The city of Evansville is the county seat of Vanderburgh County, Indiana. Situated on an oxbow in the Ohio River, Evansville is often referred to as the “Crescent Valley” or “River City.”
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The Evansville Metropolitan Area includes four Indiana counties (Vanderburgh, Gibson, Posey, and Warrick) as well as the Kentucky counties of Henderson and Webster. This area is sometimes referred to as Kentuckiana, though local media usually refers to it “the Tri-State.” The 38th parallel crosses the north side of the city and is marked on Interstate 69.
As of the 2010 census, the Evansville population was 117,429. This makes it the state of Indiana’s third-most populous city, after Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, and the 232ndmost populous city in the U.S. Evansville stands as the commercial, medical, and cultural hub of Southwestern Indiana and the Illinois-Indiana-Kentucky tri-state area.
History of Evansville
The Evansville area has been inhabited by various indigenous cultures for millennia, dating back at least 10,000 years, but the city, as we know it today, was founded back in 1812. Almost immediately, it became a thriving commercial town with a booming river trade and expanded well outside of its original footprint.
In the early 1830s, Indiana unveiled plans to build a 400-mile canal to connect the Great Lakes at Toledo, Ohio with the inland rivers at Evansville. This canal was to open Indiana to commerce and improve transportation from New Orleans to New York. However, the project wound up bankrupting the state and was so poorly engineered that it would not hold water. By the 1850s, the expansion of railroads in the area had made the canal obsolete.
Evansville bounced back in the second half of the 19th century, following the Civil War, becoming a major stop for steamboats along the Ohio River, and it became the home port for a number of companies engaged in river trade. Coal mining, manufacturing, and hardwood lumber was a major source of economic activity.
During World War II, Evansville was a major center of industrial production which helped revive the regional economy after the Great Depression. A huge, 45-acre shipyard complex was constructed on the riverfront east of St. Joseph Avenue for the production of Landing Ship-Tanks.
The Plymouth factory was converted into a plant that turned out “bullets by the billions,” and many other companies switched over to the manufacture of war material. After the war, Evansville’s manufacturing base of automobiles, household appliances, and farm equipment benefited from growing demand. Housing demands followed, causing residential development to leap north and east of downtown.
More recently, Evansville became the hub of the tri-state area’s commercial, medical, and service industries. Part of this growth was fueled by the University of Southern Indiana’s growth. The arrival of the Toyota and AK Steel manufacturing plants also contributed to jobs growth.
Four publicly traded companies—Accuride, Berry Global, Springleaf, and Vectren—are headquartered in Evansville, along with the global operations center for Mead Johnson. Other major companies headquartered in Evansville include Escalade, Old National Bank, and Shoe Carnival, Ameriqual Group, Anchor Industries, Atlas Van Lines, Berry Global, Evana Tool & Engineering, Karges Furniture, Koch Enterprises, Lewis Bakeries, Metronet, Red Spot Paint & Varnish, Springleaf Financial, Traylor Brothers, and Vectren.
A tourist destination, Evansville is home to Tropicana Evansville, the state’s first casino. The city also boasts several educational institutions, including the University of Evansville, the University of Southern Indiana, the Signature School, and the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
As of the 2010 census, there were 117,429 people, 50,588 households, and 28,085 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 82 percent White, 13 African American, and 1 percent Asian. Hispanic or Latino of any race made up just under 3 percent of the population.
Median household income in 2016 was $36,330, with the per capita income being $21,368. The Poverty level was 22 percent.
Evansville and the Opioid Epidemic
In the face of an opioid epidemic, Evansville joined hundreds of other cities and counties by suing drug manufacturers and distributors. The cities are suing Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. and McKesson Corp., three wholesale distributors that have 85 percent of the market share for opioids in the country.
The lawsuit is an attempt to recoup costs spent in connection with opioids, which include money spent on police and fire runs for drug overdoses, deaths, and addiction treatment.
Like many cities, Evansville has seen a pronounced rise in overdose deaths and opioid antidotes in recent years. A confirmed 76 people died from drug overdoses in Vanderburgh County in 2017, marking a 52 percent increase from 2016, when just 50 people died from a drug overdose.
Use of Narcan, an opioid overdose antidote, has also increased locally. In 2017, emergency personnel used Narcan 456 times on 329 patients. In 2016, it was 349 doses on 257 patients. Back in 2012, it was just over 40 Narcan doses.