Advantages, to promote settlement of the region. By 1845, Ellsworth had purchased 93,000 acres (380 km2) of farmland in and around Lafayette and moved there from Connecticut to supervise land sales. By 1847 Ellsworth was distributing broadsides looking for farmers to purchase his farmland. He became president of the Tippecanoe County Agricultural Society in April 1851 – despite some local resentment over what was called "the Yale Crowd" – but he was defeated the same year when he ran for the Indiana House of Representatives. Ellsworth Street and Ellsworth Historic District are named for the early real estate developer.
The Wabash and Erie Canal in the 1840s stimulated trade and affirmed Lafayette's regional prominence. Railroads arrived in the town in the 1850s, connecting it with other major markets. The Monon Railroad connected Lafayette with other sections of Indiana.
Lafayette was the site of the first official air mail delivery in the United States, which took place on August 17, 1859, when John Wise piloted a balloon starting on the Lafayette courthouse grounds. Wise hoped to reach New York; however, weather conditions forced the balloon down near Crawfordsville, Indiana, and the mail reached its final destination by train. In 1959, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 7¢ airmail stamp commemorating the centennial of the event.
Lafayette is located at 40°24′38″N 86°52′29″W (40.410585, -86.874681) and lies in Fairfield and Wea Townships. Elevation at the court house is 550 feet (168 m), but city elevations range from a little over 500 feet (150 m) at the Wabash River to approximately 700 feet (210 m) in the areas of Murdock Park and Columbian Park.
According to the 2010 census, Lafayette has a total area of 27.74 square miles (71.85 km2), all land.
In recent years, temperatures in Lafayette have ranged from an average low of 17 °F (−8 °C) in January to a high of 86 °F (30 °C) in July, although a record low of −33 °F (−36 °C) was recorded in January 1985 and again in January 1994; and a record high of 105 °F (41 °C) was recorded in June 1988. Average monthly precipitation ranged from 1.58 inches (40 mm) in February to 4.24 inches (108 mm) in June.
Lafayette is the larger principal city of the Lafayette-Frankfort CSA, a Combined Statistical Area that includes the Lafayette metropolitan area (Benton, Carroll, and Tippecanoe counties) and the Frankfort micropolitan area (Clinton County), which had a combined population of 212,408 at the 2000 census.
As of the census of 2010, there were 67,140 people, 28,545 households, and 15,863 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,420.3 inhabitants per square mile (934.5/km2). There were 31,260 housing units at an average density of 1,126.9 per square mile (435.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 74.2% White, 11.2% African American, 0.4% Native American, 1.4% Asian, 5.8% from other races, and 2.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.3% of the population.
There were 28,545 households of which 29.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.7% were married couples living together, 13.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.2% had a male householder with no wife present, and 44.4% were non-families. 34.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 3.00.
The median age in the city was 31.9 years. 23.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 12.9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 29.9% were from 25 to 44; 22.2% were from 45 to 64; and 11.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.7% male and 51.3% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 56,397 people, 24,060 households, and 13,666 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,806.5 people per square mile (1,083.9/km2). There were 25,602 housing units at an average density of 1,274.1 per square mile (492.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 88.91% White; 3.22% African American; 0.37% Native American; 1.22% Asian; 0.04% Pacific Islander; 4.61% from other races, and 1.62% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.11% of the population.
There were 24,060 households out of which 27.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them; 42.5% were married couples living together; 10.2% had a female householder with no husband present; and 43.2% were non-families. 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 individuals and the average family size was 2.98.
In the city, the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18; 14.2% from 18 to 24; 31.3% from 25 to 44; 19.3% from 45 to 64; and 12.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 97.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $35,859, and the median income for a family was $45,480. Males had a median income of $32,892 versus $23,049 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,217. About 8.0% of families and 12.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.8% of those under age 18 and 4.6% of those age 65 or over.
The government consists of a mayor – elected in a citywide vote – and a city council which consists of nine members of whom six are elected from individual districts. Three members are elected at-large.Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana
K-12 public education in Lafayette is provided by the Lafayette School Corporation. The Tippecanoe School Corporation also administers county schools nearby. New Community School is a tuition-free elementary charter school (sponsored by Ball State University) located on the north side of Lafayette. Beacon Academy is a charter school located in West Lafayette.Faith Christian School - FCSLafayette.org
Lafayette Christian School
Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School *lcss.org
St. Boniface Middle School
St. Lawrence Catholic School
St. Mary Cathedral Elementary School
St. James Lutheran School
NewspapersJournal & Courier. The newspaper, which serves the Greater Lafayette area, has its newsroom and offices located in downtown Lafayette. Journal & Courier also has its own printing services for itself and other papers in the region on the eastside of Lafayette.
