Floyd County is situated in the Hoosier Falls region of Indiana. It covers 150 square miles and is bordered to the southeast by the Ohio River. The county is included in the Louisville metropolitan area and is centrally located with respect to several other large cities. It is within one hundred miles south of Indianapolis and to the southwest of Cincinnati.
Gently rolling hills are found in the eastern part of the county, while the Knobs run through the west and northwest. Floyd County’s location on the Ohio River makes the area accessible via a major waterway. The population of Floyd County is approximately 70,000.
History of New Albany
The City of New Albany was founded in July 1813 by brothers Joel, Abner, and Nathaniel Scribner, who had arrived at the Falls of the Ohio a short time earlier from New York City. Named for the capital city of the founders’ home state, New Albany was platted by surveyor John Graham on land that the Scribner brothers had purchased from Col. John Paul of Madison. The site was originally part of George Rogers Clark’s grant from the Virginia legislature. In 1819 New Albany became the seat of government for Floyd County, which recently had been formed from portions of Clark and Harrison counties. The county, possibly named after Davis Floyd, was a flamboyant politician as well as the county’s first circuit court judge.
The Ohio River and the steamboat industry were the foundations of the city’s economy during the mid-19th century. At least a half-dozen shipbuilders turned out scores of packet boats as well as famous steamboats such as the Eclipse, A.A. Shotwell, and Robert E. Lee. Shipbuilding also was accompanied by a wide range of complementary concerns, including machine shops, foundries, cabinet and furniture factories, and silversmith shops. By 1850 New Albany was the largest city in Indiana.
One of the city’s most prominent figures during this era was an astute young politician named Ashbel P. Willard. After just two years in the state legislature he was elected lieutenant governor in 1852. Four years later, at the tender age of 36, he was elected governor. But Willard suffered from ill health, and in October 1860, just before the end of his term , he died at age 40, the first Indiana governor to die in office.
During the second half of the 19th century New Albany experienced a substantial industrial boom, despite the collapse of its steamboat industry. The coming of the railroad spurred development of the pork-packing and locomotive repair businesses. In 1865 Capt. John B. Ford established the American Plate Glass Works. With financial support from his cousin, Washington C. DePauw, Ford built a prosperous business. After the crash of 1873, DePauw took over the firm’s operations and Ford moved to Pennsylvania, where he built a plant that eventually became part of Libbey-Owens-Ford in Toledo, Ohio. Meanwhile, American Plate Glass Company flourished under DePauw’s leadership, employing over 2,000 workers in 1881. When fuel shortages and economic problems forced the firm’s relocation in 1893, New Albany suffered a severe population loss as workers followed the company to its new location.
During the early 20th century, New Albany became a major producer of plywood and veneer, with companies such as Indiana Veneer and Panel Company, New Albany Veneering Company (later Breech Plywood Company), and Hoosier Panel Company. By 1920 New Albany produced more plywood than any other community in the world.
In recent years, New Albany’s economy has become much more diverse, embracing such items as prepared dough products, plastic moldings tools and machinery, fireproof file cabinets and safes, computer equipment and automotive parts. New Albany is also the home of Indiana University Southeast, a regional campus serving nearly 6,000 students with associate, bachelor, and graduate degree programs. (Additional information about the City of New Albany can be found on the official web site.)
New Albany Highlights
SCRIBNER HOUSE: Built in 1814 by Joel and Mary Scribner, this simple wood-frame, Federal-style structure is the oldest building in New Albany. The two-and-one-half story house has a basement, two parlors, and a hall on the first floor, three bedrooms and a hall on the second floor. A two-level rear porch provides a spectacular view of the Ohio River.
Today the house is owned by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and serves as its meeting place. Tours are available by advance reservations only.
Mansion Row National Register of Historic Places District
Stretching for several blocks along Main and Market streets east of downtown, Mansion Row constitutes the best single collection of Federal, Italianate, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Victorian architecture in the Louisville Metropolitan area. During the 19th century such notables as industrialist Washington C. DePauw, merchant William S. Culbertson, U.S. Speaker of the House Michael C. Kerr, physician Asahel Clapp, and playwright William Vaughn Moody enriched this neighborhood. Conveying a sense of New Albany’s 19th century commercial prominence is the State Bank of Indiana Building.
Built in 1837 at a cost of $40,000, this two-story Greek Revival structure was the largest building in the city at the time of its completion. Most of the structures in Mansion Row have been carefully restored, providing a glimpse of life in New Albany’s “Age of Elegance”.
Culbertson Mansion State Memorial
The highlight of Mansion Row, this opulent French Second Empire mansion was erected between 1867 and 1869 by William S. Culbertson, one of Indiana’s richest merchants and philanthropists. Designed by local architect James T. Banes, the three-story brick structure cost about $120,000 and contains approximately 16,00 square feet of living space. The 20-room interior includes fabric-quality wallpapers, marble fireplaces, frescoes ceilings, and a spectacular cantilevered staircase. The woodwork was crafted by local boat builders, and the tin roof was shipped from Scotland.
Carnegie Center for Art & History
Located at Spring and Bank streets on the site of the first New Albany High School, this building housed the New Albany Public Library from its completion in 1904 until 1969. It was erected with financial support from Andrew Carnegie and designed in the popular Beaux-Arts style. In 1971 the building reopened as an art and history museum and in 1998 it underwent major renovations. The Center hosts a succession of traveling exhibits, often in conjunction with special programs on local history and culture.
Town Clock Church
Located at the corner of Third and Main Streets, this recently restored Greek Revival church has been a landmark since 1852, when it was completed by the congregation of the Second Presbyterian Church. For decades the structure’s most outstanding feature was a 160-foot clock tower, which signaled New Albany’s location to the Ohio River boatmen.
The original tower has since been shortened, but it remains distinctive. Owned since 1889 by the Second Baptist Church, an African-American congregation, the structure is said to have been a way station on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War.
Kentucky & Indiana Bridge
Erected between 1910 and 1912, the existing Kentucky and Indiana Bridge replaced an earlier span that opened in 1886. Built primarily to carry railroad and local interurban traffic between New Albany and Louisville, the K&I was one of the largest and heaviest plain truss bridges in the world at the time it was completed. The complete span, including approaches, measured nearly 6,000 feet in length and 225 feet in height from its highest point to the normal river surface. The bridge’s 70-foot width originally included two pairs of railroad lines flanked by wagon ways paved with creosoted wooden blocks. These blocks handled automobile traffic until 1952, when they were replaced with a steel grid work. The K&I accommodated vehicular traffic until early 1979, when a road bed partially collapsed under the weight of an overloaded gravel truck. It continues to carry railroad traffic.
Sherman Minton Bridge
This graceful, twin-arched double-decked span, which carries Interstate 64 between New Albany and Louisville, was completed in 1962 at a cost of $14.8 million. It is named for US Senator and Supreme Court Justice Sherman Minton, who was born in Georgetown and practiced law in New Albany. Designed by the Louisville firm of Hazelet & Erdal, it was named the most beautiful long-span bridge of 1961 by the American Institute of Steel Construction.
Riverfront Heritage Overlook Amphitheater
Center of the action on the New Albany Riverfront, this outdoor showplace accommodates up to 10,000 persons for activities ranging from Bluegrass music shows and fireworks displays to rock concerts and visiting symphony orchestra performances.