Indianapolis, Indiana, the state capital, the largest city in the state, and the seat of Marion County. It is on the west fork of the White River, near the center of the state. Most of the city is built on relatively level land, with elevations averaging about 800 feet (240 m). Indianapolis is largely coextensive with Marion County. Lawrence, Speedway, Beech Grove, and Southport are independent municipalities within Marion County.
Downtown Indianapolis lies on the west bank of the White River. Converging here, much like the spokes of a wheel, are many of the city's main streets.
Indianapolis is one of the main manufacturing, commercial, and distribution centers in the Midwest. Manufactured goods include electronic and electrical equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, aircraft engines, trucks, automobile parts, paper, and furniture. Situated in one of the richest agricultural areas in the nation, the city is also a leading grain and livestock market and meat-processing center. Government, wholesale and retail trade, and such service-based organizations as law firms, hospitals, and banks, are large employers. Serving the Indianapolis area are several railways, four Interstate highways, and the Indianapolis International Airport.
The Indianapolis 500, an automobile race held each Memorial Day weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, draws some 400,000 spectators—more than any other single sporting event in the nation. ( A museum on the grounds exhibits racing, antique, and classic cars. The renovated Union Station, reopened in 1986 with a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment facilities, is one of the city's most popular attractions.
Indianapolis is the site of the Indiana State Fair and has more than 30 parks. Among large parks are Eagle Creek and Riverside parks. The Indianapolis Zoo is just west of the downtown area. Monument Circle is the site of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a city landmark since 1901. Nearby are the state capitol (built 1878–88), Indiana State Library and Historical Building, Scottish Rite Cathedral, and World War Memorial Plaza. National headquarters of the American Legion and memorials to Indianans who were killed in battle are in the plaza. The homes of poet James Whitcomb Riley and President Benjamin Harrison have been preserved. Both men spent most of their adult years in Indianapolis and are buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.
The RCA Dome, a domed stadium completed in 1984, is the home of the Colts professional football team. The Pacers and the Indiana Fever basketball teams play in the Conseco Fieldhouse.
In the city are Butler University, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Indiana University Medical Center, Marian College, and the University of Indianapolis.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art has extensive, varied exhibits in four pavilions. Other museums are the Indianapolis Children's Museum, Indiana State Museum, and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art. Circle Theater, in downtown Indianapolis, is the home of the city's symphony orchestra. Also downtown is the Artsgarden, a center for the performing arts.
Indianapolis was selected as the site of Indiana's capital in 1820 and was laid out one year later. It was officially made the capital in 1825. The building of the National Road through Indianapolis in 1830 stimulated growth. In 1847 the first railway entered the city. Industry expanded rapidly after the Civil War. The discovery of natural gas nearby in 1886 promoted greater industrialization. An early leader in the automotive industry, Indianapolis was producing automobiles before 1900 and for several decades was a main assembly point. The city and county adopted metropolitan government in 1969.
In the 1970's and 1980's, large-scale development projects were undertaken, including the Convention Center, the Sports Center, the RCA Dome, and the White River State Park. The city was the site of the 1987 Pan American Games.