Purdue Exponent. Purdue University's daily independent student newspaper serves Purdue, West Lafayette, and Lafayette, and has its newsroom and offices located just off campus on Northwestern Avenue in West Lafayette.
The Lafayette Leader
WPBI-LD (Fox; NBC on LD2)
Commercial Radio StationsWASK
Non-commercial Radio StationsWBAA-AM/FM
AirportsThere is no airport in Lafayette. The nearest airport is the Purdue University Airport (LAF), in West Lafayette, IN. The nearest airport which currently has airline service is the Indianapolis International Airport, which is about 60 miles south of Lafayette.
Highways Interstate 65 to Gary, Indiana (near Chicago) and Indianapolis
US 52 to Joliet, Illinois (also near Chicago) and Indianapolis
US 231 to Rensselaer, Indiana and Owensboro, Kentucky
State Road 25
State Road 26
State Road 38
Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides passenger rail service to Lafayette through the Cardinal to Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York City. Norfolk Southern; CSX; Kankakee, Beaverville and Southern Railroad; and Toledo, Peoria and Western Railway (RailAmerica) provide freight rail service. Many of the rail lines that originally passed through the downtown were redirected in the mid-1990s to a rail corridor near the Wabash River.
Bus ServiceCityBus local bus service by the Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation
Greyhound intercity bus service
Lafayette Limo shuttle service to the Indianapolis International Airport
Suburban Express operates weekend bus service between Purdue and Chicago Suburbs when Purdue is in session.
Star of America (provides shuttle service to the Indianapolis International Airport)
Much of the economy of the city of Lafayette and the surrounding area is centered around the academic and industrial activities of Purdue University. The university and its associated businesses employ the largest portion of the Lafayette workforce. However, private industry and commerce independent of the university also exist in the community. Some notable examples include:Alcoa, a producer of aluminum extrusions and tubes
Caterpillar Large Engine Division, producer of large diesel and natural gas engines
Wabash National, world's largest manufacturer of semi-truck trailers
Subaru of Indiana Automotive, producer of Subaru and Toyota vehicles
Evonik (Tippecanoe Laboratories) pharmaceuticals/chemicals
Tate & Lyle, manufacturer of Splenda(R) and other sweeteners
TRW Commercial Steering Systems
Landis+Gyr, manufacturer of electric meters for global ANSI markets
Cargill, soybean oil mill
Tippecanoe Arts Federation
Art Museum of Greater Lafayette
The Long Center for the Performing Arts
Feast of the Hunters' Moon
Art in the Park
Mosey Down Main Street
Round the Fountain Art Fair
A Taste of Tippecanoe
Uptown Jazz and Blues Festival
Dancing and Cruising in the Streets
For notable residents associated with Purdue University, see List of Purdue University people.Karen Black - actress
Jeremy Camp - Christian recording artist
Embeth Davidtz - actress, Mad Men, The Amazing Spider-Man, Bicentennial Man, Fracture
Louise Fazenda - silent film comic actress, character actress in the "talkies"
Charles Foley - co-inventor of the game Twister
Mass Giorgini - record producer (Alkaline Trio, Anti-Flag, Rise Against) and bassist of Screeching Weasel, bassist and vocalist of Squirtgun, and bassist and saxophonist of Common Rider
Troy Hickman - writer best known for his comic book work, including the Eisner-nominated Common Grounds, Twilight Guardian, City of Heroes, Witchblade, Turok
Shannon Hoon - former lead vocalist of rock band Blind Melon
John Korty - director, screenwriter, known for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and documentary Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?
