At the beginning of the 19th Century, the area now known as Elkhart was mainly inhabited by the Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi Indian Tribes. In 1829, the Village of Pulaski was established as Post Office, mill and a few houses on the north side of the St. Joseph River. Two years later, Dr. Havilah Beardsley moved westward from Ohio and purchased one square mile of land from Pierre Moran, a half French, half Native American Potawatomi Chief to establish a rival town named Elkhart. In 1839, the Pulaski Post Office was officially changed to Elkhart.
By the late 19th century and early 20th century, Musical Instrument factories, Miles Medical Company, and numerous mills set up shop and became the base of the economy. In 1934, the first trailer factory opened up shop in Elkhart. Similar companies followed suit for the remainder of the decade and growth continued to grow until the rationing of materials in World War II. After the war, growth picked back up and by 1949, Elkhart was officially dubbed the "Trailer Capital of the World.
In 1867, Elkhart Hydraulic Company built the first hydroelectric dam across the St. Joseph River and by 1870 it powered the city. Today, the dam still produces electric power and is operated by Indiana Michigan Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power.
In 1889, the second electric streetcar system in the world began operation on the city's streets. It has since been decommissioned.
The first says that the city was named after an Elkhart Indian Tribe, however there is no historical proof of such a tribe. Another rumor, and the reason given on the city's website, says that the city's Island Park looks like an elk's heart. However, it is unknown how Beardsley could have known what the Island looked like from above. Hot air balloons existed at the time but the first air flight did not take place until the late 1800s. A third rumor, and the most likely, claims that the source of the city's name was the Shawnee Indian Chief Elkhart, cousin of the famous Chief Tecumseh, and father of princess Mishawaka whom neighboring Mishawaka is named after.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 22.3 square miles (57.7 km²), of which, 21.4 square miles (55.3 km²) of it is land and 0.9 square miles (2.3 km²) of it (4.00%) is water.
|Average Temperature °F||30/16||34/19||46/29||59/39||70/49||80/59||83/63||81/61||74/54||62/43||49/33||35/22||59/41|
|Average Rainfall||2.2 in||1.9 in||3.1 in||3.8 in||3.2 in||4.1 in||3.8 in||3.7 in||3.6 in||3.1 in||3.3 in||3.3 in||39.1 in|
|Average Snowfall||22.4 in||16.1 in||9.7 in||2.4 in||-||-||-||-||-||1 in||8.6 in||21 in||81.2|
Of the 20,072 households, 62.3% were occupied by families, 33.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.9% were married couples living together, 15.3% had a female householder with no husband present and 37.7% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.16.
In the city the population was spread out with 28.4% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 31.7% from 25 to 44, 18.0% from 45 to 64, and 10.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 96.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $34,863, and the median income for a family was $40,514. Males had a median income of $30,674 versus $22,760 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,890. About 11.1% of families and 13.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.6% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.
In recent years, there has been an influx of people coming to Elkhart, particularly immigrants of Hispanic ethnicity.
Due to its close proximity to the South Bend metropolitan area, the commercial sectors of the city are small.
In 1884 Dr. Franklin Miles launched the Miles Medical Co. in Elkhart, which in later decades produced products like Alka-Seltzer and Flintstones Vitamins. Later, the Miles Medical Co. was purchased by the German company Bayer, in 1979 and was consolidated into the larger Pittsburgh-based Bayer, Inc. by 1995.
Since its founding in 1902, Elkhart Brass Manufacturing has been a cornerstone of Elkhart's industrial base. From its locatation in the heart of Elkhart's industrial area at West Beardsley Avenue, Elkhart Brass Manufacturing has become a global leader in the creation of innovative fire fighting equipment.
