5 Things Ryan O’Bryan Learned After Reading ‘Evansville At Two Hundred’
After thumbing through a copy of Evansville at Two Hundred, I found a several interesting things about this city I’ve called home my whole life that didn’t know before. Here are five that stood out to me.
The original name wasn’t Evansville
Purchased on March 27th, 1812 from the federal government in Vincennes by Hugh McGary Jr., the plot of land bordered by the Ohio River to the south, Fulton Avenue to the west, Parrett Avenue to the east, and what is now the Lloyd Expressway to the north, the small town was known as McGary’s Landing.
OK, So where did the name ‘Evansville’ come from?
The city was named after General Robert M. Evans, a co-proprietor of the new town with McGary and a man by the name of James W. Jones. Evans made a name for himself as a general during the War of 1812. McGary changed the name to Evansville in hopes that Evans clout would make the town more appealing to the general public.
The first soldier to die in World War I was from Evansville
I actually knew this from an extra credit project I had in a high school History class. James Bethel Gresham was born in McClean County, Kentucky and moved to Evansville with his family at the age of 8. He was killed during a German raid in Artois, France on November 3rd, 1917 at the age of 24.
Evansville was once known as the “Refrigerator Capitol of the World”
After World War II, local factories responsible for producing goods for the war effort such as LST warships, P-47 Thunderbolt planes, and small ammunition switched their focus to consumer goods such as home appliances like refrigerators. Several companies located here in Evansville either produced whole refrigerators for companies like Sears, or cranked out refrigerator parts such as ice cube trays.
Washington Square Mall was the first shopping mall in Indiana
Considering how it’s viewed more as an afterthought these days by the general public, it’s hard to imagine that at one time Washington Square Mall was once viewed as the shopping mecca of the city. It’s construction in the late 1960’s was a sign of city’s expansion east and the shifting of focus from downtown which had been the entertainment and shopping district since the city’s inception.