Claudia Lee - actress, Hart of Dixie
Larry McNeely - five-string banjo player known for his collaboration with Glen Campbell and for recording soundtracks for films
Tammy Lynn Michaels - actress, Popular
Ken Navarro - smooth jazz guitarist
Chubby Parker - country music radio personality and recording artist
Sydney Pollack - actor, director, and producer, two-time Academy Award nominee for Best Director
Victor Potel - silent film actor, worked for Mack Sennett and was "Slippery Slim" in the Snakeville series
Axl Rose - co-founder and lead vocalist of rock band Guns N' Roses
Julia Scheeres - author, best known for ALA Alex Award winning memoir Jesus Land
Izzy Stradlin - songwriter, co-founder and former rhythm guitarist of rock band Guns N' Roses
William Fritz Afflis - wrestled as Dick the Bruiser from 1950s to 1980s and Lafayette Jefferson High School graduate
Eric Bruntlett - former Philadelphia Phillies infielder
Clem Crowe - two-time All American for Notre Dame in football and All American in basketball
Todd Dunwoody - Major League Baseball player
Ray Ewry - Ten-time Olympic champion in track and field
Bernard "Bernie" Flowers - Purdue All American and NFL Baltimore Colts 1950s, born in the Cleveland area, made Lafayette home
Bob Friend - Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher
Dustin Keller - New York Jets NFL tight end and Lafayette Jefferson High School graduate
Pete Halsmer - Indy car driver
Charles Kirkpatrick - Indy car driver
Josh Lindblom - professional baseball pitcher
Chukie Nwokorie - NFL defensive player and Lafayette Jefferson High School graduate
Clayton Richard - Drafted by the Chicago White Sox, currently a Chicago Cubs pitcher and a McCutcheon High School graduate
Erik Sabel - Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher
Justin Smith - American football player
George Souders - Won the Indianapolis 500 during his rookie season in 1927
Roger D. Branigin - Governor of Indiana 1965-1969
John Burger - member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
Steve Carter - Indiana Attorney General
Henry Leavitt Ellsworth - first Commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office; real estate developer
Henry W. Ellsworth - son of Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, attorney, poet, author and Minister to Sweden
David W. Evans - U.S. Representative, 6th Congressional District Indiana 1975–1983
Clara Shortridge Foltz (1849–1934) - first female lawyer on the West Coast
Joseph García - Incumbent Lt. Governor of Colorado
Herman Joseph Justin - founded Justin Boot Company
Brian Lamb - founder of C-SPAN
Bill Long - state representative
Frank Posegate - journalist, mayor of St. Joseph, Missouri
John Purdue - Purdue Block, Tippecanoe County founder, founding benefactor of Purdue University
Barbara Ringer - register of copyrights; first woman in the position
Alvah Curtis Roebuck - founded Sears, Roebuck and Company
Eric J. Barron - 14th President of Florida State University, 18th President of Penn State
Herbert C. Brown - Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry
Christopher L. Eisgruber - 20th President of Princeton University
Daniel X. Freedman - pioneer in biological psychiatry, discovered link of hallucinogens to brain transmitters
Andrew McCammon - physical and theoretical chemist
Donald E. Williams - astronaut
Ian Murdock - software engineer, creator of the well known Debian computer operating system
Purdue University, located in West Lafayette;
Jerry E. Clegg Botanic Garden;
Horticulture Gardens at Purdue University
10 minutes North of Lafayette lies Prophet Rock, the landmark where the Prophet Tenskwatawa, the half brother of Tecumseh, stood watch encouraging the local Shawnee Native Americans to fight against the encamped army forces of William Henry Harrison in the Battle Of Tippecanoe in 1811. Tenskwatawa was a spiritual leader, but not a military man. His brother was out of town as the U.S. Army forces marched North, with hopes to destroy Prophetstown. Tenskwatawa had sought to have a meeting with Harrison to discuss how to avoid going to war. In the evening before the war, he sought a spiritual vision that led him to believe the assignation of Harrison must be done. Early in the morning of November 6, the warriors attacked Harrison's militia and war ensued. The warriors fell weak in supplies against the militia, and succumbed. Prophetstown was taken over where the militia stole supplies and burnt it down. The rock from where Tenskwatawa still stands over the battlefield, though now covered with much taller trees. You can access the rock by either scaling it from the small parking lot immediately in front or hiking the ridge line that leads to the top.
The Martin Jenners headstone is located at the Spring Vale Cemetery in Lafayette. Jenners was a Civil War veteran who was known as the first white person born in Tippecanoe County and as an outspoken atheist. Originally located in Greenbush Cemetery, his headstone is unique because he had it placed in the cemetery fourteen years before his death, and it has the following inscription: "My only objection to religion is that it is not true. No preaching, no praying, no psalm singing on this lot." Jenners' headstone goes on mention two verses that he apparently believed to contradict each other, hence making the Bible untrue. The verses are I Corinthians 15:52, which talks about believers being raised from the dead "in a twinkling of an eye", and Isaiah 26:14, which states "They are now dead, they live no more; their spirits do not rise." The headstone received national attention at the time, despite attempts to have it removed, and it continued to draw visitors from around the country many years after his death. Jenners' headstone inscription has been cited as an example of the Bible being taken out of context.The old Temple Israel (Lafayette, Indiana) building at 17 South 7th St. is one of the oldest surviving synagogue buildings in the United States.
Trinity United Methodist Church (formerly Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church – until 1969) – is the first church to have been started in the Lafayette, Indiana, area. Its current building was erected in 1869 by William Heath and has remained intact to this day.
Tippecanoe Mall is the main shopping center.