Elkhart is home to many Recreational vehicle (RV) and boat manufacturers, including Bennington Marine, the Damon Corporation, Four Winds, Hy-Line, Keystone, Monaco, Skyline, Sun Valley, and Travel Supreme. Many other manufacturers, including Dutchman, Heartland, Gulf Stream, and Jayco, can be found nearby in Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee and Wakarusa. Due to the high concentration of the RV industry in the area, Elkhart is dubbed the "RV Capital of the World. The city is also home to some small and large shops which support the RV (Recreational Vehicle) industry as well as construction.
The city is also home to the Robert Young Rail Yards which are the second largest freight classification yards in the world.
A public bus line runs through Elkhart and neighboring Goshen. The buses look like trolleys and thus explains why the line is called the Inter-Urban Trolley.
Elkhart Municipal Airport is located on the city's Northwest side. No commercial flights are offered but two charter flight services do operate out of the airport. South Bend Regional Airport (SBN) is the closest airport with commercial airline service.
The Mishawaka Pilots Club Airport (3C1) is just outside the southwest edge of the city of Elkhart. Mishawaka Pilots Club Airport is a privately owned, public use facility.
The Concord Community Schools serve the southeast side of the city of Elkhart and northwest Goshen. This system consists of four elementary schools (East Side, Ox Bow, South Side, and West Side), a junior high school, and a high school, both named Concord.
The Elkhart Community Schools, the largest district, serve most of the city and the populated northwest side of the county. The system includes one primary school (Roosevelt), thirteen elementary schools (Beardsley, Bristol, Cleveland, Eastwood, Hawthorne, Mary Beck, Mary Daly, Mary Feeser, Monger, Osolo, Pinewood, Riverview, and Woodland), three middle schools (North Side, Pierre Moran, and West Side), two high schools (Central and Memorial), one alternative school (Tipton Street Center), and the Elkhart Area Career Center.
Indiana Institute of Technology has a small operation on Middlebury Street on the city's east side.
Indiana University South Bend, which is the third largest of the Indiana University campuses, operates an Elkhart Center located in the city's downtown area. The center moved to its downtown location in August 2007.
Ivy Tech Community College is a statewide system of community colleges as well as the second largest institution of higher education in the state of Indiana and has a campus on the city's east side.
In 1884, the Bucklen Opera House opened its doors for the first time with a seating capacity of 1200. It was common for one performance to take place every week. Elkhart's location on the railroad made it a good stopping point for shows traveling from New York to Chicago. In 1896, the first movie was shown in the theater and it was also used as Elkhart High School's auditorium until 1924. The Bucklen was demolished in 1986.
The ELCO Performing Arts Center is a small theater located downtown. After being built in 1924 and undergoing two name changes, it became the ELCO in 1934. Ownership switched hands several times but the end of the ELCO appeared to be in sight when owner William Miller died in 1987. In 1990, the city bought the theater to prevent further deterioration from vacancy. Also that year, a commission was formed by some locals to oversee the restoration. Funding issues led the city to get involved further in the form of getting a federal grant. The grant helped with major upgrades and the hiring of a full time staff.
Now the ELCO is used for a wide range of smaller productions.
The city has 35 different facilities including parks, pavilions, a waterpark, a skatepark, golf courses, greenways and the downtown riverwalk which now features an ice-skating/roller-blading path depending on the time of year.
A new theme park named American Countryside is planned to be built over the next ten years on the southwest side of the city. The first phase, which is a farmer's market, opened in May 2007.
Each June, the Elkhart Parks and Recreation Department presents Rhapsody in Green. It is a weekend event put on at the city's Island Park. It is a typical summer festival with live music and food.
Also, the Elkhart Air Show is an annual event that takes place at the Elkhart Municipal Airport at the end of July. It features a wide variety of airplanes old and new. The event was canceled in 2007 due to financial issues. It is unclear whether the show is on hiatus or gone for good.
Elkhart lies in the South Bend-Elkhart television market, the 89th largest in the United States as of 2008. Two television stations, WSJV-TV (FOX) and WNIT-TV (PBS), are located in the city along with a number of radio stations including WTRC, WLEG-FM, WFRN, WFRN-FM, and WVPE (NPR).